The Gulf crisis and the scramble for military outposts in the Horn of Africa are exacerbating regional tensions that risk triggering a conflict. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director Rashid Abdi untangles the complex web of relations that tie the Horn and the Gulf.
PM Desalegn 15 Feb said he would resign from post and leadership of ruling coalition to ease reforms, but would stay in power until successor identified; amid anti-govt protests, govt 16 Feb reimposed state of emergency, in place from Oct 2016 to Aug 2017. Following govt’s early Jan announcement that it would pardon some political prisoners, attorney general 8 Feb announced pardon of 746 prisoners, mostly detained during 2015-2016 unrest in Oromia and Amhara regions. Anti-govt protesters in several towns in Oromia mid-Feb demanded release of more opposition leaders. Oromo politician Bekele Gerba and several others released 13 Feb. Ethnic Oromo party Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), member of ruling coalition, 21 Feb elected former army intelligence officer Abiy Ahmed as its leader, signalling intention to nominate him for PM. Somali regional govt 22 Feb said it had released 1,500 more prisoners.
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.
The West will need to show tougher love to his successor than it did to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died Monday, if one of its most important regional allies is to remain stable.
The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by its chairman and prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has radically reformed Ethiopia’s political system. The regime transformed the hitherto centralised state into the Federal Democratic Republic and also redefined citizenship, politics and identity on ethnic grounds.
The Ethiopia-Eritrea impasse carries serious risk of a new war and is a major source of instability in the Horn of Africa, most critically for Somalia. Following Ethiopia’s refusal to accept virtual demarcation of the border by the now disbanded Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC), Asmara unilaterally implemented it and forced out the UN peacekeepers (UNMEE), significantly raising the stakes and shattering the status quo.
The risk that Ethiopia and Eritrea will resume their war in the next several weeks is very real. A military build-up along the common border over the past few months has reached alarming proportions. There will be no easy military solution if hostilities restart; more likely is a protracted conflict on Eritrean soil, progressive destabilisation of Ethiopia and a dramatic humanitarian crisis.
Ethiopians want [the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)] to concede on the issue of the constitution. ONLF previously said they were not going to recognize the federal constitution.
[The dispute about future management of the Nile] is a proxy conflict over who should be the regional hegemon, Egypt or Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government backed a different candidate, so there was speculation that the new Somali president may actually be hostile to Ethiopia.
The protests [in Ethiopia] have now reached a serious level, a different scale. We should not exaggerate and say the government is going to keel over tomorrow, but it portends future trouble unless they get a grip.
It is clear Ethiopia has a potentially serious and destabilizing unrest on its hands. What started off as isolated and localized protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions has now morphed into a much broader movement covering a large swath of the country
I think the government [of Ethiopia] is fearful that these protests may actually engulf the whole country. That is why you are seeing this heavy-handed crackdown
A 12 June clash between Eritrea and Ethiopia comes as the Horn of Africa’s two most implacable rivals face a crossroads.
Originally published in Slate Afrique