20 January, 2022

The Humanitarian Collective

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What You Need to Know About the Crisis in Ethiopia

As most of the world aims to adapt to the rising threat of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, a violent and consequential conflict is occurring in Ethiopia. Clashes between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian federal government have bubbled into an ongoing civil war, primarily in the Tigray region, the Northernmost point of Ethiopia. Since the onset of the conflict, both sides have been accused of war crimes and other atrocities. The ongoing conflict is in stark contrast to the almost universal optimism that swept the country after the election of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2019. Ahmed, a young and charismatic visionary, made peace with neighboring Eritrea and won a Nobel Prize for his effort. This moment of stability was a triumph for the nation, which has experienced a long list of past hardships stemming from violence and humanitarian crises. However, the TPLF was enraged by his embrace of their longtime foe. Since then, attacks on military bases and delays of democratic elections have resulted in a war that has led to over 30,000 deaths. To better understand the conflict, you must have a grasp of the roots that caused it. 

Who Is The TPLF?

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front is an ethnic nationalist political party that fights for the representation of the residents of Tigray, a Northern region in Ethiopia. Founded in 1975 as a small guerilla group, the TPLF originally aimed to secure self-determination for Tigray in the Ethiopian political world. The TPLF’s history of taking up arms and excellent fighting abilities led the Ethiopian government to designate it as a terrorist entity. They are headquartered in Mekelle, which is considered the capital city of Tigray, and have gained significant power since their founding, becoming one of the primary political parties in Ethiopia. The TPLF currently controls Tigray and its six million residents. In September of 2020, they controversially held regional parliamentary elections in response to Prime Minister Abiy’s decision to delay national democratic elections.

Who is currently in charge of Ethiopia?

Ahmed Abiy is the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Upon his election, he expelled Tigrayan leaders from the ranks of the Ethiopian government and stripped them of their political influence. This dominating course of action, combined with his natural charm and peace efforts with Eritrea, propelled Abiy to newfound stardom in the nation. Abiy is a member of the Prosperity Party, which he founded in 2018, in an effort to further unify the country’s political environment. Abiy has taken a hardline on the TPLF, vowing to destroy them and their rebellion. Ethiopia is structured as a Federal Parliamentary Republic, where the Prime Minister is the executive head of the government and the parliament serves as the legislative body. Abiy has taken advantage of his executive powers by taking swift military action and declaring a months-long state of emergency. 

Humanitarian Implications

As the rebel coalition led by the TPLF battles the government forces, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, has stated that both sides of the yearlong war have committed war crimes as well as crimes against humanity that have led to extreme brutality and mass displacement of people. Ethnic Tigrayans have reported violations such as rapes and arbitrary detentions from the Ethiopian and allied Eritrean troops. The specific targeting of Tigrayans across the country has led many independent investigators and human rights organizations to believe that genocide is occurring. The UN did acknowledge however that such allegations warrant more extensive investigation. The second issue of concern is the military blockade that Ethiopia has imposed on Tigray. The cutting off of supplies, food, and humanitarian aid has led to severe famine and widespread health issues. The lack of transparency from the Ethiopian government has been an additional cause of concern, as the Ethiopian military has largely blocked journalists, human rights groups representatives, and others from entering.

Current State of The Conflict

As of today, Prime Minister Abiy is on the frontlines alongside his troops. He has claimed that his enemies have been defeated and that “our remaining task is to rout the enemy and destroy them.” Upon Abiy’s arrival to the battlegrounds, the federal government secured a major victory in their recapture of the town of Chifra, which neighbors Tigray. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front has shown no signs of surrender, as they have advanced towards Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city and home to over five million people. As the humanitarian crisis escalates and more innocent civilians lose their lives every day, it unfortunately seems that the civil war and its ensuing damage will likely continue for some time. It remains to be seen if any foreign governments will step into broker a peace deal.  

How You Can Help

There are several organizations providing resources to aid the people of Ethiopia. The Ethiopia Children’s Relief Fund has been accepting monetary donations for food and sanitary products, to be provided for the children of Ethiopia. The International Rescue Committee is accepting donations to financially benefit displaced and refugee families. Omna Tigray has listed a variety of opportunities to get involved on their website, including the Tigray Emergency Relief Fund, the Lola Children’s Home Emergency Project Fund, and many others. Continuing to engage in journalistic coverage of the events unfolding in Ethiopia can keep the cause alive and amplify the need for peace and humanitarian support for those affected by the war. 

Sources and Donation Opportunities:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/03/africa/ethiopia-tigray-explainer-2-intl/index.html

https://www.savethechildren.org/us/charity-stories/ethiopia-tigray-region-conflict-facts-faqs-how-to-help

https://www.vox.com/22370629/ethiopia-tigray-eritrea-amhara-war-ethnic-cleansing

https://www.vox.com/2021/11/7/22768365/ethiopia-capital-rebel-coalition-tplf-civil-war-explained

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54964378

https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/conflict-ethiopias-tigray-region-what-know

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