JUL-2021 :: The Contagion will surely boomerang and destabilise the Horn of Africa for the forseeable future.https://bit.ly/3lGQtPT
A Fractured Giant Ethiopia’s struggle to build a nation @Reuters [continued]
1991 | A new era
Known for his sharp intellect and political acumen, Meles leads Ethiopia’s nation-building project in a radically new direction.
With a plethora of regionally-based rebel groups clamouring for greater autonomy, Meles places an explicit recognition of the central importance of ethnic identity at the heart of his political vision.
Reversing the Mengistu regime’s push for greater centralisation, a constitution adopted in 1995 divides Ethiopia into nine ethnically-based federal regions.
Their governance structures are modelled on Tigray, which the TPLF had been running as an autonomous region since 1989.
Uniquely in Africa, the new constitution enshrines the rights of each of the country’s regions and recognised ethnic groups to hold a referendum on self-determination.
Supporters present the constitution as a vital counterweight to historical attempts by the country’s Amhara imperial-era elite to assimilate other communities by forcing them to adopt Amharic culture and language, and expropriating their land.
But Meles’ privileging of ethnicity represents a contrarian bet on a continent where conflicts playing out along ethnic lines represent one of the greatest impediments to the formation of stable post-independence states.
Advocates of a more unitary approach to governing Ethiopia fear ethnic federalism will further polarise the country and lead to its eventual dismemberment.
1993 | A nation is born
Mengistu’s fall marks victory for Eritrea in its 30-year armed struggle for independence. Former rebel leader Isaias Afwerki, who fought Mengistu alongside Meles, pursues international recognition for the Eritrean government.
In April 1993, Africa’s youngest country formalises its new-found status by staging a referendum in which more than 99% of votes are cast in favour of independence.
Hopes are high that Isaias and Meles will build on their shared struggle to cement peaceful relations.
In the spring of 1998, during a 10-day trip to Africa, then U.S. President Bill Clinton extols an “African Renaissance” led by a new generation of progressive leaders – his aides name Meles and Isaias as prime examples. But the marriage of convenience forged while fighting Mengistu is not to last.
1998 | Friends turn foe
Against a background of economic tensions and growing personal enmity between Isaias and TPLF leaders over who should be the pre-eminent regional power, fighting breaks out – ostensibly over who can claim the town of Badme on the disputed border between Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Tit-for-tat air raids at the onset of hostilities cost civilian lives.
The war revives Meles’ credibility among Ethiopian nationalists, who had previously criticized him for allowing Eritrea to assert its independence.
1998-2000 | Fighting yard-by-yard
The war grinds on, with withering casualties in fighting over barren plains in World War One-style trench warfare. An estimated 70,000 combatants are killed.
Ethiopia forcibly expels as many as 75,000 people of Eritrean origin, most of whom were born in Ethiopia and have lived there their entire lives.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Ethiopians are expelled or repatriated voluntarily from Eritrea. The conflict sets the stage for years of continuing enmity between Eritrea and the TPLF after Ethiopia keeps Badme for itself.
May-April 2005 | Elections, then crackdown
In a near revolutionary atmosphere, elections in May, 2005 are a lightning rod for growing discontent with the Tigrayan-dominated federal government. F
ractious opposition parties backed by energetic crowds of Oromo and Amhara youth unite to confront Meles with the first concerted challenge since he took power.
After an initial strong showing by the opposition, the government declares a state of emergency. Allegations of massive rigging by the ruling coalition mar the polls.
Security forces open fire into crowds of protesters in Addis Ababa, killing almost 200 people; 20,000 to 30,000 more are swept up in mass arrests.
Meles' reputation is increasingly tarnished at home – but he remains a key partner of both the West and China.
2010 | Increasing repression
Meles’ government becomes increasingly authoritarian. Ethiopia’s federal system of government – formalised by the 1995 constitution that divided Ethiopia into nine ethnically-based regions – is under increasing strain.
Armed Oromo and Somali factions fighting guerilla campaigns in rural areas say Meles has failed to live up to his promises to devolve political power.
Meanwhile, many urban, educated Ethiopians see the system’s basis in ethnic identity as a retrograde impediment to building a modern, cohesive state.
2012 | Era of uncertainty
Ethiopia enters uncharted waters following Meles’ death in August 2012. After the chaos of the Mengistu years, Ethiopia has earned a reputation as a bastion of stability in the volatile Horn of Africa, with Meles presiding over a period of rapid economic growth that opened opportunities for many.
