Conflict in Ethiopia Escalates, Generating Refugee Crisis

What is going on in Ethiopia?


Ethiopia declared victory in the northern Tigray region on Thursday, where violence erupted last month.

  • After Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delayed national elections out of COVID-19 concerns in late August, the country’s northern Tigray region held elections anyways, as a show of defiance.
  • After carrying out an election, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s governing party, established new governance based on the outcome of the democratic process it had enacted. Abiy called this illegal and refused to recognize the new government.
  • In response, the TPLF declared that the federal government lacked legitimacy. The government slashed federal funding to the Tigray region, which the TPLF called a declaration of war.
  • On 4 November, Abiy launched airstrikes on the Tigray region, alleging that the TPLF had attacked a military base. The TPLF mobilized a militia to fight the federal forces, and the conflict escalated quickly.
  • Yesterday, Abiy denied the TPLF’s request for peace talks. Now, civilians are being asked to engage and defend their homes against federal forces. This morning, Abiy declared victory over the TPLF, saying that the region had been liberated.
  • Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have fled across the border to Sudan since the conflict started, and Amnesty International has called it a “major emergency” for human rights. The United Nations is working to secure space for more than 100,000 total refugees from the region, although there have been reports that aid efforts have been blocked in Ethiopia.
  • Abiy Ahmed received the Nobel Peace Prize last year after making peace with Eritrea.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Condemns Abiy Ahmed. The New York Times calls the situation a “tragedy,” and blames Abiy Ahmed for his role in escalating the conflict.
  • Predicts that the conflict will lead to a full-on civil war. CNN and the New York Times write that concerns of a war are escalating, and Bloomberg reports that the Prime Minister plans to “swiftly” end the conflict by force.
  • Focuses on the human rights implications of the conflict. The Guardian, CNN, and Bloomberg report on the thousands of refugees fleeing to Sudan, highlighting the human rights violations perpetrated by Abiy’s military offensive.



  • Projects the start of a major conflict. Daily Caller and Washington Examiner write that Ethiopia is descending into civil war.
  • Portrays Ethiopia as an autocracy. Fox News writes about sweeping mask mandates that were enforced with legal action in late October.
  • Points out that the conflict in Tigray is distracting from other more pressing national security issues in Ethiopia, like the threat of al-Shabaab militants.


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© Evelyn Torsher, 2020