the conflict in Tigray threatens to spread south ~ #AFP:

On November 4, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency and launched a military operation against the Front for the Liberation of the Peoples of Tigray (TPLF), the party which has ruled this northern region and has for several months challenged the authority of the federal government.

Zeleke Alabachew is preparing to join thousands of Amhara militiamen, already deployed about 150 km further north, on the border with Tigray, according to Mulualem Gemdhin, adviser to the government of the Amhara region.

“The militiamen here are about 200”Zekele believes in his wheat field in his hometown of Tekeldengy, his old rifle hanging from his shoulder by a sling, on which is inscribed “Real Madrid”.

“We are all set and ready to go”, he said, to help the Ethiopian federal and Amhara regional forces respond to attacks carried out in early November by TPLF forces on two Ethiopian military bases in Tigray.

Attacks that set fire to a conflict that had been brewing for several months, according to Abiy Ahmed, but that the TPLF claims were invented to justify “l’invasion” of the region.

Old territorial disputes between the Amhara (the second most numerous ethnic group in Ethiopia after the Oromo) and the Tigrayans (6% of the country’s population) who have sometimes clashed violently in the past.

Which, in the eyes of analysts, makes the region a powder keg likely to implode Ethiopia, the 2nd most populous country in Africa (more of 100 million inhabitants) and mosaic of peoples united within an “ethnic federalism”.

Powder magazine

“Strategic”, the territorial question is “present in all hearts and all heads”, especially those of the Amhara militiamen on their way to the border with Tigray, confirms Melkamu Shumye, an Amhara politician of the opposition.

The desire to settle old disputes could undermine both the stated goal of the Ethiopian federal authorities to prevent the conflict from spilling out of Tigray and the frantic efforts of diplomats for an early end to hostilities.

“Any involvement of regular or irregular Amhara forces in the conflict in western Tigray means that it is likely that some will attempt to regain possession of territory in the area.”, explains William Davison of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“This will worsen the conflict, lead to fighting between Amhara and Tigrayan elements and make it less likely that the TPLF will accept a ceasefire.”

The TPLF led the coalition that in 1991 toppled the military-Marxist regime of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. He then dominated power structures in Ethiopia for almost 30 years, until Mr. Abiy, an Oromo, became Prime Minister in 2018, thanks to a popular anti-government protest movement in the Oromo and Amhara regions. .

The Amhara accuse the TPLF of having, during its advance towards Addis Ababa in 1991, annexed territories they consider theirs, mainly in western Tigray, where the most intense fighting has so far been reported.

These annoyed grievances have contributed to fueling protests in the Amhara region that led to the choice of Mr. Abiy as Prime Minister.

“Criminal clique”

In recent days, residents of Gondar, the main city in northern Amhara, have donated money and food to support the forces going into battle.

“Our objective is to bring to justice the criminal clique (…) which rules Tigray”, explains Anmut Mulat, chef of a district of the city, next to a table where injera, large pancakes typical of Ethiopian cuisine, are drying.

He assures us that the animosity of the Amhara community towards the TPLF does not extend to the entire Tigrayan population: “We have lived together for a very long time, you cannot separate us”.

A speech similar to that of Mr. Abiy who condemns the TPLF to gemonies but asks that the Tigrayans be distinguished from their leaders.

The Amhara donating blood in Gondar do not all agree on this matter. For some, it is clear that their donation should not go to the Tigrayans. But others say they are happy to know that he will save a life, Amhara or Tigrayan.

“We are married to each other, and parents. Tigrayans are our family,” says Sajin Misganaw Yohannes, a policeman.

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Source: VOA-AFP.

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