But critics say that Meles' embrace of ethnic federalism may have served to mask the country’s tensions, rather than resolve them.
Southerner Hailemariam Desalegn, a technocrat, takes over as prime minister and pursues continuity.
But pressure for reform grows as youth from the Oromo and other communities hold three years of protests against inequality, economic mismanagement and repression.
Hundreds of demonstrators are killed and around 30,000 are arrested. Detainees include opposition leaders, journalists and bloggers.
April 2018 | Watershed moment
A marked change occurs in April 2018 when the ruling coalition installs Abiy Ahmed as prime minister. A member of the coalition’s Oromo faction, the then 41-year-old Pentecostal Christian is hailed by supporters at home and in the Ethiopian diaspora with almost messianic fervour – a phenomenon dubbed “Abiy Mania” in the media.
A former cyber security chief, who joined the armed struggle against Mengistu as a teenager, Abiy styles himself as a unity candidate who can hold Ethiopia together through reform – not repression.
Political prisoners are released; exiles return; and dissidents are appointed to important posts.
Abiy characterizes his approach to government as medemer, or “coming together.” To advocates of greater regional autonomy, the emphasis on unity evokes traumatic collective memories of the centralising campaigns waged by both Mengistu’s dictatorship and the Amhara conquerors of the imperial past.
July 2018 | Rapprochement
While consolidating his position at home, Abiy pursues rapprochement with Eritrea, whose repression and isolation has earned the country a reputation as “the North Korea of Africa.”
The neighbours have been frozen in a state of “no war, no peace” since their 1998-2000 border war. Abiy breaks the deadlock by accepting the findings of a U.N.-backed boundary commission that awarded Badme to Eritrea.
“Forgiveness frees the consciousness,” Abiy tells a huge crowd in Addis Ababa in July 2018, hugging visiting Eritrean president Isaias to celebrate their newly-forged peace.
The pact gives Abiy an important ally against the once-dominant TPLF.
This new alliance raises hopes in the West of broader regional collaboration to stabilise the Horn of Africa.
But Ethiopia’s underlying tensions are intensifying as Abiy’s moves to open up political space allow suppressed ethnic rivalries to boil over.
Communal strife intensifies as ethnic strongmen seek to build powerbases by demanding more land and resources.
Late 2019 | Balance of power shifts
Politics undergo a tectonic shift as three of the four ethnic-based parties that make up the ruling EPRDF coalition that has governed Ethiopia for almost 30 years vote to merge into a new ruling Prosperity Party.
After intense negotiations, the TPLF – formerly the dominant faction – declines to join the new party but remains in power in Tigray.
With the TPLF no longer in a national ruling coalition, Tigray becomes the first region to be run by government opponents since the federal constitution was adopted following Mengistu’s fall.
Senior Tigrayans are removed from important posts in the military and central government - and some face charges of corruption or human rights abuses - as the balance of power in Addis Ababa tilts towards Oromos and Amharas.
Abiy says he is distributing posts more fairly. Opponents fear that his focus on national unity heralds another swing of the pendulum towards greater centralisation.
2019-2020 | Peace Prize and unrest
In October 2019, Abiy is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation with Eritrea, catapulting him into darling status on the international stage.
But tensions continue to fester at home. In June 2020, the murder of popular Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa by unknown assailants sparks deadly riots that claim more than 150 lives; 9,000 people are arrested.
In Tigray, many feel excluded by Abiy's peace agreement with Eritrea – which they fear he will use to forge an alliance against them with Isaias, who has regarded the TPLF as an arch-enemy since the 1998-2000 border war.
Tensions escalate sharply when Abiy's government postpones general elections due in August, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tigrayan leaders recall their representatives from Addis Ababa and hold their own elections in Tigray in September in defiance of federal authorities.
Abiy likens the polls to the construction of a “shanty” by squatters; Tigray media cast his government as a “dictatorship.”
November 2020 | Conflict erupts
In the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020, Tigrayan forces seize military bases across Tigray – later saying they had no choice but to launch pre-emptive strikes in response to a build-up of government forces in the region.
Abiy orders his troops to retake control. The conflict widens as Eritrean forces enter Tigray to support the Ethiopian military.
This cross-border incursion prompts accusations from Abiy’s opponents that he struck the peace deal to unite with Isaias to crush their shared foes.
Forces from the neighbouring Amhara region also enter Tigray from the south. Within days of the conflict starting, reports emerge of communal killings in a farming town called Mai Kadra in western Tigray, a fertile swathe of land claimed by both Tigray and Amhara.
