Fighting between the federal government and the state of Tigray has escalated since it broke out in early November. While it seems to have begun abruptly, the drums of war have been beating for years.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
I grew up in Ethiopia during the days of the military government. For years before its overthrow in 1991, the national army was locked in a protracted war against rebel movements in the north. It was common in those days to hear state media reporting the capture or recapture of towns from rebel forces. The parading of prisoners of war made daily headlines.
However, you would hear a completely different story if you had the courage to tune in to foreign radio or to rebel broadcasts, which were banned. I remember my father making sure that the door and windows of our house were securely closed before tuning into Voice of America Amharic.
Thirty years later, Ethiopians faced another bout of internal armed conflict in the north and found themselves again glued to radio and television news about advancing and retreating armed forces. And it's just as hard to verify reports since telephone and internet links...