Fresh Hostilities in Afar Region, Northern Ethiopia

Women in a market in Ethiopia Women in a market in Ethiopia Erik Hathaway on Unsplash

13 October 2021

Rebels and humanitarian sources both report renewed violence between TPLF and the Ethiopian Government in Afar Region

After 11 months of stillness, clashes broke out again in Fenti Administrative Zone.The Fenti Zone is part of Afar Region in north-eastern Ethiopia, and borders both Tigray and Amhara Regions, where most of the fighting in the ongoing civil war has taken place. The recent outbreak of violence took place along the Afar-Amhara border. Information about the conflict is contradictory and could not be verified independently. On the one hand, the spokesman of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Getachew Reda, claims that the government launched ‘a staggering ground offensive’ against Tigrayan rebel forces. According to Reda, there were violent confrontations on at least three fronts in Amhara Region on Monday 11 October. On the other hand, humanitarian sources report that the TPLF used heavy weapons against civilians. This statement was, however, denied by Reda. For its part, the government did not directly respond to questions about the offensive. A spokesperson for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stated only that ‘the government has a responsibility to protect citizens in all parts of the country from any acts of terrorism.’ 

These new clashes have revived the one-year-long civil war in Ethiopia. The conflict started in November 2020, when Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the TPLF. The TPLF is a regional political party, which governed Ethiopia for thirty years before the current government came to power in 2018. The hostilities between the two parties have been conspicuously brutal. The Ethiopian government states that it is committed to ‘counter the TPLF’s destruction, violence and killings in the Amhara region and elsewhere.’ In contrast, the TPLF sees the Ethiopian Government as an oppressor, which has launched the new offensive in order to re-invade Tigray. The situation for civilians in northern Ethiopia is worrisome. Since November 2020, the United Nations reports, roughly 2 million people have been displaced. Furthermore, conflict spreading to Afar Region is a particular threat, because it is currently the only route for humanitarian aid. Hostilities in that area, therefore, pose the threat of a ‘humanitarian blockade,’ which would worsen conditions for civilians. 


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Author: Lorena Bisignano; Editor: Alexander Collin

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