South Asia and Beyond

Ethiopia-Tigray War: “Ethnic Genie Out Of The Bottle, UAE Can Weigh In To Mediate Political Solution”

NEW DELHI: Why is 2019 Nobel peace laureate Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed conducting a ‘war’ on the country’s Tigray region? Theodore Murphy, Director of the Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the genesis of what PM Abiy describes as a ‘campaign to uphold the rule of law’, the “explosion of open conflict between the central government and the Tigray federal block that constituted the former leadership of the country” and the “terrible humanitarian consequences.” The UN Security Council has held a closed-door virtual meet to discuss the situation for the first time 20 days after the military assault began. More than 40,000 Ethiopians have fled to Sudan, with the PM setting a deadline for Tigrayan forces to surrender in a ‘final push’ to the northern region’s capital Mekelle. UN officials have warned ‘ethnically motivated attacks and reportedly ethnic profiling of citizens has heightened the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.’ While pointing out the “need for exact terminology and for a judicial standard to be applied” to reports of such a serious nature, Murphy “worries about ethnically constituted paramilitary forces fighting” in the conflict, warning, “once the genie is out of the bottle in respect to ethnic tensions… there’s a tendency in the region for these kinds of dynamics to spin out of control.”

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The Director at ECFR assesses “the federal government making (military) advances more quickly than expected” but also points out that the “Tigrayans have a lot of experience fighting as a guerrilla movement”. He also puts in context efforts to mediate, the Ethiopia-Eritrea-Somalia axis of alignment, the effect of Sudan’s complex military-political transition and what the western powers including the U.S. are doing. Murphy concludes by stressing the need to “to amplify the message of mediation coming out of the UAE and hoping they can bring their weight to bear behind a possible political solution.”

Amitabh P. Revi

Russian language speaker and conflict journalist. Amitabh Revi has been there, done that—from the battlefields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to sublime Russia, Australia and the United States. Along the way he's picked up the Dag Hammarskjöld Distinguished Journalist Fellowship, the Ramnath Goenka award for coverage of the Iraq War and RT's Khaled Alkhateb Award for his reporting from Palmyra, Syria.