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Tigray’s peace process made notable progress on disarmament and Eritrean troop withdrawals from region; violence continued to worsen in Oromia.
Tigray handed over heavy weapons, significant Eritrean troop withdrawals occurred. Peace process between federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) progressed. Most notably, Tigray’s forces 10 Jan began handing over heavy weapons to federal forces, a key aspect of Nov peace deal, in Agulae town some 30km north of regional capital Mekelle in presence of African Union monitors. Although peace agreement stipulates foreign and non-federal troop withdrawal as TPLF combatants hand over heavy weapons, Tigrayans reported Eritrea’s continued military presence in rural areas and outskirts of some urban areas. Still, around 20 Jan their troops began withdrawing from most major cities, while Amhara forces 11 Jan left Shire. Federal military 17 Jan entered northern Adigrat city from which it will patrol Eritrean border.
Humanitarian flows continued to improve, more services resumed. Private Wegagen Bank 2 Jan resumed banking services in Mekelle but customers were unable to withdraw funds exceeding 2,000 Birr ($37) due to cash shortages. Ethiopian Airlines same day resumed commercial flights to Shire. UN humanitarian agency 18 Jan said that, between early Oct and 4 Jan, partners had delivered food to around 3.7mn people in Tigray.
Violence in Oromia persisted amid renewed govt resolve to defeat OLA militarily. Federal forces 2 Jan announced renewed military campaigns against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) amid ongoing fighting in number of zones in central, western and southern Oromia. Amhara militia involvement continued to complicate situation. Although OLA largely conducts rural operations, group 7 Jan launched second major attack in urban area since Nov, breaking into prison in Bule Hora town (West Guji Zone), killing five guards and freeing over 480 inmates. Meanwhile, OLA 23 Jan published manifesto spelling out its vision and goals; announcement follows late-Dec govt decision to rule out negotiations with OLA, citing group’s lack of “purpose and leadership”.
Sudanese and Ethiopian leaders met. PM Abiy Ahmed 26 Jan met with Sudan’s Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Sudanese capital Khartoum; Burhan reportedly said sides agree “on all matters regarding Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”.
Fragile calm prevailed in Tigray as Eritrean forces began withdrawing from region and efforts to implement peace deal continued; escalating violence in Oromia aggravated Oromo-Amhara tensions.
Tigray’s peace deal held and Eritrean forces began withdrawing. 2 Nov peace agreement between federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front continued to hold, although implementation of agreement was slow, particularly on security and political arrangements; notably, sides 3 Dec missed original deadline for Tigray’s disarmament. Tigray’s top commander Tadesse Werede 6 Dec reiterated that disarmament depended on region’s security, adding that continued Eritrean and Amhara troop presence would impede implementation. However, efforts to sustain momentum on peace deal continued and sides 22 Dec agreed to establish joint African Union Monitoring, Verification and Compliance mission to oversee implementation; days later, high-level delegation from federal govt 26 Dec arrived in Mekelle, which Tigray leaders hailed as “milestone”; monitoring mission launched 29 Dec. In another positive development, news agency Reuters 30 Dec reported that Eritrean troops had left several towns in Tigray’s Central and North Western Zones (see Eritrea). Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agency 6 Dec said humanitarian access had improved, federal govt began partially restoring phone and electricity lines and commercial flights 28 Dec resumed between Addis and Mekelle.
Conflict in Oromia intensified, fuelling intercommunal tensions. Fighting raged in western Oromia as Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) expanded operations and Amhara militias known as Fano deepened their involvement; all actors targeted civilians. Hostilities occurred throughout month in Horo Guduru Zone, East, Kellem and West Wollega Zones and South West and East Shewa Zones. Notably, clashes 3-4 Dec between Fano and Oromia regional special forces around Gutin town in East Wollega killed dozens and displaced thousands; Oromo residents and officials blamed Fano, while Amhara residents said Oromia Special Police initiated attacks. Deteriorating situation heightened Oromo-Amhara tensions elsewhere, notably in capital Addis Ababa, where several disputes related to display of Oromia flag and singing of Oromia anthem in public schools led to protests early Nov in several schools.
Relations with Sudan continued to improve. Ethiopia and Sudan 24 Dec signed cooperation agreement on peace and security issues.
Federal govt and Tigray leaders signed deal to end devastating conflict, but fragile calm could shatter absent consolidation of initial pledges; violence in Oromia intensified.
