Broken Promises and Conflict in Ethiopia

Kyle Sweitzer

“The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and his words in 2019 are a reminder state leaders will lie or change the course of action to hold up their power.”

What Started the Conflict?

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only sparked fear, but also political unrest and turmoil in many parts of the world. The Tigray region located in Northern Ethiopia is a stark example of violent conflict which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ethiopia is an example of deliberate lies by state leaders in the international community. These lies show the world that international leaders cannot be trusted to publicly tell the truth. Many charismatic dictators have swayed world opinion through powerful rhetoric, but their actions prove their words to be lies. In the case of Ethiopia, their prime minister’s words are examples of repugnant ignorance of a violent civil war unfolding in Ethiopia. 

In November 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military invasion, or as he deemed “a law enforcement operation” against the newly deemed terrorist organization TPLF or Tigray People’s Liberation Front (who were the previous ruling party until 2018). One of the reasons for the retaliation was because Tigray held regional elections during the COVID-19 pandemic against Ahmed’s will. This conflict has left 2 million people displaced and 3 million in danger of starvation, most of which have fled into Sudan. The UN launched an international investigation into Ethiopia on December 17th, 2021, and issued warnings to both Ethiopia and the Tigray rebels accusing them of committing severe human rights violations.

Ahmed’s Lies

Before the military assault on Tigray, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel peace prize. Ahmed won for ending a decades-long conflict with Eritrea and for pushing significant reforms in Ethiopia. Ahmed declared several statements on peace for the future of the Horn of Africa saying,


“War is the epitome of hell for all involved.”

“I am inspired by a Biblical Scripture which reads: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“Equally I am also inspired by a Holy Quran verse which reads: “Humanity is but a single Brotherhood. So, make peace with your Brethren.”

“I am committed to toil for peace every single day and in all seasons.”

“I truly believe peace is a way of life. War, a form of death and destruction.”


Despite his statements of peace, Abiy Ahmed is being accused of human rights atrocities as his Ethiopian Defense Force partnered with Eritrea’s soldiers are reportedly killing Tigray civilians. The Tigray rebels are doing the same, executing dozens of civilians. Ahmed’s later quotation in his Nobel Prize Lecture Speech is a more accurate representation of his regime’s actions in the past year,


 “War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men.”

“I have miles to go on the road of peace.”


Abiy Ahmed does indeed have miles to go on the road of peace especially since he initiated a media and government blackout on the Tigray region. The Biden administration has threatened to revoke Ethiopia’s access to a U.S. trade program because of these human rights violations. The Ethiopian government must take “urgent action” by  January 1st, 2022, in order to remain in the program.

Continued Conflict

Ethiopia has also restricted aid to the  Tigray region. Ahmed also brought in Eritrean forces, exacerbating the conflict. Forty-Four food trucks delivered supplies to the Tigray region during the first week of December, a drastic shift from one hundred and fifty-seven food trucks which were sent. Masquerading in old Ethiopian soldiers’ clothes, Eritrean forces are reportedly committing the worst human atrocities of rape and mass murder in the Tigray region. 

Media coverage has been scant as Abiy Ahmed has denied access to journalists and U.N. cooperators to enter the contested region. Abiy went as far as expelling seven UN observers before the conflict had even unfolded. Besides reporting on the famine, Ahmed does not want the media to expose the horrors of the ethnic conflict to the international community. Ahmed has given the UN access but on a tight leash with the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission remaining close by. 

In order for a conflict to be called genocide, legitimate separate states must classify it as genocide and then must act to prevent the atrocity. Similar to the case of Rwanda, no state has gone out of its way to classify Ethiopia as a genocide.

Both Tigray rebels and the government of Ethiopia are raising concerns of ethnic cleansing. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and his words in 2019 are a reminder state leaders will lie or change the course of action to hold up their power.


Kyle is a senior studying political science and minoring in national security. Growing up in Hudson, Ohio, Kyle developed an interest in politics from studying the American Founding in high school. Kyle is the senior class president in the student government association. Kyle is interested in the intersection of issues in criminal justice, international affairs, and Christian ethics.

This past summer, Kyle worked at the Acton Institute as part of their Emerging Leader Program. Kyle worked in the programs and development departments and furthered the pursuit of a free and virtuous society. He hopes to better educate the younger generations on key issues through non-profit work.