The politics of conflict in Northern Ethiopia, 2020-2021: a study of war-making, media bias and policy struggle

TitleThe politics of conflict in Northern Ethiopia, 2020-2021: a study of war-making, media bias and policy struggle
Publication TypeOther
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
Series titleASC working paper
Pagination - 24
Date Published2021
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL)
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsconflict, Ethiopia, European Union, mass communication, mass media, politics, Tigray People's Liberation Front, United States, violence

This paper offers a political analysis of the development of the TPLF-induced armed conflict in northern Ethiopia and considers the international responses in media and international policy circles. The extension of the conflict by the TPLF after the unilateral ceasefire proclaimed by the federal government on 28 June 2021 (followed by its retreat from Tigray) did not lead to an easing of the fighting. On the contrary, the TPLF used scorched-earth tactics, perpetrated substantial abuse of civilians (mass killings, burning down villages, destroying and looting hospitals, health centres and other economic infrastructure), and created food scarcity, hundreds of thousands of IDPs and hugely aggravated humanitarian problems in the Amhara and Afar regions. In spite of this unilateral TPLF extension of the armed conflict, the responses of international policy circles, notably from the Western ‘donor countries’ and the UN, have been negative towards the federal government and mild on the TPLF.This paper explores aspects of this paradoxical and problematic approach and argues that it will not lead to a political or other solution of the conflict, especially not in view of the undiminished belligerent strategy of the TPLF. The Ethiopian federal government and its leader PM Abiy Ahmed, having been confirmed in power after a relatively successful and credible parliamentary election on 21 June 2021, are pressurized by much of the global media and Western policy makers for the problems in Tigray – including the ‘famine’ declared by TPLF - and urged to negotiate. The TPLF, incorrectly identified with the people of Tigray as a whole, is not held to account. But an overbearing Western approach based on the threat of sanctions (by the US government) and on what often seem ‘neo-imperialist’ demands, as evident from serious interference in the conflict - even by a number of UN individuals (expelled from the country on 30 September 2021) - will not contribute to political negotiations or dialogue, restoration of peace, or rehabilitation of the war-torn regions, neither to stability in Ethiopia. Not only improved media reporting, based on solid local (Ethiopian) information and checking sources, but also a fundamental reset of certain UN and Western donor country policies on Ethiopia, are needed.

Résumé: Cette étude propose une analyse politique du développement du conflit armé induit par les TPLF dans le nord de l'Éthiopie et examine les réponses internationales dans les médias et les cercles politiques internationaux. L'extension du conflit par le TPLF après le cessez-le-feu unilatéral proclamé par le gouvernement fédéral le 28 juin 2021 (suivi de son retrait du Tigré) n'a pas conduit à un apaisement des combats ; au contraire. Les tactiques de la terre brûlée, les abus sérieux contre les civils (meurtres en masse, incendies de villages, pillage et destruction des hôpitaux et autres infrastructures économiques), la pénurie alimentaire, des centaines de milliers de déplacés internes et des problèmes humanitaires extrêmement aggravés dans les régions d'Amhara et d'Afar en ont été le résultat. Malgré cette extension unilatérale du conflit par le TPLF, les réponses des cercles politiques internationaux, notamment des pays « bailleurs-de-fonds » occidentaux et de l'ONU, ont été négatives envers le gouvernement fédéral mais modérées envers le TPLF.

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Citation Key11409