Ethiopia declares state of emergency

About a year ago we told you about worrying developments in Ethiopia. The country had looked pretty stable since its new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came into power in 2018 and won a Nobel Peace Prize a year later for stabilising the region. Well. So much for that. A party that governed in the country’s north, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – which has a long history of enmity with Abiy – crossed him. He promptly declared war on them. As we said then, it would be a bit like President Cyril Ramaphosa sending the army to the Western Cape to take out the DA! The conflict has dragged on for a full year and left thousands dead, displaced more than 2 million people from their homes, fueled famine and driven a wave of atrocities.

Things have taken an even worse turn: the TPLF has advanced on the capital, Addis Ababa. In response, Abiy’s government declared a six-month state of emergency on Tuesday and, frighteningly, urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves and protect the city. 

The Tigray forces say they want Ethiopia’s government to lift a harmful months-long blockade on their region of around 6 million people; this has limited access to basic services, food and medical supplies. 

As CNN puts it, Abiy “is presiding over a protracted civil war that by many accounts bears the hallmarks of genocide and has the potential to destabilise the wider Horn of Africa region”. It’s a terrible turn of events in what was starting to look like an African success story.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 4 November 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.