Ethiopia has declared that its main military operation in northern Tigray is over, but fighting persists and existential questions hang over the country’s transition. This week on The Horn, Adem Kassie Abebe joins Alan to discuss how Prime Minister Abiy should navigate the troubled waters ahead.
Originally published in The Africa Report
Violence erupted in disputed border area with Sudan, deadly fighting continued in Tigray region and intercommunal clashes killed hundreds in Benishangul-Gumuz region. Sudanese military early Dec reclaimed territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area on border between Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state. Ethiopian gunmen 15 Dec killed at least four Sudanese troops in Al-Fashqa. Border demarcation talks between Sudan and Ethiopia 22-23 Dec failed to yield agreement. In following days, Sudan allegedly made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Quraisha border regions, 31 Dec said its forces had taken control over all border territory it accuses Ethiopia of encroaching upon. Ethiopia 29 Dec warned Sudan of counter-offensive if it “does not stop expanding into Ethiopian territories”. Despite PM Abiy declaring victory in Nov, fighting continued between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces. Tigray President and former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael 4 Dec again accused neighbouring Eritrea of supporting federal govt’s military offensive in Tigray (see Eritrea). UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 9 Dec expressed concern over “ethnic profiling” and “hate speech” against ethnic Tigrayans in rest of country. Tigray’s transitional govt – established by federal parliament’s upper house in Nov – took office 13 Dec. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, suspected members of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 8 Dec killed at least ten ethnic Amhara civilians in Metekel zone; attack by suspected ethnic Gumuz gunmen 23 Dec killed at least 207 mostly Amhara and Shinasha civilians and displaced more than 40,000 in Metekel. In Oromia region in centre, suspected OLA combatants mid-Dec killed at least 19 mostly ethnic Amhara civilians in Horo Guduru Wellega and West Wellega zones; local authorities 16 Dec claimed security operations had killed some 400 OLA combatants in recent weeks. Clashes in border area between Afar and Somali regions late Dec reportedly left several dozen dead. Electoral board 25 Dec scheduled legislative and regional elections for 5 June 2021; said it would announce poll date for Tigray later on.
A clash over budget transfers is the latest flashpoint in the bitter dispute between Ethiopian federal authorities and their rivals in Tigray. To avoid the standoff triggering a damaging conflict, both sides should back down and embrace comprehensive dialogue.
A disputed regional election plan has ratcheted up tensions between Ethiopia’s federal government and its rivals in Tigray. To avert a confrontation, Tigrayan officials should press pause on election preparations and both sides should embrace dialogue to address the dispute and underlying causes.
Firefights have broken out between federal Somali soldiers and troops from the Jubaland region. A heightened confrontation could embolden Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency. The African Union should press Ethiopia and Kenya, which back Mogadishu and Kismayo, respectively, to coax the two sides into negotiations.
As Ethiopia’s 2021 election nears, a territorial dispute has flared between Amhara and Tigray, two northern regions. It could turn ugly amid rising ethnic nationalism. To heal the rift, the federal government should convene regional leaders in pursuit of guarantees for minority rights.
Ethiopia’s political opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won well-deserved accolades but also uncorked dangerous centrifugal forces, among them ethnic strife. With international partners’ diplomatic and financial support, the government should proceed more cautiously – and consultatively – with reforms that could exacerbate tensions.
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.
Ethiopia will not be deterred from finishing GERD by U.S. aid cuts and nor will it change its negotiating stance.
Ethiopian political leaders should consider appealing to a third party to mediate, should they have exhausted all other opportunities.
[En Ethiopie] le parti au pouvoir fait face à d’énormes défis électoraux et il semble répondre à ceux-ci avec les mêmes tactiques que l’ancien parti, c’est-à-dire les arrestations et la violence.
While [declaring a state of emergency in Ethiopia] is understandable given the situation, it is critical that there is transparency over the government's extra powers.
It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the [Ethiopian] electoral board [...] to organize this election in time for the 29th of August.
Ethiopia feels that the international community is, in some way, set up to rule against it... and that's why they have been reticent about having third party involvement [in Ethiopia's Nile dam project].
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk with Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller about the U.S. plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and reflect on the expulsion of Crisis Group Senior Analyst Will Davison from Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government on 21 November deported Crisis Group’s Ethiopia Senior Analyst William Davison. No formal reason was immediately given, but his expulsion doubtless relates to the serious conflict in Tigray and increasing sensitivity to non-official points of view.
Clashes have broken out between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces in northern Tigray. Crisis Group experts covering the long-feared escalation and the broader Horn of Africa discuss reaching a ceasefire and how to address the underlying need for a broader national dialogue.
In this podcast series, Crisis Group President Rob Malley and Board Member Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict, dive deep into the conflicts that rage around the globe, along with Crisis Group field analysts and special guests. This week, they discuss U.S. support for the Yemen war and the absence of the Palestinian issue from the normalisation agreement among Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, Will Davison, also joins them to discuss the challenges facing Ethiopia.