The Horn of Africa is known for its rugged terrain and perpetual humanitarian mayhems. Quite a reality, however, is the recurrent theme of regional conflicts that have seeped within the countries over the decades of escalation. While some ended in negotiation and many were parlayed into diplomatic successes, a handful of conflicts have unrooted the stability of the region. One such crisis is the massacre of Tigray; a northern region of Ethiopia, that has transitioned into one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of Africa. What started as defiance by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) against the government developed into a bloodbath. In a blink of the eye, the region was rocked by heavy weaponry from all corners: both within and beyond the borders of Ethiopia. The conflict has mounted over 1000 deaths in the span of three months with tens of thousands displaced in utter chaos. However, what appears to be a counter retaliation by the government forces, as so claimed by Ethiopian officials, is only the tip of the iceberg as the roots of the conflict trace back decades and involve a labyrinth of regional and ethnic disparities which have exploded into a genocide in Tigray.
Ethiopia is a landlocked East-African country, the second populous country in Africa. Despite an unstable history, Ethiopia is located in a key location marked as the point of stability in the Horn of Africa. This significance is derived by its geographical positioning in the region: wedged between the trio of Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia. Ethiopia has served as a point of buffer between these three unstable countries yet with such a sensitive location, Ethiopia has witnessed its fair share of conflicts over decades. The war with Sudan emerged in 1977 over the disputed region in the north of Ethiopia, where the country borders Sudan. Though by 1998 most of the disputes were resolved, the conflict over the northern periphery of Ethiopia, known as ‘Al-Fashaga’, remained a thorn in the budding relations. Jumping ahead a decade, a key campaign was reached by the coalition government of Ethiopia. The deal was championed by the dominating party of the coalition; the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The diplomatic strike bargained the historic compromise between Ethiopia and Sudan: the establishment of a soft border, Ethiopia recognizing the contested region as the legal boundary with Sudan. However, what was celebrated once as a victory is now one of the fuelling causes of the genocide against the TPLF and about 3 million Tigrayans.
Another conflict flaming the deteriorating situation today in northern Ethiopia is the conflict with Eritrea that rattled the region in the penultimate year of the millennial. Unlike the settled arrears of distaste with Sudan, the Ethiopian clash with Eritrea in 1998 was a blood-ridden campaign over the contested land in the north, known as ‘Badme’. The clash costed a cumulative of 80000 deaths, mostly Eritrean soldiers. Despite the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarding the land to Eritrea, the coalition government led by TPLF refused to withdraw from the contested land which gradually built up the tensions with Eritrea in the north. However, the dismay was not targeted towards Ethiopia in general, but TPLF specifically as the eruption of the civil war allowed the sentiments of the Eritrean army to perforate Tigray in an act to avenge the deaths burgeoning in Eritrea at the command of TPLF.
The external conflicts, however, are only the combusting elements of the escalation in Tigray. The fundamental causes root deep in the historical context of Ethiopia itself. Tigray is a region in the north of Ethiopia, dominated and governed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party in Ethiopia. The TPLF had a triumphant contribution to the liberation movement in Ethiopia since 1989. The TPLF led the coalition movement that eventually came to be known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Diplomatic Front (EPRDF). With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Marxist ideology soon perished and the EPDRF overthrew the dictatorial rule to form a government in Ethiopia in 1991. Being the dominant party of the coalition, the TPLF reigned the harness to both military and diplomatic struggles, some of which irked the internal rivals.
Amhara, the second-largest ethnic majority in Ethiopia, always butted heads with the Tigrayans. Despite the estimated 6% majority of the Tigrayans in Ethiopia, the TPLF enjoyed an oversized majority in the EPRDF coalition which was gradually building a general political dissatisfaction within Ethiopia. Many of the diplomatic turns, including the ‘Soft border agreement’ with Sudan, were cast in the suspicious hue of treason. The grudges and desires surfaced when the EPRDF proposed a country-wide party system to eradicate animosity in Ethiopia. While the TPLF refused to bow down to the inclusive agenda, all the rival parties merged with EPRDF to form the ‘Prosperity Party’, post the accession of the elected prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. In line with his long-term ambition to recalibrate powers in Ethiopia and eradicate federalism churned by the TPLF, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed established the prosperity party while dismembering the TPLF as the only minority party: after almost 3 decades of its political supremacy in Ethiopia.
