Ethiopia is the core of the levels of tension experienced by the Horn of Africa, it has a very particular characteristic in terms of internal organization, its politico-territorial system is ethno-federal, that is to say that it has ten provinces or Kililoch, administered by majority ethnic groups and with a fairly high level of autonomy. Historically, Ethiopia has been marked by ethnic conflicts, the democratization of former guerrillas, the war with Eritrea, the abandonment of Soviet Marxism and the rise of ethnonationalism, which help to understand the current situation.
With the arrival of Abiy Ahmed Ali as Ethiopian Prime Minister in 2018, after the resignation of his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, he began a series of political, economic and social reforms, the objective of which was to restore peace in the country. Among these reforms was the granting of freedom to nearly 7,000 political prisoners, a fact which led many exiled opponents to return to the country; stimulated the liberation of the economy; proposed constitutional reform to begin a transition to multi-party democracy, and announced the planting of millions of trees to curb the effects of climate change under the slogan “Green Legacy”.
She also promoted an agenda with a gender perspective for more women to participate in politics, supporting the nomination of Sahle-Work Zewde as President of Ethiopia, making her the first female Head of State in Africa. and in Ethiopia up to that time. Likewise, he appointed activist Meaza Ashenafi as President of the Federal Supreme Court and his cabinet was formed with gender parity.
On foreign policy, Abiy managed to restore diplomatic and friendly relations with its neighbor Eritrea after nearly 20 years of border conflict by signing an agreement with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. Furthermore, he proposed the Ethiopian capital as a venue for peace talks between the government and opposition groups in South Sudan.
The proposal for change was so ambitious that on October 11, 2019, Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in favor of peace and international cooperation, mainly for the initiative to resolve the border conflict with the Eritrea.
Forging Lasting Peace in the Horn of Africa
After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the Ethiopian Prime Minister said in his speech that war is the embodiment of hell for all involved, that it creates ruthless and savage men; that peace requires good faith to become prosperity, security and opportunity; that his vision of peace is rooted in the philosophy of measure ⸺an Amharic word meaning synergy, convergence and teamwork for a common destiny⸺ as a social pact for Ethiopians to build a just, equal, democratic and humane society.
Good faith actions were short-lived when he announced that his government would launch military action in the northern Tigray region against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF played a prominent role in Ethiopian history, after the fall of the Derg regime, it positioned itself as a leader in the country’s new politics and founded the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) with the Democratic Organization of the Oromo People. (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Democratic Front of the Peoples of Southern Ethiopia (SEPDM), thus establishing an ethnic federalism that lasted until 2018.
Two years after being rewarded, Abiy sought to turn the country’s political situation by creating the Prosperity Party, a group joined by all EPRDF parties except the TPLF, pointing out that the federal government accused , persecuted and unjustly dismissed officials of his front from their posts. However, the medulla between the government and the TPLF occurred when it was announced that the general elections scheduled for August 2020 would be held until 2021 due to the covid-19 pandemic. This was not well seen by those of the TPLF who decided to continue with the organization of the elections, although the government considered this act to be unconstitutional.
Tensions between the government and the TPLF escalated into armed conflict just over a year ago, when Prime Minister Abiy ordered a military offensive in retaliation for the attack on a military base in Mekelle.
Second Term: Party Without Prosperity
The long-awaited prosperity of the Ethiopian people is no longer so moving in this second term as Prime Minister. Although Abiy claimed that the June 21, 2021 elections were historic and unique, he reaffirmed his commitment to building institutions that prioritize bridging the political gap between society and the country.
He argued that opposition parties will be widely represented in the new government that will be put in place. Only the Prosperity Party won 410 of the 436 representative constituencies in the lower house of the federal parliament ⸺ out of a total of 547 seats ⸺ that went to the polls, which meant a new five-year term.
The long-awaited prosperity of the Ethiopian people is no longer so moving in this second term as Prime Minister.
Although Ethiopia has held elections since 1995, no vote had been truly competitive, with the exception of the 2005 election, in which disputed results caused serious unrest and the death of at least two hundred demonstrators, as well as the imprisonment of leaders. .of the opposition.
Regardless of the fact that the elections will take place amid the conflict in Tigray and a global health crisis, the African Union, for its part, assured that the vote took place, in general terms, “in order , peace and credibility.” “, despite major operational, security, political and health challenges. Some local media said that Prime Minister Abiy was seen in uniform with soldiers near the Afar region, a strategic place since one of the roads that connects Djibouti to Addis Ababa is there, and that in recent days , it was the scene of clashes.
What were the reactions of the international community?
The different positions at the international level have become notorious. The governments of Germany, the United States, France, Greece, Japan and the United Kingdom have spoken out against the conflict, urging their non-essential citizens and diplomats to leave the country due to poor conditions. uncertain and increasingly unpredictable security. .
For its part, the Irish government has spoken out against the measures taken by the Ethiopian government, expelling four diplomats from the country because of the positions expressed by Ireland on the conflict in the African country. Due to this and the situation in the country itself, the government has recommended no travel to Ethiopia and those in the country are leaving immediately.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Vera Songwe, has recommended the immediate evacuation of the families of United Nations (UN) international staff based in Ethiopia. The African Union has called for peace in Ethiopia, calling for an end to hostilities in the Tigray region. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has publicly expressed concern over the escalating military confrontation, encouraging the two sides to engage in dialogue to find a peaceful solution in the interest of the country.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell called for a ceasefire, rejected the use of military force as a solution to the conflict and called on all parties to end hostilities immediately .
Amnesty International has urged all parties to respect international humanitarian law and to protect the civilian population. Furthermore, he stressed that leaders must desist from inciting violence against people because of their ethnicity.
According to the UN, these clashes caused thousands of deaths between soldiers and civilians; more than two million people have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands are on the brink of starvation, not to mention the physical and sexual assaults on women and girls and the violation of their rights.
States of emergency that have no end
On November 2, 2021, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency for a period of 6 months (extendable, if necessary) throughout the territory to try to stop the offensive of the Tigray rebels, restricting the rights and guarantees of the society. Some of the measures to be taken are, among other things, that it allows the authorities to detain anyone without a warrant if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are cooperating or have relations with “terrorist groups” and to detain them without judicial review as long as the declaration is in force. Free movement in the city is prohibited for those who do not have resident ID, this decision is based on avoiding “infiltrators” in the capital.
In addition, it is prohibited to reveal military information, to create a transitional government and to use freedom of expression to support the rebels. However, this could have repercussions since the declaration of the state of emergency allows the suspension or cancellation of the licenses of non-governmental organizations and the media if they are suspected of providing, directly or indirectly, material or morale to “terrorist organisations”. . .
Not to mention that the blocking of telecommunications ⸺ internet, calls, messages, social networks ⸺ is frequent, this as a means of control to prevent the outside from knowing the extent of the conflict that the country is experiencing. In addition to blocking access to roads to deliver humanitarian aid.
GRECIA GONZÁLEZ GÓMEZ holds a degree in International Business from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), Santo Tomás Unit, and a Masters in International Relations from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He specializes in foreign policy, diplomacy, multilateralism and African studies. Follow her on Twitter at @GlezGreece.
Tags:Humanitarian Aid, Horn of Africa, Elections, Ethiopia