By Immanuel Alula
Thousands have died in war that is on an identical path to the Yugoslavian war where 140 thousand people died, and four million people were displaced. Ethiopia has 116 million people, or four times the population of Yugoslavia and will have at least four times the number of deaths and displacements not considering ramifications from the disintegration of its regional security role. This means 700 thousand will die and 10 million people will be displaced if action is not taken to end the conflict. In the 1994 Rwandan genocide, 800 thousand people perished, mostly civilians.
What happened to Yugoslavia and how is Ethiopia similar?
After WW2, South Slavic speaking people unified into Yugoslavia, and then divided in 1991 to 2001. Yugoslavia, meaning “South Slavia”, was composed of multiple ethnic groups: Croats, Slovenes, Serbians, ethnic Muslims and more. Under unification they prospered under a socialist-communist government until the oil crisis hit in the 1970s.
Brewing for nearly thirty years was the discontentment with the control ethnic Serbs had over all the other semi-autonomous ethnic regions. It came to the fore in 1991 when Slovenes replaced border guards and took control of their region in the Ten-Day War. This is eerily similar to ethnic Amhara dominance in Ethiopia, and their plans to stifle the autonomy of all the other ethnic regions, most notably the Tigray province; and enforce a policy of Amharization under the banner of Ethiopianism. In Yugoslavia, one by one all the minority ethnic groups fought back and became sovereign nations. The Tigray region is fighting a war with the central government for same reasons, and the other regions will follow as the Croats and other groups in Yugoslavia did. The massacres in Sarajevo against the Bosnians by the Serbs took the world by storm and caused the UN to intervene first via forced negotiations that failed, and then by bombing Belgrade.
Ethiopia is identical to Yugoslavia in that the ethnic majority is refusing to give greater autonomy to all the ethnic regions. It’s fighting a war in the name of national unity and is stifling ethnic federalism (the idea that all ethnic groups have the right to speak their own language in their own schools and courts for example). This is akin to how the Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito crushed ethnic nationalism in minority groups.
The Near Future and Medium Term of Ethiopia
The similarities between Ethiopia and Yugoslavia are striking and if they continue millions will die in Ethiopia. Of Yugoslavia’s population of 24 million 150 thousand died and 2 million where displaced (0.625% dead and 8.3% displaced). Using this data to extrapolate to Ethiopia’s population of 120 million there would be 700 thousand dead and at 10 million displaced (there are already 2 million internally displaced people in Ethiopia). Sadly, the outlook is even more morbid than these estimates, because Ethiopia is the backbone of East African security with military alliances with US (CJTF-HOA), which operates in Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, and Seychelles; fighting ISIS and Al Shaba in Somalia with AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia); facilitating peace agreements for South Sudan and more.
Ethiopia will disintegrate into ethnic regions, and the loss of regional security will cause Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Kenya, and Eritrea to collapse or weaken. When it does terrorism will blossom. ISIS, Al Shabab, and other or new terrorist groups will wreak havoc for the region and use it as a training and breeding ground. Then they will plague the world with their violence. We already see the weakening of AMISOM in Somalia and increasing attacks by Al Shabab and the Sudan-Ethiopia border war ensuing.
The long-term future of Ethiopia and the HOA is beyond what we’ve seen in Yugoslavia, where wealthy regional European powers intervened in Slovenia, and then again in Bosnia. The future for the Horn of Africa is terrifyingly unknown and must be avoided at all costs. I project, conservatively, the war to be far more disastrous than the Syrian and Yugoslavian war combined. We must all call on the United States, and other superpowers, to force mediation. The cost of failing to act is millions of deaths and tens of millions of displacements. Thousands have died in a short time, millions will follow.