Ethiopia crisis raises new fears as civil war shows no signs of abating

Ethiopia crisis raises new fears as civil war shows no signs of abating

More than a year into a bloody civil war in Ethiopia that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced upwards of 2 million people, experts fear the worst is yet ahead.

With the political power of Africa’s second-largest nation of 115 million people at stake, Ethiopia’s federal government remains at odds with fighters from the northern Tigray region, known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who have been steadily advancing south toward the capital, Addis Ababa, since early October.

“It seems bleak at the moment,” Terje Østebø, an associate professor at the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, told Yahoo News. “It seems like nobody really wants to negotiate. It might end up being the one that is victorious on the battlefield is the one that wins. When and how that happens is the big question.”

The reason for the war derives from Tigrayan opposition to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who rose to power in 2018 thanks in large part to support from the country’s largest group, the Oromo ethnicity. The group had long felt ostracized in countrywide politics, and Abiy, an Oromo himself, positioned himself to fix that.;

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. (NTB Scanpix/Hakon Mosvold Larsen via Reuters)

Before then, the TPLF controlled the country’s politics for 27 years, and Abiy had once been a part of its government. Since winning the election, however, Abiy has ruled on his own terms, seeking to squeeze the TPLF of its power and influence across the country.

Tigrayan forces formed the TPLF in 1975 on the ideals of liberation and revolution. The group centered itself as a rebel organization with a deep sense of national identity. It took 16 years for the TPLF to rise to national prominence, and its nearly 30-year reign is fracturing in less than 30 months.

The rebel fighters held their own elections in September 2020 in defiance of Abiy, and in turn Ethiopian leaders cut off funding to the region. TPLF forces responded by attacking a military base in Tigray in November of last year and looting weapons, which led Abiy to order a military offensive against Tigrayan leadership, launching the civil war.

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