Ethiopia, a country that’s known for being the cradle of humankind, delicious food and great coffee has now fallen into a vicious civil war.
The federal government of this giant country , home to over 100 million people, is at war with the leadership of one of its states, the state of Tigray.
This horrific war has lead to what the US government is labeling as ethnic cleansing. Ethiopian federal troops, along with troops from neighboring country Eritrea, are accused of committing war crimes such as mass execution of civilians, widespread rape, looting and destruction of hospitals and more.
WATCH this video on the Tigray War:
Although the Ethiopian government has attempted to keep the Tigray region in the dark by cutting internet and blocking journalists from gaining access, reports of mass atrocities were slowly slipping out. Once reporters were finally let in, they were able to verify the credibility of these reports. CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, and more have reported on what’s taking place in Tigray.
Some celebrities, activists, and humanitarians have taken to social media to post about the crisis in Tigray.
Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in #Tigray Region
A confidential U.S. government report found that people in Tigray are being driven from their homes in a war begun by Ethiopia, an American ally. President Biden’s first major test in Africa. https://t.co/5caKirfxM0
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) February 26, 2021
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) February 3, 2021
Some really horrific stories coming out of Ethiopia recently:
'Choose – I kill you or rape you': abuse accusations surge in Ethiopia's war https://t.co/yLxwEN63yk
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 11, 2021
Here Are 5 Things to Know About the Tigray War
1. The Main Players
The TPLF, the Tigray People Liberation Front, is a 46 year old political party. It came into power back in 1991 when a coalition of forces led by the TPLF ousted the Derg communist regime in Ethiopia. Until 2018, the TPLF has been leading the country in a coalition formed of 3 other political parties.
Since Prime Mister Abiy Ahmed came into power in 2018, tensions have been rising between the federal government and the TPLF, who were in charge of the state of Tigray. Tensions boiled over when the federal government decided to postpone 2020 elections due to the coronavirus but the TPLF chose to hold state elections regardless. Both sides argued what they were doing was constitutionally the right thing to do. The TPLF was elected in the state of Tigray by wide margins to stay in power.
On November 4, 2020, Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed declared war on the TPLF after they allegedly attacked a military base located in Tigray. The Tigray Defense Forces led by TPLF, on the other hand, said they acted in self defense.
The federal government quickly took control of cities in Tigray and declared the war over by the end of November 2020. But various reports show that fierce fighting is still ongoing.
2. The Humanitarian Disaster
Since the start of the conflict, civilians have been reporting cases of horrific human right violations, like mass executions, rape, and extensive looting. Human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch have also released detailed reports of mass civilian massacres.
Over 60,000 refugees have crossed over into neighboring Sudan, millions are internally displaced, and according to the new Tigray interim administration, out of a population of about 7 million, 4.5 million people are in need of immediate, life saving aid due to the war. The Ethiopian government has been accused of blocking aid by various aid organizations.
Amongst the over 150 civilians murdered by #EritreanTroops at St. Mary church #Dengelat Edaga Hamus, the entire family murdered/four sons & father, the only survivor/wife is now mourning. What can I say, it’s hell on earth. #TigrayGenocide pic.twitter.com/eMUs3Nzo2b
— Gebrekiros Abraha (@Gebrekiros_GAG) March 4, 2021
Eyewitnesses put most of the blame for atrocities on Eritrean forces who crossed the border to assist Ethiopian federal army in fighting the Tigray state forces. However, Ethiopian troops and Amhara militias from the neighboring Amhara state, are also committing horrible crimes against humanity.
Recently, various videos have been circulating that show the execution of civilians that were filmed by the military themselves.
3. The Use of Rape as a Weapon
Reports of rape by Eritrean and Ethiopian solders in Tigray have been circulating for a couple of months now and these have been verified not only by international media but by the Ethiopian government also, who finally, reluctantly admitted that mass rape has taken place in Tigray without a doubt.
We have heard stories like that of Mona Lisa Abraha, an 18 year old who lost her arm defending herself from a rapist soldier. She was shot in the arm and it had to be amputated. Some women have been held captive for days and raped by multiple soldiers.
One woman told AFP that once a day, Ethiopian soldiers would line up outside her cell in a military camp, sometimes as many as 10 men waiting their turn to rape her.
Another report came out that families in Tigray were shaving their daughter’s heads and dressing them like boys to keep them safe from rape and sexual assault.
4. The Destruction of Historical Places
Tigray is a very historical place. It is home to the Axum empire, one of the biggest empires in world history. It ruled over what’s modern day Northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, and also parts of Sudan and even Yemen. So Tigray is home to various historical places, like the Obelisk of Axum, a unesco heritage site, the first mosque ever in Africa, Hundreds of ancient churches, and much more.
It is also here, in the town of Adwa that Ethiopia defeated Italian invaders in the late 1800s to maintain independence. The battle of Adwa is a source of pride not only for Tigray, but all Ethiopians and Africans in general.
Some of these historical places have been damaged or destroyed during this war. These places should be protected not only for the sake of the people of Tigray, but for being important places for all of Africa and humanity.
5. The Mass Migration that Might Follow
Anytime there’s conflict, there’s people displacement. Ethiopia is home to over 100 million people and the war in Tigray is bound to spill over to other regions. We have already seen Sudan moving to reclaim land that they say is theirs along the border with Ethiopia after the start of the war in Tigray. It is without a doubt that the Ethiopian economy is already hurting and will continue to hurt if this conflict is not resolved soon. That means we will likely see mass migration from this region.
The European Union has already stated their concern about this conflict fueling migration to Europe just like other conflicts in countries like Libya, Yemen, and Syria has. And through mass migration, people lose their lives, families are separated, other countries are burdened with taking care of new arrivals, and much more.