“Giant of East Africa”, “water tower of Africa” or even “power of tomorrow”… The laudatory adjectives have multiplied in recent years when designating Ethiopia. The second most populous country on the continent has long been courted by Western countries, in particular because of an enviable economic growth in the region, and its political stability, rare in a Horn of Africa plagued by multiple shocks. and very intense.
Headquarters of the African Union and many UN institutions, the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, has been an essential stopover for many foreign dignitaries in the last decade. And then, an internal political tension came to blacken this picture.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the Tigray region (north of the country) and against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (FLPT). This left-leaning regional party, which poses as a representative of the Tigrayan people, reigned over the Ethiopian federation for a long time, until 2018, when it was relegated to the opposition. Ethiopia’s community fractures then resurfaced, with the FLPT accusing Abiy Ahmed, of Oromo ethnicity (the largest in the country), of marginalizing the Tigrayan community (about 6% of the population). This had tarnished the country’s image of success.
It must be said that the young leader was then the rising star of African politics. In a spectacular gesture of international politics, he had reconciled his country with neighboring Eritrea, putting an end to the war which had opposed them for thirty years. His efforts had been rewarded with the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Only a year later, in November 2020, this same Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency and sent his troops to Tigray. The conflict between the central state and the FLPT erupted following the occupation by the latter of a military base in Mekélé, the capital of the region.
Very little information has been able to filter through on this conflict, particularly in the absence of independent journalists and NGOs on the spot. It is certain, however, that the two parties engaged in several abuses. The regular army was aided by troops from neighboring Eritrea, freshly reconciled, against the FLPT. Between Eritrea and the Tigrayans, historical disputes existed and were revived by this conflict. The fighting claimed the lives of thousands of people (estimates put the figure at 600,000 victims, which would make it the bloodiest war in the world today) and millions of displaced people.
In trouble, the FLPT signed a ceasefire agreement on November 2, 2022, in South Africa. This agreement provides for progressive disarmament and the cessation of hostilities. The visit of the French and German foreign ministers this week to Addis Ababa, came to validate and consolidate this sequence of appeasement, but much remains to be done to recompose the tensions and restore the image of Ethiopia internationally. The country suffers from inflation and a major drought, raising the specter of famine in much of the country.
Ethiopia remains traumatized by the catastrophic famine of 1984-1985, which claimed nearly a million victims.