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HomeGeopolitical CompassSub-Saharan AfricaThe geopolitics of Ethiopia-Tigray conflict

The geopolitics of Ethiopia-Tigray conflict

Author: Abdirashid Diriye Kalmoy

Affiliation: Ibn Haldun University (Teaching Fellow) 

Organization/Publisher: Acta Fabula

Date/Place: August 2, 2021

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1500 


Keywords: Geopolitics, Ethiopia, Tigray, TPLF




Ethiopia is in a war with itself since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a military operation in November 2020 against the TPLF (Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front), a party that has ruled the Northern Tigray state for the past three decades. Now the conflict has scaled up into a wider and intensive war with extraordinary geopolitical dimensions and ramifications in the Horn of Africa. The now guerrilla rebel group TPLF come to power in 1991 and ruled Ethiopia for three decades, mainly through the support of the US who used the former to topple down the Ethiopian socialist regime (1974-1991) and later to contain Islamist political forces in the country and neighboring states (Somalia and Sudan). TPLF formed its defense force that wiped out the forces of both the Ethiopian federal government and its regional ally Amhara paramilitary forces from the Tigray region mainly through weapons it took from the Ethiopian army’s northern command. This war paves the way for the Horn of Africa to become a geopolitical battleground as the region is in the strategic interests of world powers like the US, China, Turkey, Britain, and most recently Russia which will open its first naval base in Sudan. Egypt and Sudan have strong interests in Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and it is hard to imagine them out of this active theater of war given the several diplomatic deadlocks and failed negotiations between the three countries over the utilization of Nile water. Eritrea has allied with the Ethiopian government, fighting the TPLF in the Ethiopian-Eritrean borders. UAE has already been involved in the conflict on the side of Abiy Ahmed by sending its drones based in the Eritrean port of Assab. Moreover, UAE established a military base in Eritrea and intends to open a naval port in the detached region of Somaliland. Gulf countries are curious about and prepared to counter Turkish and Chinese geopolitical endeavors in the region.


By: Jemal Muhamed, CIGA Research Associate



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