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What's behind the divisions in Ethiopia

Ali Awali

June 4, 2021
Last November the Ethiopian government military launched an offensive in Tigray Region in the north of the country, killing thousands and displacing millions. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in December reported on atrocities inflicted on civilians, including, but not limited to, "artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting."
The TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front) defeated the counter-revolutionary Derg military regime in 1991 and were at the centre of Ethiopian power from then until 2018. They are the ruling party in Tigray Region, and have substantial military power. Their conflict with the Federal Government Of Ethiopia is a power struggle between different sections of the ruling class and a victory for either side will not benefit the ordinary people of Tigray, Ethiopia or the rest of East Africa.
The fight is between Federalists and those who want to get rid of Federalism and reintroduce a powerful Unitary State and in the process destroy the TPLF, who sponsored Federalism in Ethiopia in the first place.
The explosion of communal violence is a legacy of the Ethiopian Empire of Emperor Menelik dating from the late nineteenth century who expanded his empire in the territories of the other nationalities who were never part of centuries old Abyssinia. One dimension of the conflict is the rivalry between the oppressed nationalities fighting for their freedom and those who want to maintain the status quo. However, the rivalry between the Tigray ruling class and the Amhara ruling class is a struggle between elites for power.
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