World Six months of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: A timeline
“Dying by blood or by hunger”: The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, explained
A humanitarian and political crisis, with no clear resolution.The brothers were Kahsay and Tesfay, who both cared for young children and elderly parents in a small village in the northeastern corner of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, in an area home to the Irob, a small ethnic minority.
Six months ago, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal troops into Tigray for a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the northern region’s ruling party that had dominated national politics for decades.
Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, promised the air and ground operation would be swift and targeted. However, violence rumbles on and reports of massacres, rape and widespread hunger continue to emerge as analysts warn of a protracted conflict that risks dragging on for years. Here is a timeline of the ongoing crisis.
Ethiopia's Tigray conflict: Six months on and no end in sight
It has been six months since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray for a military campaign he vowed would be swift and targeted. Abiy said earlier this month that Ethiopia's military is fighting "on eight fronts" in hotspots including Tigray, where pro-TPLF fighters have adopted "guerrilla" tactics.But violence rumbles on, and reports continue to emerge of massacres, rape and widespread hunger.
In the early hours of November 4, 2020, Abiy orders a military response to what he calls a “traitorous” attack on federal army camps in Tigray.
The prime minister blames the attack on the TPLF, which was at the helm of Ethiopia’s governing coalition for nearly 30 years until he took office in 2018. The TPLF denies responsibility and says the reported attack is a pretext for an “invasion”. It is impossible to verify assertions on all sides because telephone lines and internet links to Tigray are severed and journalists are barred from entering the region.
The eruption of fighting came after months of rising tensions, including Tigray’s holding of regional elections in September in defiance of the federal government, which had postponed nationwide polls due in August because of the coronavirus pandemic. Abiy’s government says the vote won by the TPLF in a landslide is illegal and begins to withhold funds meant for social welfare programme in Tigray, a region of some six million.
Tiny ethnic group fears extinction as Tigray war enters 6th month
Ongoing conflict in Ethiopia has left the Irob faced with both an existential and humanitarian crisis, activists say.The offensive came on the heels of steadily growing tensions between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to rule the northern region of some six million people.
As fighting intensifies, there are concerns a conflict in Ethiopia could reverberate across the already fragile Horn of Africa, impacting neighbours Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan.
Abiy sacks the head of the military, whose top brass includes many battle-hardened Tigrayans, while on November 9, the federal government carries out more air raids in Tigray, with Abiy saying the operation will be over “soon”.
On November 14, TPLF forces fire rockets at Asmara, the capital of neighbouring Eritrea, which has a long-running enmity with the TPLF leadership. TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael also says his forces have been fighting Eritrean troops “on several fronts” for the past few days.
Tens of thousands of refugees flee into neighbouring Sudan, describing the horror of intense fighting, including horrific killings.
As the refugee flow swells, tensions mount between Ethiopia and Sudan, part of whose frontier is disputed. After 10 days of fighting, the United Nations warns of possible war crimes in Tigray.
Troubles pile up ahead of Ethiopia's first polls under Abiy
Ethiopia is set to hold elections in a month, but with war in the north, ethnic violence elsewhere and major logistical hurdles, the path to credible polls is littered with obstacles. But it belies the violence that has roiled Ethiopia under Abiy, threatening to imperil balloting. Beyond Tigray, the electoral board chair Birtukan has highlighted hotspots of ethnic killings that have forced the election body to suspend activities, including in the country's most populous regions, Oromia and Amhara.Hundreds have been killed since March in attacks in Amhara, sparking protests in many of the region's cities.
Having rejected peace talks and international calls for an end to the fighting, Abiy says government tanks are advancing on Tigray’s capital, Mekelle. The city comes under heavy shelling before Abiy announces on November 28 that military operations in Tigray are “completed”. However, fighting continues in parts of Tigray.
In February 2021, Amnesty International says Eritrean soldiers killed “hundreds of civilians” in November in the holy city of Axum in Tigray. More reports of atrocities emerge, with civilians accusing Eritrean forces of carrying out massacres and systematic rape.
