The Morning After
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The war between Ukraine and Russia has understandably garnered much attention over the past year. While that carnage has unfolded, however, another bloodbath recently was to end in the Horn of Africa.
Approximately 600,000 people died in the two-year-long war that pitted Ethiopia’s central government in Addis Ababa and its allies in Eritrea against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a paramilitary force based in the country’s north, reported the National. The three sides signed a peace agreement ending the hostilities in early November.
Now the world is wondering how Ethiopia will put itself back together.
The war has ravaged the country, which had until recently been growing economically and gaining diplomatic stature for its stabilizing role in the region. Launched by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending a war with Eritrea, the war has also displaced and, coming as food and energy prices have spiked, impoverished millions. Mass starvation is now sweeping through the country, the BBC warned.
Both sides allegedly committed horrific human rights violations in the fighting, including “extrajudicial killings, rapes and looting,” according to Reuters. The government and the TPLF deny the allegations.
Ethnic Tigrayans are a minority in Ethiopia but the TPLF dominated Ethiopian government coalitions for decades, explained the New York Times. In 2018, nationwide protests erupted over their corrupt and oppressive rule, giving Abiy and his new Prosperity Party an opportunity to rise to power. He then used the fighting to give Tigrayan territory to another ethnic group, the Amharas, who had ruled the country through the fall of the Ethiopian Empire in 1974, added Harper’s Magazine.
Today, after the violence committed on both sides has led to “deep fault lines” between the two sides, as the Economist wrote, many Tigrayans no longer identify with Ethiopia, noted Ethiopian Insight, a local news website. Government troops, local Amhara forces and Eritrean soldiers were still occupying the territory in mid-January.
So while the peace deal has resumed humanitarian aid and restored telephone links and electricity to Tigray, many residents there fear violence because of the remaining soldiers from Eritrea, who were supposed to pull out of the region, and who are blamed for a wave of atrocities during the war, the Washington Post wrote.
The soldiers are continuing to loot and rape, the newspaper said.
“We are not at peace when we live in fear,” one resident told the Post.
As the Associated Press reported, the French and German foreign ministers who recently visited Ethiopia used the occasion to call for justice for those who were victimized during the war. “There is no peace that can be lasting without justice,” said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, adding that Europe would only reengage with Abiy’s government when he had demonstrated that justice would be done.
With the Tigrayans reduced to supplicants, foreign governments might be the only ones who will be able to keep Abiy and his allies accountable, and force the Eritreans to withdraw.
That’s necessary because a lasting peace only comes with security and reconciliation. And it’s a process likely to take years.