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Ethiopian lawmakers voted to sever ties with leaders of the northern Tigray region this week in a move that one Tigrayan official called “tantamount to a declaration of war.” The decision by the upper house of Ethiopia’s national parliament, the House of Federation, is the most severe in a series of tit-for-tat provocations between Tigrayan leaders and federal officials and puts Tigray at risk of losing up to $281 million in federal budget subsidies.
Tensions between the two sides arose early in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration. Tigrayan leaders chafed at their loss of economic and political clout after he took office in 2018, accusing his administration of unfairly targeting Tigrayans in corruption cases. The regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, also opposed Abiy’s move last year to merge the four members of the ruling coalition into a single pan-Ethiopian party, preferring to maintain the federal structure that had been in place since 1991. Local leaders then challenged his authority by pushing ahead with a regional vote last month despite the federal government’s decision to delay all elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic.