Africa’s second most populous country is in the midst of an increasingly rocky political transition that began in 2018, with the ascent of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. At first, the change seemed to hold great promise, but fissures have grown, partly between and among the country’s numerous ethnic groups. At stake is the state’s stability and the post-1991 ethno-federalist system, which many Ethiopians support as guaranteeing local autonomy, and many others oppose as sowing division and undermining effective central government. War between the federal and Tigray governments broke out in the northern region in late 2020 as these tensions came to the fore. Through its research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to end the fighting and ward off similar conflict elsewhere, with the long-term goal of encouraging comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue about the country’s political future.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group Senior Analyst William Davison to discuss fighting in northern Ethiopia, as a humanitarian truce collapses and the devastating war in and around the Tigray region starts back up again.
Fighting erupted between federal and Tigray forces, shattering March ceasefire and threatening to derail long-awaited peace talks; conflict will likely spread to new fronts in coming days. Clashes 24 Aug broke out between federal and Tigray forces around Kobo town near Tigray’s border in Amhara region, ending five-month ceasefire. Both sides blamed each other for renewed violence, which quickly escalated. Federal govt 24 Aug claimed it shot down plane coming from Sudan carrying weapons for Tigray forces; Tigray authorities dismissed statement as “lie”, while Sudan’s foreign ministry 31 Aug summoned Ethiopian ambassador over latter’s accusations that Khartoum “violated Ethiopian airspace”. Tigray authorities 27 Aug claimed control of Kobo. Senior Tigray official, Getachew Reda, 26, 30 Aug accused federal govt of launching two strikes targeting civilians in Tigray’s capital Mekelle; 31 Aug accused govt of sending “tens of thousands of troops” to neighbouring Eritrea. Federal govt same day said Tigray’s forces were expanding fight to different fronts, notably near border with Sudan. Meanwhile, UN 30 Aug said aid deliveries into Tigray suspended amid fighting. Earlier in August, tensions had been rising amid lack of progress toward peace talks. Positions had hardened amid disagreement about whether African Union Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo or Kenya’s govt should mediate; furthermore, Tigray’s authorities demanded return of Amhara-controlled Western Tigray to Tigray’s administration and resumption of basic services before talks occur. Conflict in Oromia region between security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) persisted, notably in North and West Shewa Zones, and East, West and Kellem Wollega Zones. Fighting from 4 Aug also occurred in normally peaceful Buno Bedele Zone. Authorities 6 Aug captured senior OLA commander in Ethiopia-Kenya border town, Moyale; earlier in month, authorities arrested intelligence officer in Borena Zone on suspicion of working with OLA, hinting at growing collaboration between OLA rebels and local officials. OLA 17 Aug proposed humanitarian truce to facilitate aid deliveries into drought-stricken region, which federal govt 20 Aug rejected. Elsewhere, clashes 11 Aug erupted between Afar and Somali ethnic militias in Somali region’s Sitti Zone, reportedly displacing thousands. PM Abiy 12 Aug announced completion of third filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
The fact that the Tigrayans [in Ethiopia] are making suggestions for a negotiated settlement involving forceful international action is ... positive, but these are ultima...
If [Ethiopian President] Abiy survives the conflict in power, he will likely be thankful to Beijing and Moscow for protecting him at the UN during the war.
After a year of war, the Ethiopian conflict is at an incredibly dangerous point, with no side showing signs of backing down.
Given the current situation [in Ethiopia] and the likelihood of continued fighting, particularly in the Amhara region, I think we are likely to see the U.S. implement tar...
The current violent blowback indicates that [President] Abiy and his allies cannot achieve peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians by imposing their vision and party on E...
The fact that the U.S. and its allies have secured [a UNSC] meeting is itself a signal that Ethiopia has lost some credibility […] and it opens up the possibility that th...
The CrisisWatch Digest Ethiopia offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
Renewed fighting between a federal-Amhara-Eritrea coalition and Tigray’s forces has shattered a tenuous months-long truce. The reversal heralds a return to one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. International envoys should keep pressing the Ethiopian parties to renew the truce and begin formal direct negotiations.
In a three-part special episode of The Horn, Alan speaks to three Crisis Group experts across the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes regions. He talks with William Davison about the prospects for peace talks in Ethiopia, to Nelleke van de Walle about Kenya’s new diplomatic efforts in the eastern DR Congo, and to Nazanine Moshiri about the drought devastating the Horn region.
Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray regional governments are finally gearing up for direct negotiations. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert William Davison discusses why the feuding parties are edging toward peace and what the main obstacles are to achieving it.
A truce in Ethiopia has generated cautious optimism. As the belligerents take tentative steps toward peace, the first order of business is to surge humanitarian aid into Tigray and restore vital services. The country’s external partners should find ways to nudge all parties toward compromise.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Crisis Group expert William Davison to discuss the Ethiopian federal government's offer of a humanitarian truce in its seventeen-month war against forces from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
This week on The Horn, guest host Nicolas Delaunay is joined by Nazanine Moshiri, Crisis Group’s climate & security expert, to discuss the complex, often dangerous relationship between climate stresses and conflict in the Horn and on the continent more broadly.
Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.