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.
Intercommunal clashes escalated in several regions, leaving hundreds dead; govt faced mounting international scrutiny over war in Tigray. In Amhara regional state in north, intercommunal clashes between ethnic Oromo and ethnic Amhara resumed, reportedly leaving up to 200 people dead in Oromia Zone, including Ataye town, 16 April; violence prompted protests across region demanding end to mass killings. In disputed area between Afar and Somali regional states in east, clashes between ethnic Afar on one side and ethnic Somali-Issa paramilitaries and militias on the other 2-6 April killed at least 100 people; after initially trading blame for violence, both regional govts 8 April reportedly reached “agreement to immediately resolve” conflict and allow federal govt to investigate clashes. In Oromia regional state in centre, security forces early April reportedly killed 119 suspected Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents in western Oromia area; suspected OLA fighters late April reportedly killed at least 20 ethnic Amhara in Jimma Zone and another 15 in Horo-Guduru Wollega Zone. In Benishangul-Gumuz regional state in north west, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 21 April said unidentified armed group had by 19 April established “near-full control” over Sedal district in Kamashi Zone; earlier in month, unidentified gunmen 1 April reportedly killed seven civilians in Mandura district. Amid continued fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, authorities 3 April said Eritrean troops had started withdrawing; UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 15 April however said UN had seen no proof of Eritrean withdrawal. NGO Amnesty International 14 April said Eritrean soldiers 12 April had opened fire on civilians in Adwa town, killing at least three. NGO World Peace Foundation 6 April accused govt, Eritrean and Amhara regional forces in Tigray of “committing starvation crimes on large scale”, warning of risk of famine; UN Security Council 22 April expressed “deep concern” over reported rights abuses and sexual violence in Tigray, urged “unfettered humanitarian access” to region. New round of talks with Sudan and Egypt over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river faltered 6 June, prompting further regional tensions (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.