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.
Ethnic violence broke out in east, counter-insurgency operations continued in Oromia region, and electoral board postponed general elections set for Aug due to COVID-19 outbreak, while tensions with Egypt mounted over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile River. In Afar region in east, Oromo and Afar communities allegedly clashed in Awash area mid-March, leaving dozens dead; violence apparently sparked by state police attack against ethnic Oromo that left ten dead. In Oromia region, security forces continued to confront armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), while govt 31 March ended internet shutdown that had been in place in since Jan. After Feb escalation over GERD dispute when govt said it would start filling dam in July with or without agreement with downstream countries and Egypt 29 Feb threatened to use “all available means” to protect its interests, Arab League 5 March adopted Egyptian-drafted resolution rejecting any move by Ethiopia to fill dam without agreement. Govt 6 March rejected resolution and praised Sudan for refusing to sign it. Army 12 March warned that any attack on dam would prompt retaliation. Sudan 15 March offered to mediate between Ethiopia and Egypt. Amid global spread of COVID-19, PM Abiy 23 March closed land borders and banned gatherings; electoral board 31 March postponed general elections planned for Aug.
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.
The most credible attempt at talks to end decades of armed conflict in Ogaden may soon resume, but concerted efforts need to be made to guide them to a peaceful resolution.
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.
[Ethiopian] Prime Minister Abiy and his Oromo Democratic Party risk losing significant amounts of support in Oromia unless relations with [political opponent] Jawar and his loyalists are swiftly repaired.
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.
High-profile assassinations, intercommunal violence and the question of Sidama statehood have endangered Ethiopia’s transition to a multi-party democracy. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support a parliamentary vote and assist with economic reforms.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.