Deep ethnic rifts perpetuating Ethiopia’s woes

Ethnic politics blamed for the offensive in Ethiopia [Image:courtesy]
Ethiopia—The unending offensive in northern Ethiopia is moving South, with rebel groups claiming strategic wins over government forces and threatening to advance to Addis Ababa.

These are the main actors in a yearlong conflict that has killed thousands and pushed many more into famine.

Ethiopia’s national military is one of the biggest standing armed forces in Africa, with an estimated 140,000 personnel.

Its air force has fighter jets and armed drones which have stepped up raids over Tigray in recent weeks.

The ENDF has the considerable battle experience, fighting wars with Eritrea, quelling rebellions and confronting Islamist militants In Somalia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent ENDF into Tigray after accusing its former rulers, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of orchestrating attacks on federal army camps.

The ENDF captured Tigray’s capital Mekele in a few weeks and Abiy declared victory.

But in June, the rebel repossessed Mekele and pushed into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

The military has offered no figures of its own casualties.

The TPLF dominated the political alliance that ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years until anti-government protests swept Abiy to power in 2018.

At the outset of fighting the TPLF had a large parliamentary force and well-trained local militia possibly numbering 250,000 men in total according to the International Crisis Group.

Abiy’s government has accused the rebels of atrocities including massacres, conspiring, and drugging child soldiers.

Regular and irregular combatants from Amhara have been a major ally of government forces since the war began.

These militias occupies areas of southern Tigray and seized the region’s fertile west, which ethnic Amharas consider part of their homeland.

Over the last year, ethnic Amharas have been returning to western Tigray and occupying abandoned homes and farms in a state-backed campaign the US calls “ethnic cleansing.”