Tragedy in Tigray: Government Attacks Lead to Humanitarian Crisis

Vincent Kornacki, Reporting Journalist

After hours of continuous bombing on Saturday, the Ethiopian government finally seized control of the northern city of Mekelle. Mekelle is the capital of the region called Tigray, and has been a safe haven for rebels that are part of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). These attacks at Mekelle have drawn scrutiny from other leaders both because of the large number of civilians that have been harmed and because of the government’s refusal to allow humanitarian groups into the city. Specifically, reports have surfaced suggesting that Ethiopia’s forces targeted churches and houses and killed large numbers of civilians. Other reports, however, claim that the TPLF used churches and schools to distribute weapons and organize attacks.

The TPLF was founded in the mid 1970s to oppose Ethiopia’s emperor and to build a communist society in Ethiopia. The group grew quickly, but eventually had to abandon its communist beliefs in order to appeal to more people. In the 1980s, the TPLF allied with other resistance groups and eventually captured Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. After the monarchy collapsed, the TPLF took control of the country, but it only ruled for about 20 years. The TPLF caused great economic growth for the country, but also brutally silenced anyone who opposed it. Two Ethiopian ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, had agreed to allow the TPLF to rule their country, but they became dissatisfied with the TPLF leadership by 2012. By 2018, the Oromo and the Amhara had ousted the TPLF from power and a new government under prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Now, Ahmed is trying to eliminate any trace of the TPLF at any cost.

The recent capture of Mekelle represents the peak of Ahmed’s attempts to destroy the TPLF. Currently, there is a communications blackout around the city which makes it difficult for any verifiable reports to be released. As such, conflicting information has become widespread. However, one thing that is clear is that this conflict has had a disastrous impact on Ethiopian citizens. The constant attacks on civilian buildings and the lack of food supplies entering the city have caused massive amounts of harm to the citizens of Mekelle, so much so that Pope Francis has called the conflict a “serious humanitarian situation.”