four questions about the renewed fighting in northern Ethiopia

After a five-month truce, fighting resumed on Wednesday 24 August in northern Ethiopia, in the border areas of the Tigray region, between the Tigray rebels and the federal government. This was stated by the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres “Deeply shocked and saddened” from the resumption of violence and called “Firmly to the immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace negotiations”just like the United States, which claimed a “Sustainable ceasefire without conditions”. “The Obs” takes stock of this conflict.

  • What are the latest events that hit this region?

On Wednesday morning, the rebel authorities in Tigray and Ethiopian governments accused each other of the resumption of the conflict in the region, while a truce had been in place since 24 March. The rebel forces pointed the finger at “large-scale offensive” of the Ethiopian army against their positions.

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“Not taking into account the many peace offers presented by the Ethiopian government”the forces of Tigrinya “He launched an attack today at 5 am.” And “broke the truce”the government replied in a statement.

Both the government and the rebels have reported fighting around the southeastern tip of the Tigray, bordering the regions of Amhara to the west and Afar to the east.

“Yes, Ethiopia is sinking into a civil war that can last”

Amhara Fano’s militia – which supports government forces – said fighting is ongoing in the Mehago and Jemedo areas on the border with Tigray, adding that no fighting is taking place in Tigray itself. The APDA, an NGO active in the Afar region, for its part reported fighting in a border area in southeastern Tigray: “Federal forces are present in large numbers (in the area) of Yallo and are repelling” the rebels “Out Far”.

The Ethiopian army also announced that it had shot down – on an unspecified date – a plane loaded with weapons destined for the Tigris rebels, which had “violated Ethiopian airspace while crossing Sudan”an affirmation qualified as “blatant lie” by Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

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The spokesman for the UN secretary general, Stéphane Dujarric, said that the rebels have seized 12 tankers of the World Food Program (WFP) stationed in the Tigrinya capital Mekele, for a total of 570 thousand liters of fuel destined for the distribution of food aid. .

The region is largely cut off from the rest of the country and it is impossible to independently verify these claims.

  • How long did the conflict last?

The war began on the night of November 3-4, 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to Tigray to remove regional authorities, accusing them of attacking military bases after months of challenging his authority.

The federal army received support from regional forces and Amhara militias, as well as soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, troops still present in Western Tigray. After initially withdrawing, the Tigrinya rebels regained control of most of the region in a counter-offensive in mid-2021, during which they entered Amhara and Afar.

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Ethiopia: for the war to end soon

But political tensions were growing in this region. In April 2018, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiyi Ahmed came to power, several figures from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front denounced the abandonment of power. But it was the federal government’s two-time postponement of the 2020 national elections due to Covid-19 that really ignited the fire. In September 2020, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front held its own elections and won them. A vote not recognized and deemed illegal by the Ethiopian government.

  • What is the humanitarian situation?

The conflict has already resulted in several thousand deaths, more than two million displaced and has thrown hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into conditions close to starvation, according to the United Nations. In addition, 22 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia. In June, the World Food Program indicated in its latest food security report that nearly half of the people in the Ethiopian region of Tigray were severely lacking in food.

Since the war began, the region has been cut off from the rest of the country, deprived of electricity, telecommunications and largely deprived of fuel and money, due to a lack of banking services and the destruction of the local economy.

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“In an area where food is usually available, […] 89% of the inhabitants lived in conditions of food insecurity in June 2022 “6 points higher than in November 2021, according to WFP, and almost half of the population (47%) suffered from“severe food insecurity”. And the situation will not improve. While 80% of Tigrayans depend on subsistence farming, the November 2021 harvests were below average. WFP specifically mentioned price differences of 70% to 300% for cereals and 58% to 99% for vegetable oil compared to neighboring regions.

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Furthermore, according to Amnesty International, civilians are victims of numerous war crimes committed by both sides. “We can at least talk about two categories of crimes that fall under international law: extrajudicial mass executions and rape used as a weapon of war”says the NGO which has documented many abuses.

  • Is there hope for peace?

The African Union, which has been working for months to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table, has directly asked for a “de-escalation” when the fighting is resumed and reasserted “His commitment to collaborate with the parties to support a consensual political process in the interest of the country”.

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William Davison, an analyst with the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), said the current fighting must end sooner. “do not degenerate into a full-fledged return to war”. “This grave violation of the truce” is in particular “a sound warning” to the international community to ensure that peace negotiations “really stand up”.

In the capital Addis Ababa, some residents have expressed concern. We hoped they were ready for peace, but now our hope is gone. If they start the war, it will not be good for the people of Ethiopia and Tigray “feared Teklehaimanot Mezgebu.

Another resident, Tizazu Werota, adds: “The choice should have been negotiation and peace. We saw what the war did […] it will only cause damage. “

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