The World Today for January 13, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

No More Mr. Nice Guy

ETHIOPIA

Air strikes have become a routine part of life in northern Ethiopia.

The strikes are part of the ongoing 14-month-long civil war between Ethiopian central government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a group that once held power in the East African nation. The Eritreans happened to get in the way. Around 150,000 are living in Tigray but have become victims of both sides in the fighting.

Things could change, however. Tigrayan forces have been abandoning territory that they had formerly seized from central government troops, the PBS NewsHour wrote. They sent a note to the United Nations saying they were ready for peace. They could be throwing in the towel due to a lack of supplies. Hospitals in the Tigrayan capital of Mekele, for example, have run out of food, leading to starvation among children, noted the BBC.

But Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, rather than accepting the olive branch, initially opted to keep up the fighting in pursuit of a decisive victory. “The struggle isn’t yet finished,” Abiy said recently, according to the Washington Times. “We should offer a long-lasting solution to make sure the enemy that has tested us doesn’t become a danger to Ethiopia again.”

Abiy behaves as if he has little choice but to keep up the fight, but the New York Times showed he had been planning a campaign against the Tigrayans even before he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending a war with neighboring Eritrea.

The son of an Oromo father and Amhara mother, Abiy, incidentally, has no ethnic ties to the Tigrayans who dominated Ethiopian politics between 1991 and 2018, explained University of Tennessee Sociologist Asafa Jalata in the Conversation.

Abiy’s former minister of women, children and youth, Filsan Abdi, resigned from her job out of disgust with the war, wrote the Washington Post. One of her jobs was to document how soldiers on both sides of the conflict were raping women and recruiting children to fight. She was told to suppress her findings.

On January 7 – Orthodox Christmas – Abiy released several political prisoners, including Tigray People’s Liberation Front members, to help cool tensions. But the announcement of the release did not include anything about peace talks.

In the meantime, the US and China – which is the largest foreign investor in Ethiopia – have dispatched envoys to the country in a bid to quell the civil war or at least prevent an escalation of the conflict. Abiy could have designs on starting a fight with Somaliland, for example, the National Interest argued.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee might want to learn some lessons from this experience.

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