The effects of the current Ethiopian war on indigenous groups

As of November 2020, Ethiopia has undergone a grueling civil war between the Ethiopian government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and a string of different militias concentrated at the northern region of Tigray. The current war has unveiled Ethiopia’s turbulent history with tribalism, democracy, and human rights.

The conflict can be traced back to November 4, 2020, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a counter-offensive attack on the TPLF following claims of an attack of a military base. Since Ethiopia’s revolution in 1974 from the Derg regime to prime minister Ahmed’s consolidation of power in 2018, the dominant governing body and representative was the TPLF from the Tigray region. Agitating decades long tribal conflicts arose to the surface following the destabilization of TPLF’s power by Abiy Ahmed.

Within the ongoing 19 months of Ethiopia’s conflict, civilian casualties have arisen from war, famine, improper healthcare, and wartime sexual violence. As of March 2022 there have been civilian deaths of 500,000 people. Reported civilian deaths categorized as 50,000 to 100,000 because of direct killings, 150,000 to 200,000 from starvation, and another 100,000 deaths due to improper and lack of healthcare services (global and mail). Direct killings from Ethiopian and TPLF soldiers, and rampant militias, through mutilation, decapitation, hanging, and airstrikes plague the innocent civilians of northern Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian air force is responsible for enacting airstrikes in the north region, most notably Tigray’s capital Mekelle, killing over 300 people (as of March 2022). Ongoing airstrikes have aided in the government’s man-made famine that affects nearly 900,000 civilians. Furthermore, the Ethiopian government’s prohibition of multiple forms of aid (food and adequate healthcare services has left civilians helpless.

Although the prime minister has made remarks that “there is no huger in Tigray,” the hunger crisis poses as the most dangerous recorded in a decade. Tigray witnesses have also mentioned accounts where Ethiopian soldiers have physically restrained them from planting on their fields, or the looting of their crops. Wartime starvation continues with the further denial of the work of Doctors Without Borders, and other healthcare services. The absence of proper doctors and healthcare professionals, serves as a deterrent for the survival of innocent civilians and wartime sexual assault victims, as they seek out aid and refuge.

The constant absence of peace has resulted in the internal displacement of over one million civilians in neighboring regions like Afar and Amhara. Over 46,000 people have also sought out refuge in neighboring Sudan, where they have been able to receive healthcare services. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other UN agencies have been able to set up refugee camps in eastern Sudanese states where more than 18,000 refugees have settled. UNHCR has also been able to work alongside government and local officials to provide shelter, food, and water, and other relief necessities to IDP’s within other regions of Ethiopia.

Tigray’s refugee crisis has also amplified existing tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan, as both Ethiopia and Sudan refuse to open their boarders. Mediation strategies between Ethiopia and Sudan have been suggested by Turkey, but further acknowledgment and developments have yet to materialize. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok proposed peacekeeping negotiations between TPLF and the Ethiopian government but continues to face rejection from Ethiopia. Surrounding countries like Kenya have also played a role in mediation processes to end the hostilities from the Ethiopian government’s end. Strategic plans that serve the interests of Kenya and the United States, such negotiations would work to balm the relations between Ethiopia and other international actors of the “global west”.