This week on The Horn, renowned scholar Alex de Waal joins Alan Boswell for a grim assessment of the humanitarian situation developing in Ethiopia’s conflict-embroiled Tigray region. He fears it will tip into famine if the international community fails to act now.
Further skirmishes with Sudan broke out in disputed border areas, fighting continued in Tigray regional state and intercommunal violence persisted in Benishangul-Gumuz region. After Sudan’s military in Dec reclaimed large swathes of territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area, Ethiopian and Sudanese forces 4 and 10 Jan clashed in Al-Fashqa and nearby Al-Qureisha border regions. Addis Ababa 12 Jan accused Sudan of pushing further into its territory and warned it was running out of patience. Ethiopian militia mid-Jan reportedly killed around a dozen Sudanese farmers in Al-Qureisha and Al-Fashqa. Khartoum 13 Jan said Ethiopian military aircraft had entered its airspace, calling it “a dangerous escalation”; next day closed airspace over Al-Qadarif state until April. Ethiopia 17 Jan released eight Sudanese soldiers captured during Dec border clashes. Sudan’s Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 20 Jan said “Sudan does not want to go to war with Ethiopia”, but warned that it “will not abandon an inch of its territory”. In Tigray region in north, fighting continued between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces. Security forces throughout month killed or captured dozens of senior Tigrayan leaders; notably, unidentified security forces 13 Jan killed former Ethiopian FM Seyoum Mesfin. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 15 Jan stated as fact that Eritrean forces are involved in military operations in Tigray alongside Ethiopian federal forces (see Eritrea). Amid restricted humanitarian access to Tigray, Tigray official 21 Jan said 4.5mn in need of emergency food assistance; UN 26 Jan said it was receiving reports of “rising hunger and malnutrition”. Meanwhile, in Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, ethnic Gumuz militia 12 Jan reportedly killed at least 80 ethnic Amhara, Agew and Shinasha civilians in Metekel zone. In Southern Nations region in south, unidentified assailants 9-11 Jan killed at least nine civilians in Konso zone. In Afar region in north east, clashes between security forces and Issa militia 23 Jan reportedly left at least 30 police officers killed and 40 more injured in Adaytu village. Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam early Jan resumed but failed to make progress.
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’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.
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].
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.
In the early hours of 4 November, a powder keg exploded in the Horn of Africa, as tensions between Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray region’s leaders erupted into conflict.
Originally published in The Africa Report