However, the TPLF put up a fight and demanded elections in Tigray. The requests were shrugged off by the government on the account of Covid restrictions. This was the point of contention that led to escalation. What was reported as a skirmish between the TPLF and the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) was quickly bombarded into warfare in November 2020. The EDF entered Tigray from southern Amhara under the ‘Law and Order Operation’ commandeered by prime minister Abiy Ahmed to crush the TPLF. Over the month, the EDF and the Amhara rebels seized western and southern Tigray while completely shattering the TPLF.
Adding oil to the fire, the Eritrean forces penetrated northern Tigray and massacred thousands of Tigrayans, including some of the leaders of the TPLF. Notably, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2019 for his remarkable feat of establishing peace with long-term foe Eritrea. However, what then came as a commendable effort renditioned in the chaos of the Tigray genocide. Not only did Eritrean forces systematically overpower the TPLF, the forces allegedly colluded with the Ethiopian defence forces to whelm the common enemy. Eritrea successfully reclaimed the long-lost town of Badme and Amhara decimated the TPLF, all whilst wreaking havoc in Tigray.
As the Amhara flag flicker on the land of Tigray, the remnants of the TPLF are nowhere to be found. With many leaders perished and the remaining scattered over neighboring countries, the remaining Tigrayans have no voice to harken for justice. The former deputy prime minister of Ethiopia and president of the TPLF, Mr. Debretsion Gabremicael, accused the Ethiopian government of conducting a ‘Genocidal War’ against the people of Tigray. Whilst, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory over Tigray in late November. Surprisingly enough, the government neither claimed any loss of civilian lives nor admitted to the infiltration of Tigray by Eritrean forces. With thousands butchered to death, the Ethiopian government banned the TPLF in January 2021 and barricaded any source of relief to Tigray.
“All sorts of genocidal acts have been committed in Tigray”, said Mr. Debretsion Gabremicael. Over 60000 Tigrayans have fled the country as the genocide continues in Tigray. Their sole representation is crushed to the ground whilst a complete communication blackout is imposed in the region. The entrapped Tigrayans are subject to grueling gyrations of sexual assault, target killings, and rampant looting. The Tigrayans have repeatedly appealed to the International community to take action against the genocidal tendencies running wild in Ethiopia; urging the regional countries to advocate a resolve before the minority is wiped from existence. With the UN peddling the rights of Tigrayans, countries including the UK have responded strongly to the plea of the Tigrayans. Recently, the United States deemed the genocide as an ‘Ethnic cleansing exercise’. The US secretary state, Antony Blinken, urged both the Eritrean troops and the Ethiopian defense forces to immediately withdraw from Tigray.
However, the brazen remarks of the Ethiopian Foreign minister imply anything but a near-end to the genocide. He rebuked the US secretary state: “It [the US statement] is regrettable. It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government and as a sovereign nation, it is our responsibility to deploy the security structures where necessary”. While the US has threatened to sever defense aid to Ethiopia, the famine-like situation of Tigray demands a prompt and congregational action. With blockades of food and health facilities in Tigray, no humanitarian access to the welfare groups and continual oppression of the Tigrayans, immediate action and restoration of the victims is dire and of immediate concern as the situation turns graver by the day.
The challenge of COVID-19 in Africa
Since its emergence in December last year, covid-19 has spread rapidly around the world, flooding the health system and weakening the global economy. As a result of the epidemic, the virus has spread across the African continent. So far, nearly 48 countries have been affected, but the impact has been felt from the beginning of the crisis. With the spread of covid-19 on the African continent, Africa has responded rapidly to the epidemic, and the number of cases reported so far has been lower than people had feared. The experience of past epidemics, that is, age structure, certainly works, and so does the response of all actors: the state, civil society, regional organizations… However, the economic and financial impact of the epidemic is enormous. Nevertheless, the challenges are still great due to the strategy adopted by the government, public support for the measures taken, the resilience of the health system, economic impact, cross-border cooperation, etc… In recent years, African countries have done a lot to improve the well-being of the people on the continent. Economic growth is strong. The digital revolution has begun. The free trade zone has been decided. But the epidemic threatens progress in Africa. It will exacerbate existing inequalities, hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Demand for African goods, tourism and remittances have declined. The opening of the free trade zone has been delayed, and millions of people may fall into abject poverty.
The African continent has some advantages
However, the continent’s unique demographic structure suggests that it may not be as affected by the epidemic as the rest of the world. In fact, globally, people over the age of 65 are the age group most likely to be complicated by the epidemic. In Africa, a very young continent, only 4% of the population belongs to this age group (20% in France, 16% in the United States and 11% in China). This will make Africa’s experience different from that of its aging European and Asian neighbors. Another factor of hope that has been repeatedly mentioned is the climate of the African continent, which will not be conducive to the spread of the virus. However, so far, this theory has not been supported by any data.
