Ethiopia's conflict spills over border as thousands flee
This week, he sent federal troops into a province of his own country. Hundreds are reported dead in the northern region of Tigre and refugees air spilling over the border into Sudan. So what explains the shift from peace to conflict? Michelle Gavin is a former ambassador and senior fellow for African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ambassador Gavin We're talking about the Ethiopian province of Tigre, where the violence is happening. It's squeezed into the northwest corner of Ethiopia. Figure it straddles the border of Eritrea to its north. What is so important about Tigre relative to the rest of Ethiopia? Well for many years, the Tigre and People's Liberation Front that sort of dominant political and military entity in Tigre was really first among equals in the ruling coalition for all of Ethiopia so to Graham's played an incredibly prominent role in Ethiopian governance, politics, security But with the rise of the new Prime Minister Ahmed There's been a bit of a re balancing in Ethiopia. And this is kind of opened up contest station from ethnicities across this incredibly diverse country. And there has been kind of widespread feeling that for too long, a small minority from Tigre had too much control of the federal government. So there's political tension between Tigre and Addis Ababa. Are there also historical grievances between two grand central government that we need to mention? I mean, is there a back story here? Tigre is now fighting at us. There's a lot of back story Ethiopian and certainly to Gran's were and incredibly, they weren't just dominant, politically and in the security services for many years, certainly under the leadership of Prime minister malice, But they also suffered most in the long and very costly in blood and treasure war with your tria. So there is there's also you know, a sense of probably grievance in that sense. Abby's come to power they feel targeted by new personnel choices by new policy choices. What maybe others in Ethiopia see as a re balancing the Tigre ins can often feel like persecution despite the tremendous sacrifices that they have made for the country. There are reports from Tigre oven. Ethiopian air campaign heavy bombardment at times. I mean, what's at stake here as far as you can tell ambassador Is it a possible civil war between two grands and Ethiopian troops? There is Tigre saying. We've had enough. We want independence. How should we interpret what's going on? We should absolutely be worried about a civil war, which I don't think would necessarily be contained just Teo, the Tigre region, giving all of the other tensions and actors. So what's at stake? You know the wellbeing of over 110 million Ethiopians. Regional stability. Conflict in Ethiopia has a very high chance of drawing in Eritrea. Sudan, tipping the balance of Sudan zone very fragile transition. Ethiopia's incredibly important actor in trying to bring stability to Somalia to South Sudan distracted and weekend. Ethiopia is really quite devastating, Tio this entire horn region which is strategically really significant, and there are a lot of actors external to Africa. In the Gulf, the Chinese and from the West, all of whom care deeply about stability in this region, so the prospect of drawing others in of proxy conflict it's really a powder keg, and the consequence will not be confined solely to what's happening inside Ethiopia's borders. Michelle Gavin, senior fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She also served as ambassador to Botswana from 2011 to 14. Ambassador Gavin Thank you very much. Thank you.