By Farouk Chothia

BBC News


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“War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated when he obtained the Nobel Peace Prize lower than a 12 months in the past – just for him to now wage a navy operation in his personal nation.

Over a couple of three-week interval, his troops fought their manner by means of Tigray, proper up within the north of Ethiopia, to oust the area’s ruling social gathering, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing it of attacking a federal navy base.

A former guerrilla motion which first rose to energy in 1991, Tigray was the final political bastion of the TPLF after it misplaced management of the federal authorities to Mr Abiy in 2018.

Mr Abiy turned prime minister with common help, introducing sweeping reforms to finish the repression and corruption that Ethiopia had seen when the TPLF dominated the nationwide political scene for greater than 25 years.

Police warn Nobel laureate’s nominee

Believing that it was the patriotic obligation of all Ethiopians to rally behind their prime minister’s 4 November name to oust the “junta” from its remaining stronghold after its dramatic navy manoeuvre, federal officers tolerated little criticism of their “law and enforcement operation”, focusing on even the UK-based tutorial who was amongst those that nominated Mr Abiy for the Nobel prize.

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picture captionHundreds of individuals have been killed within the battle

A senior regulation lecturer at England’s Keele University, Awol Allo stated he discovered by means of stories on Ethiopia’s state broadcaster that police had accused him of “using international media to destroy the country” – a reference to the columns he writes and the interviews he grants to the likes of Al Jazeera and the BBC.

“At this point I am not aware of an arrest warrant, but going back to Ethiopia will carry a significant risk,” Mr Awol advised the BBC.

“There is no distinction between Abiy’s regime and the previous regime as far as their treatment of dissent and opposition is concerned. It is classic Ethiopia – where the legal system is used as an instrument to discredit and silence opponents of the regime and individuals who hold critical views.”

‘Tigray oligarchy’

The Geneva-based head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was not spared both.

Having beforehand served within the TPLF-led authorities, he was accused by Mr Abiy’s military chief of attempting to obtain weapons for the social gathering.

Rejecting the allegation, Dr Tedros stated: “My heart breaks for my home, Ethiopia, and I call on all parties to work for peace and to ensure the safety of civilians and access for health and humanitarian assistance.”

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picture captionTigray has a inhabitants of about eight million

Defending the federal government, Menychle Meseret, an instructional at Ethiopia’s University of Gondar, stated solely these suspected to have direct or oblique hyperlinks with the TPLF “oligarchy” had been focused.

“Since Mr Abiy became prime minister, 264 websites have been unblocked. So what has happened now is not an overall reflection of the state of democracy in Ethiopia. There was a threat to the country – no country can tolerate that,” he stated.

Mr Awol stated the problem was not who fired the primary shot, however the truth that Mr Abiy had rebuffed requires mediation, together with from the African Union (AU) that’s headquartered in his personal nation.

“What you need is a government that rules with far more patience, tolerance, and gives peace and mediation a chance. Instead, both were preparing for war.

“Abiy eliminated the TPLF from the cupboard [in 2019]. He then postponed elections. The TPLF then went forward with an election in Tigray. They stated they do not recognise him [as prime minister]. He stated he would not recognise them, and that’s what led to the battle,” Mr Awol said.

The government says the nationwide elections were postponed because of coronavirus restrictions, although Mr Abiy’s critics accuse him of using it as an excuse to illegally extend his time in power, while neither he nor his new party had faced the electorate.

media captionThe BBC’s Anne Soy reports from a refugee camp on the Sudan-Ethiopian border

For former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, foreign mediation was out of the question as it tended to lead to “peace offers that usually crumble as quickly as they’ve been signed”, while “rogue actors are rewarded for instigating violence” rather than facing justice.

But for Mr Abiy’s critics, there is little justice in Ethiopia – only repression.

“Back in July there have been about 10,000 folks in jail. And the quantity might be even greater now due to the battle in Tigray,” Mr Awol said.

Expressing a similar view, United States Institute for Peace senior adviser Payton Knopf said: “The political house has closed once more. Every distinguished opposition determine is in jail, and Lemma Megersa – who was instrumental in Mr Abiy turning into prime minister in 2018 – is below home arrest.”

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image captionLemma Megersa (C) served as the defence minister before being sacked by Mr Abiy in August

Offering a different perspective, Mr Menychle said that Mr Abiy had ended authoritarian rule.

“He unbanned political events. He improved the jail system. He allowed folks to return from exile. The downside was that a number of the politicians started to gasoline violence due to their ethnocentric agenda.

“At one rally, a young man was killed and hung on a stick. You can’t have that. In 2018, there were about 1.8 million internally displaced people, the highest in Africa. This was endangering the country,” Mr Menychle stated.

