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Ethiopia

After his election win, Abiy pressured on Tigray blockade

International agencies push to get aid to war-torn region after Prosperity Party sweeps the country

There was scarcely a celebratory party to mark the sweeping wins of Premier Abiy Ahmed's Prosperity Party across the country. On paper, winning 410 out of the 436 seats contested satisfies the ruling party's need for legitimacy; in reality the elections alone will solve nothing for Abiy's beleaguered and isolated government.

The government in Addis faces three intertwined crises:

• whether to embark on political negotiations with Tigray and unblock aid to the region in the wake of the federal forces' unilateral ceasefire declared on 28 June;

• how to restructure relations within the federation to address growing protest and violence in the regions;

• persuading Western governments to lift sanctions on Addis Ababa linked to the Tigray war and regaining the confidence of the investors who had flocked to Ethiopia as the second biggest market in Africa after Nigeria.

Although officials acknowledge the severity of these crises, they also insist they are taking action on all fronts. But it is far from enough.

With famine affecting 400,000 people in Tigray, and nearly another 2 million threatened by chronic food shortages, the region is essentially under siege, with the government in Addis imposing restrictions on aid deliveries. That was made clear in a public meeting of the UN Security Council on 2 July, the first such meeting on the Tigray crisis since the war started in November.

Closely allied to the question of relief are the reports that both the Tigray and federal forces are preparing for another round of fighting. This time the focus will be on West Tigray, where the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) want to push out the Amhara regional forces occupying this zone and break through to the border with Sudan.

This would give the TDF a much-needed supply route to bypass the blockade imposed by Addis Ababa on the southern routes out of Tigray. That is why the Amhara regional militia and their allies in the federal forces want to stop it. It also risks drawing Sudan into what could become a regional conflagration.

Although there is little direct support for Tigray across the Ethiopian federation, other regions such as Oromo and the Somali province have their own agendas for restructuring the national government. Many of the regions share a common scepticism about the Prosperity Party's move towards some form of unitary state, sharply cutting local autonomy.

Prosperity Party militants differ sharply with land rights activists about the expanding boundaries of the capital Addis Ababa at the expense of local Oromo farmers. Neither are the Amhara region parties entirely convinced by Abiy's promises. Should he fail to back the occupation of western Tigray by Amhara farmers, he could pay a heavy political price.

On top of these security and political problems, Addis Ababa is trying to adjust to blocks on bilateral and multilateral development aid by Western governments. Much of the resulting financial crisis has been triggered by the Tigray war with Addis pushing back hard against foreign pressure.

Without a change of political strategy, the economic pressures are unlikely to relent.



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