AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Do ethnic conflicts undermine the country's stability?

Monday, 1 February 2021 wars   nationalisms  

Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - In the Ethiopian province of Tigray, 2 million people have been dependent on food aid since November last year after the region became a theater of war between the regular Ethiopian armed forces and the militiamen of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Malnutrition is the leading cause of death in clinics in Shire City, where the situation is particularly serious, according to UNICEF. In addition, the rise in prices in Tigray is worsening the situation: according to the latest report by the country's Central Statistical Office, inflation in the province is 30.3%, which is twice the national average, and even for some basic products such as teff flour 140%. National Disaster Risk Management Commissioner Mitiku Kassa said that adequate preparations have been made to assist 2.5 million citizens in the Tigray region: "The government has supplied 311.526 quintals of wheat, 60.000 quintals of flour and 1.7 million liters of oil". The humanitarian situation could worsen if it finds out what the Eritrean information portal "Arbi Harnet" suspects, namely that preparations for a new offensive in Tigray to finally destroy the TPLF are already underway.
Things are no better along the disputed border between Ethiopia and Sudan. Sudan urges Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from the Sudanese border as soon as possible, while Sudan's Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "Sudan is doing a lot, but we will not negotiate our country". The army chief of staff, General Birhanu Jula, said that "there is a third party behind the Sudanese army violating Ethiopia's sovereignty".
Finally, the conflicts between the three main ethnic groups - Amhara, Oromo and Tigray - could throw the whole country into chaos. Competing ethnic groups have dominated the political landscape of Ethiopia since the late 1960s and are a consequence of the idea of Ethiopia as a "museum of peoples" in which each group has "a distinct system and a unique culture". The Ethiopian constitution commissioned by the TPLF was an example of how the principle of ethnicity and an ethnic identity can be created on an ethnic basis (which did not exist before).
Ethnic politics is one of the problems that effectively undermines merit-based leadership. It will take a lot of time, a lot of care and intensive attention on the part of the international community to counteract this and decide which Ethiopia it wants in the future: indecision is not allowed. (F.F.) (Agenzia Fides, 1/2/2021)