Ethiopia nears war as prime minister orders military into defiant region

It is the next step in a drama that can plunge Ethiopia into civil war and the entire region in the Horn of Africa into uncertainty: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has launched a military offensive against its own state of Tigray. He also imposed a six-month state of emergency on the state.

The most recent conflict began – at least according to the central government in Addis Ababa – when the People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) ruling in Tigray raided a central government military base. The TPLF wanted to capture artillery and other military equipment, Abiy said in a televised address. There were “several martyrs”.

Reports of violent exchanges of fire in the region
How many people died is unclear – and not only that: “There is a complete breakdown in communication with Tigray,” explains William Davison, Ethiopia analyst with the International Crisis Group. “There is still no talk of widespread fighting, rather individual clashes.”

Various media cite diplomatic circles that there were violent exchanges of fire in the region, including artillery fire – there are no confirmations. The fact of the matter is that the TPLF has a strong paramilitary security apparatus that includes a militia – Abiy’s forces could face fierce resistance.

Abiy Ahmad’s government had already lost it with the north when he became prime minister in 2018. With the superseded government in Addis Ababa, the long years of the dominant influence of the TPLF on federal politics came to an end. In September, the rifts deepened: While the central government canceled all planned elections because of the pandemic, the regional government in Tigray had elections. An affront to Abiy Ahmad, the beaming 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.