Federal and Tigray leaders struck welcome, yet fragile, peace accord. After over two years of brutal warfare, federal govt and Tigray leaders 2 Nov signed surprise “permanent cessation of hostilities” accord in South Africa’s capital Pretoria under African Union auspices. Agreement reflected military pressure Tigray’s forces had come under in Oct: federal govt consented to halt its offensive and end de facto siege; in return, Tigray’s embattled leaders agreed to disarm their forces, dissolve Tigray’s administration (thereby delegitimising regional election that led to war in 2020) and restore federal authority in region; sides also agreed to discussions over “contested areas”. Accord received mixed reactions: PM Abiy and international actors welcomed it; Eritrea’s silence appeared to signal consent; Amhara nationalists feared deal could be mechanism to hand over contested Western Tigray to Mekelle; Tigray’s leaders expressed dissatisfaction with some aspects, reflecting deal’s fragility. Nonetheless, both sides stopped fighting and humanitarian deliveries began trickling into region, although World Food Programme 25 Nov said deliveries are “not matching needs”. Military commanders 12 Nov also agreed during follow-up talks in Kenya’s capital Nairobi that Tigray would hand over heavy weapons in return for foreign (Eritrea) and non-federal (Amhara) troop withdrawal from Tigray.
Violence escalated in Oromia amid uptick in rebel operations and govt air strikes. Fighting between federal and Oromia security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebels intensified. Notably, federal air force early Nov launched three drone strikes in West Wollega Zone, killing 55. OLA fighters 6 Nov entered Nekemte town (East Wollega Zone) where they clashed with security forces, looted two banks, released over 120 prisoners from “Abiy regime’s torture camps” and abducted officials. OLA now controls over a dozen districts in East and West Wollega zones.
Relations with Sudan thawed. Following talks 15 Oct between PM Abiy and Sudan’s de facto head of state Gen. al-Burhan in Ethiopia’s Bahir Dar city, govt representatives met several times during month to resolve border dispute.
Absent an immediate cessation of hostilities, military offensives in Tigray could result in mass atrocities against civilians in coming weeks.
Federal coalition gained ground in Tigray, raising risk of serious abuses toward local population. After weeks of federal and allied military offensives on multiple fronts in northern Ethiopia, Tigray’s defences began giving way to superior firepower. Notably, Tigray’s forces 2 Oct withdrew from Kobo district in Amhara region’s North Wello Zone; 17 Oct withdrew from strategic Shire city (North Western Zone), which hosts tens of thousands of displaced persons. Federal and Eritrean forces began pushing eastward from Shire toward Aksum and then Adwa cities (Central Zone), where fierce fighting in surrounding areas is ongoing. Federal and Amhara forces 18 Oct captured Alamata and Korem towns (Southern Zone). Meanwhile, Addis 17 Oct said military would seize all federal facilities in Tigray, which will likely fuel continued Tigray resistance to prevent federal govt from forcefully taking control of region. As civilians are caught in crossfire, federal and Eritrean forces could further harm local populations, as they have already done by air. Notably, federal air force 4 Oct killed over 50 displaced people in Adi Daero town (North Western Zone), 14 Oct struck Shire, killing humanitarian worker and two civilians; Ethiopian Red Cross Society 28 Oct reported death of ambulance driver.
African Union (AU) held peace talks in South Africa. Amid mounting international pressure, Tigray and federal negotiators 25 Oct met in South Africa for AU-led peace talks. Whether progress is made remains to be seen. Tigray authorities 16 Oct expressed readiness for immediate cessation of hostilities but demanded Eritrea’s withdrawal from region; federal govt reiterated its willingness to negotiate but is unlikely to halt military operations given recent gains.
Drone strikes in Oromia left scores dead. Amid ongoing clashes between security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), federal air force conducted multiple air strikes. One of deadliest drone strikes occurred 23 Oct in Cobi district in West Shewa Zone at OLA graduation ceremony, killing at least 50, including civilians. Meanwhile, Amhara militias known as Fano reportedly killed at least 43 civilians in five attacks in East Wollega and Horo Guduru Wollega zone during month.
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.
