The killing of a prominent Oromo musician has unleashed a wave of protests that have left dozens dead, highlighting anew the fragility of the country’s transition. Authorities and opposition leaders should call for calm and engage in sustained dialogue to bridge the bitter divisions.
Killing of popular ethnic Oromo singer sparked deadly unrest in capital Addis Ababa and Oromia region while tensions heightened between federal govt and Tigray region over electoral calendar. In Addis Ababa, unidentified gunmen 29 June shot and killed popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa; large-scale protests erupted next day in Addis Ababa and across Oromia region, clashes between security forces and protesters left at least 52 dead on both sides; amid unrest, authorities 30 June shut down internet and arrested Jawar Mohammed, prominent critic of PM Abiy and member of opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress. Senior official of Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party Keria Ibrahim 8 June resigned from her post as speaker of federal parliament’s upper house, citing opposition to postponement of Aug general elections due to COVID-19. Upper house 10 June voted to extend federal and regional parliaments’ terms – set to expire in Oct – until elections take place; despite term extension, Tigray regional parliament 12 June voted to go ahead with regional elections. Electoral board 24 June said Tigray has no legal right to hold elections. In Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region in south, regional parliament 18 June transferred power to new Sidama regional state following 2019 referendum for ethnic Sidama statehood. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, clashes between ethnic Amhara and Berta youth early June reportedly left at least four dead in Bambasi district. Fighting between police and local militias 4 June killed at least three in Asosa zone. In Oromia region in centre, armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 3 June shot and killed police officer in East Wellega zone; 48 suspected OLA members arrested in area over next few days. Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam resumed 9 June but broke down 17 June due to disagreements over drought mitigation, arbitration mechanism and legal status of final agreement; parties 26 June agreed African Union would facilitate another two weeks of talks (see Nile Waters).
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 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.
Ethiopia’s charismatic new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has generated great excitement with initiatives breaking with the past. But he faces challenges as formidable as his promises are bold: he urgently needs to halt communal strife, smooth the road to elections and boost the ailing economy.
Ethiopia’s struggle with domestic religious radicalisation has shifted toward top-down intervention, a policy that has contained violence but is generating new risks. Political accommodation and compromise are vital to defuse faith-based radicals’ opposition to what they perceive as overly secular rule by the dominant party.
[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 is an encouraging sign that the [Ethiopian] government is prioritizing reconciliation rather than punishment. For the approach to be successful, all actors need to adopt similarly conciliatory stances.
[In Ethiopia] as political space has opened and [the majority's] control has weakened all sorts of latent disputes over power, resources, identity and territory have surfaced.
With rains swelling the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is just weeks away from beginning to fill the massive dam it is building. Egypt and Sudan demand that it not do so without an agreement. All three countries urgently need to make concessions for a deal.
Ethiopia has postponed elections scheduled for August and declared a five-month state of emergency to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. If managed well, this time could be used to put the country’s democratic transition back on track.
Originally published in The Africa Report
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ethiopia has delayed elections slated for August and declared a state of emergency. Authorities should now consult with the opposition on how to manage the period ahead in order to smooth the country’s stuttering transition to multi-party democracy.
Ethiopia and Egypt are in a heated standoff over a dam the former is building on the Blue Nile. To buy time for reaching a comprehensive settlement, the parties should agree on an interim fix covering the first two years of filling the dam’s reservoir.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy has implemented important reforms but the changes have uncorked social tensions long bottled up by an authoritarian state. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to bolster efforts to prevent violence around the elections and support the government’s reforms.