One of the driving forces of the African continent is being plunged into a chaos that is the sole responsibility of its Prime Minister.
In 2019, Ethiopia was the showroom of the resurgence of Africa. Its economy was becoming industrialized, growing by 10% per year, cutting poverty in half and raising the life expectancy of its 115 million inhabitants from 40 to 65. Its Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a shining light when it came to liberal reforms, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having put an end to the 20-year war with Eritrea. Today, Ethiopia has suspended its constitution and is once again engaged in armed conflict and mass atrocities.
Responsibility for the tragedy that has transformed one of the main driving forces of the African continent into a battlefield lies with Abiy Ahmed. Just like another Nobel Peace prizewinner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who played a part in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, excess has taken him over. Under the pretext of preserving the country’s unity with the Amhara people and pursuing authoritarian modernization, he triggered a civil war that has now turned against him. On 4th November 2020, Ahmed used Tigray’s maintenance of regional elections as a reason for sending in the federal army. In fact, it was Amharan militias and Eritrean troops who invaded the rebellious region. Their abuses led to the exodus of over two million refugees and galvanized the Tigrayan troops who took back the province in June and then, at the end of October, invested the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha that are on the road to Addis Ababa – which could soon fall to them.
The chaos in Ethiopia is the result of four fatal errors committed by Abiy Ahmed:
- His promotion of a centralized model alongside economic liberalization;
- His backing of the Amharas (28% of the population) which brought about the alliance of the Tigrayans (6% of the population) with the Oromos (35%);
- His underestimation of Tigrayan military forces, who controlled the army from 1991 to 2008, when compared to the federal army, which has been decimated by alienation and the defection of officers who were its very backbone;
- His use of Eritrean troops and the ethnic cleansing carried out in Tigray.
Today, Ethiopia finds itself caught up in a spiral of violence similar to the situation in Syria. The civil war is becoming radicalized, particularly under Ahmed’s influence, with calls for the extermination of rival ethnic groups that are a reminder of the escalation which led to the genocide in Rwanda. The economy has been bled dry and famines, which characterized the terrible Mengistu years, are back.
Stable only a short while ago, Ethiopia is becoming an accelerant in the destabilization of the Horn of Africa, alongside the dictatorship of Isaias Afwerki in Eritrea, the division in Sudan because of the military coup, and the partition of Somalia between warlords that has been going on for 30 years. The whole of north-east Africa could flare up if Egypt took advantage of the Ethiopian civil war to carry out its threats of air strikes on the Renaissance Dam, built on the Blue Nile. The international community is divided, with China and Russia supporting Abiy Ahmed and vetoing any UN position statement.
Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union and embodies the critical situation that Africa finds itself in at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the dawn of the 21st century, it seemed to have escaped the inevitability of Maldevelopment thanks to a combination of its attachment to globalization, the creation of a middle class, progress towards the rule of law, and a policy of integration based on the planned single market for the African continent. But, today, its emergence has been compromised by the return to armed conflict, the pressure of Jihadism, and the number of coups d’état and dictatorships.
If Africa became locked in chaos, it would be tragic both for the African continent and for Europe. There will be 2.5 billion Africans in 2050 – half of whom will be under 25 – and they will do anything to escape from poverty, oppression and violence. Africa is not our continent, but it is one of the keys to our future.
(Article published in Le Point, 18th November 2021)