When the premier of Ethiopia, Abiy Ali won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, it was considered as the dawn of peace in the horn of Africa. But when the external crisis was resolved, they are facing one within their home.
Ethiopia and Eritrea were in a complicated boundary dispute for almost four decades. When they resolved the crisis with mutual understanding and diplomacy, mediated by the UN, Prime Minister Abiy was widely acknowledged as a peacemaker in the region. That he can contribute to establishing peace in other regions of the continent. But the region was not just a place of dispute but also a hotspot of international strength showing arena, as the Djibouti stations military bases for the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, and most recently China and Saudi Arabia. Somalia has a terrible reputation for sea piracy and a threat from the Al-Shabab militant group. So, the peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea was a welcoming step in the highly disturbed African political crisis stage and hardened the hope for other regions of Africa. Signaling that the peace can prevail if handled properly.
THE HOMEGROWN CHALLENGE
The new challenge was not from the neighbors but was homegrown. The leader of the northern autonomous region was allegedly initiated with a new episode of disturbance and refugee crisis by firing missiles on the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) regional headquarters in Mekelle, the capital city of the Tigray region. Then national government reciprocated this action which resulted in the collapse of the communication network, transport system including the Axum Airport shut down along with a lack of basic supplies. All these actions triggered mass migration and added one more refugee crisis to the continent. Thousands of northwestern Ethiopians were forced to escape to Sudan, which is already burdened with its civil disturbance and migration problem.
Tigray regional security forces, loyal to the ruling TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) are at the forefront in the fight against the national government, which is allied with Amhara regional forces. Tigray ethnic group comprises 6% of the Ethiopian population. TPLF’s Chairman and regional administrator, Debretsion Gebremichael was not happy when PM Abiy tried to widen the gap between national political policy and ethnic federalism. Gebremichael has openly challenged the PM’s three-day deadline and proclaimed that would fight until victory.
UNHRC has informed that ‘More than 25,000 refugees have arrived in Sudan exhausted and scared and are being sheltered in transit centers near the border. This violent clash between the forces at the proximity of the Suez canal will draw massive international attention. But an immediate response is the need of the hour. Otherwise, it will add another humanitarian crisis in the region and the major victims would be women and children.