Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis: Key Facts

The Ethiopian National Defense Force conducted airstrikes against the forces of Tigray region as a result of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). As of now, military operations as well as air strikes have been conducted against the forces of Tigray region since November 4.

What is Tigray Crisis?

  • If we talk about the recent conflict that is going on, then the Tigray Crisis began with the announcement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that forces supporting TPLF have attacked a military base and many soldiers have been martyred. After this, PM Abiy started military operations against the forces of the fortified Tigray region on Novembers 4, 2020.
  • Although TPLF refused any of such attacks, a state of emergency has been declared by the Ethiopian government in the region. Electricity and internet services were shut down in the region.
  • On November 6, 2020 airstrikes were launched against the forces of TPLF.
  • On November 7, 2020 the Ethiopian parliament voted to form an interim government in the northern Tigray region and declared the Tigrayian government as illicit. This government was formed by local elections during COVID-19. The Ethiopian government had postponed the elections that were to be held in September due to the pandemic.

The Ethiopian government has also made some replacements in the middle of all this; Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen has been appointed as the Foreign Minister while Birhanu Jula has been promoted to the post of Army Chief.

Background: What led to the Conflict?

  • The tensions between Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front actually began with the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as the prime minister of the country in 2018.
  • Before the year 2019, TPLF used to be a part of Ethiopia’s governing coalition but it refused to join the Prosperity Party formed by Abiy and separated itself from the coalition.
  • TPLF has been one of the most influential members of the ruling coalition that was formed by ethnic-based parties but after the merger of all other parties in the Prosperity Party formed by Abiy, TPLF has been left alone.
  • The Federal government of Ethiopia voted to postpone the September 2020 elections but TPLF was against the extra time given to Abiy in the government and also conducted its local elections.
  • This is where the tensions between the government and TPLF became stronger.

Why is Tigray Important?

Tigray is the northern most region of Ethiopia and has only 6% of the country’s population. Even with this small population, Tigray is a strategically important region of Ethiopia. It is because the region has played a great role in power and government almost from 3 decades. After the end of Ethiopian Civil War in 1991, Tigray People’s Liberation Front became the leader of the governing coalition of Ethiopia. Also, Meles Zenawi, a Tigrayan, led Ethiopia from 1991 until his death in 2012. This is the reason why Tigray is one of important regions of the country.

How Tigray Conflict affect Ethiopia and its neighbors?

As the conflict has taken a bad turn now, there is a possibility that it can spread to other regions of Ethiopia. So, the Tigray crisis can lead to unwanted war-like situation. Not only this, the Tigray crisis can also affect the neighboring countries like Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea. Ethiopian forces have started to withdraw from Somalia; Sudan is also going through a major political transition.

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