As Ethiopia attempts to move away from the three decades of authoritarian leadership by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, ethnic tensions and competition for state resources and authority have increased since 2018. (EPRDF). Although the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)-dominated EPRDF regime produced economic progress for years, it grew more authoritarian.
In response to widespread protests, the EPRDF attempted a smooth transition and chose Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo politician who was elected prime minister of Ethiopia in April 2018, as its new leader. There were ethnic tensions all around the country, particularly between the Tigray, Amhara, and Oromo people and in areas that received less international attention, such the Southern Nations and the Somali region.
The tensions soon gave rise to violent episodes, murders, massacres, huge internal displacement, schemes for regional and national coups, and other atrocities. Abiy adopted a combative stance against Tigrayan political leaders as he struggled to contain the uprising and fend off calls for quicker political liberalization and economic redistribution despite more oppressive tactics.
Along with lessening their disproportionate influence, he also aimed to hold them accountable for the political and economic wrongdoings of the EPRDF regime. In response, the Tigrayan leaders began to oppose and undermine his administration. Tigrayan leaders not only denounced the move as a power grab (as did their other ethnic counterparts in Ethiopia) when Abiy unilaterally postponed national and regional elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also went on to hold elections in the Tigray region in September 2020.
The Tigrayan leaders began seizing military depots in the Tigray area in October because of concern for the response of the federal government as well as rising hostilities with the Amhara and Oromo.