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

Improved Situation

Federal govt and Tigray leaders signed deal to end devastating conflict, but fragile calm could shatter absent consolidation of initial pledges; violence in Oromia intensified.

Federal and Tigray leaders struck welcome, yet fragile, peace accord. After over two years of brutal warfare, federal govt and Tigray leaders 2 Nov signed surprise “permanent cessation of hostilities” accord in South Africa’s capital Pretoria under African Union auspices. Agreement reflected military pressure Tigray’s forces had come under in Oct: federal govt consented to halt its offensive and end de facto siege; in return, Tigray’s embattled leaders agreed to disarm their forces, dissolve Tigray’s administration (thereby delegitimising regional election that led to war in 2020) and restore federal authority in region; sides also agreed to discussions over “contested areas”. Accord received mixed reactions: PM Abiy and international actors welcomed it; Eritrea’s silence appeared to signal consent; Amhara nationalists feared deal could be mechanism to hand over contested Western Tigray to Mekelle; Tigray’s leaders expressed dissatisfaction with some aspects, reflecting deal’s fragility. Nonetheless, both sides stopped fighting and humanitarian deliveries began trickling into region, although World Food Programme 25 Nov said deliveries are “not matching needs”. Military commanders 12 Nov also agreed during follow-up talks in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that Tigray would hand over heavy weapons in return for foreign (Eritrea) and non-federal (Amhara) troop withdrawal from Tigray.

Violence escalated in Oromia amid uptick in rebel operations and govt air strikes. Fighting between federal and Oromia security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebels intensified. Notably, federal air force early Nov launched three drone strikes in West Wollega Zone, killing 55. OLA fighters 6 Nov entered Nekemte town (East Wollega Zone) where they clashed with security forces, looted two banks, released over 120 prisoners from “Abiy regime’s torture camps” and abducted officials. OLA now controls over a dozen districts in East and West Wollega zones.

Relations with Sudan thawed. Following talks 15 Oct between PM Abiy and Sudan’s de facto head of state Gen. al-Burhan in Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar city, govt representatives met several times during month to resolve border dispute.

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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

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