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thiopia teeters on the edge of collapse as the government in the capital of Addis Ababa calls on civilians to arm themselves against Tigrayan rebels. This potential fate inches closer despite the United States and other governments around the world urging a ceasefire. The U.S. sounded the alarm to all Americans currently in Ethiopia: There will be no Kabul-style airlift, so get out now. Further catastrophe could be imminent.

Over a year ago, the Ethiopian government and its allies began fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party of the country’s northern region. Reports of ethnic cleansing, the government using starvation as a weapon, and countless human rights violations from both sides emerged. Now the TPLF resides within 200 miles of the capital as each side prepares for war.

Ethiopia’s descent into all out civil war could worsen the vast humanitarian crisis taking hold, destabilizing the entire region. Ethiopia is the second-largest country in Africa with a population of 115 million. Its capital of Addis Ababa also operates as the headquarters of the African Union, presenting challenges to this institution that serves the entire African continent.

A major factor hindering ceasefire discussions is that the Ethiopian government and the TPLF resist compromises. Their visions for Ethiopia’s future fundamentally clash, and violence becomes the method for their advancement. 

Additionally, Ethiopia’s political and cultural environment makes it difficult for outside diplomats to fully understand the situation. Peace agreements must consider the more than 80 ethnic groups and 10 regional governments in the country. Divisions remain common from political disarray, which likely originated when Ethiopia expanded into neighboring regions in the nineteenth-century. The regions absorbed during this era varied greatly in cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s conglomerate of regional states today lacks political equality because of these organizational differences.

Peace talks further struggle due to the actions and words of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Aiby won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending the war with Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea. However, his rhetoric now is the opposite of peaceful—he recently stated that he and his allies will “bury” the enemy with “blood and bones.” 

According to Bayisa Wok-Woya, a former UN worker from Ethiopia, to avoid exacerbating hostility, the international community should avoid taking sides or condemning either party. Condemnation has already occurred though. For example, the U.S. removed Ethiopia from a consequential trade agreement and criticized the country’s mass human rights violations. The criticism comes from efforts to halt the conflict and hold the parties accountable for their violations. However, it has potentially inhibited advances in diplomatic talks, according to Wok-Woya. It has also turned Ethiopian people against outside influences. During a pro-military rally in Addis Ababa, many placards with statements such as “we don’t need interference from abroad” and “shame on you USA” demonstrate public backlash.

Extensive efforts globally and from the U.S. to ensure peace talks may not meet the acceleration of Ethiopia’s military escalation. However, diplomatic attempts to halt the conflict should continue, and they must look for any common ground left between the opposing forces. Peace talks are running out of time—Ethiopia is collapsing into war, but the clock hasn’t run out yet. 

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Peace Talks Struggle as Ethiopia’s Conflict Worsens

Back view of three Ethiopian soldiers walking in the wasteland. Photo by yuzu.

December 6, 2021

Ethiopia is nearing full-blown civil war, potentially destabilizing the region and resulting in a massive humanitarian crisis. Condemnation of one side or the other from the international community only threatens to make a bad situation worse, writes Diplomatic Courier's Whitney Devries.

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thiopia teeters on the edge of collapse as the government in the capital of Addis Ababa calls on civilians to arm themselves against Tigrayan rebels. This potential fate inches closer despite the United States and other governments around the world urging a ceasefire. The U.S. sounded the alarm to all Americans currently in Ethiopia: There will be no Kabul-style airlift, so get out now. Further catastrophe could be imminent.

Over a year ago, the Ethiopian government and its allies began fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party of the country’s northern region. Reports of ethnic cleansing, the government using starvation as a weapon, and countless human rights violations from both sides emerged. Now the TPLF resides within 200 miles of the capital as each side prepares for war.

Ethiopia’s descent into all out civil war could worsen the vast humanitarian crisis taking hold, destabilizing the entire region. Ethiopia is the second-largest country in Africa with a population of 115 million. Its capital of Addis Ababa also operates as the headquarters of the African Union, presenting challenges to this institution that serves the entire African continent.

A major factor hindering ceasefire discussions is that the Ethiopian government and the TPLF resist compromises. Their visions for Ethiopia’s future fundamentally clash, and violence becomes the method for their advancement. 

Additionally, Ethiopia’s political and cultural environment makes it difficult for outside diplomats to fully understand the situation. Peace agreements must consider the more than 80 ethnic groups and 10 regional governments in the country. Divisions remain common from political disarray, which likely originated when Ethiopia expanded into neighboring regions in the nineteenth-century. The regions absorbed during this era varied greatly in cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s conglomerate of regional states today lacks political equality because of these organizational differences.

Peace talks further struggle due to the actions and words of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Aiby won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending the war with Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea. However, his rhetoric now is the opposite of peaceful—he recently stated that he and his allies will “bury” the enemy with “blood and bones.” 

According to Bayisa Wok-Woya, a former UN worker from Ethiopia, to avoid exacerbating hostility, the international community should avoid taking sides or condemning either party. Condemnation has already occurred though. For example, the U.S. removed Ethiopia from a consequential trade agreement and criticized the country’s mass human rights violations. The criticism comes from efforts to halt the conflict and hold the parties accountable for their violations. However, it has potentially inhibited advances in diplomatic talks, according to Wok-Woya. It has also turned Ethiopian people against outside influences. During a pro-military rally in Addis Ababa, many placards with statements such as “we don’t need interference from abroad” and “shame on you USA” demonstrate public backlash.

Extensive efforts globally and from the U.S. to ensure peace talks may not meet the acceleration of Ethiopia’s military escalation. However, diplomatic attempts to halt the conflict should continue, and they must look for any common ground left between the opposing forces. Peace talks are running out of time—Ethiopia is collapsing into war, but the clock hasn’t run out yet. 

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.