Sunday, November 28

What if the “capital of Africa” ​​falls?

Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa is in danger of falling. It could have a ripple effect in Europe.

Addis Ababa is in danger of falling, experts say. Whether that happens or not, Ethiopia is in danger of the bloody war continuing and escalating.

“The capital of Africa.”

It is the nickname of the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. The city is home to five million people out of a population of 107 million.

With that, Ethiopia is one of the largest countries on the continent. Ethiopia has long been hailed as the African hope for democracy and peace.

Now the city is in danger of falling into a bloody conflict.

It can have ripple effects far beyond Ethiopia and Africa.

The offensive intensifies

In the 1980s, Ethiopia was almost synonymous with famine. In recent decades, the country has experienced great economic growth. Nearly 10 percent each year, according to the World Bank.

At the same time, the country has many ethnic groups that have occasionally fought each other. Last year, one of the conflicts broke out in earnest.

On the one hand, the Ethiopian government is led by Prime Minister and Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed. On the other side is the Tigray Liberation Army (TPLF), which controls the state of Tigray. In November 2020, the TPLF attacked one of the government’s military bases.

Ahmed responded by invading Tigray. He received the support of Eritrean soldiers.

TPLF has now entered into its own alliances. With the Oromo Liberation Front (OLA) and seven other armies, they have formed a coalition.

They have one goal:

Overthrow the government of Ahmed. Either through negotiations or through the use of military force.

What are the chances of the capital falling?

Open question

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLA) has troops 40 kilometers from Addis Ababa. The group’s leader, Jaal Marro, said this in an interview with AFP on Sunday.

This corresponds to the distance between Oslo and Drammen. That information has not been confirmed by other sources. But together with TPLF, they took over the strategic cities of Kombolche, Kemise and Dessie last week.

The map shows that they are getting closer and closer to Addis Ababa.

However, it is highly uncertain whether capital will fall. It’s important to remember that TPLF doesn’t yet have control over all of Tigray, says Stig Jarle Hansen. He is a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NMBU).

– It’s a quite vulnerable flank, he explains.

Kjetil Tronvoll is a researcher at Oslo New University College. When asked if he thinks Addis Ababa is falling, he replies:

– Yes, it falls. And there will be a regime change. Whether it happens through a military entry or a negotiated exit remains an open question.

Little chance, bad time

The African Union (AU), diplomats and politicians from around the world hope to find a peaceful solution.

Olusegun Obasanjo is the AU envoy to Ethiopia. He has been in contact with TPLF and Ahmed. Both parties agree that the conflict is political. Therefore, it needs a political solution, according to Obasanjo. At the same time it warns:

The possibility of reaching a political agreement is “very small and time is short.”

If diplomacy fails, Addis Ababa could fall as a result of military force. What will happen then?

Here are some safe answers. But the possibilities are many.

More are taking over the civil war

The TPLF has said that they want to remove Ahmed, but that they do not want power themselves. Instead, they will hold new democratic elections.

However, it is far from certain whether a TPLF entry will be accepted in Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Ahmed urges the population to take up arms and protect the city.

Civilians attend an event in support of the government in Addis Ababa. They are demonstrating against the TPLF and Western involvement in Ethiopia. The photo was taken on November 7, 2021.

At the same time, the Ethiopian government is reported to be arresting residents in the capital because they are from Tigray.

That part of the population will probably want a welcome regime change. At the same time, TPLF has many enemies from ancient times. When the group was in power from 1990 to 2018, opponents were hit hard.

It is not inconceivable that they will take up arms again.

– If Addis does not fall, this could be a long and bloody war because the conflict is very ethnic. Now it is mainly ethnic militias that are fighting each other, Hansen explains.

Liisa Lakso, a senior fellow at the Nordic African Institute, agrees.

– The threat of ethnic cleansing is already there, he says.

The consequences will hardly remain within Ethiopia’s borders.

Domino effect in the region

The conflict could cause a destabilizing domino effect in the rest of the region.

– Ethiopia has been a kind of engine for the economies of the rest of the region, explains Lakso.

That engine is already about to stop working. Neighboring Sudan has hosted more than 60,000 refugees from Tigray since war broke out last year. The escalation of the civil war could lead to even more people crossing the border. Sudan has already been weakened by the military coup in the country.

– Even more refugees will not ease the situation in Sudan, says Lakso.

Last year saw a wave of military coups in Africa. Greater conflict could mean that the wave also hits Ethiopia, he believes.

This can also lead to large refugee flows out of the country and across the world.

– The situation is extremely dangerous. It is also a concern for Europe. Partly because of the refugees and other migrants, Lakso continues.

At the same time that migrants are being used as weapons in an ongoing hybrid war between Belarus and the EU, a new wave of refugees may come from African countries, she believes:

– This is not only possible. This is very likely to happen.

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