For eight months, Ethiopian forces were on a rampage in Tigray as they fought against the rebellious Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The battle was a one-sided affair for large periods and it only showed excessive use of power by the Ethiopian government on its own people in the one-time powerful northern region.
For twenty-seven years, the TPLF, comprising mainly of people from the Tigray region, which has a population of about six million people, ruled Ethiopia and had its sons and daughters in enviable positions in the country.
When Abiy Ahmed emerged as Prime Minister in 2018, the TPLF were on a collision course with him as he worked to unite the nation’s leading parties and bring them under one umbrella. In 2019, his move yielded a good result as he founded the Prosperity Party with nine leading parties in Ethiopia joining the fray. The TPLF, however didn’t join the new political network, and the repercussions have been grave.
In 2020, when Ahmed announced that the election had been postponed to 2021, the TPLF rejected the decision and went on to attack properties owned by the national government. It tackled the current government for trying to hinge on to power beyond the constitutional tenure, although COVID-19 was a sighted as the reason for the postponement.
These attacks forced the Prime Minister to sack the Tigrayans in his cabinet as he prepared to wage a war against the people of TPLF and by extension, the people of Tigray.
The Price Of Rebellion: Ahmed After A Nobel Peace Prize
The onslaught on state properties by the TPLF, now adjudged a rebel group and led by Debretsion Gebremichael, was the last straw for Prime Minister Ahmed. The following months were devastating and the ruins of the war are still everywhere to date.
Thousands of Tigrayan women and children were killed in the attack by Ethiopian soldiers in Mekelle, capital of the region, while many other people were displaced from their homes, and were forced to seek refuge in Sudan where they’ve been getting support from the U.N.
Ahmed, in 2019 won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in settling and quashing his country’s border issues with Eritrea. In a battle that spanned over a decade, Ethiopia fought against Eritrea and both nations always had daggers drawn until the emergence of the former lawmaker as Prime Minister. With support from Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, he was able to quell the tension between both countries and promote partnerships on many fronts, including the war in Tigray.
Barely a year after winning the Peace Prize, Ahmed launched several tirades on Tigray and rejected every external mediation or appeal, from the United Nations and the African Union, in a bad turnaround from the basis upon which his prize was premised.
“Ethiopia is a country of many different languages and peoples. Lately, old ethnic rivalries have flared up. According to international observers, up to three million Ethiopians may be internally displaced. That is in addition to the million or so refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries. As Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has sought to promote reconciliation, solidarity and social justice. However, many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months. No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early. The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement,” the committee said at the time of naming Ahmed as winner of the prize.
In stark contrast with the reasons cited for giving him the award, Ethiopia went on to engage in an ethnic profiling of Tigrayans, refusing them access to travel overseas via the Ethiopian Airlines and also restricting them access in many other ways. These, to a great extent were not virtues of a man globally recognised for his efforts towards peace.
Tigray: Cries and Crisis
Satellite and phone connections were distorted in Tigray and the rest of the world hardly knows what is going on but reports from the region throws light into the throes of agony faced by Tigrayan locals.
While those at home have been left helpless and hopeless, Tigrayans in the rest of the world kept the world at tabs with the humanitarian crisis in the country. For large periods, the United Nations humanitarian agency was not granted access to the region as the people moved from starvation to famine.
At least 136 rape cases have so far been recorded in Tigray with depletion of properties and looting to follow by both Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers. Mr. Ahmed admitted the wrongdoings of Eritrean forces in a statement released at the behest of global accusations against Eritrea’s role in the war in Tigray.
Currently, more than 400,000 people face famine in Tigray as they face a terrible food crisis, due to inability of aid agencies to get to Mekelle. Another 1.8m people are believed to be on the brink of famine in the region. Of the 6million people in Tigray, more than three million are said to be in need of food assistance and the situation may get worse if something drastic isn’t done.
Unilateral Ceasefire: One Hand In The Air
Jubilant Tigrayans went on the street on Monday after the TPLF appeared to have reclaimed the region from the hands of the Ethiopian forces but the national army said it had ceased fire, albeit, unilaterally.
The United Nations and officials in Addis Ababa are also calling on Tigray to accept the ceasefire and let peace reign in the land, although the national military forces and their Eritrean counterparts are yet to fully depart the country.
Tigrayan forces have also said the ceasefire order by the Ethiopian government is a ‘joke’ with the international community advising the region to embrace peace and shun violence.
Leaders of the TPLF who had gone into hiding for eight months have come out and aid agencies are calling for the restoration of phone and internet networks to the region.
Prime Minister Ahmed, in a bid to show the ceasefire was strategic, said Tigray is not a priority again for Ethiopia as attention has moved to the country’s rising conflict with Egypt and Sudan over the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Tigrayans don’t know what the coming days hold, but can enjoy the moment of relative peace and hope it lasts, with the return of food and their other machinery of survival.