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Africa in the news: Fighting in Ethiopia, end of cease-fire in Western Sahara, and debt relief updates

fighting continued in Ethiopia’s Tigray region this week, in the continuation of a conflict that began earlier this month. On Sunday, November 15, the leader of the Tigray region, Debretsion Gebremichael, confirmed that his forces had fired rockets at the airport in the Eritrean capital Asmara, a major escalation that internationalizes the war. In his announcement of the attack, Debretsion accused Eritrea of sending tanks and troops into Tigray in support of the Ethiopian government’s offensive. 

Eritrea’s government has denied involvement in the conflict. On Friday, November 20, 
Tigray also fired rockets at the capital of its neighboring region within Ethiopia, Amhara, raising fears that the conflict could spread to new areas of the country. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government claimed that its forces were approaching the capital of the Tigray region, Mekelle, after winning a series of battles elsewhere in the region. The Ethiopian government has also continued to bombard Tigray with frequent airstrikes occurring in Mekelle, including near a church and university.

In Sudan, aid agencies are now racing to provide humanitarian relief to the more than 30,000 refugees that have crossed the border from Ethiopia to flee the fighting in Tigray. The United Nations has announced plans to assist as many as 200,000 refugees over the next six months. Elsewhere, the international community has continued to call for the cessation of fighting and for negotiations to occur. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has appealed for an end to the fighting and protection for civilians, and 17 U.S. senators have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to engage with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to press for a cease-fire and the protection of civilians. Officials in neighboring countries, including Uganda and Kenya, have also continued to call for dialogue to resolve the conflict.

For more on the conflict, see “Averting civil war in Ethiopia: It’s time to propose elements of a negotiated settlement” by Zach Vertin and tune in to next Tuesday’s event, Crisis in Ethiopia, and its regional repercussions. For more on the implications of the Ethiopian crisis on Somalia, see Vanda Felbab-Brown’s piece on the subject

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