Ethiopia holds unique status on the continent making it stand out among the rest. For starters, the country was only one of two to escape the jaws of colonialism alongside Liberia after fighting off the Italians in a showdown that proved that the country is powerful.
Secondly, Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union with Addis Ababa representing the centre of unity and collaboration on the continent.
Last but not the least, Ethiopia has been mostly shut down from the rest in a rare case where the rest of the world has been polarized by globalization.
From the outside, not a lot is known of the country as compared to its neighbours with Ethiopia remaining largely a mystery to many.
Nevertheless, a storm has been brewing in the country, threatening to tear the continental pinnacle into pieces right before our eyes.
War of kings
It all goes back to September last year at least, but to fully understand the trigger for the current crisis in the country, one has to take a step further down the road to April 2018.
After decades of domination of both government and the military, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was pushed to the opposition after the installation of Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo as the new Prime Minister.
TPLF leaders would retreat back to their base with the elections being quickly followed by an assassination attempt on the life of the young Premier.
The year would however end on a high with Abiy winning the coveted 2019 Nobel Peace Prize after his promise of transparency and his brokerage of peace with Eritrea on a long-standing border dispute.
However, TPLF’s opposition to the blowing winds of change has held steady and bubbled to an explosion in September 2020.
After Abiy postponed regional elections attributing it to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tigray defied the suspension and staged their own elections much to the fury of the Prime Minister.
This was followed by the trimming of funding to the region by the Ethiopian government. Tigray would retaliate by attacking a military base in the region intensifying the anger of Premier Abiy who declared war on the region cutting off communication networks to the region, disrupting supplies and closing banks.
Since then, both the TPLF, Ethiopian government forces and armed groups from neighbouring Eritrea have engaged in an all-out war to the death.
Subsequently, tens of thousands of Ethiopians have been killed while an estimated two million persons have been displaced.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been streaming to neighbours Eritrea and Sudan while thousands of weapons have found their way to the centre of the conflict.
The Ethiopian government stands accused of human rights violations including massacres, the killing of civilians, rape and starvation.
Ethiopian forces are also accused of cutting off aid to Tigray all as part of its warfare with what it has since declared a terrorist group.
The Ethiopian crisis now threatens to worsen the situation in an already volatile horn of Africa.
It gets worse
In recent weeks, the tide of the conflict has changed after the TPLF regained control of Mekelle, its designated capital.
The TPLF has subsequently begun a march to Addis Ababa and has since seized key towns including Lalibela and Dessie.
The group’s sole aim is to dethrone Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and retake control of the country.
The surge has already gotten a shot in the arm with eight other regional formations joining up with TPLF to march on Addis.
Ant further escalation of the conflict is seen displacing more millions and killing thousands more and the United Nations has warned the country could descend into a full-scale civil war.
The conflict is seen emboldening terror groups in the region such as the Al-Shabab. At the same time, the conflict is set to derail the progress of reforms in the country and deny the country billions in new investments.
For instance, following the liberalization of its ICT Sector, foreign companies have competed for new telecoms licenses with Kenya’s Safaricom for instance winning one of the two new licenses.
Safaricom and is consortium partners for instance stare at a lengthy delay in establishing commercial operations in the country which were set for mid next year following the all-out war.
More liberalization of Ethiopia’s economy including the opening up of its banking sector could also fall by the wayside putting a pause to plans by Kenyan banks including Equity and KCB to set up operations in the country.
Moreover, new sanctions by the United States have seen Ethiopia suspended from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) over its failure to honour human rights.
The suspension will see Ethiopian goods including coffee, textile and apparel blocked from accessing the US market affecting the country’s export earning potential and dwindling its foreign exchange earnings.
The war has also threatened freedom of the press with the Ethiopian government threatening to suspend the licenses of the Associated Press, CNN, Reuters and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The solution of the conflict clearly lies in dialogue between the warring parties with the political struggle seemingly needing a political solution.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF however appear to be unwilling to negotiate as they go for each other’s heads.
Nevertheless, leaders from across the region are pushing to have the two opposing sides at the table.
For instance, former Nigerian President and AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo is hopeful that dialogue can lead to a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Kenya likely holds the key to dialogue and negotiations. This is as President Uhuru Kenyatta proves a key ally for Prime Minister Abiy with the pair recently touring each other countries.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has been the most recent to make a surprise visit to its neighbour to the North.
While no major official communication was given from the trip, the visit was seen as a channel to initiate dialogue and kick-start a peace process.
Already, Kenya is viewed as a peaceful neighbour and has been at the centre of key negotiations such as the peace process in South Sudan.
Kenya can use its role as regional peace and economic pillar to cool off hostilities in not just Ethiopia but also extinguish other fires in the broader horn of Africa and beyond.
Peace in Africa will greatly add growth in trade and investments that will result in employment, entrepreneurship and development for the economy and youth in the region.
Business Leader and Brand Africa Trustee