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Last week the Tigray region entered into a civil war conflict with the Ethiopian federal government. The forces of the Northern Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) declared war on the Ethiopian federal government. Ethiopia’s army confirmed that the country has been forced into an “unexpected and aimless war”. Tigray independent forces said that fighter jets had bombed areas around Mekelle, the capital and the largest city. TPLF officials have said airspace over the region is now closed. The conflict in Tigray threatens national stability.

Grave concern – Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict worsens

“The Secretary-General expresses his grave concern over reports of recent inter-communal violence and attacks targeting civilians in Ethiopia”, said the statement issued on behalf of UN chief António Guterres. “He expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.” Inclusive dialogue is crucial to diffuse tensions across Ethiopia, said UN Chief, following reports of dozens killed and injured during brutal attacks in the west of the country over the weekend. The African Union on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire. Moussa Faki Mahamat called all parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians.

Is Eritrea involved in the Tigray conflict?

Ethiopia map

Last year the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated as a great African peacemaker. Now he faces a civil war in the nort of Ethiopia in the region of Tigray. Recent conflicts could destabilize the turbulent Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is a multiple ethnic country with more 110 million people. TPLF invites people across Ethiopia to join it in “opposing the colonel Abiy’s regime.”

Ethiopia is grateful for friends expressing their concern. Our rule of law operation is aimed at guaranteeing peace and stability once and for all by bringing perpetrators of instability to justice.

Abiy Ahmed Ali
Abiy Ahmed, on the left, and Josep Borrell Fontelles

Everything started when the federal government of Ethiopia postponed the September’s election. Prime Minister’s Abiy Ahmed decision to delay election for Covid19 had extreme political consequences. Covid-19 has produced plenty of political developments. Ethiopian politics operates in a system of “ethnic federalism”—while there is a central government to this federation.

‘Halt the violence’, resolve grievances peacefully

UN rights chief

Ethiopia vowed to give the nation free, fair, and credible elections not later than a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Sahle-Work Zewde gave an extension to the government and promised that the next parliamentary elections will be free, fair, and credible. Peace, stability, and security to the people is one of the government’s top priorities, the President said.

Elections have been postponed until next year. Ethnic groups like the northern Tigrayans refused to recognize Abiy’s extended rule. The pandemic and the election postponement have led to the civil war tension in the North.

The Tigray Region

The Tigray Region is the northernmost region of Ethiopia. Tigray is the homeland of the Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama peoples. It is also Region 1 according to the federal constitution. The region of Tigray is the 5th largest by area and the 5th most populated of the 9 Regional States.

Flag of the Tigray Region
Flag of the Tigray Region

Tigray is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, the Amhara Region to the south and the Afar Region to the east and south east. Besides Mekelle, major cities include Adigrat, Aksum, Shire, Humera, Adwa, Adi Remets, Alamata, Wukro, Maychew, Sheraro, Abiy Adi, Korem, Qwiha, Atsbi, Hawzen, Mekoni, Dansha and Zalambessa. There is also the historically significant town of Yeha.

Ethiopia Humanitarian Emergency

Ethiopia faces widespread humanitarian needs. The country faces an overlap of crises, mostly the result of inter-communal and ethnic conflicts, and climate shocks. The Coronavirus pandemic risks exacerbating vulnerabilities in the country. Ethiopia also hosts the second largest refugee population in Africa, with a majority of refugees dependent on humanitarian aid. The EU continues its longstanding humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced communities in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is facing high levels of internal displacement and widespread food insecurity, driven by intercommunal violence, droughts and floods. The country is also hosting the second-largest number of refugees in Africa. Lack of access to safe water and sanitation in communities has increased the risk of disease outbreaks. For women and girls, gender-based violence (GBV) also poses a major concern. UNFPA‘s response focuses on maternal and newborn health, family planning as well as GBV prevention and response. UNFPA also distributes dignity kits to respond to the hygiene needs of crisis-affected people in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia provides South Sudan refugees an escape from brutal conflict

From 1991 to 2001 President of Tigray was Gebru Asrat and from 2001 to 2010 the president was Tsegay Berhe. Last week, the region and the Ethiopian federal government entered into conflict. Some gunfire have now turned into fears of a civil war in the capital of Tigray, Mekelle. The federal government in Ethiopia has vowed to continue a military offensive.

Ethiopia: A free African country

Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-41. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile Selassie (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces. This was the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held in 1995.

How likely is a full-scale war?

A border war with Eritrea in the late 1990s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. In November 2007, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) issued specific coordinates as virtually demarcating the border and pronounced its work finished. Alleging that the EEBC acted beyond its mandate in issuing the coordinates, Ethiopia did not accept them and maintained troops in previously contested areas pronounced by the EEBC as belonging to Eritrea. This intransigence resulted in years of heightened tension between the two countries. In August 2012, longtime leader Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in office. Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took his place, marking the first peaceful transition of power in decades.

