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

Unchanged Situation

Govt’s plan to address Tigray-Amhara territorial dispute continued to fuel tensions in Western Tigray; federal forces pursued efforts to stem insurgencies in Amhara and Oromia regions.

Tensions lingered over Tigray-Amhara territorial dispute in Western Tigray. Implementation of Addis Ababa’s plan to address Tigray-Amhara territorial dispute continued, with Tigray’s interim VP Tadesse Worede 2 May saying dissolution of local Amhara administrations and resettlement of displaced Tigrayans in Southern and Western zones would be completed by late June. Plan fuelled more violence, however; notably, skirmishes 3 May broke out between Ethiopian military and Amhara nationalist militias known as Fano on outskirts of Maksegno Gebeya town in Western Tigray Zone after Fano militants previous day briefly entered town. Tigray’s interim President Getachew Reda 24 May announced withdrawal of Tigray’s forces from two villages near Alamata town (Southern Tigray Zone), in move designed to ease tensions with Amhara administrations and facilitate return of Tigrayans.

Fighting continued between federal forces and Fano militias in Amhara. After easing of hostilities early May between federal forces and Fano militias, fighting picked up toward end of month, with clashes reported in North Shewa, East Gojjam, West Gojjam, North Gojjam, North Gondar, South Wollo and North Wollo zones. PM Abiy 12 May visited Amhara capital Bahir Dar, called on insurgents to lay down arms and reintegrate into civilian life. Adding to region’s instability, thousands of Sudanese refugees late April-early May fled Kumer and Awlala camps in West Gondar Zone after kidnappings for ransom and armed robberies late April left at least one person injured.

Army intensified counter-insurgency operations in Oromia. Federal forces conducted operations against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in East Wollega, West Wollega, Horo Guduru Wollega, West Shewa, Arsi, West Arsi and East Borena zones. Notably, regional broadcaster 2 May reported joint operation by federal and regional security forces in East Borena; Addis Ababa claimed to have inflicted heavy OLA casualties. In rare visit to rebel stronghold of western Oromia, PM Abiy 8 May attended pro-govt rally in Nekemte town, East Wollega, in attempt to shore up Oromo support amid deepening unpopularity and OLA insurgency. 

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In The News

2 Dec 2022
Any serious failure in implementing the agreements [between Ethiopia's federal government and Tigrayan leaders] raises the risks of a disastrous return to large-scale war... Reuters

William Davison

Former Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
10 Nov 2022
The deal [with Tigrayan leaders] was a huge diplomatic and political victory for the [Ethiopian] federal government. GZERO

William Davison

Former Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
1 Sep 2022
Now Tigrayan reports ... of a large-scale incursion into Tigray from the north by Eritrean and federal forces. So, it is evident that the conflict is now seriously escala... VOA

William Davison

Former Senior Analyst, Ethiopia

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