It’s time for tough Washington love


A month after an apparent breakthrough toward conflict de-escalation in the grinding war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and the associated humanitarian catastrophe, conflict and centrifugal dynamics have escalated dramatically, destabilizing the country beyond Tigray. After eight months of fighting and an increasingly effective insurgency, the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) defeated the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) backed by neighboring Eritrea at Tigray. Facing the defeat of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed He declared a unilateral ceasefire and ordered the government forces to leave from Tigray.

However, the windows that desperately needed humanitarian access and negotiations between the Tigrayan leadership and the national government quickly closed. The Turkish Defense Forces captured parts of the Afar and Amhara regions. In response to the collapse of the National Defense Force, the Prime Minister intensified his efforts to form regional militias based on ethnicity. However, Addis Ababa’s ability to control these paramilitary forces is very limited: over time, they will pose a more serious threat to Ethiopia’s stability, territorial integrity and ethnic coexistence than to the status of Tigray. Although cuts in US aid to Ethiopia were on the table during Samantha Power’s tenure, USAID Administrator Last week’s trip For Addis Ababa, Washington has limited tools to roll back the persistent dangerous dynamics.

The rivalry between Tigray and Addis Ababa

Since 2018, ethnic tensions and competition for state resources and power have risen in Ethiopia, as the country has sought to transition from three decades of authoritarian rule by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Although the rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is controlled by leaders from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has brought economic growth for years, it is becoming more orthodox. In the face of mass mass protests, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) sought a smooth transition, and chose a new Oromo political leader, Abiy Ahmed, who was elected by the Ethiopian parliament as prime minister in April 2018.

Ethnic tensions have emerged across the country, including in areas that receive less international attention, such as the Southern Nations and the Somali region, especially between Tigray, Amhara and Oromo. The tensions soon led to violent incidents, assassinations, massacres, and massive internal displacement.

Struggling to control unrest and stave off demands for faster political liberalization and economic redistribution Despite the increasingly repressive measuresMy father took a confrontational stance towards the Tigrayan political leaders. In addition to limiting their disproportionate power, he sought to hold them accountable for the economic and political crimes of the EPRDF regime.

In turn, Tigrayan leaders began to boycott and subvert his government. Unsuccessful coup Assassination plots emerged. when Postponing dad unilaterally National and regional elections Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tigrayan leaders did not condemn the move as a power grab (as did their other ethnic counterparts in Ethiopia), but proceeded to Elections to be held in Tigray region in September 2020. In October, fearing a federal government response as well as escalating tensions with Amhara and Oromo, Tigrayan leaders began seizing military depots in the Tigray region.

Abiy responded with military force against the Tigrayan leadership, deploying patriotic forces in the area. At first, the military response appeared to crush the TPLF leadership, and Prime Minister Abe refused to negotiate with them, insisting on arrests and trials.

Other claimants of power and resources in Ethiopia have also benefited from the conflict. Long dissatisfied with the decades-long dominance of Tigray, neighboring Amhara, home to the second largest ethnic group and ruling elite during the monarchy that ruled the country until 1974, He captured parts of Tigray. Ethnic conflict over local resources, such as farmland, water, and access to revenue distributions from Addis Ababa, erupted in other parts of the country.

Reverse military fortunes

However, although regional actors, such as Eritrean forces, entered the Tigray battlefield in support of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF)—with Eritrea and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front for a long time identifying each other as determined enemies—the fortunes of the military changed.

Despite the apparent successes of the NDF in the first weeks of the entry into Tigray, the SDF insurgency had become increasingly well-established and effective by the spring of 2021. Locals by ENDF The gross human rights violations committed against the people of Tigray also by Eritrean forces It was one of the factors in the solidification and heaviness of TDF. The military capabilities previously present in the TPLF were also.

Abe’s and the NDF’s ambitions to militarily crush the Tigray rebellion have been misguided all along. However, the extent to which the ENDF is directed is important. The Ethiopian Federal Military Forces have long been considered one of the most powerful military actors in the Horn of Africa, a preferred ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, and a mainstay of efforts to combat al-Shabab in Somalia. Instead, a potential ENDF quagmire in Tigray quickly turned into an ENDF defeat, albeit temporary.

