Ethiopia Is at War With Itself

The war between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray region is based on dominance and self-ego. Ethiopia was traditionally ruled by two ethnic groups (Amhara and Tigray), but the ascendance to power by an Oromo Prime Minister has caused bitter struggle and unavoidable bloodshed. 

Ethiopia is a country composed of different ethnic groups held together by a crafted state, where some ethnic groups have thrived at the expense of others. At one time in history, there was nothing called Ethiopia, but there was something named “Abyssinia” (Amhara and Tigray regions.) However, Abyssinia transformed itself into Ethiopia after a series of military conquests carried out by its emperors, some of which lasted until the 20th century. The Amhara and Tigray communities alternately ruled the country and fought over its leadership.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed–Picture by Aljazeera

The present war blazing in the country is based on supremacy and self-image. Who is to get the most out of Ethiopia? On what formula do the country’s people share its resources? Who is entitled to rule the country? There are millions of questions concerning this mysterious country and its multiethnic communities.

Now Ethiopia is at war with itself. The bitter war between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray region has entered its third week, with no ending in sight. Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) is leading the Tigray region’s side, while Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is at the helm of Ethiopia. TPLF had ruled Ethiopia for 27 hellish years and amassed all kinds of resources, be they human capital or otherwise. Its region has been awash in weaponry for needed usage.

What is the genesis of the war? It is about dominance with varied justifications. The instance Abiy Ahmed came to power, he began to antagonize Tigray elites and officials by demoting them and distancing them from pivotal positions in the country. Shortly after, he disbanded the mighty Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and replaced it with Prosperity Party (PP) initiated by him. The EPRDF was, of course, dominated by the TPLF, which occupied all the main positions of the country, in all sectors. 

The Tigray region exacerbated the situation by holding an impermissible election in the region. Prime Minister Abiy postponed a due election in the country due to COVID-19 crisis, but TPLF held the election in their region, forcing the prime minister to call it illegitimate. Likewise, TPLF called Abiy Ahmed an illegal prime minister since his tenure ended, and he could not hold the general elections. It was a tit-for-tat situation. The war is still going on, and thousands of innocent people have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Sudan.

Ethiopian army–picture by Aljazeera

When TPLF came to power in 1991, they crashed their archenemy (Amhara) and vowed to redefine the country. They introduced ethnic-based federalism, altered the country’s flag, fragmented the country’s language, and divided the country into nine administrative regions, the Somali region included. The vast majority in the country hailed that ethnic based federalism, as it would serve their respective interests. For the first time in Ethiopia, individual regions could govern themselves and use their languages for work and education. Many of the country’s regions rejoiced for a short period of time. But that jubilation was short-lived. TPLF turned into a despotic administration. The purported federalism was stomped on, albeit on paper; and the country’s regions, other than the Tigray region, were reduced to mere puppets, the Somali region being the most affected one.

By putting a pitiless regime in place, TPLF made the Somali region’s people drink from fountains of humiliation. The callous TPLF front and its merciless partners forced the Somali people out of their homes, killed them in droves, and sent them to filthy refugee camps. Still, Ethiopia was claiming to be a federal country, respecting the rule of law.

Today, what is happening to the Tigray people is tantamount to what happened to the Somali region. An Ethiopian army led by the TPLF and its culprits killed and displaced the Somali people, not ordinary Tigrayans. The Somali and Tigray regions are too apart and have no borders, so the Somali region’s people should not be cowed to take part in a fruitless war that can pit them against other communities. Blaming TPLF is too late too little now. Abdi-Iley was dislodged, blamed, and put in prison for gruesome atrocities committed against the region’s people. But what about his masters? Those who ordered him to kill and cut up his people’s hearts, or else he would suffer, as he admitted. Why did not investigate the grisly carnages carried out in the Somali region? Why did not indict the big perpetrators? Well, because the Somali region is on the periphery of Ethiopia. That is right. As decided, let the federal troops fight the war. And President Mustafe Omer must not compel the Somali region’s people to participate in the war, for it is a war being fought based on dominance.