On November 4, 2020, the Ethiopian military was deployed to Tigray to squash forces loyal to the northern region’s governing party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in response to what the government said was an attack on federal army camps.
The operation was meant to be swift but a year later, the conflict has expanded beyond the region’s frontiers, causing a full-blown humanitarian crisis and leaving the country in a seemingly inescapable quagmire as the rebels claim to have made advances towards the capital, Addis Ababa.
Since hostilities began, there have been mass rapes and massacres of civilians on a large scale. As far back as January, aid agencies were sounding alarms about how much worse the situation could get. Continued fighting, bureaucratic hurdles and aid blockades have since led to a continuing famine affecting hundreds of thousands of people. More than two million people have been displaced from their homes and tens of thousands more have died.
The declaration of a nationwide state of emergency by the federal government on Tuesday has triggered fears of more instability. The United States embassy in Addis Ababa has also issued a travel advisory, warning its citizens to avoid travel to Ethiopia.
“The conflict had been portrayed as a law enforcement operation that would last a few weeks,” said Awet Weldemichael, a Horn of Africa security expert and history professor at Queen’s University, Ontario. “A year later, we’ve since seen it degenerate into a brutal war to crush and erode Tigray, and where talk of elimination of entire ethnic groups has been normalised.”