Reuters reporting establishes that the first killings in the town were committed by Tigrayans against Amharas; the TPLF says its regular troops had withdrawn by then and were not involved.
Then come revenge killings of Tigrayans by Amharas. All over western Tigray, tens of thousands of Tigrayan residents are driven out; many have their homes burned and land seized.
Amhara claims western Tigray as its own territory, stations its security forces there and begins to administer it.
The killings trigger a cycle of widening bloodshed – watched anxiously by other ethnic federal regions amid fears of further eruptions of communal violence. All sides deny committing abuses.
Meanwhile, Reuters reporting finds that the government is sweeping up thousands of Tigrayans in mass arrests, including prominent businessmen, diplomats, generals and even opponents of the TPLF. The government says the arrests are solely for security purposes – but Tigrayans see them as a witch hunt.
March-June 2021 | “Sexual slavery”
As the conflict intensifies, the United Nations speaks of possible war crimes by all sides in Tigray’s war. U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock tells the Security Council, “There is no doubt that sexual violence is being used in this conflict as a weapon of war.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there have been acts of ethnic cleansing and calls on Amhara forces to withdraw.
In April, Reuters details accounts of women tortured and raped in central Tigray by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops; a regional official says some women are being kept in “sexual slavery.”
The humanitarian crisis in Tigray continues to worsen as Ethiopia’s government and its allies impose a de facto blockade on food aid, according to the United Nations. All the warring parties deny blocking aid.
By now, more than 350,000 of Tigray's nearly 6 million people are living in famine conditions, U.N. agencies and aid groups say. Another 2 million are on the brink of such dire deprivation.
June-July 2021 | Rebels rebound
TPLF forces stage a comeback, recapturing Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle in June and taking thousands of troops prisoner.
Government forces withdraw from most of the region. Pushing south and east into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions in the ensuing weeks, the Tigrayan forces trigger a fresh wave of mass displacement and edge nearer to Addis Ababa.
TPLF leaders say they aim to break what they describe as an aid blockade on Tigray and free contested western Tigray from Amhara control.
The TPLF also raises the prospect of a referendum to determine Tigray's future. The conflict is increasingly framed in ethnic terms, and hate speech proliferates on social media. In July, Abiy describes the TPLF as “weeds” and “cancer.”
July-August 2021 | Hunger intensifies
The U.N. World Food Programme warns that aid deliveries to more than a million people in the northwest of the country and parts of southern Tigray have only reached half of those it planned to help – including communities on the edge of famine.
Meanwhile, in August, Tigrayan forces publicly align with the Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group fighting in rural areas to the west of Addis Ababa – raising the risk the conflict will further fracture the country.
International concern grows. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, serving as African Union envoy to the Horn of Africa, and his U.S. counterpart Jeffrey Feltman make little headway in bringing the warring parties to the negotiating table.
August-November 2021 | Fighting spreads
Lalibela, home of the iconic rock churches sacred to the Ethiopian Orthodox church and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among towns that repeatedly change hands as government and rebel forces wrestle for control of strategic locations.
In November, a joint investigation by the United Nations and Ethiopia’s human rights commission concludes that “all parties to the Tigray conflict have committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.
Some of these may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The U.N. Human Rights Council votes in December to establish an independent investigation.
The report accuses all sides of abuses ranging from the torture and killing of civilians, to gang-rapes and arrests on the basis of ethnicity. Prime Minister Abiy says he accepts the report despite some “serious reservations.” Eritrea calls it “utterly false.” The TPLF accuses Ethiopian investigators of bias.
November-December 2021 | State of emergency
The unthinkable suddenly beckons for Abiy as the rebels push towards Addis Ababa. Advancing south through Afar and Amhara, Tigrayan forces clash with government troops near a town just 190 kilometres (118 miles) from the capital.
Jolted by the pace of the rebel gains, the government declares a state of emergency on Nov. 2. Abiy appeals to Ethiopians to mobilise in defence of the nation, then dons fatigues and travels to the front to personally command the counter-offensive.
By December, government troops have pushed the rebels back hundreds of kilometres. Under mounting military pressure, the TPLF says on Dec. 20 that it has withdrawn its forces from the northern regions neighbouring Tigray. The move is seen as a possible step towards a ceasefire.
After the decades of struggle to forge a united Ethiopia, the country is once more searching for a viable formula to reconcile tensions between centre and regions, assimilation and autonomy.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
https://bit.ly/3Bk45GjTurning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer;Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.