Alex de Waal, an expert on the Horn of Africa, reports on massacres and looting in northern Ethiopia. The EU and the USA should put more pressure on Eritrea and Ethiopia’s prime minister.
A neglected tragedy is taking place in northern Ethiopia. With the help of neighboring Eritrea, the Ethiopian government is waging war against the renegade leadership of the Tigray region. Human rights organizations accuse Ethiopia, and especially Eritrea’s army, of crimes. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised that Eritrean troops would withdraw from Tigray. But the drama is far from over. A conversation with the expert Alex de Waal.
The press: Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has received the Nobel Prize for making peace with Eritrea. At the same time, however, he is carrying out a massive military operation in the Tigray region. How does that fit together?
Alex de Waal: Why were the US and Europeans so happy that Abiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s head of government? He had started to liberalize the political field, which was very authoritarian. One danger was overlooked in this enthusiasm: liberalizing an authoritarian society opens the door to corruption and violence. Abiy Ahmed made peace with Eritrea and received the Nobel Prize. Eritrea has one of the most closed systems in the world. There is no opposition, no rule of law, but military service without a time limit. Eritrea is a military state and produces extremely high numbers of refugees. The hope was that Eritrea would open its system if it made peace with Ethiopia. Because then the reason does not apply: We have to be so rigid because of the conflict with our big neighbor.
And now there is war in Tigray.