Handshake between Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian Prime Minister, on the right, and Ursula von der Leyen

Following a wave of popular dissent and anti-government protest that began in 2015, Hailemariam resigned in February 2018. Mr. Abiy Ahmed Ali took office in April 2018 as Ethiopia’s first ethnic Oromo prime minister. In June 2018, Abiy announced Ethiopia would accept the border ruling of 2000, prompting rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That was a peace agreement in July 2018 and a reopening of the border in September 2018. In November 2019, Ethiopia’s nearly 30-year ethnic-based ruling coalition – the EPRDF – merged into a single unity party called the Prosperity Party, however, one of the four constituent parties refused to join.

Eritrea – Ethiopia war

Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by the 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement. The undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia’s Ogaden and southern Somalia’s Oromo region. Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist courts from Mogadishu in January 2007.

Somaliland” secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera and trade ties to landlocked Ethiopia; civil unrest in eastern Sudan has hampered efforts to demarcate the porous boundary with Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s construction of a large dam (the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) on the Blue Nile since 2011 has become a focal point of relations with Egypt and Sudan; as of 2020, four years of three-way talks between the three capitals over operating the dam and filling its reservoir had made little progress; Ethiopia plans to start filling the dam in July 2020.

Economy of Ethiopia

The country of Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa with an estimated population of 100+ million. It is Africa’s second most populous country.

Ethiopia flag

Over the past decade Ethiopia’s economy has experienced an average 10% annual growth. This is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The country aims to eradicate poverty and achieve low middle-income country by 2025. Despite rapid growth, Ethiopia still faces multiple development challenges linked to the fact that the benefits of growth do not yet trickle down to the poorest people in the country.

The majority of EU development funding to Ethiopia comes from the European Development Fund (EDF) with the objectives of increasing resilience, accompanying reforms and promoting sustained agriculture and economic growth.

EU works for a stronger, ambitious partnership with Africa

Ethiopia – the second most populous country in Africa – is a one-party state with a planned economy. For more than a decade before 2016, GDP grew at a rate between 8% and 11% annually – one of the fastest growing states among the 188 IMF member countries. This growth was driven by government investment in infrastructure, as well as sustained progress in the agricultural and service sectors. More than 70% of Ethiopia’s population is still employed in the agricultural sector, but services have surpassed agriculture as the principal source of GDP.

Ethiopia Africa map

Ethiopia has the lowest level of income-inequality in Africa and one of the lowest in the world, with a Gini coefficient comparable to that of the Scandinavian countries. Yet despite progress toward eliminating extreme poverty, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, due both to rapid population growth and a low starting base. Changes in rainfall associated with world-wide weather patterns resulted in the worst drought in 30 years in 2015-16, creating food insecurity for millions of Ethiopians.

The state has a key role in the economy. Ongoing infrastructure projects include power production and distribution, roads, rails, airports and industrial parks. Key sectors belong to state, including telecommunications, banking and insurance, and power distribution. Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the state owns all land and provides long-term leases to tenants. Title rights in urban areas, particularly Addis Ababa, are poorly regulated, and subject to corruption.

Over 15 Million in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Ethiopia

Every year hundreds of millions of people suffer as the result of natural disasters, climate change, armed conflicts and other crises. Humanitarian aid saves human lives, relieves human suffering, and maintains human dignity during a crisis.

Outbreaks of violence, ethnic tensions and extreme weather continue to push people to flee their homes. Heavy rainfall since July has led to displacement of over 300,000 people in 6 out of 10 states in the country.

Over 8.5 million people are highly food insecure across 7 regions of Ethiopia. In addition to other drivers of rising food insecurity, including increased food prices linked to the Coronavirus pandemic, Ethiopia is facing the worst desert locust infestation in 25 years.

Humanitarian aid brings relief in times of need

Josep Borrel, second right, greets the communities during a visit to the Qoloji Camp for Internally Displaced People, Ethiopia

In March 2020, Ethiopia had the first cases of coronavirus. The pandemic adds a significant pressure on a fragile health system that already has limited capacity to deal with shocks. In addition, cholera and other epidemic outbreaks remain a major public health threat, mainly due to poor living conditions, inadequate water and sanitation facilities, and poor health and hygiene practices.

EU-funded humanitarian action in Ethiopia focuses on addressing the most urgent humanitarian needs. In 2020, the EU is providing €44.29 million to humanitarian projects in Ethiopia. The EU supports the provision of live-saving assistance to internally displaced people uprooted by violence or natural hazards. The EU provides protection, food aid, safe water, shelter, basic essential items, nutritional assistance and healthcare, disease prevention, and education.

Ethiopia escalates fight against its powerful Tigray Region

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring peace with long-standing foe Eritrea. Today he has to face TPLF which is undermining his authority. Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed says he is not ignoring international warnings over the escalating conflict in the Tigray region.

Is Eritrea involved in the Tigray conflict?

How likely is a full-scale war?

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