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Understanding the Crisis in Tigray: A Panel Discussion - 9 April 2021

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Chair: Dr Flavia Gasbarri, King’s College London, co-Chair of the Africa Research Group


  • Selam Kidane, Systemic Psychotherapist and PhD candidate
  • Martin Plaut, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London
  • Patrick Gilkes, former advisor in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Please join the Africa Research Group for an expert online panel discussion of recent developments in Tigray. Our speakers will explore what has led to violence and how the situation may evolve, followed by a public Q&A. The event is free and open to all.

In November 2020, conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region between Ethiopian forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Although Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, described intervention (supported by neighbouring Eritrean troops) as a straightforward law-enforcement operation, violence has led to mass displacement and killing of civilians and charges by international human rights organisations of war crimes. In an increasingly polarised environment, journalists have been arrested and claims and counter-claims of abuses are fiercely contested. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN’s special advisor on the prevention of genocide, has warned that failure to take urgent action will likely lead to the perpetration of further atrocity crimes.


Speaker Bios

Selam Kidane is a systemic psychotherapist and a PhD candidate with research focusing on trauma, collective trauma in post-conflict and crisis communities, utilising community based therapy facilitated through information technology. Selam is also known for her work as a human rights activist in Eritrean circles and has worked extensively with refugee children and families in the UK. She is a founding member and director of a human rights charity – Release Eritrea, based in the UK. Additionally she is a member of Eritrea Expertise Centre at Tilburg University.

Martin Plaut is a journalist and Visiting Senior Fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. He has worked on Africa since the 1980’s and specialises in the Horn of Africa and southern Africa. Born and educated in South Africa, he worked for the Labour Party as Africa and Middle East Secretary before joining the BBC World Service in 1984. He reported from many parts of Africa and was appointed Africa editor, BBC World Service News in 2003, a position he retained until retiring in October 2013. He joined the Institute of Commonwealth Studies as Senior Research Fellow. He is a member of the Royal Institute of African Affairs, Chatham House and has advised the British and United States governments.

Patrick Gilkes was an Advisor, Strategic Planning, in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2004 to December 2019. He previously worked as a Senior Research Analyst on the Horn of Africa in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2002-2003; and as a political consultant on the Horn of Africa for various international organizations. He has broadcasted and written extensively on Africa for magazines and newspapers in the UK, the US and elsewhere between 1993 and 2002. He worked for the BBC World Service, 1974-1993, reporting on Africa, principally the Horn of Africa, as a producer on Focus on Africa; headed the BBC’s Somali Language service for five years during the 1980s; and was Deputy Head of Training, BBC World Service,1989-1993. He taught in Ethiopia at the General Wingate School and the Haile Selassie University between 1964 and 1970. His publications include  “Eritrea-Ethiopia Rapproachement and its  Impact on Foreign Policy” in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Insights into the Peace  Nexus, ed. Belete Belachew Yihun, Tsehai (LA, 2020) and  “Violence and Identity along the Eritrean-Ethiopian Border”, in Unfinished Business: Ethiopia and Eritrea at War ed. Jacquin-Berdal & Plaut (Red Sea Press, 2005). 


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Flavia Gasbarri

Flavia Gasbarri

Lecturer in War Studies Education

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Event details

9 April 2021

Online event