Yearender: Conflict-hit Ethiopia bids farewell to turbulent 2021 amid hopes for peace-Xinhua

Yearender: Conflict-hit Ethiopia bids farewell to turbulent 2021 amid hopes for peace

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2021-12-27 03:08:07

ADDIS ABABA, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia has grappled with a turbulent 2021 as a year-long armed conflict between the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) in the northern Tigray region has continued to afflict the northern parts of the East African nation.

Despite the country's scramble to bring an end to the conflict, fighting had expanded during the year to even more areas, including the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, eventually pushing millions into urgent humanitarian need and misery.


The conflict, due to what the government said was an attack on the Northern military command by the TPLF rebel forces, flared up in early November 2020. The TPLF, however, claimed that the attack was a "pre-emptive strike" against the government forces' prior preparations that it believed were intended to oust the regional government and deploy forces along the regional borders. The Ethiopian government denied any of such claims.

The TPLF, an entity designated as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian parliament, controls much of the Tigray region. It used to lead a political coalition called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) from 1989 to 2018, and established a new government in May 1991 that ruled Ethiopia until it was ousted from power in the federal government in 2018.

Prior to the conflict, the Ethiopian government had been blaming the TPLF, one of the four coalition fronts of Ethiopia's former ruling party EPRDF, for masterminding various terrorist acts across different parts of the country with an overarching goal of destabilizing the country.

Over the past month, the ENDF jointly with regional forces and militia fighters has intensified its push, eventually controlling strategic areas across Amhara and Afar regions, reversing months of battlefield gains by the rebel forces.

On Wednesday, the government announced that its army has been ordered to keep its stronghold in recently liberated areas without further proceeding.

The move, which came on the backdrop of the TPLF's decision to halt its military engagements in neighboring regions, has reignited hope over a possible end to the year-long conflict.


Early predictions have shown devastating impacts inflicted on public and private infrastructure as well as the livelihoods of affected communities as a result of the conflict.

Eyob Belachew, an Ethiopian-based international relations and political analyst, said the conflict has sparked a large-scale humanitarian crisis that has captivated global attention.

"The war has taken a tremendous human and economic toll, and it is expanding beyond Tigray, with adverse repercussions for the country's overall growth and development," Belachew told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Last month, the Amhara regional state announced property damage amounting to 279.5 billion Ethiopian birr (about 5.7 billion U.S. dollars) in areas that were controlled by the rebel forces across the region.

The regional government accused rebel forces of vandalizing water, electricity, road and healthcare infrastructure, in which at least 1,466 hospitals and health care facilities were fully or partially damaged, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reported, citing Anmut Belete, Amhara Region Plan and Development Bureau Head.

According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, preliminary information showed that more than 4,000 schools have been damaged in the Amhara region alone, leaving over 1.9 million school children out of school.

Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters earlier this month that the spillover effect of the conflict in the Amhara and Afar regions is estimated to have displaced more than 1.8 million people while leaving 8.3 million people food insecure in the two regions.

According to the UN, the conflict continues to increase humanitarian needs due to displacement, loss of livelihoods, and lack of access to markets, food, and basic services.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has disclosed that about 9.4 million people are being targeted through humanitarian support initiatives in the three conflict-affected regions, while the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said the complex and fluid security situation is hindering the effective delivery of life-saving assistance to the most affected populations.


Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, professor of public policy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said the growing trend of foreign interference and pressure would have a detrimental effect on future engagements among parties to the conflict.

Noting that foreign interference had been distractive both in practice and essence so far, Costantinos argued that continued foreign interference would prolong the conflict.

Analysts say western countries, mainly the United States, have been exerting pressure on the Ethiopian government regarding the conflict, including removing Ethiopia from a U.S. trade program - the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as well as sanctioning Ethiopian officials.

The United States' handling of the situation, has received strong accusations from the Ethiopian government and general public, questioning its impartiality in handling the matter.

According to Belachew, foreign interference is in most cases what aggravates domestic conflicts and may easily be avoided via dialogue or other means. He argued Western meddling have worsened the dynamics of the conflict in Ethiopia.

"The rebel-led conflict in northern Ethiopia appears to look like civil conflict at some stage. However, it goes much beyond rhetoric and is part of a bigger context in which international actors are strongly engaged in a hybrid war against Ethiopia," Belachew said.

Albeit the growing challenges, however, optimism has grown that the East African country would once again find its peace and stability through reconciliation and march in the path of development.

"Now it seems there is an ever-growing peace and certainty over the future of the country which seemed unlikely about a month ago. There is rising optimism that the country will get back to the normal path of development and stability with an intended national dialogue and extensive negotiation creating an environment for reconciliation and rehabilitation," Belachew said. Enditem