FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 10, 2020
War Prevention Initiative: “Ensure atrocities prevention measures and support long-term peacebuilding efforts in Ethiopia”
PORTLAND, OR – At the War Prevention Initiative, we call for urgent and long-term responses to address the civil-military conflict between Ethiopia’s central government and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). This war is pointless, a military victory is not possible, and civilians in a country of 100 million people already bear the brunt of consequences. While the crisis is dynamic and we cannot predict all immediate developments, this conflict is in danger of destabilizing Ethiopia with ramifications for the entire region. Ethiopia’s stability is crucial for the stability of the Horn of Africa.
After weeks of deadly military conflict between the two sides killing thousands of people and prompting more than 43,000 refugees, the Ethiopian federal government has declared that its law and order enforcement operation has come to an end except for reconstruction work and the ongoing search for TPLF senior leaders, which were labeled as criminals. The TPLF announced its intent of launching guerilla warfare strategies and tactics.
Key issues of the conflict can be identified in the policies of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party (PP) and the “old guard” of the TPLF, which held largely unchallenged power in the Ethiopian ruling party coalition between 1991 and 2018. “The ‘reformist’ Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is the outcome economic exploitation by TPLF elite groups and people’s mass struggle for human rights,” says Mulugeta Haiybano from the War Prevention Initiative. The TPLF refused to join Abiy’s coalition and the two sides have had increasingly hostile relationships which resulted in the current state of affairs. The reform policies by Abiy and the loss of power by the TPLF respectively are the key immediate issues. The importance of recognizing internal dynamics, such as the different ethnic groups and their aspirations to manifest themselves in different manners within in Ethiopia, are long-term root causes that need to be addressed.
From a US perspective, the current and incoming administrations must pursue the following paths:
Peacebuilding scenarios include providing humanitarian aid; holding timely, fair, and transparent elections; social dialog over ethnic and territorial disputes; managing the politicization of ethnic identities; and re-humanization of (ethnic) adversaries. While some of these measures require international support, it is of utmost importance that all peacebuilding measures are locally-led. That means they must be envisioned, developed, and implemented based on the needs of those affected by the violent conflict in Ethiopia and consider the power dynamics among them.