Moreover, the health crisis we are facing is not the only one that has affected the African continent in recent years. For example, since 2013, the Ebola epidemic has killed tens of thousands of Africans, providing crisis management experience for the affected countries. After discovering that Asia, Europe and the United States have been seriously affected by the virus, this may partly explain why many countries on the African continent have taken swift and severe measures, such as checking airport temperature, closing borders, closing airports, closing airports, closing airports, etc. Suspension of international flights or isolation measures. The virus spread rapidly in Europe before it really affected Africa, which is why some African governments responded highly to the crisis.
However, some inherent factors in the African continent hinder the implementation of certain preventive measures, which are of the same scale as those in Europe, Asia or the United States. Social distance is complex in a continent where nearly 200 million people live in crowded shantytowns or are used to living in harmony with their families. In addition, some Africans live in a water shortage environment, especially in remote urban areas, which makes simple (effective) gestures (such as washing hands regularly) difficult.
Finally, measures to limit the employment of citizens may endanger the survival of many people, since half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, has no savings or wealth, and the informal sector accounts for 85.8% of employment. It should also be noted that the large-scale spread on the continent is worrisome because it is estimated that the health systems of African countries are at different levels, but most of them are not able to cope. They lack not only medical staff, but also equipment, especially for the treatment of people living with HIV. Respirators are not enough for patients. The African continent, in particular, still faces treatable but in many cases fatal diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The burden of covid-19 on the medical system often hinders the treatment of these other diseases.
What is the impact on African economy? It’s hard to say. However, the impact was felt even before the first pollution case was announced. In fact, intra African trade currently accounts for less than 18% of the continent’s trade, which means that Africa’s economy is heavily dependent on trade with the rest of the world. In addition, the industry of the African continent is mainly concentrated in raw materials. Due to the crisis, the prices of raw materials have been seriously affected. Some of Africa’s major economies are still heavily dependent on exports of resources such as oil or minerals. The global crisis has led to a collapse in the prices and demand for these raw materials, although their exports account for more than a quarter of the total exports of 25 countries and 55% of Africa’s GDP.
Border closures also make it impossible for these countries to rely on tourists to restore their economic health. The epidemic may help to redefine the relationship between African countries and external actors. Finally, most of these countries do not have the capacity to deploy economic support or stimulus plans on a scale comparable to that of western countries to limit the impact of the crisis. In this regard, we understand that despite the collapse of tourism, Egypt is one of the most resilient economies on the African continent. Thanks to “strong domestic markets and the authorities’ strong response to fiscal and monetary policy”, the country even feels luxurious to be one of the few countries to achieve positive growth (+ 3.5%) in 2020.
SADC Counts on EU and US for Security Funding in Mozambique
The 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is counting funding from the United States and European Union (EU) to support its proposed military deployment (3,000 troops) in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, according to Andre Thomashausen, professor emeritus of international law at the University of South Africa (UNISA).
Thomashausen said that Pretoria “is desperately seeking” ways to strengthen and rehabilitate its military operational capabilities through the intervention in northern Mozambique and “SADC wants this entire operation to be funded by support from the European Union and, to some extent, the United States. SADC is envisaging a role for the European Union of financial rather than logistical or human resources support.”
SADC technical assessment mission has proposed sending a military intervention force of 3,000 troops as part of its response to help fight the militant insurgency in Mozambique. In terms of military assets, the SADC assessment team proposes that 16 be sent to Mozambique, namely two patrol ships, a submarine, a maritime surveillance plane, six helicopters, two drones and four transport planes.
On April 28, Southern African ministers have agreed to deploy a regional force in Mozambique. But the Southern African leaders meeting that was scheduled for April 29 to assess the security situation and offer the final approval for deployment of SADC military force was postponed due to unavailability of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Botswana is the current chair of the SADC division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is quarantined due to Covid-19. Ramaphosa was busy giving testimony to an inquiry into corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Botswana and South Africa along with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the current members of the SADC security organ troika. The three would have met Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at the summit to decide whether to accept the proposed intervention plan.
The insurgency broke out in Mozambique’s northeast in 2017 and the rebels have stepped up attacks in the past years, with the latest March 24 heinous attack left more than 2,800 deaths, according to several reports, and about 714,000 people displaced, according to government sources.
The worsening security situation is a major setback for Mozambique. While it hopes to reap nearly US$100 billion in revenue over 25 years from LNG projects, the state failed its pledge to maintain and enforce security after several warnings. Now French energy group Total declared force majeure on its €20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project following the insurgent attacks. The gas project located about six kilometers from the city that suffered the armed attack in March.
