In late September, the government of Ethiopia expelled seven top UN officials from the country. This move came just weeks before the government launched a new military offensive against the TPLF — the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This offensive is ongoing.
The Ethiopian Civil War
The federal government and the TPLF have been at war for nearly a year after armed conflict erupted in November 2020 in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. At the heart of this conflict is a power struggle between the TPLF and the federal government of Ethiopia under the control of prime minister Abiy Ahmed.
I have done previous episodes of this podcast that more comprehensively explain the roots of this power struggle and I recommend you take a listen to those. But for the purposes of this episode, let me briefly explain that for nearly 30 years the TPLF was the dominant force in the federal government of Ethiopia. When Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, he effectively sidelined the TPLF within the federal government. However, in the Tigray region from which the TPLF emerged, it still wields considerable political power and has its own very well armed military force.
Initially, the federal government of Ethiopia, with the help of Eritrea and militias from the neighboring Amhara, pushed back the TPLF forces, and evicted them from key cities like the regional capital, Mekelle. But over the summer, the TPLF launched a successful counteroffensive, winning back the territory it lost — and gaining territory beyond the Tigray region.
It is in that context that the federal government and its allies have launched this new offensive and here that we pick up the story with William Davison, Senior Analyst for Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group.
We kick off discussing the expulsion of these United Nations staff, before having a broader conversation about how this conflict has evolved and its ongoing calamitous humanitarian impact.
If you have 25 minutes and want to better understand the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia, have a listen.