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Can Ethiopia avert deepening turmoil and prioritise peace?

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Ethiopia’s devastating civil war recently entered into its second year. The conflict between the federal government and the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) has metastasised beyond Tigray, intensified old animosities between Tigray and Amhara, and drawn in armed groups from Oromia, Benishangul and Afar, deepening identity-based contestations across Ethiopia.

These days fighting is moving ever closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, threatening a catastrophic escalation. On November 2, Ethiopia’s cabinet declared a nationwide state of emergency and there are widespread reports of Tigrayan civilians being arrested without reasonable grounds. Governments around the world, from the United States to Turkey, are advising their citizens to leave the country immediately.

Meanwhile, northern Ethiopia is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis, with more than eight million people in urgent need of assistance. In Tigray, at least 400,000 people are believed to be living in famine conditions. Two million people have been internally displaced and there are more than 60,000 refugees in Sudan. No humanitarian convoys have entered the region since mid-October, despite the need for at least 100 trucks a day to meet the local population’s most basic needs.

An joint investigation by the United Nations and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and a subsequent report by the EHRC have laid bare the widespread abuses, torture and sexual violence against civilians committed by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) as well as Tigrayan, Amhara and Eritrean forces during different phases of the conflict, including some that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ethiopian government forces have been on the back foot in recent months. The TDF has captured significant territory, including major cities and towns like Weldiya, Dessie and Kombolcha. Tigrayans also formed an alliance with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has captured territory in many parts of Oromia facing limited resistance from the ENDF and its allies.

Joint forces are within 200km of Addis Ababa. In Afar, the insurgents seek to cut off the main supply route to Addis Ababa from neighbouring Djibouti, which would allow them to impose a blockade on the capital and potentially open a crucial supply line to Tigray.

But the end game of the Tigrayans is still not clear. They are yet to articulate a coherent political plan or form a coalition that has a chance of gaining national legitimacy.

The Tigray People’s Liberation........

© Al Jazeera

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