Abiy – the brand new emperor?

He added that on the coronary heart of the myriad conflicts was the “ethnic federalism” that the TPLF had launched when it took energy in 1991 by creating areas alongside ethnic traces.


“Ethnic federalism has been the source of our misery. It has made ethnic groups believe that they have their own areas, and if you come from a different ethnic group you can’t live there. You are chased out, burnt, killed,” Mr Menychle stated.

For Mr Abiy’s critics, the abolition of ethnic federalism would herald a return to the time of “imperial rule”, when emperors – from Menelik II to Haile Selaisse – pressured different communities to “assimilate” into their Amhara tradition, although many Amharas deny they did this.

“Mr Abiy’s vision looks more and more like that of Ethiopia’s traditional power structure, which revolves around Amharas and highly assimilated Oromos like himself,” stated Faisal Roble from the US-based Institute for Horn of Africa Studies and Affairs.

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picture captionMenelik II was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 till his dying in 1913

“He praises Menelik II. He rebuilt his palace. He says he wants to make Ethiopia great again. But the Ethiopia that he romanticises is the one marginalised ethnic groups hate. The emperor he considers a great hero, others consider as their enslaver and conqueror,” Mr Faisal added.

‘Let’s cease the massacres’

These fears, Mr Faisal argued, had been compounded by Mr Abiy’s determination to type the Prosperity Party (PP) final 12 months, which changed the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – a coalition of 4 ethnically-based events – that had ruled the nation since 1991, and had put him in workplace in 2018.

He stated that beforehand the EPRDF solely ruled 4 of Ethiopia’s 10 areas. By creating a brand new social gathering, Mr Abiy prolonged management over the entire nation – besides Tigray. “With this war, he has now also taken control of it [Tigray],” Mr Faisal added.

“What people were expecting from Abiy when he took office was the opposite – political pluralism, and greater recognition of the cultural and linguistic rights of the nations and nationalities that make up Ethiopia. But he prefers a unitary system of government, not a federal system.”

More on the Tigray disaster:

media captionThree penalties of the continuing disaster in Tigray

For Mr Menychle, the prime minister was neither a menace to political pluralism nor to any ethnic group.

“Unity does not mean that you will have to lose or hide the ethnic identity that has been around for thousands of years. All Mr Abiy is saying is: ‘Let’s move away from the situation where each politician thinks of his own ethnic group. Let’s stop the massacres. Let’s think of our country, Ethiopia, and let’s live in harmony, as brothers and sisters.’

image copyrightAnadolu Agency

image captionEthiopia has a population of more than 100 million

“The PP has the prospect of doing that. It even brings collectively ethnic teams that had been marginalised by the EPRDF, like Somalis,” Mr Menychle said.

With Ethiopia heavily polarised, Mr Knopf said the government needed to put in place “mechanisms to channel political grievances”.

“There is not any blueprint for carrying the nation into one thing new. You want discourse in an organised style, however you’ll be able to’t have that when political leaders are in jail,” he said.

Expressing a similar view, Mr Awol said: “Transitions need to be inclusive. They cannot be dictated by one social gathering. Mr Abiy has centralised energy. He needs to be the person from whom energy springs.”

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  • Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother on 15 August 1976
  • Speaks fluent Afan Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya and English
  • Joined the armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime in 1990
  • Served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995
  • Entered politics in 2010
  • Became prime minister in April 2018 at the age of 42
  • Awarded Nobel Peace Prize in December 2019

Mr Abiy received the Nobel prize partly because of his efforts to democratise Ethiopia, but primarily for the peace deal he reached with Eritrea’s President Isaias Akwerki to finally end the two countries’ 1998-2000 border war.

Expressing the view that Mr Abiy had been “prematurely” given the prize, Mr Knopf said: “Border crossings opened for some time, after which shut once more. There was no written doc on the phrases of the peace settlement. There was a personal understanding [between Mr and Mr Afwerki]. That will not be how peace is sustained.”

Nobel prize a ‘double-edged sword’

Another US-based Ethiopia analyst, Alex De Waal, said the Abiy-Afwerki peace deal now looks more like a “safety pact” to defeat the TPLF in Tigray.

“Eritrea had a serious function within the battle. There are stories that there have been 20 brigades of Eritrean troops in Tigray. Ethiopian troops additionally withdrew to Eritrea,” he said, although both governments denied that Eritrean forces entered Tigray.

So does Mr Awol regret nominating Mr Abiy for the prize?

“If I had identified then what I do know now I would not have. But it’s a double-edged sword. The Nobel prize offers you political capital, however it will also be a legal responsibility in case you turn into generally known as the Nobel laureate who waged battle.”