What’s Fueling the Tigray Conflict?

Tigray holds the painful reality of being Africa’s most disturbed region today. With no food and medical supplies in sight, it’s a full-blown humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia. A headline on the website of the World Food Programme (WFP), says “No food, No Fuel, No Funding,” an apt description of the current situation. 

Since December 14th, there has been no access to food aid. The absence of medical supplies dates even farther behind to July 2021. This has led to kids dying of malnutrition,  starvation, and an increased disease burden in the region. Since November 2020, when the battle lines were drawn, more than 2 million people have been displaced. 

Tigray’s biggest medical centre, Ayder Referral Hospital is losing its old glory, no thanks to the war. Patients are dying helplessly and the medical officers are not in better conditions. In a few weeks’ time, there’ll be no food again, the WFP has warned. Its supplies are shorter than ever and its 900 trucks that left for Tigray are yet to return. 

At Ayder Hospital, staff have been washing hand gloves to be used again. Insulin supply is on a low and the hospital will run out of stock in the coming days. Diabetes patients are at the edge. An airlift of medical supplies is being weighed, if they are not shot by Ethiopian soldiers. It’s a wholesome humanitarian behemoth in Tigray. To remember how long this conflict has taken leaves many begging questions. Is there more to the conflict than politics? 

Tigray People’s Liberation Front

For almost three decades, the TPLF, dominated by the Tigrayan people ruled in Ethiopia. The region of about 7 million people, in a nation of 115million people had so much power in its reins. It didn’t relinquish control of the state for 27 years and used its strong military to its advantage.

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After the conquest of the Derg in 1991, the TPLF, as part of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ruled until 2018 under Tamrat Layne, Meles Zenawi and Hailemariam Desalegn before Abiy Ahmed, a man of Oromo extraction and former member of the Oromo Democratic Party became the Prime Minister.  

In 2019, Ahmed collapsed the constituent parts of the EPRDF to form his own political party – the Prosperity Party but this move was rejected by the TPLF. The rejection saw the TPLF make a political stand against the ruling party and at some point queried the government’s decision to postpone the 2020 elections as a result of COVID-19. A cursory look into the current issues leaves a political, personal and historical undertone to the current problems. 

Prime Minister Ahmed settled Ethiopia’s two decades of dispute with Eritrea, by shaking hands with the President of the country, Isaias Afwerki. It was a move hailed by the world and one expected to make a huge difference. Abiy Ahmed won a Nobel Peace Prize for that step and gained more followers, many of whom may have been left disappointed by his recent actions. 

The TPLF struck the national military base in November 2020 and Ahmed’s response was affirmative. Offensives were launched against Tigray and people fled their homes. For more than a year, the Prime Minister has forgotten Tigrayans are also Ethiopians. 

TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael was seen in a viral video address to Tigrayans asking them to pick weapons and fight against the state. The video is being used today as a point of defence for Ethiopians supporting the government’s move. Civilians have suffered many casualties as the TPLF is outrun by the Ethiopian National Defence Force, backed by its current powers, supported by Eritrea in committing war crimes and being backed by some more powerful nations failing to come out. 

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The war in Tigray emanated from a political situation between the Prosperity Party and the TPLF, but has now snowballed into an ethnic challenge in need of urgent attention. Already, Tigrayans have accused the government of a committing a genocide and have described what locals are facing as an ethnic cleansing.

In Columbus, capital of American state, Ohio, where more than 40,000 Ethiopians live in, there’s a gradual division between the Tigray people and others. The Ethiopian diaspora are reacting to events at home with division, not with unity and that’s an effect of the current situation faced by the country.

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Regional Disunity

What started as a political conflict has now become a battle of ethnicities and one that threatens the future of Ethiopia. 

The Tigray People now want secession from the country and the Oromo people are also not left out in the desire for exclusion. Africa’s second most populous country prides itself in its diversity and the beauty of its respective cultures. To see it crack the way it has leaves a bad taste and pretending all is well is a tissue of lies. 

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The ongoing war may be seen by secessionists as a perfect opportunity but it’s important that the African Union took urgent steps to bring Africa together, live up to its name, and achieve the aim for which its idea was engendered in the first place.

The Horn of Africa on the Edge

Ethiopia deals with a battle in one of its most important regions Tigray, with human rights abuses suggested and a humanitarian crisis in full swing. 

Somalia and Kenya are at loggerheads over a myriad of issues, from security to maritime space. President of Somalia, Mohammed Abdullahi has also failed to leave office even after the expiration of his tenure, throwing the country in a difficult situation and forcing constituent parts like Jubbaland to demand an exit. 

In Sudan, the presence of the military leadership has led to thousands of locals protesting on the streets. Some of them have been killed in the process and the locals are staying relentless even in the face of blazing guns. The political turmoil in the country has been a vexed question, long-lasting yet destructive. And the region is finding stability hard to come by, despite its avalanche of blessings.

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