CONFLICT ANALYSIS: THE TIGRAY WAROn May 9, 2023 by Anushka Thapliyal
“Tigray force hand over weapons in peace move” states BBC news headlines on 11 January 2023.
Tigray region, officially The Tigray National Regional State is situated in the northern part of Ethiopia. Tigray shares its border with Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti.
Ethiopia is an essential space when we talk about the conflict in Tigray. Also, it is said that 4 countries Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti make the “Horn of Africa” but if you visit site of “Horn of Africa Initiative” you will find that even Kenya and Sudan are a part of it.
The Various Parties Involved
If we look at the diversity of Ethiopia, it is a very diverse region. There are more than 90 ethnic groups and they speak 80 languages. When we study conflict analysis we often believe that the more the diversity, the less ground for communal harmony.
The Oromo and the Amhara constitutes 60% of the population of Ethiopia. On other hand, Tigrayans are the third largest and they cover 7% of the country. The Tigray War was an armed conflict that lasted from 3 November 2020 to 3 November 2022. The war was primarily fought in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia between the Ethiopian federal government and Eritrea on one side, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on the other.
The Highlighting Reasons For The Conflict.
The rise of TPLF : The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, also called the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, is a leftist ethnic nationalist paramilitary group, a banned political party, and the former ruling party of Ethiopia.
It was born in the mid-seventies to fight for the right of the Tigrayan people, became the most powerful rebel group and toppled the Marxist Military dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
During the three decades of TPLF rule, Ethiopia saw decent economic growth and emerged as a stable country in the volatile, violence-prone Horn of Africa region.
The fall of TRPF rule and coming of Prosperity Party : In 2018, public protest against the TPLF-led coalition due to various reasons. Abiy Ahmed who belongs to ethnicity Oromo can into power. In 2019, he started a party called Prosperity Party to end the potentially divisive old arrangement. His attempt to consolidate power irked the TRPF.
Before Abiy Ahmed came into picture every region in the country was governed by its own constitution. Abiy Ahmed on other hand wanted a united and integrated Ethiopia. He ended up old provisions in the country. The decentralised power was now consolidated by Abiy Ahmed and TIPF was not in favour of it. They saw him as a dictator.
The Evolutions of Conflict With Time.
Ethiopian empire was among the few who were able to save themselves from British colonisation by capturing the area around them in order to protect the central region that is Ethiopia. This resulted in ethnical diversity Amhara being the majority and all other including Tigrayan were treated like second class citizens.
After World War 2, Ethiopian empire was able to capture the former colony and its neighbouring country – Eritrea and treated the people there in the same way. One result of that was the formation of Eritrea People’s Liberal Front (EPLF) who’s motive was liberation from Ethiopian Empire.
In the year 1977, a communist dictator – Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam rose to power by killing his rivals. Once coming to power, he began cracking down on dissenting groups immediately. Launching a bloody military campaign called “Red Terror”, killing thousands that opposed him.
By this time other militias has formed and one of them was Tigray People’s Liberal Front (TPLF). They joined hands with Eritrea People’s Liberal Front (EPLF) and started to work in the north. They are political movements representing the societies that are culturally very proximate.
They made the northern part strong enough to resist the Mengistu’s army but he doubled down on his crackdown across the rest of the country. Other militias and dissidents began to look to the north for protection. Mengistu responded by killing civilians in Tigray and Eritrea, and even preventing international famine aid from reaching the region. Over one million Ethiopians died during his regime.
But by the late 1980’s the TPLF and EPLF has build up militias with thousands of fighters. And in 1991, both formed collation with other militias and were able to over throw Mengistu Haile Mariam regime.
In 1993 Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia leaving TPLF as the most powerful force in the region. The leader of TPLF – Meles Zenawi became the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Meles Zenawi made the countries political system into a kind of democracy, in which many previous regime became political parties including TPLF. He also divided Ethiopia into ten Ethnic-based groups regional states. The TPLF only contributed 7% of the Ethiopian population but in Zenawi’s new government, it formed a coalition with allies representing the most populous regions. It guaranteed that election would always come out in the TPLF favour.
