Updated on: Saturday, November 06, 2021, 04:14 PM IST

FPJ Explains: From deadly civil war to humanitarian crisis - What is happening in Ethiopia


The east African country of Ethiopia is enduring a war with it self as the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF rebels are engaged in year-long hostilities over the control of northern part of the nation, with regional rebels threatening to overtake the capital "within months if not weeks". And the federal government, which rose to power on the promise of restoring democracy and stability in the country, is accused of "big human rights violations" and "extreme brutality" in the course of the war.

The increasing tensions has sparked alarm among the international community, with the UN Security Council on Friday calling for a ceasefire in the country, expressing "deep concern" over the escalation of fighting in the north of Ethiopia.

The conflict has already claimed the lives of thousands and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like situation and extreme poverty, as per the UN. However any action from the international community is restricted owing to the lack of information from a heavily guarded war zone.

What's happening in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods amid fears that Tigrayan rebels were heading for the capital.

The measures came after several days of reported advances by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, which is locked in a brutal year-long war against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government.

"The state of emergency is aimed to protect civilians from atrocities being committed by the terrorist TPLF group in several parts of the country," state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

Following the announcement, Abiy urged citizens "to undertake their role and cooperate with law enforcement entities".

The measure also allows the authorities to conscript "any military-age citizen who has weapons" or suspend any media outlets believed to be "giving moral support directly or indirectly" to the TPLF, Fana said.

Rebel gains -

Earlier Tuesday, officials in Addis Ababa announced new security measures for the city's five million residents, requiring that all firearms be registered within two days.

"All residents must be organized by blocks and neighbourhoods to protect peace and security in their home area in coordination with security forces, who will coordinate activities with community police and law enforcers," said Kenea Yadeta, chief of the city's Peace and Security Administration Bureau.

He also said young residents would be recruited to work with law enforcement, and that "all sections of society" must cooperate with efforts to increase vigilance, for example, landlords and hotel owners checking IDs of tenants and guests.

Abiy sent troops into Tigray a year ago in response, he said, to the TPLF's attacks on army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray and expanded into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.

In recent days the TPLF has claimed control of two key cities in Amhara, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Addis Ababa.

TPLF leaders have not ruled out marching on the capital, which has so far not seen any fighting.

The government has denied claims of TPLF territorial gains which, if confirmed, would represent a major strategic advance.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify independently.

A separate rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), has also claimed recent advances in Amhara and the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa.

What's the fight about?

The incident that sparked the conflict that began on 4 November 2020, was an attack on a military base serving as home to government troops Tigray, in reply to which Ahmed launched a military offensive to counter regional forces in Tigray. But political struggle between Ahmed's party and Tigray's powerful political group TPLF had been aggravating for months.

But the roots of this conflict can be traced back to a change that knocked off a rather defective but stable political system that had been in place in the country for decades.

Ethiopia, since 1994 has had a federal system in which various ethnic groups were in charge of the affairs of 10 regions. Intrestingly, the powerful party from Tigray that's spearheading the offensive now were the people who were the ones who set up this system and also enjoyed a massive extent of influence even outside their region.

Besides, TPLF led the four-party alliance that governed the country from 1991, ever since a military regime was dethroned from power.

As per a report in BBC, under this coalition government, Ethiopia became more stable and prosperous, however, concerns regarding the human rights and the level of democracy were frequently raised. Eventually, discontent resulted into protests, leading to a power reshuffle that witnessed Ahmed being appointed as the prime minister.

Ahmed liberalised politics, established a new party (the Prosperity Party), and expelled key Tigrayan government leaders accused of repression and corruption. He also put an end to a long-standing territorial conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, which earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

These success helped Ahmed garner popular acclaim but led to unease among critics in Tigray. His efforts to centralise power under a central government was viewed as attempts to take away powers from states all of which are a mix of complex demographics with intertwining interests.

When Ahmed began the war he promised it will be over within weeks. After an year now, the conflict has reached its tipping point. In the last year, it has led to thousands of deaths, displaced 1.7 million people, and led to charges of atrocities, including that of ethnic cleansing and horrifying sexual violence, mostly done by government forces and their allies.

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Published on: Saturday, November 06, 2021, 04:14 PM IST