The Tigray Conflict Escalates In Ethiopia. Why There Is No Military Solution


Prime Minister Abiy, faces serious challenges. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

Let me begin with a confession. I have a soft spot for Ethiopia and things Ethiopian for many reasons, but especially because Ethiopia’s beautiful capital city, Addis Ababa—new flower—was my first duty station as a junior career diplomat in the early 1970s. I have many fond and pleasant memories of my tour of duty at the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda accredited to Ethiopia which is headquarters of the African Union.

Ongoing tragic events taking place in Ethiopia are naturally of deep concern to me. I believe that the friendly, gallant and gentle people of Ethiopia deserve a lot better than a fratricidal and vicious civil war at the end of which there will be no winners, only losers. The internal conflict which erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020 has now spread to Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia. This is a dangerous development for the unity and territorial integrity of Africa’s oldest country.

After many years, I visited Ethiopia in 2012 and during my stay in Addis Ababa the death of the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, who died on August 20, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium after a long illness, was announced. He was buried on September 2, 2012. Zenawi was one of four African leaders whom U.S. President Bill Clinton called a “new breed” and “beacon of hope.” Except for Zenawi, who was from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the other three have proved to be major disappointments.

The current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 against the backdrop of unrest and mass protests by the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic communities the Amhara and Oromo; the Oromo, which is the largest and from where Prime Minister Abiy hails, had been marginalized for decades.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed promised transparent and inclusive politics. He released hundreds of political prisoners and hundreds of Ethiopians who fled into exile returned home after spending many years in America, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. A new chapter appeared to have been opened in the checkered history of Ethiopia.

In 2018 Abiy took a bold initiative and moved quickly to mend bilateral relations with Eritrea which, for almost 20 years, was Ethiopia’s arch enemy. He negotiated and signed a historic peace accord with Eritrean strongman President Isaias Afwerki which put to an end a bitter and longstanding enmity and feud between the two neighbors. This peace agreement earned Abiy the 2019 Nobel peace prize which he deserves. I hope Abiy will live up to the aspirations and high standards expected of him as a Nobel peace laureate.

I have never hidden my admiration and support for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who means well for all Ethiopians, including his fellow citizens from Tigray region. Abiy has played a constructive and positive role in the affairs and politics of the Horn of Africa, the regional organization known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the African Union.

Against this background, why is the AU conspicuously silent about what is happening in Ethiopia? Whatever happened to the slogan, “African solutions to African problems” which former South African President Thabo Mbeki promoted in the 1990s? Why is IGAD silent? These are troubling questions which demand urgent consideration and answers.

Way forward for Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an old civilization. It is one of a few African countries mentioned in the Holy Bible. The people of Ethiopia deserve a peaceful, united and prosperous country which is at peace with all its neighbors. The road towards achieving a just, peaceful and lasting solution to essentially political problems facing Ethiopia, and indeed facing most African countries, is through negotiations. The gun and use of force will never provide a just and durable solution. There is frankly no military solution to a political problem.

The federal constitution of Ethiopia must be renegotiated so that the legitimate concerns and interests of Tigray, Oromo, Amhara and other regions are adequately addressed. Given the necessary political will, I believe, a way out of the Ethiopian quagmire is possible. IGAD and AU must spearhead efforts to find a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the serious problems facing Ethiopia. The sooner the better.   

Arua, Uganda.

August 11, 2021.

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