Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize prime minister on Wednesday ordered the military to confront the country’s Tigray regional government after it said it carried out a deadly attack on a military base overnight, citing months of “provocation and incitement”, declaring “the last red line”. “has been crossed. ”
The statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office and the reported attack by the well-armed Tigray People’s Liberation Front, immediately raised concerns that one of Africa’s most populous and powerful countries could jump back into war. It would send a shock wave through the Horn of Africa and beyond.
Abiy announced the nation on television and announced “more martyrs” in the attack in Mekele, the capital of the northern Tigray region and Dansha city. The prime minister said “the end is near” for the regional force based in Ethiopia’s most sensitive region, nearby Eritrea. The two countries concluded peace in 2018 after a long border war.
The TPLF had been the dominant part of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition before Abiy took office in 2018, announcing sweeping political reforms that won him the Nobel last year. However, these reforms have opened the door to old ethnic and other complaints. The TPLF felt marginalized and left the coalition last year. It remains a strong military force, observers say.
Ethiopia on Wednesday declared a six-month state of emergency in the Tigray region, saying that “illegal and violent activities within the national regional state of Tigray threaten the constitution and constitutional order, public peace and security, which especially threaten the country’s sovereignty.”
No immediate word came from TPLF and all internet and telephone lines were cut in the Tigray region after the announcement. Tigray TV reported that the airspace has been closed over the region, and it claimed that the northern command of the Ethiopian military had surrendered to the Tigray government. The Prime Minister’s Office told the Associated Press that the liquidation report was “not true.”
Test for PM
Ethiopia was already stressed by a dispute with Egypt over a massive Ethiopian dam project that has rarely drawn attention from President Donald Trump to Africa and by a multilayered crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly ethnic violence and a grasshopper outbreak.
Now the biggest test of Abiy’s rule has come.
Tigray’s officials have protested against the postponement of Ethiopia’s national elections, which were once scheduled for August, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the extension of Abiy’s term.
On Sunday, a senior TPLF official, Getachew Reda, told the AP that his side would not accept a negotiation with the federal government.
“What we need now is a national dialogue, not a negotiation,” he said. The TPLF says the release of detained former officials is a prerequisite for initiating talks.
In September, people in Tigray voted in a local election, despite the federal government and increased political tensions. Last month, the federal government moved to send funds to the region to local administrations instead of the regional government, angering TPLF officials.
“This war is the worst possible result of the tensions that have been booming,” William Davison, International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Ethiopia, said on Wednesday, calling for a ceasefire. “Given Tigray’s relatively strong security position, the conflict may well be protracted and catastrophic.”
Abiy’s statement claimed that the TPLF attacked a military base in Tigray early Wednesday, trying to take artillery and other equipment. The statement accused the TPLF of arming and organizing irregular militias.
After months of “extreme patience” from the federal government, “a war could not only be prevented on the goodwill and decision of one side,” the prime minister’s statement said. “The last red line is crossed with tomorrow’s attack, and the federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation” to save the country.
Observers have for several months been concerned about the growing tensions and their implications for the long-turbulent Horn region of Africa, where Abiy threw himself as a peacemaker shortly after joining.
A report by the United States Institute of Peace said that the fragmentation of Ethiopia “would be the greatest state collapse in modern history, likely to lead to mass internal and interfaith conflict … and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads between Africa and the Middle East. East on a scale that would overshadow the existing conflicts in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. ”
The international crisis group warned a week ago that the international community must unite the idea of national dialogue in Ethiopia.
“The alternative, given the country’s many and bitter divides, is a potential march to war that would be disastrous for Africa’s second most populous country and would send shockwaves and refugees into other Horn of Africa as well as across the Mediterranean,” the group wrote.