Ethiopia

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

Tigray conflict escalated as hostilities expanded to new fronts and Eritrean forces became heavily involved in fighting; violence persisted in Oromia region.

Hostilities in northern Ethiopia escalated and spread to new fronts. Following resumption of fighting 24 Aug in northern Ethiopia, Eritrea 1 Sept re-entered conflict; Tigray authorities accused federal and Eritrean forces of launching major offensives in Tigray’s north, with some clashes in Amhara-controlled Western Tigray. Throughout month, federal and Eritrean forces clashed with Tigray’s forces in Western, North Western, Eastern and Central Zones, and Afar region’s Fenti Rasu (Zone 2). Federal and Eritrean forces 13 Sept captured Shiraro town (North Western Zone), seemingly to position themselves for assault on Shire city. Federal forces 13, 14, 23 Sept struck Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, killing at least 11 civilians. Tigray authorities 20 Sept accused Eritrea of launching “full-scale” offensive in Tigray’s north, though scale of incursion appears to have been overstated; 27 Sept accused Eritrean forces of airstrike on Adi Daero town 25 Sept that killed five civilians. In Amhara region, Tigray forces clashed with federal and Amhara security forces and militia in Wag Himra, North Wollo and North Gondar Zones.

Diplomatic efforts failed to halt fighting in northern Ethiopia. Tigray leaders 11 Sept announced readiness for truce and African Union (AU)-led peace process following backdoor negotiations facilitated by U.S. Special Envoy for Horn of Africa Mike Hammer; privately maintained opposition to AU Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo and demand for return of Western Tigray and resumption of basic services. International actors, including AU and UN, welcomed Tigray’s readiness for “peaceful resolution” to conflict, while Kenyan President Ruto 13 Sept appointed former President Kenyatta to lead country’s diplomatic efforts in Ethiopia, signalling Nairobi’s continued engagement in peace initiative. Despite diplomatic overtures, federal govt had yet to respond to Tigray authorities’ announcement by end of month.

Violence persisted in Oromia. Clashes in Oromia region between security forces and Oromo Liberation Army continued throughout month in North, East, West Shewa, Kellem, West Wollega, East Guji, Ilu Aba Bora and Buno Bedele Zones. Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 6 Sept confirmed massacre of over 60 civilians 29-31 Aug in Horo Guduru Wollega Zone; report said “armed militia from Amhara”, likely militias known as Fano, perpetrated violence.

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In The News

12 Jan 2022
The fact that the Tigrayans [in Ethiopia] are making suggestions for a negotiated settlement involving forceful international action is ... positive, but these are ultima... Financial Times

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
19 Dec 2021
If [Ethiopian President] Abiy survives the conflict in power, he will likely be thankful to Beijing and Moscow for protecting him at the UN during the war. South China Morning Post

Richard Gowan

UN Director
5 Nov 2021
After a year of war, the Ethiopian conflict is at an incredibly dangerous point, with no side showing signs of backing down. TRT World

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
13 Oct 2021
Given the current situation [in Ethiopia] and the likelihood of continued fighting, particularly in the Amhara region, I think we are likely to see the U.S. implement tar... The National

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
11 Jul 2021
The current violent blowback indicates that [President] Abiy and his allies cannot achieve peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians by imposing their vision and party on E... Al Jazeera

William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
2 Jul 2021
The fact that the U.S. and its allies have secured [a UNSC] meeting is itself a signal that Ethiopia has lost some credibility […] and it opens up the possibility that th... CBS News

Richard Gowan

UN Director

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William Davison

Senior Analyst, Ethiopia
William Davison