A power struggle between Ethiopia’s federal government and the northern Tigray Region’s political leaders has spawned a military conflict and humanitarian crisis that threaten to destabilize the Horn of Africa.
On November 4, 2020, Ethiopia’s federal government launched what it called a “law enforcement operation” against “rogue” leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s ruling party, after TPLF fighters attacked a federal military base. TPLF leaders called the federal government’s response a war against the people of Tigray.
But tensions between the central government and TPLF have been smoldering since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s appointment in April 2018 following a monthslong popular revolt.
He initiated a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea and pushed for reforms such as opening trade, releasing political prisoners and unifying ethnic groups under his new Prosperity Party — measures that also sapped power from the long-dominant TPLF. Reforms that opened up political and economic space also have fueled inter-ethnic violence across the country, with more than 1.2 million people displaced by conflict in 2020 even before the Tigray crisis, the International Organization on Migration reports.
The fighting in Tigray in its first month alone is believed to have claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 1 million people. At least 50,000 have fled to neighboring Sudan, the U.N.’s refugee agency says. Ethiopia itself hosts more than 1 million refugees from other countries.
VOA journalists are reporting on the crisis for TV, radio and digital media. Covering the plight of refugees and displaced people around the world is one of VOA’s top priorities, as part of its mission to inform, engage and connect people in support of freedom and democracy.