Why has civil war returned to Ethiopia?
Ethnic divisions have thrown Africa’s second-most-populous country into renewed conflict
BY SOME RECKONINGS(economist)— Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. For a short while, under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, it looked as if it might become one of the most democratic. Not anymore. National elections, scheduled for June 21st, no longer herald progress. Abiy, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, now draws more international condemnation than praise. For more than six months, his federal government has been engaged in a bitter war against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which until recently controlled the northern state of Tigray and previously dominated national politics. The conflict has fanned tensions among Ethiopia’s 80-plus ethnic groups and taken a frightful human toll. Why has civil war returned to Ethiopia?
The TPLF fired the first shots on November 4th, when its fighters attacked a base housing federal troops—to pre-empt an imminent attack from federal forces and their allies, it argued. In response, Abiy ordered air strikes and sent in ground forces. For the first few months of the conflict, a communications blackout made it difficult to know what was happening. Gradually the scale of the horror has emerged. Atrocities have been committed by all sides. Thousands of civilians are thought to have been killed, and millions more have been displaced, many over the border to Sudan. The raping of women has been widespread. And hunger has returned to Tigray, the site of a devastating famine in the 1980s. War and the alleged deliberate blocking of food deliveries have driven 350,000 people to the brink of starvation.