On March 10, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urges Eritrea to withdraw from the region and describes violence in western Tigray as “ethnic cleansing”. He also calls for special forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south, to be ordered out of disputed areas they have taken.
For months, Ethiopia and Eritrea flatly deny the involvement of Eritrean forces in the conflict.
But on March 23, Abiy finally admits that Eritrean troops had crossed the border into Tigray. He also suggests they may have been involved in atrocities against civilians.
Ethiopia replaces head of interim gov’t in war-wracked Tigray
Mulu Nega, appointed in November as fighting raged in the region, is replaced by Abraham Belay, federal gov’t says.Mulu Nega had held the position since November, shortly after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the northern region’s ruling party that had dominated national politics for decades.
The next day, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says Eritrean soldiers massacred more than 100 civilians in Axum in November, in what may amount to crimes against humanity. The findings by the government-affiliated but independent body corroborate separate investigations by both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.
After admitting Eritrea’s role, Abiy flies to its capital, Asmara, to meet Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. During the visit, Abiy says Eritrea has agreed to pull its forces back over the border.
Just over a week later, Ethiopia says Eritrean troops have “started to evacuate” Tigray but on April 15, the UN’s top humanitarian official says there is no evidence of withdrawal and warns the crisis in the embattled region has deteriorated.
“The conflict is not over and things are not improving,” Mark Lowcock says as he gives a sobering assessment of the events on the ground, calling the “reports of systematic rape, gang rape and sexual violence … especially disturbing and alarmingly widespread”.
Furthermore, Lowcock says he received a report of 150 people dying of hunger in one area of southern Tigray, calling it “a sign of what lies ahead if more action is not taken”.
A day later, Eritrea, which has denied the allegations of rape and other crimes levelled against its soldiers as “outrageous” and “a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people”, also acknowledges for the first time that its forces are taking part in the conflict and promises to pull them out of Tigray.
Ethiopian Orthodox leader denounces Tigray 'carnage'
The head of Ethiopia's Orthodox Church has accused the government of wanting to "destroy" the country's northern Tigray region, in his first public comments about the war there. An Orthodox official confirmed the authenticity of the recording to AFP. Abune Mathias said he had previously tried to speak out against the war multiple times including in media interviews but had been barred by the government. "I spoke out and they held it back. I spoke out again and they held it back. Until now I have not had the opportunity to display my message through the media," he said.
On April 22, after multiple meetings that had failed to produce any kind of concrete outcome, the UN’s Security Council finally issues its first joint statement on the continuing crisis, expressing “deep concern” about allegations of human rights violations, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls.
The 15-member body also calls for “a scaled-up humanitarian response and unfettered humanitarian access” to address humanitarian needs, including for people in the embattled region who are in need of food assistance.
Ethiopia’s mission to the UN calls the situation in Tigray “an internal affair regulated by the laws of the country, including human rights laws”.
It says the Ethiopian government is “providing significant portion of the humanitarian assistance delivered to those in need and will continue to allocate the maximum available resources” and stressed the commitment to “investigate and ensure accountability” for alleged human rights violations “will be upheld”.
On April 27, the UN’s latest humanitarian update for Tigray describes “active hostilities reported in the central, eastern and northwestern parts of the region”.
Thousands of people, if not tens of thousands, are estimated to have been killed in the conflict, with nearly two million displaced and some 4.5 million in need of food assistance.
Anti-farming 'campaign' underway in Tigray: state official .
A deliberate "campaign" to prevent farming is unfolding in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray, a top regional official said, warning that the result will be "starvation." "Efforts to prevent the entry of seeds and efforts to stop farming have no other message than perhaps, 'Let the people of Tigray perish with starvation,'" Abebe said in the interview with Tigray TV. Abebe did not specify who was behind the "campaign," but his comments pointed to some of the tensions in the region.Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November to topple the region's once dominant ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).