Ethiopia has suffered a dangerous escalation of war since the beginning of November that has already caused the flight of at least 30,000 refugees to Sudan. The Ethiopian Army is waging an armed offensive against the regional authorities of Tigray – a mountainous region located to the north and fiefdom of the ethnic group that dominated the country in the last decades and until 2018 -, which it accuses of having attacked two military bases, causing deaths and property damage. This conflict, to which the international community is paying very little attention and of which there are hardly any images due to the total blockade of communications and freedom of the press imposed by the Ethiopian Executive, highlights the enormous challenge facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed , awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, in his dream of forging a new Ethiopia that will overcome the deep divisions between the peoples that comprise it.
The arrival to power of Ahmed in 2018 was a breath of fresh air in the country’s sclerotic politics: greater representation of women in institutions, release of political prisoners, opening of the economy, reforms in the Army and, abroad , a decisive contribution to the resolution of the Sudanese transition and, above all, the signing of peace with Eritrea. However, their attempts to transform the ethnically based federal system that has operated in Ethiopia since 1991 have met with serious internal resistance.
With an Ahmed caught between the crossed demands of the communities and the sense of grievance of the Tigrayans, the violence has sprouted. The repression of the protests this summer, the clashes with the aroma of community revenge and the imprisonment of the Oromo leaders, on charges of terrorism, have built the image of an ambitious Ahmed in his reforms, but heeled towards an authoritarian drift by incapacity of putting together the pieces of the ethnic puzzle.
The offensive he is waging now is disturbing. Although the data is not clear, everything points to bombings, clashes on the ground and an advance by federal troops towards the Tigrayan capital.
They may conquer it quickly, but the risk of a protracted guerrilla war is high. There is also a risk of regionalization of the conflict. Both sides are accused of massacres, of which the most certain evidence so far is a complaint by Amnesty International about the machete killing of hundreds of civilians of the Amhara ethnic group who were not participating in the conflict at the hands of forces loyal to the Liberation Front of the Tigray People. Given this scenario, it is essential that an international community distracted by the pandemic and the relief in the White House get involved to stop the conflict, promote political solutions and serve the civilians who suffer the consequences.
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