High-profile assassinations, intercommunal violence and the question of Sidama statehood have endangered Ethiopia’s transition to a multi-party democracy. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support a parliamentary vote and assist with economic reforms.
CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
In his introduction to this month's edition of CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's conflict tracker, our President Robert Malley urges the U.S. and Iran to step back from a dangerous conflagration and calls for the immediate release of our colleague Michael Kovrig from arbitrary detention in China.
Somalia and Somaliland have been at odds since the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence, which the former rejects. The dispute has cooled after heating up in 2018, but lingering tensions could threaten regional stability. To restart dialogue, the two sides should meet for technical talks.
Southern Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Sidama, is set to declare a new regional state on 18 July. To reduce conflict risks, the Sidama should resolve sensitive issues before forming the entity, while the government should urgently organise a constitutionally mandated referendum on the question.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, is diminished but still potent. One understudied source of its resilience is the support of women, active and passive, despite the movement’s stringent gender ideology. Understanding the range of women’s relationships to Al-Shabaab is critical to countering the group going forward.
Next year’s elections in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago, will be hard fought. With the ruling party changing the rules in its favour, they could turn violent. The islands’ politicians should urgently meet to discuss levelling the playing field and lowering the risk of clashes.
Ethiopia is building a mighty dam on the Blue Nile, promising economic benefits for both itself and Sudan. But Egypt fears for its freshwater supply. The parties should agree on how fast to fill the dam’s reservoir and how to share river waters going forward.
The truce in South Sudan is holding but could break down at any time. To stave off renewed civil war, external actors should urge the belligerents to strike new bargains on security and internal boundaries – and accept a third-party protection force for the capital.
The decision by top Sidama administrators [in Ethiopia] to accept a belated referendum meant the zone didn’t self-declare and so a major confrontation was avoided yesterday.
All roads forward in Sudan now run into the Hemeti problem. Over time, his power will need to be reined in, yet any action against him at the moment risks civil war.
After today’s violence, the Sidama situation looks like another major challenge for a government already struggling to manage this transition and create conditions for elections next May.
Sudan is not one signing ceremony away from righting itself from Bashir’s rule. A political deal remains necessary to avert the worst in Sudan, but is only the beginning.
Any agreement is a positive step [in Sudan]. The challenge will be actually getting the military council to do as it promised.
There is still no clear path forward that involves everyone on the military council [in Sudan] simply stepping aside, partly because Hemeti, in particular, represents such a big problem.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.
The shocking murders of five high-ranking officials have exposed the gravity of Ethiopia’s crisis. To mitigate risks, politicians should refrain from doing or saying anything provocative, while the federal government and ruling elites take urgent steps to heal deep and dangerous internal rifts.