But just a few years after Zenawi took power, he went to war with Eritrea along its border with Tigray. It served the relationship between the two countries for decades. Zenawi’s political system also did nothing to stop violence between ethnic groups throughout the country.
Zenawi died in 2012, but TPLF remained in power. In 2015, they held an election that many saw as rigged and won by a landslide. It led to massive protest across the country. More and more saw TPLF-led government as corrupt and illegitimate.
In 2018, the government selected a new prime minister from one of the Ethiopian suppressed groups who has advocated for peace an unity for the country. To many Euthopians around the world it felt like a new beginning. But almost immediately Abiy’s agenda put him in conflict with TPLF.
His first major act as PM was to repair relations with Eritrea, which was now an enemy of TPLF. He also began to remove corrupt TPLF officers from power. Then Abiy, started new collation that eventually became a single party – The Prosperity Party. He also invited IPLF to join the new party but they rejected and joined the opposition.
Tigray’s regional elections in August 2020 were an opportunity for TPLF to rebuilt their power but Abiy postponed the elections, according to him because of the pandemic. In defiance, TPLF decided that they will not recognize Abiy’s government and held regional elections anyways. Abiy responded by restricting federal funding to Tigray region.
The TPLF retaliated by taking over a federal military base. They were now at war. As of now, Ethiopian forces has taken much of Tigray region. And also Eritrean has also taken over some parts of Tigray region. Resulting in the either the displacement of thousands and killing of thousands. Abiy Ahmad is not the first leader to rage war in the country. Its just that his vision does not include everyone and he promised peace, that he wasn’t able to serve.
Ethiopia and India
According to sources some 2,000 Indian work as professors in the country. Approximately 120 work across Tigrey’s four major university. These teachers are highly respected because its hard for such low intensity economy country to afford english speaking well educated teachers from countries like USA and UK. In past inflation since 2018 impacted professors.
The first bach of Indian Teachers that went to Ethiopia was from Kerala in 1950’s. Its also a form of soft power of India. Evidences shows that Indian merchants started trading with the erstwhile Kingdom of axum (Aksum) about 2,000 years ago. In 1950, Ethiopia was the first country to open Embassy in India. Several high- profile bilateral visits, including the visit of
the President of India in 2017 has happened in the past. Ethiopia receives the maximum Line of Credit (LoC) among African countries from India. India played major role in countering terrorism and Islamist extremism in the region. There are 604 active Indian companies with an investment ranging up to $5 billion, employing about 75,000 Ethiopian nationals.
Despite the pandemic, there were 35 new investments from Indian companies in 2021. India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) – the second edition was hosted by Ethiopia in 2011. Ethiopia is a member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and one of its first signatories. Ethiopia has also helped India in Security Council of UN and voted in India’s favour in matter of Kashmir.
During the UNSC meeting on Ethiopia, India urged both sides to exercise control. India has run Non-Alignment Movement before because of which India stand of the stance that bilateral issues can be solved bilaterally even in matter of Kashmir for example.
India do not work as a mediator unless and until they are asked actively by both the sides, though India can do more assertive and play an active role since we have good relations with Ethiopia for years irrespective of who all have governed.
Though, war has come to an end but still there are several human rights violation that also counts in after effects of the war also stated by United Nations. It’s one thing to “silence the guns” and agree to disarmament, but it’s another entirely to peacefully disarm and change control of territory, let alone adjudicate a truth and reconciliation process and come to a national understanding of what happened and why.
Such a process, though painful, can be critical for addressing the serious rifts in the fabric of a society and at least lay the groundwork for alternate forms of dispute resolution — outside of violence and armed conflict.
● Articles from Duke University on Peace and Conflict Resolution.
● Al Jazeera newspaper articles on Tigrey Conflict.
● BBC newspapers of past two years on Ethiopian Crisis.
● UNSC documents on Ethiopia and Tigray Conflict
● Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) reports
● The African Union (AU) reports
● Research papers of Belgium’s University of Ghent ● Indian Express News Articles
● The Hindu News Articles
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