Siege, siege and humanitarian crisis in the Ethiopian war

  • The month of November marks one year since the outbreak of the conflict between the federal Army and the rebels of Tigray

  • United Nations Accuses Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Using Food as a “Weapon of War”

After almost a year of civil war in Ethiopia, the dead number in the thousands, there are more than 2 million internally displaced and 5.5 million people who are food insecure. The center of the disaster is the Tigray region, in the north of the country, currently under the military control of the once all-powerful Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (FPLT), today a rebel movement that fights the Army of the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. With 119 million inhabitants and 80 ethnic groups, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Administratively it is divided into ten semi-autonomous regions.

When 45-year-old Abiy took office in 2018, he won the admiration of the international community. He legalized political parties, freed tens of thousands of political prisoners and signed peace with Eritrea, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize the next year. Now, The Ethiopian Prime Minister maintains a tough pulse with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, which accuse the Government of Addis Ababa of using food as a “weapon of war”.

Government forces have launched a new offensive this week against Tigray, an area besieged since last June when the FPLT took control of the region’s capital, Mekelle. The fence, which includes telephone communications cuts and internet blackouts, has prevented 90% of humanitarian aid from reaching, food, medicine and gasoline mainly. Since last July, just over 600 trucks have entered the war zone, populated by more than five million people, the UN has denounced. About 20,000 children under the age of 5 suffer from severe malnutrition.

Parties involved

The accusations and harsh criticism have not sat well with Abiy who decided to declare “persona non grata” and expel from the country at the beginning of the month to seven senior officials of the international organization “for meddling in the internal affairs of the country.” Among those affected are the representative of Unicef ​​and the director of the office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (Ocha). Ethiopia “is violating international laws with this deportation,” said the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, angrily.

Brussels and Washington have also shown their anger. “We will not hesitate to use authority and other tools to respond to those who obstruct humanitarian aid to the people of Ethiopia,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned. The US government has imposed sanctions on the parties involved in the conflict and Amnesty International has denounced both the government Army and the FLPT forces for having perpetrated massacres of civilians, sexual violence and ethnic cleansing.

The power of Abiy, the first Ethiopian head of government of the Oromo ethnic group, has been strengthened after renewing his mandate in the legislative elections held on June 21, which was comfortably won by the Prosperity Party, which leads, although in some regions, like Tigray, there were no elections due to the prevailing insecurity. He took office for his second term on October 4. “We are in conflict because we have no other options. We are forced to go to war because Ethiopia is being dismembered. It’s about the survival of the country. We have no other choice, ”said Abiy.

Conflict fund

War now broke out in November last year, when Addis Ababa accused the FLTP of raiding a federal military detachment in Tigray. Previously, the rebels had held in September unilaterally regional elections that the central government had postponed due to the pandemic. But the root of the conflict must be found in the cleanup that Abiy did when he became head of government four years ago.

The first Minister then dismantled the entire structure of political and military power who for thirty years led the country under the initials of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a multi-ethnic coalition dominated by the FPLT. Those who previously ruled were removed from power and accused of corruption, abuse of power and violating human rights. The EPRDF was dissolved and Abiy formed a new coalition of which the representatives of Tigray refused to be part.

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The conflict, which affects other regions of the country, such as Amhara and Afar, now threatens to spread through the vulnerable and unstable Horn of Africa, a strategic area traditionally punished by natural disasters and wars, like the one in Somalia. Neighboring Eritrea, which supports the government of Addis Ababa, has also been implicated in the Ethiopian armed clash.

Prime Minister Abiy also has another open front. The battle between Ethiopia and Egypt over the waters of the Nile, which threatens to lead to another armed clash with unforeseeable consequences. The Government of Addis Ababa maintains the construction of the Renaissance Dam, a colossal work about to start, with which it will overcome the electricity deficit that some areas of the country suffer and will make Ethiopia the main energy exporter of the African continent . The dam, built on the Blue Nile, will control the flow of water that will circulate through the great river as it passes through Egypt, a country historically very attached to the Nile and whose flow is essential for its subsistence.

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