Both federal and resistance forces are digging in for a lengthy battle in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Conditions for civilians are dire, with famine a growing danger. Outside powers should urge Addis Ababa to let more aid into the war zone, while maintaining pressure for talks.
Govt faced mounting international pressure to address serious crimes in Tigray regional state; violence erupted in centre and clashes with Sudan continued in disputed area. Amid ongoing fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 4 March said multiple conflict parties had committed grave violations that could amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Tigray since Nov 2020. PM Abiy 9 March said govt had taken “concrete steps to address alleged human rights abuses”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken next day denounced “acts of ethnic cleansing” in Tigray, which govt 13 March “vehemently” denied. Abiy 23 March admitted for first time that Eritrea had deployed troops in Tigray since conflict broke out; 26 March said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces. Govt-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and UN human rights office 25 March said they would jointly investigate alleged abuses by all parties. In Oromia region in centre, suspected armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents 6-9 March reportedly killed at least 42 ethnic Amhara civilians in Horo Guduru Welega area and 30 March reportedly killed another 30 civilians in West Welega area; OLA later denied responsibility. Opposition party Oromo Liberation Front 8 March said it would not participate in 5 June general elections, citing continued harassment and detention of its members by federal and Oromia regional state authorities. Army 1-2 March reportedly clashed with Sudanese forces near Barkhat settlement, last area still under Ethiopia’s control in disputed Al-Fashqa border zone; death toll unknown. Sudan 17 March demanded all Ethiopian forces withdraw from “Sudanese territory”, tied negotiations over land dispute to Addis Ababa’s recognition of Sudan’s sovereignty over it. UN humanitarian office 22 March said Eritrean forces had been deployed alongside Ethiopian troops and ethnic Amhara militias near Barkhat. Govt remained at loggerheads with Sudan and Egypt over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river (see Nile Waters).
War has devastated Ethiopia’s northernmost region. Pending comprehensive national dialogue, Addis Ababa should ease Tigray’s immediate predicament, engaging elements of the authorities it unseated to govern the area and ensure that aid reaches the millions in need.
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 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].
With ongoing fighting in the Tigray region, Ethiopia’s chronic instability is set to worsen unless the federal government adopts a conciliatory approach toward opponents. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to press federal authorities to allow access for humanitarian aid and support dialogue to address the country’s most divisive fault lines.
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.
Fighting between the Ethiopian army and Tigray forces has arrived near the region’s biggest city, home to half a million residents. Addis Ababa should pause hostilities, all sides should minimise harm to civilians and the AU should step up efforts to avert further bloodshed.
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.