Fighting erupted between federal and Tigray forces, shattering March ceasefire and threatening to derail long-awaited peace talks; conflict will likely spread to new fronts in coming days. Clashes 24 Aug broke out between federal and Tigray forces around Kobo town near Tigray’s border in Amhara region, ending five-month ceasefire. Both sides blamed each other for renewed violence, which quickly escalated. Federal govt 24 Aug claimed it shot down plane coming from Sudan carrying weapons for Tigray forces; Tigray authorities dismissed statement as “lie”, while Sudan’s foreign ministry 31 Aug summoned Ethiopian ambassador over latter’s accusations that Khartoum “violated Ethiopian airspace”. Tigray authorities 27 Aug claimed control of Kobo. Senior Tigray official, Getachew Reda, 26, 30 Aug accused federal govt of launching two strikes targeting civilians in Tigray’s capital Mekelle; 31 Aug accused govt of sending “tens of thousands of troops” to neighbouring Eritrea. Federal govt same day said Tigray’s forces were expanding fight to different fronts, notably near border with Sudan. Meanwhile, UN 30 Aug said aid deliveries into Tigray suspended amid fighting. Earlier in August, tensions had been rising amid lack of progress toward peace talks. Positions had hardened amid disagreement about whether African Union Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo or Kenya’s govt should mediate; furthermore, Tigray’s authorities demanded return of Amhara-controlled Western Tigray to Tigray’s administration and resumption of basic services before talks occur. Conflict in Oromia region between security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) persisted, notably in North and West Shewa Zones, and East, West and Kellem Wollega Zones. Fighting from 4 Aug also occurred in normally peaceful Buno Bedele Zone. Authorities 6 Aug captured senior OLA commander in Ethiopia-Kenya border town, Moyale; earlier in month, authorities arrested intelligence officer in Borena Zone on suspicion of working with OLA, hinting at growing collaboration between OLA rebels and local officials. OLA 17 Aug proposed humanitarian truce to facilitate aid deliveries into drought-stricken region, which federal govt 20 Aug rejected. Elsewhere, clashes 11 Aug erupted between Afar and Somali ethnic militias in Somali region’s Sitti Zone, reportedly displacing thousands. PM Abiy 12 Aug announced completion of third filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Disagreement over mediator impeded progress toward Tigray peace talks; violence persisted in Oromia and Al-Shabaab made rare incursion from Somalia. Federal and Tigray govts in July took further steps toward peace talks. Seven-member negotiating committee tasked by Addis Ababa to lead talks 12 July met for first time. Tigray leadership 18 July announced creation of negotiating team, reiterated refusal to negotiate over Amhara-controlled Western Tigray, saying area must be returned to Tigray’s administration. Senior official 28 July said federal govt was ready to negotiate “without preconditions”. Disagreement over whether African Union (AU) Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo or Kenya’s govt should lead mediation efforts however impeded progress toward negotiations; federal govt favours Obasanjo, but Tigray leaders accuse him of close ties to Addis Ababa. In second large-scale attack against ethnic Amharas in Oromia region in two weeks, armed group 4 July targeted ethnic Amhara villages in Kellem Wollega Zone, killing at least 150. PM Abiy accused Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) of “massacre”, vowed to “eliminate” group, while OLA denied responsibility and blamed govt. Meanwhile, clashes 7-8 July erupted in Oromia’s West Wollega and Kellem Wollega Zones; residents said federal forces killed state civil servants for allegedly refusing to cooperate against OLA. Fighting between govt forces and OLA reported during month in Degem and Dera districts in Oromia’s North Shewa Zone. In Amhara region, clashes 10-12 July erupted between armed militia, possibly OLA, and govt forces at border of North Shewa and Oromia Special Zones; at least 25 killed. In rare incursion into Ethiopia, Al-Shabaab militants 20 July entered Somali region from neighbouring Somalia; authorities 24 July announced victory over group in operation that reportedly left over 200 militants dead. Renewed clashes 25 July however erupted, with authorities claiming 85 Al-Shabaab killed. Senior U.S. military official 28 July warned group will likely continue launching attacks in Ethiopia. After renewed violence in disputed al-Fashaga borderlands late June, Abiy and head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 5 July met in Kenya, agreed to establish joint committee to resolve dispute (see Sudan).
