The Cost of War: coverage of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict
Commissioned by AFP
“This was a truly underreported conflict. The jury felt that the work of Solan Kolli gave context and addressed the political realities on the ground. It was a powerful and sober approach to what was happening in Tigray and the entry was impressive in its reach. His work was bold and brave with understated interviews, which put this very-hard-to-reach conflict in the spotlight.”
-News Award Jury
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the military into the Tigray region on November 4, 2020, after accusing the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacking an army base. The military captured Tigray’s capital Mekele a few weeks later and in December had pro-TPLF forces on the run, with the help of troops from neighbouring Eritrea. Abiy declared victory but in June the rebels retook Mekele and other territory in a stunning reversal.
Solan Kolli is part of the AFP team that was the first independent media to reach Tigray after the government’s military operation began. A communications blackout and restrictions complicated reporting throughout the nine-month conflict. The government has also cracked down on foreign media, especially Ethiopian journalists working for foreign outlets. Since no coverage of the actual war was possible, Kolli documented the aftermath, filming graves, and interviewing victims, survivors and witnesses.
Watch some of the reports Solan has contributed to:
Solan Kolli is an Ethiopian freelance video journalist with over nine years of experience. For the past seven years, he has been covering Ethiopia extensively for AFP, reporting on important and sensitive issues in the country. His videos are regularly seen on the BBC, CNN, France 24 and Al Jazeera, as well as other major international media outlets.
His coverage has included rare footage of the massacre in Mai-Kadra, where several hundred civilians were summarily executed on 9th November 2020, as well as the first on-camera interviews with terrified inhabitants of the city of Humera, which came under artillery bombardment before being captured by the federal army.
Over three extended missions to Tigray, he has filed many other reports on the war and its political and humanitarian fallout that have been used widely by media around the world. In June, he covered Ethiopia’s national elections from the Amhara region, which plays a key role in both the Tigray war and national politics.