The European Union has delayed the delivery of 90 million euros (about $110 million US) in aid funds to Ethiopia over the ongoing crisis in Tigray, Reuters has reported, citing an internal EU document.
The assistance, provided in the form of a budget support payment to Ethiopia’s government, is part of an estimated average of 214 million euros laid out by the European bloc to the African nation each year.
The payment’s delay appears directly connected to the Tigray situation, with the document reportedly indicating that “postponing…three budget support disbursements aims at creating political space to assess the current situation and request a response with regard to the EU’s concerns,” including humanitarian access, media access and the total cessation of hostilities.
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most populous, strategically significant and economically promising nations, was plunged into civil conflict on 4 November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a military operation in the northern region of Tigray after a falling out with the regional government – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Federal troops announced that they had regained full control over the Tigray capital of Mekelle on 28 November. However, foreign observers have reported flashpoints of violence in the weeks since, with a United Nations security team recently getting shot at and detained while trying to access a refugee camp, with an Ethiopian government spokesman later admitting that federal troops were responsible.
Last week, United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the situation in Tigray “exceedingly worrying and volatile,” and warned that things were “spiraling out of control, with appalling impact” on the civilian population.
The UN estimates that thousands of people have been killed, and that over 950,000 people have been displaced from their homes, as a result of the conflict, with up to 50,000 people said to have fled into neighbouring Sudan. Both sides have accused one another of escalating the violance, and of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Addis Ababa signed an agreement with the UN on the delivery of relief supplies for refugees who have been displaced.
The federal government’s conflict with the TPLF began to escalate in 2019, when the party quit Prime Minister Abiy’s governing coalition. In September, Tigray defied Covid restrictions and held regional parliamentary elections. The federal government did not recognize the results, characterizing local authorities as a “junta” and “fugitives from justice” who must be “made accountable by law.”
Ethiopia is one of the most diverse country on the continent in terms of ethnicity, religion and language, boasting over 80 different ethnic groups, and religions including Ethiopian Orthodoxy, Islam, Protestantism and traditional faiths. The Tigray conflict has led some observers to express fears that the crisis could lead to a breakdown of the complex tapestry of interests that make up the country.