Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began a military assault against Tigray insurgents a year ago, expecting a swift triumph. Tigrayans, on the other hand, were able to reverse the trend.
According to a recent UN assessment, the Ethiopian government and Tigray fighters have been exchanging fire since early November 2020, resulting in hundreds of deaths and over 400,000 people fearing hunger.
Since June, when fighters retook most of Tigray and expanded into adjacent provinces, the war has dramatically intensified. The fighters have amassed sympathizers and are on their way to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Who are the warriors from Tigray?
From militiamen to rulers, there are many different types of people that serve in the military.
The Tigray People's Liberation Front was formed by a small number of fighters in the mid-1970s (TPLF). They pledged to fight for the rights of Tigrayans, a minor ethnic group that makes up just 5% of the population and has long been ignored by the government.
During the 1980s, the TPLF posed a severe threat to Ethiopia's Marxist military regime. In 1991, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of armed groups, ousted the Soviet-backed government.
The coalition subsequently started to govern Ethiopia under a federal structure, with the TPLF dominating politics for over three decades and exerting power over the other organizations.
Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan leader, served as Ethiopia's interim president from 1991 until 1995 when he was elected Prime Minister in a tumultuous election. He ruled until his death in 2012, when Hailemariam Desalegn replaced him. Ethiopia's economy grew during this period, but the government suppressed opposition.
The EPRDF administration guided the nation through droughts and famines and a border conflict with Eritrea in 1998-2000. During this period, human rights worsened, with opposition parties accusing the government of persecution and corruption, feeding widespread dissatisfaction.
Hailemariam stepped down in early 2018 after years of anti-government demonstrations from various ethnic groups had severely harmed the EPRDF government's credibility. Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo ethnic group member, was chosen as his successor by the EPRDF and was elected Prime Minister.
Abiy, a non-Tigrinyan politician with no links to the TPLF, was well-liked. He deposed several Tigrayan officials, prosecuted several with corruption, and enacted a series of political reforms that effectively put the TPLF out of business. Abiy quit the EPRDF coalition government in late 2019 and formed the Prosperity Party (PP). The TPLF retreated to their stronghold, refusing to join the organization.
The TPLF and several other opposition leaders accused Abiy of postponing the vote to continue in power after the COVID-19 outbreak postponed the 2020 general election. Despite the postponement, regional elections in Tigray are scheduled until September 2020. The federal government started withholding payments from the regional government a month later.
TPLF troops have been suspected of attacking and looting federal military posts in the area as early as November 2020. Abiy launched Operation Law Enforcement in Tigray, promising to eliminate TPLF militants quickly.
However, the Ethiopian army has been beset with defeats since June 2021 and has been forced to retreat from Tigray. Now, as the front line is closing in on Addis Ababa, the prime minister is urging inhabitants to prepare to protect the city.
Even if the Tigray fighters hold the upper hand, seizing Addis Ababa will be difficult. Other Ethiopians are likely to oppose them, fearful of a party that has dominated the nation for almost three decades returning to power.
Written By: Olivium's Staff.