May 29, 2023

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A bleak new year in Ethiopia, amid renewed conflict and inflation

Resurgence of conflict in the north, historic drought and persistent inflation: Ethiopians won’t have to celebrate on Sunday as they transition into the new year.

At a livestock market in the capital, Addis Ababa, the many crises facing Africa’s second most populous nation were on everyone’s lips.

“Now, as you can see, everything is expensive. If there was peace, this wouldn’t be like this,” Ntashev Denekue, a trader, told AFP on Saturday ahead of the Ethiopian New Year celebrations known as Ngutatash. “People stayed at home instead of coming to the market to sell their cattle.”

Fighting resumed last month between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s army and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) rebels, breaking a five-month ceasefire and raising hopes of a peaceful resolution to the war between them.

This new increase and the current economic situation are “very worrying”, the World Bank underlined in a pessimistic report on Ethiopia published on September 8.

“A historic drought and multiple conflicts combined with other shocks have severely affected millions of Ethiopians, affecting the economic and social development progress the country has made in recent years,” the minister added.

In early September, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) described the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia as “catastrophic,” with 20 million people in need of aid.

– No regular meeting –

With a population of 115 million, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia has seen some of the fastest growth in the world over the past 15 years, but like many others it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. War in Ukraine.

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In July, inflation was 33.5% according to official figures and 35.5% for food items, which deters people from spending.

“It’s not the usual crowd you see at the market during the holidays,” official Sombe Gebrehana confirmed to AFP near the main open-air market in the capital.

“Inflation has taken its toll. If people had enough money in hand (…), we wouldn’t see such a small influx.

In a recent interview with the state-run Ethiopian News Agency, Abiy Ahmed’s political adviser, Mamo Mihretu, assured that the government is doing all it can to mitigate the impact of rising prices.

“Our efforts are paying off because inflation is stable, if not fully contained,” said Mihretu, head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

– “Very difficult situation” –

He added that the government is carrying out reforms to promote investment and trade and that the economic growth this year will be 6%.

The international community, which has stepped up diplomatic efforts to try to end the violence, is also worried about the resurgence of fighting in the north.

“Let the parties to the conflict have the courage to choose talks over fighting and to participate in the African Union-led process of building lasting peace,” said US Ambassador Mike Hammer, who visited the Horn of Africa in the New Year. Message to Ethiopians.

Meanwhile, at the livestock market in Addis, some customers are able to cook festive food. They too lament the ongoing war hundreds of kilometers from their homes.

“I bought (a sheep) for 4,000 to 5,000 birr (75 to 95 dollars at the current exchange rate). But today it is 15,000 Birr (about $285). Some people have less income and they can no longer afford it (…), the current situation is very difficult,” assures AFP Assefa Alemu, a metalworker.

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I think if peace returns in the country, the price will come down.