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YEAR IN REVIEW TIGRAY

Tensions that had been brewing since the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) took the helm in 2018 were at their boiling point in the very days leading up to the Ethiopian New Year in September 2020. A couple of short months later, the situation had escalated into a full blown conflict. The developments have left an indelible mark on Ethiopian society and the economy, and have not gone unnoticed by the international community. Millions now face the risk of famine, while millions more have been displaced by the fighting, which has spread out into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regional states. This is not to mention the financial cost of waging war. What is perhaps the most unsettling is that there is little anyone can say about where the conflict is headed as the country prepares to welcome another year, but the events that unfolded in the last one are likely to leave imprints in the next.

SEPTEMBER

Tigray Holds Regional Elections

On September 9, 2020, Tigray Regional State, home to almost six million people, goes ahead with parliamentary elections, just a week after the upper house declared the election “null and void," asserting that the poll was unconstitutional. A week later, the newly formed Regional Electoral Commission declares Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) the winner with 98.2pc of the vote for the regional parliament. The new regional council elected Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) as president.

OCTOBER

Federal Gov’t Cuts Ties with New Regional Council

The upper house of parliament rules that federal officials should cut off any contact with the regional government of Tigray under the leadership of the TPLF. However, the House announced that it would continue to work with local institutions in Tigray to provide “basic services” to the region.

NOVEMBER

Gov’t Declares War, Provisional Gov’t Formed

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) announces his administration has launched what it called "a law enforcement operation" against the TPLF after its forces attacked military barracks of the Northern Command. In a statement issued shortly after the eruption of conflict, he said the TPLF has "crossed a red line" and a military offensive would be launched. By the end of the month, he had declared the end of the military operation after the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) assumed “full control” of the regional capital, Meqelle. Mulu Nega (PhD) was then appointed chief executive of the provisional administration set up to manage state affairs in Tigray.

NOVEMBER

Bank Accounts Opened in Tigray Suspended

Bank accounts that were opened in Tigray Regional State were frozen. The central bank had communicated the advisory note to the presidents of all of the commercial banks via a text message and no circular or directive was issued. Two weeks prior, the regulatory bank, citing signs of looting, had commanded all of the banks operating in the regional state shutter their doors.

DECEMBER

War Displaces Thousands, EU Pressures Federal Gov’t

More than 50,000 people flee to Sudan because of the war in Tigray Regional State. European member states call for unconditional, immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to the region. Crisis Commissioner Janez Lenarcic urged Ethiopian authorities to restore communications, allow unfettered access to humanitarian aid workers, and facilitate the evacuation of over 100 EU citizens from the region.

JANUARY

EU Suspends $107m in Aid

The European Union suspends budgetary support for Ethiopia worth 88 million euros (107 million dollars) until humanitarian agencies are granted unfettered access to people in need of aid in Tigray. The United States also accused Eritrean authorities of exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation and allegedly being involved in sexual violence and looting, while calling for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region.

FEBRUARY

Commission Reports 108 Rape Cases

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission releases a report, disclosing that 108 cases of rape have been reported in Meqelle, Ayder, Adigrat, and Wukro hospitals since the beginning of the war in Tigray Regional State. The attempt to fully resume healthcare services continue to be undermined by the disruption of infrastructural services, including banking, the Commission disclosed.  

MARCH

Giant Cement Producer Resumes Operations

Messebo Cement Factory restarts partial production on March 20, 2021, following a 130-day shut down due to the interruption of electricity as a result of the war in the Regional State. The cement plant, which was established in 1997, is located on the outskirts of Meqelle, the regional capital. The plant did not incur significant damage during the conflict; however, after the conflict eased, most of its equipment was looted, lost or damaged. Messebo has the capacity to produce 2.3 million quintals of cement annually, making it one of the three largest producers in the country.

APRIL

Eritrea Admits Presence of Troops, PM Pledges Withdrawal

Eritrea admits for the first time its forces are fighting in the war in Tigray Regional State. In a letter addressed to the UN Security Council, the country promised to pull its troops out in the face of mounting international pressure. This came two weeks following Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's (PhD) pledge for the withdrawal of troops from Tigray, almost five months after the conflict started.

MAY

UN Warns of Famine

The UN Humanitarian Chief warns there is a serious risk of famine in Tigray if humanitarian assistance is not immediately scaled up. On May 17, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) reported that some 3.3 million people in Tigray are in crisis levels of food insecurity.

JUNE

Rebels Retake Regional Capital after Federal Gov’t Declares Unilateral Ceasefire

The former administrators of Tigray Regional State regain control of the regional capital, Meqelle, after nearly eight months of fighting, and the government which ousted them declared a unilateral ceasefire with immediate effect. The ceasefire was intended to allow farmers to cultivate their land and help aid groups to operate without the presence of military activity, according to a statement from the federal government.

JULY

Communications Blackout Prevails

Electricity and telecommunications remain cut off, and banking services have been stalled in Tigray. However, electricity was partially restored in Meqelle and Shire on July 5, 2021, for a few hours before it was cut off again. Commercial flights to and from Meqelle, halted in mid-June, have not resumed.

AUGUST

War Displaces Hundreds of Thousands in Amhara, Afar Regions

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate across the Amhara and Afar regional states due to the conflict between the rebel forces of Tigray and the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The conflicts have displaced 100,000 people in the Amhara region and 70,000 people in the Afar region.

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