In October 2020, fighting broke out between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government after extended political clashes over postponed elections and banks in the Tigray region being frozen. The TLPF was the dominating political party in Ethiopia for over 30 years until it was removed from power in the aftermath of the 2018 Ethiopian elections which saw major organizational changes in the government. Until 2018, the Ethiopian government under the TLPF was divided into nine ethnic regions, each region had their own security forces, parliament, and a right to secede from Ethiopia. The rule of the TLPF engendered hostility towards the Tigray ethnic population.
In 2020 the TLPF attacked government military camps and the Ethiopian military responded with its own attacks inside Tigray. The Ethiopian government began a military campaign to combat the TLPF forces and end their rule in the region. The fighting has displaced thousands internally and sent thousands more into neighboring nations seeking refuge. Communication and electricity services were cut-off from the region as Ethiopian forces advanced. While it has remained difficult to maintain clear lines of communication to the region, either for obtaining up-to-date information about the situation or simply confirming the status of civilians still in the region, what has become clear is the growing sense of instability in the region, and the associated symptoms that have come to be a part of life in Tigray.
One of the most notable issues is the current status of aid supplies being provided to the area. In the two month period between August and September, of the 466 aid trucks with relief supplies that had entered the region, only 38 had returned. The status of the aid trucks is one of current contention, as both sides of the conflict have competing arguments for their disappearance. In addition, both sides of the conflict are claiming acts of genocide are being perpetuated against them, however, open conflict and a lack of cooperation of from the Ethopian government has made it all but impossible to verify the myriad of claims.
The surrounding nations to the region have not been immune to the fallout of the conflict, with Sudan and Eritrea all experiencing an influx of refugees. Sudan has responded with a tightened border, especially along the disputed territory of al-Fashqa it claims is rightfully theirs. Eritrea, for their part, is likewise experiencing internal conflict, resulting in refugees from the northern nation to also be involved in the conflict in Tigray, further complicating matters.
With concerns ranging from aid distribution issues, potential geo-political incidents at Ethiopia’s northern borders, and the actual civil conflict itself, the region’s future is in question.