NAIROBI, Kenya — Barely a year ago Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was globally acclaimed as a peacemaker, a youthful African leader awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after just 18 months in power for introducing democratic reforms after decades of repression, and for signing a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea.
On Wednesday Mr. Abiy presented a radically different face when he announced a sweeping military operation against one of his own regions. He issued a bellicose declaration that sent waves of alarm across the region and stoked fears that Ethiopia — Africa’s second-most populous country — was suddenly sliding toward a destructive civil war.
Mr. Abiy made his move against the region, Tigray, early Wednesday as the world’s attention was focused on vote-counting in the U.S. presidential election. Soon after Tigray’s internet and phone links went down, Mr. Abiy announced that he was deploying the military and imposing a