The Tigray conflict was supposed to be a swift and nationally unifying campaign for the former Nobel Peace Prize winner Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia. Instead, it has developed into a crisis and a stain on his legacy. Through an internet blackout, the involvement of foreign troops as well as war crimes, we see how Mr. Ahmed has tarnished his previously benign reputation.
How Did We End Up Here
From 1998 till 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia (at the time it was under the joint rule of the TPLF; Tigray People’s Liberation Front) were engaged in a border conflict. Although peace was declared in 2000, it was never accepted until 2018 when Mr. Ahmed ceded territory to Eritrea and won a Nobel Peace Prize for it.
Flash forward to 2020 and Mr.Ahmed had decided to delay the elections due to COVID-19. The Tigrayan people who are located in the northern area of the country viewed this as undemocratic and proceeded to hold their elections which led both governments to view each other as illegitimate. Both sides have been entrenched in the conflict ever since. The Eritreans up until now were also involved with the express permission of the Ethiopian government, thinking they might still have some hostilities for the Tigrayan people.
When the conflict began, the Ethiopian regime swiftly cut off internet access to the northern region of the country. This was a mistake. Not only did this hurt the average Ethiopian, but it also made it impossible for journalists to verify any accounts of what happened. This means when Ethiopian troops supposedly took the Tigray capital in a swift and decisive victory, there was nobody able to confirm or deny it. Meanwhile, the internet blackout also kept the true humanitarian costs in the dark.
War Crimes - A Tale As Old As Time
Under Ahmed’s watch, the Eritrean & Ethiopian coalition has been responsible for a spike in war crimes in the Tigray region. Just recently, the UN has declared that two refugee camps in northern Ethiopia were destroyed. Parts of the camp were even burnt down. In addition to the desecration of the refugee camps, there has been mass rape occurring. According to the UN, over the course of the conflict over 500 individuals have been raped. With many reports of people being forced to have sexual relations with their family members at the threat of gunpoint. Eyewitnesses have also reported that some perpetrators to be from the Eritrean army.
The Invited Invaders
The most jarring fact about the war crimes being committed by Eritreans is that Abiy Ahmed actively invited in their presence while publicly denying it. Throughout the course of the conflict, Ethiopia has worked alongside Eritrea in order to put down the TPLF. When reports first came out that Eritrea was involved, Mr. Ahmed said these rumors were unfounded and that there were no troops from foreign countries in the region. Now as of March 2021, Mr. Ahmed has publicly announced that all Eritrean forces will now be leaving, therefore cementing the fact that they were active in the area.
By denying internet access and delaying elections, Mr. Ahmed has weakened Ethiopia’s democracy and transparency. Meanwhile, the war crimes committed by troops Mr. Ahmed invited in himself will leave lasting scars for the entirety of the nation. The Tigray conflict has helped us see who Mr. Abiy Ahmed truly is. He’s not a bringer of peace and prosperity, he’s a ruler responsible for death, division, and destruction.