The exposed weakness of the ENDF has both local and regional implications. In Ethiopia, the collapse of the Ethiopian National Defense Force did little to deter violent insurgencies elsewhere in the country (such as Oromia and the Somali region), which Abiy supposedly meant with his mailed fist. Indeed, the defeat of the Ethiopian National Defense Force may tempt more aggressive steps by various dissatisfied ethnic groups. Regionally, it may reinforce the Abe government’s dependence on foreign reinforcements, particularly Eritrean forces, which are seriously regionalizing the conflict. It raises deep questions about Anti-Shabab Efforts in Somalia, Previously weaken and struggle.

With the departure of the Ethiopian National Defense Force from Tigray, Tigrayan forces rapidly moved into the Afar and Amhara regions on August 5. Capture of the important city of Lalibela, home of the thirteenth century churches carved into the rocks. In Afar, the TDF is seeking to seize the crucial land route to Djibouti, a vital artery for landlocked Ethiopia. It is widely assumed that the Tigrayan forces are considering their ambitions Parade in Addis Ababa. Like Abiy before, they showed little willingness to conduct settlement negotiations, calling instead for the formation of a transitional government and Abiy’s resignation. Neither Abiy nor his circles of power in Addis Ababa or the broader constituencies between Amhara and Oromo are willing to consider such concessions.

In large parts of the country, strong anti-Tigraya sentiment dominates and erupts locally Against Tigrayan ethnic violence.

Loose cannon militia and permanent central forces outside Tigray

Most importantly, Abiy’s use of ethnic militias as a major response to the weakening of the Ethiopian National Defense Force is dangerous and likely to be highly counterproductive. Ethnic militias and paramilitaries were forming across Ethiopia even before the Tigray People’s Liberation Front revolted last fall.

My father’s mobilization now supported the militias and strengthened their formation in Afar and else regions of Ethiopia.

However, the militia will prove to be a loose cannon. Traditionally, anti-rebel militias required reinforcements from the central government, lest many of these groups succumb to pressure to defect or be crushed by powerful rebel forces: Afghanistan and Mexico Provides many examples.

Furthermore, Like anywhere else around the worldMany of the ethno-ethnic paramilitaries have intense local agendas, some of which clash directly with Addis Ababa. After initially fighting the TDF, many of the militias that sprang up around Ethiopia would turn against the capital, as well as against each other, in their struggles over resources and power distribution, although some will likely adapt to the TDF.

Already, in various parts of Ethiopia, local recruits refuse to join the National Defense Force, preferring instead to engage with paramilitary or state special forces, such as The notorious Liu police In the volatile Somali region for a long time. From hundreds to thousands, such forces could easily ignore the control of Addis Ababa.

Humanitarian disasters and regional instability

In the meantime, the risks of inter-ethnic massacres are growing exponentially. In Ethiopia, a complex and multi-pronged ethnic civil war would become a massive humanitarian disaster and have disastrous effects on the broader Horn of Africa, drawing in regional patrons from the Middle East and beyond.

Indeed, the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region is terrible, with Siege by Addis Ababa and, to a lesser extent, rebel and militia attacks Obstruction of food and drug delivery. Addis Ababa without conscience cancel – rescind Operating licenses for two main humanitarian actors – Médecins Sans Frontières and the Norwegian Refugee Council – accusing them of siding with the Tigray Liberation Front. Some 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions, and another 4.8 million need urgent helpThese numbers will grow in September when crops fail.

Washington’s appeals to the Tigrayan forces Withdrawal from Amhara and Afar They are unlikely to be heeded unless the United States is prepared to threaten and impose punitive measures against the Tigray leadership, in the form of visa bans, sanctions, and conservative criminal charges. The threat of such sanctions may also be necessary against Abyei government actors and regional militia leaders to force their forces back to their areas of origin and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. Cutting off non-humanitarian aid to Ethiopia may soon become a tool that Washington should wield as well, although Addis Ababa could respond by withdrawing troops from Somalia, giving al-Shabab more power and space amidst that. Multifaceted crises in the country.

Realistically, however, Washington has little power to stop the formation of militias and the dissenting disintegration they have begun. It is unlikely that Abiy will stop relying on them unless the Tigrayan forces return to Tigray and settlement negotiations begin. Until then, the militias had already been unleashed.

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