Ethiopia

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.

CrisisWatch Ethiopia

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

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).

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In The News

12 Jan 2022
The fact that the Tigrayans [in Ethiopia] are making suggestions for a negotiated settlement involving forceful international action is ... positive, but these are ultima... Financial Times

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
19 Dec 2021
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. South China Morning Post

Richard Gowan

UN Director
5 Nov 2021
After a year of war, the Ethiopian conflict is at an incredibly dangerous point, with no side showing signs of backing down. TRT World

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
13 Oct 2021
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 National

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
11 Jul 2021
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... Al Jazeera

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
2 Jul 2021
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... CBS News

Richard Gowan

UN Director

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William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
William Davison