The situation in Ethiopia; Why Ethiopia’s stability is threatened and yet so important.
Here is an article by Dr. Alfred Schlicht published in the DÄV, The German Ethiopian Association eV.
The Ukraine war has pushed the inner-Ethiopian conflict into the background, even if it continues to smolder and a propaganda battle continues to rage in the local media. Anyone there today accusing the Ethiopian government of human rights violations in Tigray should not forget that it was the TPLF that started the conflict with acts of violence and massacres. The raid on the Ethiopian military base in Tigray and the excesses of violence against Amharic migrant workers in May Kadra.
In autumn 2020, the atmosphere was poisoned from the start and showed that this was not about the legitimate interests of an ethnic group or region of the multi-ethnic state, but about a violent revolt. Not responding with tough measures could have thrown Ethiopia into chaos. There were first signs of this early on: ethnic violence erupted in the west of the country in November and December, resulting in hundreds of deaths – hardly noticed in our country.
Since federalism has been spoken of as a sensible formula for an ethnically and religiously diverse state in Ethiopia, ethnic and also religious conflicts and acts of violence have increased – which only appears to be a contradiction at first glance. The concept of federalism is not really present in the political consciousness in the Horn of Africa. One ethnic group – and thus one region – has always controlled the Ethiopian state or at least played a leading role. These were initially the Amhars, the Ethiopian people par excellence, and the Sheva region, then, since the fall of the Mengistu regime in the early 1990s, the TPLF and Tigray.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ended their dictatorship. He reduced the role of the TPLF, released political prisoners and liberalized the media. The hope for ‘federalism’ that had long existed in Ethiopia blossomed again in this new atmosphere. The various ethnic groups, above all the Oromo, who represent the largest national community in Ethiopia, are now trying to expand their position in the country and, if possible, to strengthen their role in Ethiopia – and they are doing so with violence. The fact that the Oromos committed terrible acts of violence, even though one of their own, Abiy Ahmed, was in power, has to do with a contradiction: Abiy Abiy Ahmed wanted real federalism, but many Oromos wanted their ethnic group to dominate above all . Similarly, with the TPLF, if Tigray, with just under 6 percent of Ethiopia’s population, could not continue to control Ethiopia, an independent Tigray state seemed the alternative. Not only did this threaten Ethiopia’s existence – for a disengagement of the northern province would also have a catalytic effect on Somali Islamists in the east, the Oromo, the Afar in the north, the already violent Gummuz in the west [Beni-Shangul] and many others. Eritrea would also see an independent Tigray state on its southern border as a danger, a new armed conflict would be inevitable, since the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflicts of 1998/2000 were primarily a conflict between the EPLF and TPLF. This is how the cooperation of the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments against the TPLF is to be understood, if, of course, human rights violations cannot be justified as a result. Appointed in April 2021, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said if Ethiopia collapsed, the Syrian civil war would seem like a no-brainer by comparison. Indeed, such a scenario could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. That is why the USA and not least the EU must also have an interest in playing a consolidating role in Ethiopia – even if the problems in Eastern Europe are felt to be more urgent at the moment. Indeed, such a scenario could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. That is why the USA and not least the EU must also have an interest in playing a consolidating role in Ethiopia – even if the problems in Eastern Europe are felt to be more urgent at the moment. Indeed, such a scenario could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. That is why the USA and not least the EU must also have an interest in playing a consolidating role in Ethiopia – even if the problems in Eastern Europe are felt to be more urgent at the moment.
The Islamic scholar Dr. Alfred Schlicht is the author of the 2021 book The Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia: History and Politics.