The World Today for June 18, 2021



Living Ghosts

Thousands have perished and more than 2 million people have fled their homes in Tigray, a mountainous region in northern Ethiopia, since fighting between Tigray People’s Liberation Front rebels and the central government started late last year. Now famine has struck Tigray, too. More than 350,000 there face death by hunger, the Guardian reported.

Three armies rule the region. The Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa controls about one-third of Tigray. The Eritrean army, an Ethiopian ally, runs another third. Tigrayan rebels control the last third, mostly in rural areas. Human rights workers said marauding soldiers harass people, steal food aid and attack women, the BBC wrote.

Tigrayan voters won’t get a chance to cast ballots to show their support or lack thereof for Abiy’s government, either, when Ethiopian voters go to the polls this month to elect a new parliament. Authorities have postponed voting in the region indefinitely due to security issues and other problems, noted Reuters.

The prime minister has twice delayed the elections now slated for June 21. At first, he postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then he said the government needed to print ballots, the Associated Press explained. Tigray’s leaders said the prime minister’s mandate has ended and held their own regional vote. Abiy called the election illegal. Violence resulted.

The election is important because it is the first time voters will have a chance to render judgment on Abiy’s record, according to Agence France-Presse. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the war with Eritrea. Early in his administration, he released dissidents from jail and apologized for the government’s brutal treatment of protesters.

But more recently, many believe Abiy has come to resemble the autocrats he aimed to replace. As National Public Radio discussed, his opponents are in jail, Tigray is a warzone and the US has imposed sanctions on the country for its military actions in the north. Civil society – the press, human rights advocates, academics and others – are fighting hard to make sure the elections are free and fair, Deutsche Welle wrote.

Abiy will likely win. But his victory won’t necessarily help him.

“Abiy hopes that a victory – there is no way he can lose – will make him look like a democratic leader in charge of a united country,” wrote University of Birmingham Professor of Democracy Nic Cheeseman and Horn of Africa expert Yohannes Woldemariam in the Mail & Guardian, a South African news outlet. “But sham elections will do nothing to bring the country together or help Ethiopia to excise the ghosts of the past.”

Indeed, his first order of business in his new term will be dealing with them.

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