Ethiopia crisis explainer
November 23, 2020 - Tigray’s conflict with Ethiopia isn’t about regional autonomy. Instead, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is intent on recapturing the economic power and natural resources it held until 2018.
The conflict started on November 4, when Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray. The move was in response to a “preemptive strike” against the federal army’s Northern Command in Tigray’s provincial capital, Mekelle.
The escalation came after months of feuding between the government and leaders of Tigray’s TPLF following the election of Prime Minister Abiy in April 2018.
For almost three decades, the TPLF was at the centre of power, the leader of a four-party coalition that governed Ethiopia from 1991.
In 1994, the TPLF-led coalition introduced a new constitution which allowed only public ownership of land. The change enabled the TPLF to evict thousands of farmers and sell long-term leases to foreign investors, amassing billions of dollars. Meanwhile, government debt began to rise at an alarming rate.
Between 1992 and 2018, the period the TPLF was running the country, debt increased from 26 billion Ethiopian birrs -- the local currency -- to 1,344.4 billion birrs, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures. Driven by loans, mainly from China and India, debt surged from US$8.6 billion to $45.1 billion. The debt had reached 57.9 per cent of the country’s GDP when Abiy came to power in 2018, launching a comprehensive programme of political and economic reforms. The TPLF rejected Abiy’s authority.
Between 1997 and 2016, the TPLF received $1.77 billion in loans from China while India handed over $818.42 million, according to the Pan-Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies. That’s an average of $129.4 million every year.
In December 2019, Abiy announced $3 billion in reform financing from the World Bank and $2.9 billion from the IMF.
- Ethiopia -- IMF: World Economic Outlook Database, (Knoema)
- Ethiopia’s FDI inflow from India and China (Journal of Economic Structures)
- Tigray’s War Against Ethiopia Isn’t About Autonomy. It’s About Economic Power. (Foreign Policy)
- Ethiopians Demand a Stop to Human Rights Abuses (The Oakland Institute)
- Ethiopia plays Europe off China in bid to boost investment (Politico)