IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Armed clashes in Ethiopia’s Tigray

10th November, 2020 International News

Context: Ethiopia is on the brink of a civil war after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister announced that he had ordered troops to counter an allegedly violent attack by armed forces in the country’s northern Tigray region.

  • The domestic conflict in Ethiopia comes after several smaller conflicts that have been festering for months that could now spiral and impact the Horn of Africa region at large.

Why has conflict started in Tigray?

  • The conflict escalated in September, when Tigray held local elections in insubordination of the Ethiopian federal government.
  • These elections were considered “illegal” by the federal government, further leading to conflict with Tigray authorities.
  • Conflict between Tigray authorities and the federal government can be traced to when Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.
  • Tigray region is wealthier than other parts of the country, and more importantly, has a well-trained army.
  • The authority of the Tigray officials has considerably reduced since Abiy took office, making their waning influence a point of contention.
  • The structure of Ethiopia’s federal system allows the country’s ten regions significant autonomy.
  • These regions also have their own parliaments, their own security forces, and the right to a referendum for independent rule.
  • This conflict is really the result of a battle between two different political ideologies for supremacy and control in the country.

What impact will this have on the Horn of Africa?

  • If the conflict between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray authorities exacerbates, it will spill over to neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa.
  • Eritrea may be hardest hit, due to its proximity to Tigray.
  • Many veterans from the TPLF who participated in the Ethiopian-Eritrean war between 1998 and 2000 are now part of the Tigray region’s paramilitary forces” and there is lingering resentment between these veterans and Eritrea.
  • Ethiopia has also been engaged in a long-standing conflict with Egypt over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over the Blue Nile, with Sudan having been inadvertently drawn into this conflict over the course of the dam’s development.
  • If the violence and conflict spills outside Ethiopia’s borders, it may potentially destabilize the Horn of Africa region.
  • The US and China have several strategic military bases in that region, the closest being Djibouti.
  • If these military bases were to be impacted by the disturbances in any way, it may cause foriegn powers to get militarily involved in the region and the conflict.
  • The stability of Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region