Senseless bloodshed – the civil war in Ethiopia

A bloody civil war raged in northern Ethiopia until November 2022. So this ended only about three months before our arrival in February. Even though the local people hardly talk to us about this terrible time, we have learned a few things about Maalika that we do not want to omit here.

If one reads the official version of the war, a nationwide parliamentary election postponed because of COVID-19 was the trigger for the conflict in the Tigray region. Ultimately, however, numerous parties and interests were involved in an increasingly obscure civil war. The Afar are also a warlike pastoralist people who carry their AK-47 (Kalashnikov) not only as a status symbol and to protect their herds.

In the past civil war, the majority of Afar backed the government troops. Maalika tells us about corpse fields in her region, where she saw with her own eyes women lying shot in the sand with their baby on their back and machine gun on their stomach. Men, women and also children fought against the TPLF (People’s Liberation Front of Tigray) at the end. It was also about controlling the main communication and trade route from Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti. Whoever controls these has a grip on the trade and power of this region.

There were three types of Tigray fighting squads, Maalika tells us: the first squad displaced or killed the people in the villages, the second squad looted everything of use, and the last squad destroyed all the remaining infrastructure of the conquered areas – from the water and electricity lines to the solar panels of the houses.

The Afar helped the government troops to prevent the further advance of the TPLF toward Addis Ababa, which is why the government thanked the Afar and, from the government’s point of view, this pastoralist people is now in a better light than before.

However, the fact that such a war is always pointless and in the end brings no improvement at all was also demonstrated to us here at close quarters. The living conditions of the people – whether Afar, Tigray or Amharen – are still extremely difficult and all the bloodshed – regardless of which side – is and remains an abomination.

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