The east African country is hit by serious clashes as the Tigray regional government is accused of rebelling against the federal government.
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most diverse populations, is beset by violent clashes as the federal government sends forces to the country’s northern Tigray region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the military to confront the Tigray regional government after blaming them for carrying out a deadly attack on a military base.
Since September, political tensions across Africa's second most populous state have slowly escalated with a series of incidents, as most of the country’s autonomous regions have increasingly shown their displeasure for Prime Minister Ahmed’s nationalisation project.
Last week, a brutal armed attack in the country’s Oromia region killed dozens of civilians belonging to the country’s second biggest ethnic group, the Amhara. On the other hand, in September, the wealthier Tigray region held an election despite fierce opposition from the federal government, suggesting that the political situation was deteriorating across Ethiopia.
The Oromia regional government believes that there is a connection between the two developments, accusing the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was the leading political force in the Tigray region to conduct “illegal” elections, to support the Oromia Liberation Front (OLA) to launch the recent attack against the Amhara.
While the two incidents have escalated tensions between the Tigray region and the federal government, the tipping point came when a federal government military base was allegedly attacked by forces of the TPLF earlier today.
"The final point of the red line has been crossed. Force is being used as the last measure to save the people and the country," said Abiy, who is a native of the region of Oromia.
Abiy’s office has also accused the TPLF, attempting “to rob the northern command of artillery and military equipment,” referring to federal government forces in the region.
The same statement said that the move by the TPLF, which regards the Ethiopian federal army as an occupying force, “has chosen to wage war.”
Some estimate that Abiy might be using the US elections to wage his war when much of the world is concentrating on the historic events in Washington.
Abiy’s nationalisation project
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2019 for his role in ending the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, is the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother in a country where Christians make up 40 percent of the 110 million-strong population. Muslims comprise one-third of the country’s citizens, according to the latest census.
Using his background to his advantage Ahmed has embarked on a nationalisation project to promote unity, which attempts to prioritise the Ethiopian identity over regional sub-ethnic identities. The plan will bring autonomous regions under stricter control of the federal government.
But recent developments suggest that Abiy’s nationalisation project is meeting serious resistance from the country’s regional elites.
The Tigray region, whose armed forces led by the TPFL was instrumental in ousting a Marxist regime in 1991, has dominated Ethiopian political life for decades until Abiy’s rise to power in 2018.
After the alleged incident against the federal army base, which could not be confirmed by other sources, it is said that members of the Ethiopian parliament in Addis Ababa urged the government to recognise the TPLF as a terrorist group.
That kind of move could potentially further escalate tensions across the country.
“We have prepared our military of special force not in need of a war, but if the worst comes, to defend ourselves,” said Debretsion Gebremichael, Tigray’s regional president, on Tuesday.
In addition to internal tensions, Addis Ababa is embroiled in a serious political dispute with Cairo and Khartoum over the construction of its $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, which could significantly decrease the water capacity of the Nile River flowing to Egypt from Ethiopia.