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

Deteriorated Situation

Amhara region witnessed worsening violence as nationalist militia clashed with security forces, prompting Addis Ababa to declare state of emergency; federal minister vowed to end Amhara’s “illegal administration” in Western and Southern Tigray.

Violence in Amhara region reached new heights. Fighting between Amhara nationalist militia known as Fano and federal and regional forces dramatically escalated, with Fano early Aug seizing control of several towns and cities. Addis Ababa 3 Aug blocked internet access to region, next day declared six-month state of emergency. In following weeks, authorities arrested hundreds of people allegedly linked to militants, including politician and outspoken govt critic Christian Tadelle. By 9 Aug, federal forces had recaptured major towns, pushing Fano militants to rural areas where fighting continued. Clashes late Aug flared in large towns, such as Debre Tabor and Debre Markos. UN 29 Aug said at least 183 killed in clashes since July.

Minister vowed to return IDPs to Western and Southern Tigray. Defence Minister Abraham Belay 22 Aug announced on Facebook govt plans to return people displaced during Tigray conflict from Western and parts of Southern Tigray (under Amhara’s administration since Nov 2020) to their homes; Abraham added that govt will dissolve Amhara’s “illegal administration” in these areas as per Nov 2022 peace deal with Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Remarks risk enflaming perceptions among Amhara that federal govt betrayed them when it struck deal with TPLF, and could empower Fano rebellion and draw Eritrea into conflict (see Eritrea).

Govt-insurgent fighting persisted in Oromia region. Heavy clashes between govt and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) continued in Oromia, with civilians again targeted. Notably, residents in West Shewa Zone’s Chobi district 16 Aug accused govt troops of killing at least 12 civilians during anti-insurgent operations; OLA fighters 17 Aug attacked police station in West Guji, killing local official. Fano continued to mount attacks and abduct residents.

In other important developments. World Food Programme 8 Aug resumed food aid deliveries, suspended in June. BRICS bloc of emerging economies 24 Aug invited Ethiopia to join from Jan 2024. Talks with Egypt and Sudan over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam 28 Aug concluded without breakthrough (see Nile Waters). 

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In The News

2 Dec 2022
Any serious failure in implementing the agreements [between Ethiopia's federal government and Tigrayan leaders] raises the risks of a disastrous return to large-scale war... Reuters

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
10 Nov 2022
The deal [with Tigrayan leaders] was a huge diplomatic and political victory for the [Ethiopian] federal government. GZERO

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
1 Sep 2022
Now Tigrayan reports ... of a large-scale incursion into Tigray from the north by Eritrean and federal forces. So, it is evident that the conflict is now seriously escala... VOA

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia

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William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
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