Renewed war in Ethiopia draws in Eritrea


The already horrific conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray state seems set to escalate after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Nov. 17 that a three-day ultimatum for local forces to surrender had expired, clearing the way for a government offensive on the regional capital Mekele. At least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan amid air-strikes and mounting reports of atrocities on both sides. Neighboring Eritrea has also apparently entered the conflict—ironically on the side of the Ethiopian government, long its bitter enemy. The state government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) accuses Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of troops over the border to support Ethiopian federal forces. Although this is denied by Eritrea, Tigray state forces have fired rockets into the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Mekele has also fired rockets at the airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar in Ethiopia’s Amhara state, whose local forces have joined the conflict on the side of the central government. (CNN, UN News, Reuters, Jurist, Jurist, TNH, Horn Daily, Al Jazeera)

The reversal in Eritrea’s alignment has to do with the TPLF being removed from power as the de facto ruling party of Ethiopia in a 2018 shake-up of the coalition it had formerly led, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). That shake-up brought to power Abiy Ahmed, who is of the Oromo people—Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, but traditionally exlcuded from power. There are now disturbing reports of Tigrayans, the favored ethnicity under the TPLF, being targeted by the central government for persecution. Police reportedly visited an office of the UN World Food Program in Amhara region to request a list of ethnic Tigrayan staff members, raising fears of ethnically based sweeps. (Al Jazeera)

Map: Perry-Castañeda Library

  1. Ethiopian federal army claims capture of Mekele

    After heavy artillery strikes, Ethiopia’s federal government claims that Mekelle, capital of Tigray state, is now under its control. But fighting continues in the countryside, with federal forces attempting to hunt down TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael. TPLF forces claim to have shot down a federal military plane. Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to Tigray have been down and access tightly controlled since the conflict began on Nov. 4. (NYT, Reuters, DW)