On November 29 last year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the end of his government’s campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the northern region of Tigray. This announcement has already been confirmed. Tigray’s conflict, as well as the consequences of humanitarian action, continues to this day.
The TPLF, an Ethiopian international political activist who for almost 30 years before Abiy came to power, was the one who sparked the controversy that is ravaging the region.
The conflict began in early November, when the TPLF launched a surprise coup in the northern Ethiopian Armed Forces (ENDF) command zone through Tigray. In response, the federal government immediately declared a national emergency and set up a solution to the conflict. With the help of troops and police from neighboring Afar and Amhara, the ENDF quickly pushed TPLF troops back and took control of Tigray and its capital Mekelle within a few weeks.
The TPLF, however, refused to accept defeat and promised to continue fighting. Fighters loyal to the group are still at war with the federal government.
The controversy was devastating. Soldiers loyal to the TPLF, as well as the ENDF and its allies, are accused of bringing unprecedented problems. Ordinary people have been killed and many are being forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries. Hundreds of sexual offenses have been reported and Tigray citizens continue to struggle to obtain food and clean water, according to the United Nations. TPLF militant activists have also attacked support roads and traffic problems, which have exacerbated the economic crisis in the region.
Although the war affected all Ethiopians, many believe that anti-government protests with the help of neighboring forces were justified. Indeed, if the government had not responded strongly to the TPLF threats, the consequences would have been devastating in the country. TPLF’s victory over the Tigray army could have sparked a bloody civil war in Ethiopia and the destruction of the country. The provincial government and the surrounding areas had no choice but to do all they could to curb the TPLF outrage in Tigray before it spread to other parts of the country.
Despite this, some have criticized the Amhara and Afar states for supporting the security forces in supporting the TPLF for hating “ethnic groups” against the group.
When the conflict began with the brutality of the TPLF against the Ethiopian army, which is responsible for protecting all Ethiopians and not just any nation, these cases are baseless. However, it is impossible to deny that the Amharas and Afars have been severely persecuted under the TPLF regime for many years and have every reason to fear the movement and their efforts to restore the country.
To understand how Ethiopia ended up where it is today, and why Tigray’s allies did not hesitate to help Abiy’s government defeat the TPLF, we need to look back.
Founded as a militant group in the 1970’s, the TPLF led a movement that came to power in 1991 after the overthrow of the Communist government by Mengist Haile Mariam. It formed a multiracial alliance that was dominated by the Tigray tribes.
The institutions that TPLF has established and led for almost three decades have led to instability, ethnic violence, relocation and mass killings across the country.
When the TPLF placed Tigrayans above all other Ethiopians, they were very hostile to other ethnic groups, such as the Amhara.
The group’s founding manifesto actually identified Amharas as Tigrayan’s first enemy and threatened to overthrow them. Once politically active, the group illegally occupied most of the Amhara region located northwest of the Ethiopian highlands and extended into the Tigray border.
Since then, many Amharas have been expelled from these places and those who managed to remain banned from speaking Amharas and becoming like Amharas. Those who attempt to question the legitimacy of the atrocities are subjected to hardship, including arrests, beatings, torture and even forced evacuation and execution.
And under the auspices of the TPLF-led coalition, Amharas experienced violence not only in Tigray-controlled territories but throughout the region.
In particular, in the Oromia region, previously controlled by the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (a TPLF ally in the coalition), untold violence has taken place in Amharas in areas such as Arba-Gugu and Bedeno.
The TPLF-led government criticized this but did nothing to end racial violence in Amharas or retaliate against them.
Similarly, Amharas in other parts of Ethiopia have experienced violence and discrimination since the 1990’s.
It was because of this brutal struggle and racism that many Ethiopians, from many ethnic groups, began to oppose the TPLF-led government back in 2015. When the Oromos and Amharas, the largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia, joined the TPLF, they succeeded in overthrowing the government and paving the way. for Abiy to reign. Unfortunately, the atrocities against Amharas continued even after the TPLF collapsed.
The October 2020 assassination in the southern region of Gura Ferda, in which 31 Amhara ethnic groups were killed, for example, was not a new outbreak of violence but a continuation of ethnic violence that began decades earlier, under the TPLF regime. The January 2021 anti-Amhara massacre in the western Benishangul-Gumuz area of the Metekel Zone, in which 81 people were brutally killed, was sparked by a dispute sparked by the TPLF government. More than 100 ordinary Amhara people were killed in the genocide in the region in December 2020.
Amharas in these regions continue to suffer from security concerns and threats of ethnic violence.
Since taking office in 2018, Abiy has been working hard to achieve international cooperation and help the Ethiopian people overcome the oppression created by the TPLF. However, the TPLF and its co-conspirators were determined to keep the divisions alive and to continue the violence against Amharas.
In Western Ethiopia, the Oromo Liberation Army, which Abiy’s government claims to be a TPLF ally on, is responsible for the abduction of Amhara students, school killings, burning of Amhara villages and killing hundreds of innocent people and farmers no doubt in the last few years alone.
TPLF attacks on Amhara territories continued even during the recent war. Following the TPLF attack on the Northern Command of the ENDF in Wolkait, which was rejected by the Amhara special forces, retaliation against TPLF troops and its anti-Amhara youth group “Samre”, they targeted civilians in the western Tigrayan town of Mai -Kadra. Many cemeteries still exist in the area.
The Amhara people are not Ethiopians or other ethnic groups living in the country. He has no intention of ruling the country or making it a Amhara-led state. Most Amharas simply want to live in a peaceful, harmonious world where they have not been chosen because of their identity. This is why Amharas is being targeted by patriotic groups such as the TPLF and the OLF / OLA, who want the country to be divided by race.
Ethno-nationalists often say Amharas wants to go back to the time of Haile Selassie I, when Amharas was very powerful.
Sadly, the truth is that all the Amharic people did not benefit from the ancient practices that ruled Ethiopia; instead, they are plagued by the injustices of the former oppressive regimes.
The ongoing conflict in the country is not the result of Ethiopia’s future ideology, as some claim, but the direct effects of groups such as the TPLF that cause ethnic divisions and restore the old hatred that divided Ethiopia.
When the TPLF began to attack the Ethiopian army, the Amhara and Afar provinces rushed to support the government, not out of a desire to control or punish the Tigray people, but out of a desire to preserve unity in the country.
Abiy’s rule was flawless – I wrote notes criticizing her supervisors. But the Prime Minister has undoubtedly instituted reforms and principles necessary to bring all Ethiopians forward and develop the country. Abiy is of Oromo descent, but he is working to help not only his own nation but also the people of Ethiopia. For this reason, he was opposed by ethno-nationalists and called “neftegna” (a derogatory term used to refer to Amhara). Even some of Oromo’s circuit overseers, who have been known to be allies of Abiy, are now opposed to the changes and alliances.
Forsaking this destructive war and returning to the path of progress and reorganization, Ethiopia will undoubtedly need to initiate a national reconciliation process. We hope that the forthcoming elections in June will end peacefully and bring about a very important framework. Recent atrocities that have plagued civilians should also be recorded and those who have been victimized will be prosecuted. But even before this, what the country really needs is a strong government that works hard to ensure that all Ethiopians, from all nations, feel safe in their country.
Amharas, like many other victims of the ethno-nationalist TPLF regime, also wants a criminal government that not only condemns the many atrocities it has experienced over the years but also takes action to prevent their recurrence.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor of Al Jazeera.