After a build up of tension in recent years between the different regions and ethnicities, Ethiopia stands on a cliff edge a few steps away from falling into the abyss of civil war.
Earlier this week Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military advance into the Northern Tigray region, a hotbed of separatism and ethnic tensions, after an attack and subsequent occupation carried out by the Tigray nationalist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of a government military base in the region.
Additionally a state of emergency has been declared by the national government, however as the BBC reported, it isn’t clear how the government actually plans to impose it given that the TPFL are in control of local government buildings and have armed fighters on the province’s southern border, probably expecting retaliation for what looks like at least a mutiny and at most an outright rebellion.
These events are far from spontaneous, they are the results of years of built up tension, which was made worse by a regional election being deemed illegal by the national government, but supported by the regional government led by the TPFL.
A senior TPFL official has been reported to have said “I think when it comes to military mobilisation, it’s not child’s play. It can trigger all-out war… what they are doing is playing with fire… a small spark can ignite the whole region. So I think we are on the alert and I can assure you we are capable of defending ourselves“. Whereas the Prime Minister of the national government said “The army has been attacked from behind by its own citizens and many have been martyred, wounded and properties destroyed“.
At the time of writing the Tigray government and the national government are at a standoff with pistols seemingly drawn, waiting to see who will make the first move.