The War in Tigray and Its Impact on the People

 


Ethiopia, an African nation with a multi-ethnic population is on an ethnic strife after a fresh war erupted between the federal government and the powerful regional government in Tigray.

Ethiopia has been facing hatful of crises like never before after the dispute began on November 4th. Refugees are streaming out by hundreds and thousands into neighboring country Sudan.

Ethiopia has been struggling with the pandemic, worst locust outbreak in decades- destroying crops and threatening food securities.


About Tigray People's Liberation Front and Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia is a country having multiple regional federation. Tigray is one such region that is governed by Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) having its own regional army- having large number of militias and special forces that have been trained in the hundreds of thousands.

TPLF wasn't just in charge of the Tigray region but in fact had ran the country for nearly 30 years though they are minorities i.e. just 6% of the population. It stood as the head of the coalition parties.

However, many of them seen it as an autocratic and dysfunctional rule carried out, locking many journalists and political dissidents. With massive protests carried out, they were finally brought down. The chaos allowed Abiy Ahmed, a young leader seen as a visionary to get elected.

Belonging to Oromo, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, he stood as a representative- to change the norms and operations carried in the past- to bring prosperity to Africa's most powerful country.

Being a Noble Peace Prize winner, his governance brought opposition figures home from exile, released prisoners- including some who had been sentenced to death.

He made sure to keep himself involved in regions, dealing in peace. He toured United States to excited diaspora crowds. Abiy is seen as a unifier, a son of Christian and Muslim and of mixed ethnic heritage. He even apologized for government's past abuses.

He introduced a political reform in the country that was dominated by TPLF and even announced an astounding deal with its own neighbor and fierce rival, Eritrea.


Cause of the Strife

The Tigray People's Liberation Front had a disproportionate say in the operations carried by the federal government based in the Adis Ababa capital. Unrest conditions between Abiy Ahmed and TPLF considered each other illegal after Abiy became Prime Minister in 2018.

He swept political reforms, sidelining the once-dominant Tigray leaders. The Tigray region government saw it as a power grab and a ploy to weaken the federation after Abiy broke apart the powerful ruling coalition led by the TPLF, to bring it under one hood as prosperity party.

This caused tensions among TPLF and federal government. Due to the pandemic, Abiy postponed this year's elections which the TPLF disregarded and held nonetheless. 

The prime minister refused to look at the results and threatened to pull the federal funding. This revived belligerency and the conflict began after TPLF attacked a national military base.


Crises

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on November 4th, a military attack on the regional government in Tigray in response to offensive operations carried by the Tigray forces.

The dispute has costed more than 25,300 refugees to flee the Tigray region into Sudan amidst the ongoing pandemic, said the UN refugee agency on November 16th as fights have spilled beyond Ethiopia's borders, threatening to inflame the Horn of Africa region.

More than 5000 refugees- the highest single day record of arrivals have arrived in Sudan's border provinces of Kassala and al-Qadarif last Sunday since the start of the conflict in Tigray earlier this month, the UNHCR said.

Most of the refugees arriving are woman and children- exhausted, hungry and thirsty as they cross into Sudan walking miles and also crossing river Tekeze by boat or swim.

Authorities in Kassala and al-Qadarif have requested UN agencies to speed up assistance to deal with a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. Officials said that they expected almost 200,000 refugees to enter Sudan last week.

Activist Abdel-Rahman Awad Abdel Rahman in al-Qadarif claimed that there are many refugees who haven't registered with the UN refuge agency and have arrived with almost nothing- needing a huge amount of assistance as numbers continue to grow on a large scale.


Discomfort in Eritrea

The national conflict resulted into international unrest as TPLF fired missiles on former enemies and neighbor Eritrea. TPLF declared that Eritrea was supporting the Federal in targeting their region.

As struggle continues in Tigray region, the United Nations called for opening of routes to four refugee camps to Eritreans who are relying utmost on humanitarian aid.

Ann Encontre, UNHCR representative in Ethiopia, said that while refugees live “in harmony” with northern Ethiopians – with whom they share a language and similar culture – “any breakdown of normal life puts those in camps at higher risk, particularly in an area where stocks and access to services are dwindling”.

Eritreans are subjected to take up indefinite military services and repression which has caused many of them to flee in order to search for better opportunities out of what has long been one of the world’s most isolated dictatorships.

Approximately 507,000 people – almost one-tenth of Eritrea’s population – had fled by 2018, according to the UN.

Encontre said she is “deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray, which is compounded by the lack of access and our current inability to bring in food and supplies to those in need, including the 100,000 Eritrean refugees in the region”.

“While it is difficult to assess the situation on the ground – we have not been able to talk to our teams for the past 48 hours – we fear that civilians, including refugees, could get caught up in the crossfire.

“We need urgent access to the four refugee camps to be able to assist,” she said.

Across Ethiopia and Eritrea, refugees were in a great dilemma as they weren't aware about their safety due to communication blackout across Tigray. Refugees are frightened as they are not aware what could follow next amidst the political perturbation.

Jason Rizzo, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF) project coordinator at Hamadayet, along the Sudan-Ethiopia border, said new arrivals were struggling to get food, water and shelter.

“UN agencies and organisations on the ground are doing what they can to respond but it’s simply not enough at this stage,” Rizzo said.

Refugees are sleeping outside shops or on the side of the roads at night, he said.

“Our medical teams are hearing that some refugees are risking their lives by going back into Tigray to look for food or belongings they left behind. Others are selling goats or whatever they can manage in order to afford what they need.”

 

Written by - Peter Fernandes

Edited by – Adrija Saha


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