Over the past months, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace laureate, has plunged his country into a civil war that led to atrocities and famines, committing massacres and genocide against his people, specifically in the Tigray region. He even believes the recent general elections were “free and fair”.
Not long ago, Abiy was a “shining hope” for Ethiopia and the African continent as a whole. After he had come to power in 2018, he embarked on a series of ambitious reforms, released political prisoners, allowed opposition leaders to return home from exile, and, most impressively, concluded a peace deal with Eritrea, a fierce enemy of Ethiopia.
The West was wowed with this stellar success story in Africa, and within 18 months, Abiy, a former intelligence officer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, within a few months, Abiy’s aura was shattered, when a civil war broke out in the northern region of Tigray in November 2020. Ethiopian forces were accused of committing massacres, sexual abuse, and ethnic cleansing.
In June 2021, a senior UN official said Tigray suffered the scourge of famine, the worst in the world since 250,000 people died in a famine in Somalia a decade ago.
Elsewhere in Ethiopia, ethnic violence has claimed hundreds of lives and forced two million people to flee their homes. Moreover, an underlying border dispute with neighbour Sudan turned into a major military confrontation.
During the elections, senior opposition leaders and their parties boycotted the vote in Oromia, a sprawling region of 40 million more populous than Kenya.
Abiy faced global condemnation at the Group of Seven summit in June, marking a “staggering decline” for a young leader who until recently was universally celebrated.
He also unleashed pent-up frustrations among ethnic groups that had been marginalized from power for decades, most notably his own, the Oromo, who make up a third of Ethiopia’s 110 million population.
When mass protests broke out, he reverted to the old rules of the game: arrests, repression, and police brutality. At the same time, tensions rose with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which resented Abiy’s vaunted reforms.
Since the beginning of November 2021, the storm began in Ethiopia. The most important news is the announcement of the Tigrayan forces of their union with the Oromo Forces, and their goal is to advance towards the capital, Addis Ababa.
This announcement was like a thunderbolt for Abiy, who rushed to the people of the capital, asking them to take up arms and confront what he called “the rebels against the state”. Later, he imposed a state of emergency throughout the country.
Several reports said that Tigray fighters had controlled many cities in the Amhara region, but there were conflicting reports about the advance towards the capital. The Tigray fighters repeatedly emphasized that their main goal is to break the siege on the northern region of the country.
As the civil war escalates every day, will Abiy Ahmed catastrophically destroy everything he accomplished and eventually turn from a Nobel peace laureate into someone wanted for international justice in The Hague?!
Taha Sakr: A political journalist with seven years experience in TV and newspapers. His works featured in Daily News Egypt, Cairo Post, and Egypt Independent.