By Elizabeth Shackelford
Foreigners often view Africa as a vast area of war, poverty and tragedy. This is not the case, but armed conflicts continue today in a dozen of Africa’s 54 countries. While all of these conflicts are tragic, some are more relevant to the outside world than others.
The Ethiopian conflict is one of them. It started in November 2020, and the extent of the suffering is massive. With Ethiopia’s size, geography and makeup, the conflict could increase exponentially, with potential implications on everything from the spread of terrorism to the disruption of major shipping routes.
In Afghanistan’s wake, the Biden administration’s continued military intervention in Ethiopia is highly unlikely, and for good reason. In Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria, we have seen how counterproductive and costly military intervention can be.
But that doesn’t mean we have to look away. The US government has condemned the violence and called for peace, but it will not be enough. An active diplomatic strategy involving other key players, including the African Union and the European Union, would be an inexpensive way to prevent the threat in Ethiopia from becoming transnational. It won’t be easy, but as some senior experts have noted, if we invest heavily and early to achieve a comprehensive diplomatic settlement, we could avoid the much higher costs of the fallout.
Ethiopia is the second most populous country on the continent and the 12th most populous country in the world. It’s a diverse federation of states divided largely by ethnicity – and, until recently, it was the glue that held together an unstable but substantial region.