Ethiopia is declaring war — again.
To get just that word across, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front — as the country’s military now is known — used billboards on Tuesday to warn of imminent bloodshed and to encourage Ethiopians to stay home on Thursday and join the exodus.
For the forces of the EPRDF, “In the streets, in the parks, at the marketplaces, throughout the homes and hospitals,” read the warnings, posted next to a cartoon with the tagline: “The days of war are not yet over.”
Analysts suspect that Ethiopia’s latest intifada stems from disagreement within the EPRDF over who should be president.
Last year, Ethiopia’s military accused U.S.-backed Eritrea of bombing its army in Gambella, in the south of the country. And Ethiopian troops were on high alert for a potential clash along the Red Sea. For weeks, the nation’s air force received alerts telling pilots to avoid areas with “havoc” in the sky — hinting at imminent conflict with Eritrea.
Finally, reports of fresh strikes against military targets in southern Ethiopia on Sunday prompted the EPRDF to declare war against its Eritrean neighbor. Days later, the nation said the security situation in Eritrea had become more “seamless.”
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought their last war in 1998-2000, after the East African nations learnt that each was harboring alleged terrorists who were plotting attacks on each other. Under international pressure, Eritrea’s government agreed to withdraw from Ethiopia.
However, the two countries had a series of bloody encounters in the ensuing years.
Bejing has a friendly government in Eritrea, but Beijing has not given its full backing to Ethiopia, said Susan Jacoby, author of “The Coming War: Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.”
“Sino-Ethiopian relations are pretty bad, and Ethiopia has been forced to go to war with Eritrea, to counter Eritrea’s influence,” Jacoby said.
Ethiopia declared war in 1962, fighting Somali militants for a year. That conflict ended with the creation of the EPRDF, now the nation’s ruling party.
As the Ethiopians dig in on the dusty soil for a rematch, many ordinary Ethiopians say they’re living through war again — this time with their government.
On Monday, dozens of Olympic athletes led by double-amputee marathon runner Lelisa Desisa tried to flee Eritrea in protest.