New Refugee Crisis Brewing As Ethiopia Descends Into Civil War

(Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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A burgeoning civil war in Africa’s second-most populated country threatens to send hundreds of thousands of refugees across borders as they flee the violence, according to the Associated Press. 

As many as 200,000 people could pour across the border from Ethiopia’s Tigray region into Sudan as the official government of the country goes to war with opposition there, according to the AP. The civilians in Tigray are largely cut off from the rest of the country, and up to 10,000 residents have already fled across the border, per the AP. (RELATED: Trump Performs ‘Near Total Decapitation’ Of Pentagon Leadership As Speculation Swirls Around Afghanistan)

Long bread lines are forming as U.N. humanitarian workers attempt to gain access to the region to supply key resources, U.N. official Sajjad Mohammad Sajid told the AP. “Fuel and food are needed urgently,” he said, adding that the U.N. and its partners will “struggle to continue running their operations in the next two weeks.”

A conflict between Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has quickly escalated to full-blown war. The TPLF had long controlled the country’s politics until the appointment of Abiy in 2018, according to the AP. Abiy went on to make sweeping reforms that earned him the aforementioned Nobel Prize, but civil unrest grew over the course of 2020 until Abiy deployed military forces and cut off internet access for weeks in July. (RELATED: Several Wounded In Explosion During Armistice Day Ceremony In Saudi Arabia Involving European Embassies)

In September, after national elections were postponed due to COVID-19, Tigray held their own regional elections. Ensuing crackdowns and escalations, culminating in an alleged TPLF attack against a military base, prompted Abiy to send in the military for good last week, bringing the country into civil war. The European Union, African Union, and America’s top diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, have all urged Abiy to de-escalate, the AP reports. 

“This is not Syria, right? This is not Yemen. This is a different order of magnitude,” former American diplomat Payton Knopf told the AP, comparing Ethiopia to former Yugoslavia. We can’t think of this as “just another tribal African war,” he said. The stability of Ethiopia is critical as it’s surrounded by Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, and the port country of Djibouti, which houses military bases for the U.S., China, Japan, and France. The U.S. Institute of Peace recently said that the collapse of Ethiopia “would be the largest state collapse in modern history, likely leading to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict.”

The current casualty numbers of the conflict are unknown. Ethiopia’s military offensive into the Tigray region has already killed at least 550 TPLF fighters, according to a report from Reuters released Tuesday. (RELATED: Over 50 People Beheaded In Mozambique By ISIS-Linked Terrorists)