The World Today for September 01, 2021
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When the Levee Breaks
Rebels seeking to separate their region from Ethiopia, the Oromo Liberation Army, have been on the rampage in the East African country, killing around 150 people in one recent incident alone, the Associated Press reported.
The rebels and their affiliated militias are known to search villages for any man who might have fought in the Ethiopian army, sometimes identifying ex-soldiers by the marks left by rifle shoulder straps and then murdering them execution-style. “They want to suppress and rule us. Their deed is ethnic cleansing,” Adisse Wonde told Agence France-Presse.
In response, wrote the Washington Post, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called for mass enlistment in the Ethiopian army. Some enthusiastic recruits say they are happy to join because they say, “their blood is boiling.”
Such violence is part of the descent into chaos that is gripping a country that seven years ago was heralded as the new economic tiger on the Horn of Africa.
Instead, “a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned. “The unity of Ethiopia and the stability of the region are at stake. Inflammatory rhetoric and ethnic profiling are tearing apart the social fabric of the country.”
For example, in another part of the country, Ethiopia is fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region since November. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front ruled the country for decades until Ahmed took power in 2018 after anti-government protests.
Thousands have died in that fight, two million more have been displaced and another million have faced famine, sexual assault and ethnic cleansing. Aid workers keep finding bodies, bloated and bearing knife or gunshot wounds, carried on the waters that flow from the Tigray region to Sudan, the New York Times wrote.
As Bloomberg explained, the fighting has spread to conflicts between central government troops and other ethnic groups that also want more autonomy. Recently, for example, the Tigray rebels allied with the Oromo Liberation Army, which is affiliated with the Oromo not the Tigrayan ethnic community.
Ethiopia has about 80 ethnic groups and 10 regional governments. Many worry that a growing conflict could push groups within Ethiopia to take sides and draw in countries from across the region.
Ahmed, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his successful efforts to end Ethiopia’s war with neighboring Eritrea, has called for a national dialogue to begin this month in an effort to end the fighting. At the same time, Eritrean soldiers have been drawn into the conflict in Tigray: Late last month, the US imposed sanctions on the chief of staff of the defense forces of Eritrea, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for “despicable acts” including massacres, widespread sexual assault, and the executions of boys, NPR reported.
Ahmed is under pressure to stop the carnage. American officials have said the fighting could jeopardize economic benefits for Ethiopia, Reuters reported. China, in contrast, has said the violence won’t affect its investments in the country.
A group of African intellectuals and scholars on the continent released a letter in African Arguments imploring everyone to give the dialogue a chance. The letter referred to Ethiopia’s status as one of the few African countries to resist European imperialism as well as its role as the host of the Africa Union’s headquarters.
Many now seem to be pulling for peace. But it might be too late.
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