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Book launch: Understanding Ethiopia's Tigray War

A book launch and discussion with co-authors, Martin Plaut and Sarah Vaughan, and discussant Birhan Gebrekirstos

Date: 10 May 2023

Time: 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Venue: Brunei Gallery Building, SOAS University of London

Room: BG203


The war in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray began in November 2020. It inflicted more casualties than any other contemporary conflict in the world. It has also been among the least understood. The fighting and accompanying blockade led to an estimated 600,000 deaths – more than the number who died in the 1984-5 famine. International journalists were banned as the region was sealed off from the outside world by Ethiopian and Eritrean governments prosecuting a strategy designed to crush Tigray at almost any cost.

Hatred of Tigrayans was stoked by senior advisers to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed: they have called Tigrayans ‘weeds’ who must be uprooted, their place in history extinguished. Their language was reminiscent of that which preceded the genocide in Rwanda.

The war was also orchestrated by Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, who came to wield increasing influence over Ethiopian affairs. It drew in Somali troops as well as Eritrean forces. Peace agreements signed in November 2022 ended the worst of the violence, but without resolving the war’s underlying drivers, which continue to feed a tense and uncertain situation.

This book provides the first clear explanation of the factors that led to the conflict, unravelling their roots in Ethiopia’s long and complex history. It describes the battles that were fought at such terrible cost and the immense suffering, particularly of women, who were brutally abused.

Speaker Biographies:

Martin Plaut, the BBC World Service's former Africa Editor, has published extensively on African affairs. An adviser to the Foreign Office and the US State Department, he is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Sarah Vaughan, PhD, has worked in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa since the late 1980s, and has taught African politics and social theory in Scotland and Ethiopia.

The event is co-hosted by the Pan-African Frontiers Project, the Centre of World Christianity and the African Politics Programme at SOAS


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