Ethiopia’s Tigray War: Background and state of play


Tigray Conflict refers to protracted political crises in Trigary region of Ethiopia i.e. Northern Ethiopia. Political tensions between Ethiopian Federal Government and Trigary Peoples Liberation Party (TPLF) , political party that had been ruling Ethiopia for almost three decades , transformed to full scale armed conflict by 2020. Conflict brought about thousands of civil fatalities and wreck havoc in Trigary region.


Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) which had been predominant political force in Ethiopia since 1991 under leadership of Meles Zanawi. TPLF regime in rule of three decades disintegrated state in several ethnic divisions and waged war against Eritrea on border disputes. Angered by unfulfilled demands of Ethiopian public Mass protests erupted in Ethiopia’s populous region Oromia, wanting TPLF government to resign.

Political Reforms

In 2020, Abhy Ahmad takes charge of Prime Minister office, winning against TPLF. Prime minister Ahmad established a new political party “Prosperity Party”, contending TPLF. New government initiated series of political and economic reforms among which historic development in Foreign policy towards Eritrea is worth mentioning. Protracted animosity between Ethiopia and Eritrea fizzled out through endless negotiations and efforts by prime minister Ahmad for which he became First ever Nobel Laureate in Ethiopian history.

In order to dismantle the ethnically divided coalition and consolidate control under a single new political party, the Prosperity Party, Prime Minister Abiy launched a number of audacious measures. The TPLF left the ruling coalition and went back to its regional stronghold in Tigray out of a sense of marginalisation and fear of losing its influence, which paved the way for a combative standoff with the federal administration.

Conflict Escalation

Despite postponement of general elections owing to Covid- 19, TPLF held elections in September 2020 Trigary region which exacerbated tensions between federal Government and TPLF. Elections conducted, opposing federal Government decision, were declared illegal. Declaring elections illicit further deepen political tensions between Ethiopian government and TPLF, provoking war of words from two sides.

Moreover, The situation dramatically changed in November 2020 when the Ethiopian government charged the TPLF with attacking a Tigrayan federal military base. To disarm the TPLF leadership and re-establish federal rule in response, the federal authorities organised a military action. Armed forces from Ethiopia’s federal government and the nearby Amhara region, which supported the federal government’s activities, were involved in the conflict, which quickly escalated into a full-fledged war.

Casualties and Humanitarian Crises

Ethiopia in Alliance with Eritrea waged a full-scale deadly war against Tigrayan rebels.
The war in Tigray was marked by waves of violence against civilians, including massacres and rapes, by the armies of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea, as well as Tigrayan fighters, regional forces from Amhara and militias sucked into the conflict.

There had been numerous reports of civilian casualties, massive displacement, and a catastrophic humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the Tigray conflict. Both sides had charged of committing serious violations of human rights, including as massacres, sexual assaults, and the destruction of crucial infrastructure. However, it has been difficult to independently verify the scope and character of these atrocities due to the battle zone’s limited access.

Millions of people were in urgent need of humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict’s disruption of basic services including healthcare, food supplies, and access to clean water. The world community was shocked by reports of targeted strikes on civilians, especially women, children, and the elderly, and these reports have sparked worries about possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Based on reports from the field, the number of dead could be somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 civilian casualties only — this from atrocities, starvation, and lack of healthcare,” Vanden Bempt said. In addition, he said there were unofficial estimates of between 200,000 and 300,000 battlefield deaths, though these could not be accurately verified.

Conflict Resolution

The Tigray Conflict called out for intervention of international community and peace making agencies, for immediate truce, accountability for human rights abuse, and negotiated political settlement. United Nations and African Union was also requested to meddle in for de-escalation purpose and ultimately end war.

Finally, deadly catastrophe and blood shed of two years come to end when TPLF and Ethiopian Federal Government after staying at Mutually Hurting Stalemate for months decide to negotiate. Therefore, on 24 March 2022, the Ethiopian government declared an indefinite humanitarian truce, in order to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid into Tigray. During ceasefire both Ethiopia and TPLF agreed to negotiate about an official end to war.

Zainab Imran
Zainab Imran
I am Zainab Imran. Currently pursuing degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University Islamabad.


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