The Prime Minister of Ethiopia launched a military operation in the northern part of the country. This outbreak of violence may plunge the country into a civil war. NPR discussed the root causes of the conflict.
AUDIE CORNISH, host:
Last year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Abiy Ahmed) won the Nobel Peace Prize. But less than a week ago, he launched a military operation in the northern part of the country. Now, this conflict may turn into a full-scale civil war. NPR’s Eyder Peralta guides us through what is happening.
First, Eyder let us understand why the Prime Minister won the Nobel Prize.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: He changed everything in Ethiopia. I mean, in China, he ushered in a series of democratic reforms. Then he made peace with Ethiopia̵
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Prime Minister Abi Ahmed: I have seen brothers slaughter brothers on the battlefield. I have seen older men, women and children trembling in horror in a deadly shower of bullets and shells. War has created bitter, ruthless and savage people.
Perata: He said that war has created bitter, ruthless and barbaric people. When Abi came to power, people on the streets of Ethiopia told me that he was sent by God. Now he has started a new conflict in the same area where the war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and his air force is now bombing targets in his own country.
Cornish: What is the cause of the conflict? How bad is the battle at this point?
PERALTA: It’s complicated because-but it’s essentially a power struggle. Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 after a large-scale popular uprising. One thing he did was to disband the Ethiopian ruling party, which ruled the country with violence and brutality for nearly 30 years. The host of the show was TPLF, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and they were watched. Since then, Abi has accused them of destabilizing the country by inciting ethnic tensions. Abby’s allies accused them of being assassinated, including an attempt on Abby himself. Last week, the government stated that the TPLF had sent troops to attack the federal military base when Abiy ordered its troops into the Tigray area.
Now, it is difficult to report how serious the fighting is because the government has shut down telephone lines and the Internet in the area has been shut down. I am still waiting for a visa. There were indeed reporters at the scene, Reuters reported that hundreds of people had died on both sides. Sudan’s official media also stated that many refugees have begun to flee their country. So this is serious.
Koenish: What did the Tigray fighter say at this time?
Perata: It’s too exaggerated. They call the government dictatorship and treason, which is the same as the government’s use of them. They said they were willing to talk. But at the same time, you also know that they also said that if they were hit hard, they planned to fight back.
Cornish: Ed, we talked about the threat of civil war. How high are the stakes here?
Perata: They are huge. Some analysts say this may be like Yugoslavia, where Ethiopia is divided. By the way, in terms of population, Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa. The conflict may also attract Eritrea and even Sudan. If the delay is too long, it will indeed destabilize an already very fragile region. Moreover, we cannot really treat it as just a regional government opposed to a powerful federal government. I mean, this is really a well-equipped and well-trained army, in a very fragile place in Africa, as opposed to another well-equipped and well-trained army.
Cornish: That was NPR’s Eyder Peralta (Eyder Peralta) speaking to us from Nairobi.
Perata: Thank you, Audi.
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