Report: Growing fears of civil war as Ethiopia’s violence extends outside Tigray



Tue, 17 Nov 2020 - 12:55 GMT


Tue, 17 Nov 2020 - 12:55 GMT

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Abiy Ahmed - FILE

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Abiy Ahmed - FILE

CAIRO – 17 November 2020: The Ethiopian scene has witnessed sudden and fast-paced developments during the past few days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military operation on the northern region of Tigray on November 4, leaving thousands killed and displaced.

The violence that has erupted, in a bid by the Ethiopian government to control Tigray region, has aroused fears of a civil war as escalation between both sides heightened. The fight has extended recently to new territories, including Oromia region, which borders with Somali region to the east.  




The Ethiopian authorities announced killing 36 militants and the arrest of 169 from Oromia region, amid continuing fighting in the northern Tigray region.


The Ethiopian Government Emergency Committee announced Tuesday, that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (NDF) carried out "very precise air strikes" outside Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, in the midst of a conflict that has been going on for nearly two weeks.


Also Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that a three-day deadline given for Tigray Special Forces and allied militias to surrender, had expired.


"After this deadline expires, the last decisive law enforcement action will be implemented in the coming days," Abiy Ahmed said on his Facebook account, according to Reuters, and there has been no comment from Tigray's leaders yet.


Countries and human rights organizations have voiced their concerns over the human rights violations and the violence going on the Ethiopian territory, calling for calming down the situation.


How the rift began?  


The rift between the Ethiopian federal government and the local authorities of Tigray is not new, and the situation has generally been in continuous deterioration since the current prime minister came to power in April 2018.


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Per the Ethiopian constitution, the Tigray region enjoys a sovereign governance. But the federal government’s attempts to control the region were sensed by the Tigrayan Liberation Front, which controls this region that covers an area of 6 percent of the country’s territory.


These attempts triggered a series of military developments over the past days as of the beginning of this month.


Fears of civil war


According to the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (ECSS) website, signs of tension between both sides began to surface clearly since September 2019, when a number of young men from the region intercepted a convoy belongs to the Ethiopian army transporting units near the border with Eritrea.


Local elections in the region, as well as a large military parade organized by the Tigray Liberation Front were among the main triggers that teased the federal government to respond.



Then, the Ethiopian army moved units towards western parts of the region, which touches with the Sudanese border, and announced beginning a limited military operation to restore control of the region.


Ethiopian government justified the attack as being aimed at preventing Tigrayans from controlling the camps and headquarters of the Northern Military Command. Airspace closure and 6-month state of emergency were in place as a result.


But the consequences of the operation have sent international alarms after thousands were killed and escaped to Sudan, in addition to brutal acts and hostilities that were revealed.


Ethiopia’s air force bombed arms depots and destroyed military hardware in the northern Tigray region.


The air strikes in and around the regional capital Mekelle wiped out rocket launchers and other weaponry belonging to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement he read on national television.


International concerns


Djibouti expressed its grave concern about the internal conflict situation in Ethiopia, and its readiness to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation. Djibouti also stressed the need for Ethiopia to remain federal and democratic.

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Commenting on the military operation in the Tigray region, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Musa Faki Muhammad, said, “I follow up with concern the escalation of the military confrontation in Ethiopia,” ensuring “the union’s strong adherence to Ethiopia’s national sovereignty.”


In a statement on social media, he stated "I encourage the parties to [hold] talks to find a peaceful solution [that serves] Ethiopia’s interest," noting that "the African Union is ready to help solving the crisis." He called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities, and on the concerned parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians."



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