In an official release, the Paris based Total officials said considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure. The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” will remain in force until the government restores security in a verifiable and sustainable manner.
Besides that, Mozambique is rocked with frequent kidnappings. In a recent interview with Lusa, the president of Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), the largest employers’ association in the country, Agostinho Vuma, said that kidnappings targeting entrepreneurs and their relatives are a negative feature of the country’s business environment.
In addition, a report by ratings agency Standard & Poor Global also said militant attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province still pose a “significant threat” to production facilities associated with one the biggest natural gas discoveries in the world.
S&P, which ranks Mozambique’s foreign debt at CCC+, seven rungs below investment grade, said it expected economic growth in the country to recover in 2021 on higher mining output, especially linked to liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.
But that rebound was subject to completion of the gas projects in the face of mounting security risks, as well as risks of droughts and flooding. Mozambique was battered by two massive cyclones in 2019, and another hit its shores in this year.
“If this project comes on stream as expected by 2024-2025, it will benefit Mozambique’s economic outlook, and support wealth levels that are currently very low by global comparison,” said S&P. But most benefits will materialize beyond our current forecast horizon as gas production will likely come on stream in 2025 given the delays experienced in 2021.”
The ratings firm project gross domestic product (GDP) to expand 2.5% in 2021 after last year’s 1.25% contraction. It however sees economic growth to average 5.5% from 2022 onwards.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources, but remains as one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with collective responsibility to promote socio-economic and political and security cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Mozambique: Total Halts Gas Project, Parliamentary Opposition Parties Demand Accountability
The French energy giant Total has finally announced suspension of its gas project and that will leave an unmeasurable impact on the economy of Mozambique.
The Mozambican government has largely failed with its security policy and ignored experts’ advice on security after several warning issued after militant bloody attacks bloody in 2017 by a group known locally as al-Shabab. Experts also attributed attacks to governance deficit and disparity in development in northern Mozambique.
Its scale raised doubts over the viability of the biggest single investment in Africa even before the latest raid. March’s attack on Palma took place just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the gas project’s nerve center, despite a government commitment to set up a 25-kilometre security radius around the site.
French energy giant Total has a massive multi-billion gas project in northern Mozambique, but has now declared a “force majeure” situation beyond its control, a legal concept meaning it can suspend fulfilling contractual obligations.
The declaration “will remain in effect until the Government of Mozambique has restored security and stability in the province… in a verifiable and sustainable manner,” the company said in its official release on April 26.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican parliamentary opposition parties have demanded “scrutiny” of the cost of war in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, accusing the government of “failure” and warning of the risk of the conflict being used for the “illicit enrichment of the elites.”
The requirement was made during the second and last day of questions to the government session in the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique.
“The defense and security sector must be scrutinized, because elites in times of war use this sector for their illicit enrichment,” said Deputy Fernando Bismarque of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), Mozambique’s third-largest parliamentary party.
Insisting on a reply to the question that the MDM had already posed about the costs of the fight against “terrorists” and the use of “mercenaries” in Cabo Delgado, Fernando Bismarque accused the government of making “a secret” of expenditure on the conflict in the north of the country.
“It is the Government’s role to render accounts to the Assembly of the Republic. It is not and should not be any state secret, because it is this House that approved the State Budget and we are within the scope of our constitutional and regimental powers to oversee government action,” the MDM deputy said.
Last week, the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) said Total had already suspended contracts with a series of businesses indirectly involved in the gas project.
The National Petroleum Institute (INP), a Mozambique government body that governs energy projects, similarly said that Total “may not fulfil contractual obligations and could suspend or cancel further contracts, depending how long the halt (to construction) lasts.”
The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, through the National Petroleum Institute (INP) gave an assurance in a statement that the Mozambican authorities are continuing to work towards the restoration of “normal security conditions” and ensuring that enterprise activities can resume “as soon as possible.”
The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” on Total’s LNG project in Mozambique will remain in force until the Government has restored security in the province in a verifiable and sustainable manner.
In the release, the Paris based Total officials said that considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure.
That however, Total expresses its solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and wishes that the actions carried out by the government of Mozambique and its regional and international partners will enable the restoration of security and stability in Cabo Delgado province in a sustained manner. Valued at €20 billion, it is the largest ongoing private investment in Africa.
About Total: Total is a broad energy company that produces and markets fuels, natural gas and electricity. Our 100,000 employees are committed to better energy that is more affordable, more reliable, cleaner and accessible to as many people as possible. Active in more than 130 countries, our ambition is to become the responsible energy major.
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