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

Unchanged Situation

Violence in Amhara and Oromia regions remained rampant, and PM Abiy’s calls for sea access rattled Ethiopia’s neighbours amid deteriorating relations with Eritrea.

Fano-federal fighting continued in Amhara region. Clashes between federal forces and Amhara nationalist militia known as Fano occurred in rural areas and small towns of Amhara’s North Wollo, South Wollo, West Gojjam, East Gojjam and North Shewa zones, as well as Oromia region’s North Shewa Zone. Indications mid Oct surfaced that military is planning final offensive to “eliminate” Fano, though rebellion’s decentralised structure will likely complicate efforts. Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 30 Oct warned of high civilian casualties.

Hostilities in Oromia persisted amid rising risk of intercommunal violence. Clashes between govt forces and Oromo Liberation Army continued throughout Oct. Govt drone strikes 7-8 Oct in Horo Guduru Wollega Zone killed at least twelve. In North Shewa’s Dera Woreda (home to significant number of Amharas), federal forces fought OLA and Fano; with both insurgencies operating in area, risk of ethnically motivated attacks on Amhara and Oromo civilians is high. Kidnappings-for-ransom continued to rise. Notably, suspected OLA militants 3 Oct abducted nine civilians from Sululta city, demanding 300,000 birr (approx $5,500) per victim; 19 Oct abducted unknown number of Chinese nationals.

Abiy’s calls for talks on sea access laid bare deteriorating relations with Eritrea. In audio released 13 Oct, PM Abiy pronounced that securing direct access to sea (Ethiopia has been landlocked since 1993 Eritrean independence) is vital for Ethiopia’s development and stressed historic links to Red Sea; he called for open discussions with neighbours and warned that Ethiopia’s lack of access was potential source of future conflict. Eritrea 16 Oct said “discourses” on water and sea access had become “excessive” and emphasised that Asmara will not “be drawn into such alleys”; response revealed deteriorating relations between Addis and Asmara (see Eritrea). Somalia and Djibouti 17, 19 Oct respectively rejected Abiy’s appeal for talks.

In other important developments. Situation in Tigray region remained static. UN humanitarian agency 9 Oct warned that “drought-like conditions” in parts of Amhara, Tigray, Somali and Afar regions have increased food insecurity. Third round of talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam 24 Oct 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
William Davison

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