Dec 1, 2020 • 56M

Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict, with Terje Østebø

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Foreign Exchanges is a newsletter and podcast that helps you stay on top of important stories happening around the world. Derek Davison interviews scholars, journalists, and other experts to make sense of international affairs and US foreign policy.
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This week I’m joined for the second time by the University of Florida’s Terje Østebø. The last time Terje was on the podcast we talked about Ethiopia’s “ethnic federalist” political system and the tensions between it and the agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. As most of you are probably aware, those tensions have since escalated into a full-blown armed conflict between the Ethiopian military and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Terje returns to discuss the TPLF’s background, the roots of this conflict, and where things stand in the wake of reports that Ethiopian forces have captured the Tigray regional capital, Mekelle.

photo of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Alexandros Michailidis via Shutterstock.com)

Terje Østebø received his PhD in the History of Religion from Stockholm University, and is currently the chair of the Department of Religion and associate professor at the Center for African Studies and the Department of Religion, University of Florida. He is also the founding director of the UF Center for Global Islamic Studies. His research interests are Islam in contemporary Ethiopia, Islam, politics, and Islamic reformism in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, ethnicity and religion, as well as Salafism in Africa. He has lived in Ethiopia for 6 years, and has extensive field-research experience.

Terje’s major publications include “African Salafism: Religious Purity and the Politicization of Purity” in Islamic Africa, 6, 1-2, 2015; Muslim Ethiopia: The Christian Legacy, Identity Politics, and Islamic Reformism (co-edited with Patrick Desplat), (Palgrave-Macmillan 2013); Localising Salafism: Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia (Brill 2012); Islamism in the Horn of Africa: Assessing Ideology, Actors, and Objectives, International Law and Policy Institute (2010). His latest book, Islam, Ethnicity, and Conflict in Ethiopia: The Bale Insurgency (1963-1970), is now available for purchase and seems particularly relevant at present.