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Famine, Fighting, and Death: The Tigray Situation

In 2019 Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, Mr. Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After being elected to the position in 2018, he quickly became recognized internationally for his efforts to unify Ethiopia, a country that has long been split along ethnic lines. Ahmed reformed laws that existed from more authoritarian regimes, released thousands of political prisoners, granted the media much more freedom, and even invited groups and individuals who had been exiled from the country to reenter. Between unity, a rapidly improving economy, and the historic election of Ethiopia’s first female president, Ahmed was seen as a kind of miracle-worker for Ethiopia. So, what has transpired since 2019 that has shifted the international opinion of him from a peacemaker to a warmonger? 

One of Ahmed’s greatest achievements in the early days of his position was disbanding the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDR), a collection of governments from different religious and ethnic groups, to instead form the Prosperity Party. This new group included the governing bodies of the Oromo, Amhara, and Somali populations in Ethiopia, just to name a few. However, the representative party of Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front(or TPLF), refused to join. The TPLF had held much of the power in the EPRDR, and were reluctant to join the party for fear of experiencing a reduction of power, reports the BBC. This caused tensions between Ahmed and the TPLF, which boiled over in 2020. What began as a “law and order” operation by the Ethiopian army quickly escalated to conflict between the defense forces of Ethiopia and Tigray. 

Since then, Ahmed has been accused of contracting with militias to target Tigrayan soldiers and citizens, encouraging religious leaders to spread propaganda, and allowing the army to send young men into battle with insufficient training. On the Tigrayan side, thousands of civilians have been killed or have died due to a lack of resources. The conflict has been so severe that humanitarian aid has not been able to enter the Tigray region, and the blockage has left millions of people facing severe food shortages. Will Ross of the BBC reported on January 29th that recent communications between Ethiopian and Tigrayan leaders have left many people hopeful for a  cease-fire or even a peace treaty. Even a brief pause in the conflict could potentially save millions from starving to death, but in order to achieve long-term stability in Ethiopia as a whole, Ahmed and the TPLF will have to reach some form of leadership agreement. 

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Sukainah Abid

Agnes Scott '23

I'm a 3rd year ASC student who is majoring in Literature and Creative Writing and minoring in Environmental Studies. I've spent the past two summers writing for newspapers in Georgia and Virginia, and have a particular interest in the environment, gender politics, and religious issues.
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