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Conflicts and bloodshed in the name of religion and between various cultural sects has never failed to make the headlines. Following the same courtesy here’s another news that hasn’t made much of its way to the headlines these days, but has silently affected half a million and has displaced around 50 thousand people.

This news involves Ethiopia, a country situated in East Africa. Ethiopia houses a vast multi-ethnic population. After a fresh tussle between the federal government and the powerful regional government of Tigray (the northern most region in Ethiopia), Ethiopia is yet again on the verge of being torn apart by the ethnic and political strife.

Since the fight began on 6th November, Ethiopia is facing a slew of crises like never before: refugees are streaming out by hundreds of thousands into neighbouring Sudan, the country is struggling under a second COVID-19 surge, and the worst locust outbreak in decades has destroyed crops and threatened food insecurity.

The country and its population are on the verge of collapsing.


The conflict is between Tigray Region special forces led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) in alliance with Afar and Amhara Regions special forces.

Ethiopia is a multiple regional federation with TPLF ruling the minority Tigray. This party was often condemned as “repressive and regressive”.

The main problem started when the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad tried to separate the countries politics from ethnic federalism (a power-sharing system giving regional influence to individual ethnic groups), by merging the ethnic and region-based parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which had governed Ethiopia for 30 years, into a nationwide Prosperity Party. Both the parties regarded each other as illegal.

The situation escalated on 4th November when an alleged attack by the Tigray People's Liberation Front on the Northern Command Headquarters of the Ethiopian National Defence Force took place. Rocket attacks have spilled over into the neighbouring Amhara Region and country of Eritrea.

The federal forces claimed to have captured the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle on 28 November, following which Prime Minister Abiy declared the Tigray operation 'over'. The TPLF has said they will continue fighting. After the win for Prime Minister Abiy in Mekelle, the TPLF leaders fled to the mountains hiding from the Ethiopian army.

How is it leading to a humanitarian crisis?

As per UNHCR the conflict has resulted in more than 48,000 refugees fleeing the Tigray region into Sudan. This war has gone international as confirmed news of missile firings at Eritrea's capital came out. Massive border clashes between Tigray’s government and neighbouring Eritrea were common until the Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed signed a landmark peace deal.

More than 5,000 refugees arrived in Sudan's border provinces of Kassala and Al Qadarif last Sunday, the highest single-day number of arrivals since the start of the conflict in Tigray earlier this month, the UNHCR said.

Most of the refugees arriving in Sudan are children and women who walked long distances on rugged terrain to reach safety. They arrive exhausted, hungry and thirsty, having had to cross a river by boat or in some cases by swimming. The river, known as the Tekezé in Ethiopia and the Setit in Sudan, divides the eastern Sudanese areas of Lugdi and Hamdayet.

There have been reports of blocked roads, with internet and communication lines being cut off in Ethiopia. Prior to the start of this conflict, there were already several thousand civilians who were internally displaced in Tigray, in what researchers say was an aftermath of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war (between 1998 and 2000). Now, this latest conflict has only increased the number of displaced people and may lead to a humongous humanitarian crisis.

How can the international organisations help?

Attack on civilians and in certain cases (as reported by UN’s special advisor on the prevention of genocide) targeted attacks on ethnic Tigrayans should be called off.

Press Ethiopia’s government to end its communications blackout and restore humanitarian access to Tigray. No information about the casualties have been released, moreover the government has denied humanitarian access to affected areas.

The international organisations should push Abiy to deescalate the present war. As otherwise Ethiopia’s fledgling economy will get stuck in a protracted conflict, fostering a prolonged humanitarian crisis, and destroying his international reputation (not to mention imperilling millions of dollars in international aid, as the EU is threatening).

War has never done any good other than escalating the problems. Humanitarian crises are created under inhumane circumstances and it fosters loss of lives, livelihoods and identities. Measures should be taken to prevent these situations because once things get out of hands reverting them becomes next to impossible.


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