President Paul Kagame is hopeful that Ethiopia can bring peace and stability back to its northernmost region of Tigray, in the shortest time possible.
Village Urugwiro, Rwanda’s Presidency issued a statement, as the head of state received an Ethiopian delegation, headed by the Deputy Prime minister, and minister of foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen.
For the Ethiopian delegation, this was only the Rwanda leg of a whistle stop tour around the region’s capitals, to brief neighbouring leaders on the conflict now roiling the Tigray region.
The conflict has its roots in the recent history of Ethiopia, but the eruption into armed conflict begun on 4th November, when Prime minister Abiy Ahmed vowed to bring what he termed “criminal elements” to heal, in what he insists is an “act of law enforcement.”
Those “criminal elements” were individual leaders of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Until recently, the TPLF, had been part of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), alongside parties from other regions, which came together against the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Meriam, which was defeated in 1987.
The government of Prime minister accuses the TPLF leadership of having attacked an army base and making off with weapons, an accusation the TPLF has continued to deny.
What is indisputable however, is that the TPLF held local elections, in defiance of the central government, which had decided on postponing elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tigrayan elections were then declared illegal by the government.
Thirteen days ago, the government launched a military offensive against the TPLF. Since then, hundreds are reported to have been killed, and at least 20,000 displaced, most fleeing the fighting to neighbouring Sudan.
Abiy Ahmed a Nobel Lauriat for peace, has batted away all offers of mediation, declaring that Ethiopia is perfectly capable of imposing the rule of law on its territory, without external intervention.
He set the rebel Tigray forces an ultimatum for surrender, which he now says has passed, and is determined to achieve a military victory, before any negotiations can take place.
Many observers however fear that there is a real danger of the conflict being more protracted, if the well armed, and militarily experienced TPLF turn the war into an insurgency against the federal government.
Since the defeat of the military dictatorship, known as the Derg, the TPLF became perhaps the most powerful and influential member of the EPRDF.
All that changed when Dr Abiy Ahmed was elected Prime minister by the EPRDF in 2018. He introduced a whole host of reforms, releasing political prisoners, opening up media freedoms, and dramatically ending a ruinous inexplicable war with Eritrea.
The war had given way to a twenty year standoff, during which the two close neighbours could have resumed conflict at any given moment. It is for peace with Eritrea, that Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace.
The reforms also included the creation of a new party, The Prosperity Party, to replace the EPRDF.
Although initially supportive of the election of Abiy Ahmed to head the EPDRF and thereby Prime minister, the TPLF is said to have felt marginalised, withdrawing from the Prosperity Party. The withdrawal would become the harbinger to the present conflict.
The government has confidently declared that the conflict will be brought to end soon.
“Our law enforcement operations in Tigray are proceeding as planned” the Prime minister announced on twitter, “operations will cease as soon as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended and brought to justice, all coming within reach.”
He goes on to assure the world that notions of Ethiopia descending into what some have termed “the Libya of East Africa” are due to lack of a proper understanding of the country.
“Our rule of law operation is aimed at guaranteeing peace and stability once and for all by bringing perpetrators of instability to justice. Concerns that Ethiopia will descend into chaos are unfounded and a result of not understanding our context deeply. Our rule of law enforcement operation, as a sovereign state with the capacity to manage its own internal affairs, will wrap up soon by ending the prevailing impunity.”