The political dispute betweenEthiopia’s Tigray region and central government is threatening to escalate into a full-blown war, the International Crisis Group warnedIn a report entitled ‘Streeing Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis Away from Conflict’, On Friday ICG said the ongoing conflict could result in the region breaking away and splitting the Ethiopian state.
Tensions escalated last month when Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s governing political party pressed ahead with regional elections in defiance of Addis Ababa.
“The standoff could trigger a damaging conflict that may even rip the Ethiopian state asunder. Federal rulings have authorised military intervention in Tigray, which boasts its own large regional security force. The worsening dispute is only one crisis among many rocking Ethiopia’s troubled transition,” ICG said in a report.
Acrimony between the two sides runs high. Addis Ababa perceives TPLF as spoilers unable to accept its 2018 loss of power on the back of the three-year wave of popular protests. Abiy’s allies accuse the TPLF “criminal top brass” of engendering some of the many crises that confront Ethiopia and cast Mekelle as hell-bent on undermining his administration to try and force the premier to make way for a transitional government.
ICG proposed both sides should embrace comprehensive dialogue and to kickstart such a process, the federal government should suspend the budgetary measures for now and Tigray should water down its preconditions for talks, particularly that all jailed leaders must participate and a transitional government assumes power.
“These are demands for power, to break the reform and come to power in a short-cut manner,” a ruling party official told Crisis Group. The TPLF sees things differently, accusing Abiy of working to weaken the region and monopolise power. They vow to push back against authorities in the national capital.
Any conflict between the sides might threaten the Ethiopian state’s integrity. After Addis Ababa opposed its election, Tigray sees federal meddling with the budget allocation as another violation of the region’s right to administer itself under the federal constitution.