The world’s first conflict triggered by Covid-19 exploded on 4 November in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. Before your eyes glaze over at news of fresh African horrors — hundreds dead in battles and air strikes, ethnic massacres, civilians fleeing, charities calling for food aid — consider this frightening new reality. For the first time in modern history, wars and insecurity now ravage a continuous line of African states from Mauretania’s Atlantic shores to the Red Sea — a 6,000km Sahelian suicide belt of jihadis, state failure and starvation. Intervene too hard in this mess and you get David Cameron’s ill-conceived 2011 Libyan bombing raids. Gaddafi gets butchered in a storm drain, the arsenals are pillaged and weapons flood the Sahara. Ignore Africa’s suffering and it comes back to bite us all, as we have seen with waves of migrants heading north on the perilous sea passage to Europe.
The Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael is not your typical African rebel. Thirty years ago he was a radio intelligence officer, who kindly agreed to transmit my Reuters reports in Morse while I was covering the guerrilla war against Ethiopia’s communist government. I was the only foreign correspondent accompanying the rebels as they advanced through a land of obelisks, inselbergs and hilltop monasteries. I saw the Tigrayans as Africa’s Afghans — impossible to beat in their highland redoubts, ascetic, xenophobic and obsessed with how badly they’d been oppressed….
Until recently, Ethiopia looked like a rare example of what people used to call ‘Africa rising', says Aidan Hartley. Now, it's hurtling towards a terrifying civil war. https://t.co/KkARBgB1ZN
— Fraser Nelson (@FraserNelson) November 22, 2020