Violence left hundreds of civilians dead in Oromia; amid ongoing food crisis, Tigray leadership and federal govt announced readiness for peace talks. After almost six months without major confrontation between Tigray and federal forces, Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael 14 June said his govt was ready for talks; federal govt 28 June announced creation of seven-member committee to hold peace talks, chaired by Deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen. UN humanitarian agency 16 June said 1,200 aid trucks had arrived in Tigray since 1 June, almost half of total since 1 April; 27 June however said over 13mn people still in need of food assistance in northern Ethiopia, compared to 9mn in Nov. EU official 21 June said fuel shortages were hampering aid deliveries to Tigray, which federal govt 23 June dismissed as “myth”. Ethnic violence escalated in Oromia region amid ongoing fighting between Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and govt forces, notably in West, East and Kellem Wollega Zones, East and West Guji Zones, and West Arsi Zone. Regional govt and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission accused OLA fighters of 18 June killing hundreds of ethnic Amhara civilians in Gimbi district of West Wollega Zone; OLA denied responsibility and blamed govt. Violence spilled into neighbouring Gambella region, where OLA and Gambella Liberation Front rebels 14 June attacked govt forces in regional capital Gambella; 40 including 28 rebels reportedly killed. In Southern Nations region, mob 4 June stoned nine ethnic Oromos to death in Burji district amid rumour that Guji Oromos had killed ethnic Burji; Koore ethnic militias and govt forces early June reportedly clashed with Derashe ethnic militias in Derashe district, leaving five dead. In Benishangul-Gumuz region, clashes between Gumuz People’s Democratic Movement rebels and regional forces 1 June reportedly killed 19 in Kamashi Zone. Meanwhile, fighting late June erupted between Ethiopian and Sudanese forces in disputed al-Fashaga border zone. Khartoum 26 June accused Ethiopia forces of executing seven Sudanese soldiers and one civilian after abducting them in Sudan 22 June, which Addis Ababa denied. Sudan 27-28 June fired heavy artillery into al-Fashaga and claimed control of Jabal Kala al-Laban town.
Despite signs of renewed hostilities, Tigray leadership announced mass prisoner release in alleged bid to advance peace, and aid deliveries to Tigray significantly increased; authorities carried out mass arrests in Amhara region. Federal forces from early May reportedly increased presence in Western Tigray and ordered Amhara forces to vacate occupied area; westward movements of Tigray forces also reported. Meanwhile, clashes between Tigray and Eritrean forces 8 May erupted in Badme and Rama border areas, compelling Eritrea to relocate some forces stationed in Western Tigray starting 11 May; Eritrean forces 28-29 May allegedly shelled Sheraro town in Tigray, killing one child and wounding 18 people; Tigray authorities 30 May claimed they had repelled Eritrean offensive launched 24 May, killing or wounding over 300 Eritrean soldiers including four commanders. Meanwhile, Tigray leadership 20 May announced release of over 4,200 “prisoners of war” in hope that such “confidence building measures” might lead to “peaceful resolution” of conflict; federal govt 22 May claimed releasees were captured civilians, not soldiers. Meanwhile, assistance to region increased significantly. World Food Programme 20 May said 319 trucks of humanitarian aid had entered Tigray during week of 10-16 May; biggest convoy of aid since March ceasefire, consisting of 215 trucks, 27 May reportedly departed Afar region for Tigray. As part of crackdown against militia fighters, federal and allied Amhara authorities 23 May announced arrests of over 4,500 people in Amhara; detainees included former Amhara special forces commander Tefera Mamo, over 200 people suspected of colluding with Amhara militias known as Fano, and at least 19 media personnel; state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 22 May said some arrests did not follow “basic human rights principles”. In Oromia region, conflict continued between federal and regional forces, and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in West Arsi, West Hararghe, Guji, West Shewa and North Shewa zones; at least 30 civilians killed during month. OLA 18 May claimed attack on military camp in Sululta town, 13km from capital Addis Ababa, said 16 soldiers killed. Military 21 May said it killed 44 OLA rebels and captured five in Worejarso district of North Shewa Zone.
While fragile truce between federal govt and Tigray forces held, humanitarian aid to embattled region remained grossly insufficient; elsewhere, religious tensions flared and other violence continued. No clashes reported in April in northern Tigray region after federal and Tigray authorities late March agreed to humanitarian truce. For first time since Dec 2021, aid convoys 1, 2 April entered Tigray by land; another convoy of 50 trucks 15 April arrived in regional capital Mekelle after Tigray forces 12 April withdrew from Erebti district in Afar region. World Health Organization 18 April said only 4% of required aid had reached Tigray since truce. More truck convoys later mid- to late-April reached Mekelle, but deliveries by month’s end remained far from sufficient to meet needs. Tigray forces 25 April said they were completely withdrawing from Afar in hope aid could finally pour into Tigray; federal govt 28 April rebutted claims as “big lies”. In joint report, NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch 6 April alleged Amhara regional authorities and security forces, with possible participation of federal soldiers, carried out “ethnic cleansing” campaign in Western Tigray from Nov 2020, systematically expelling several hundred thousand Tigrayans. Meanwhile, religious tensions spiked. Armed assailants 26 April attacked Muslim worshippers in Gondar city, Amhara; attack and subsequent unrest left 21 dead. Retaliatory attacks against Orthodox and Protestant Christians reported 28 April in Werabe town, Southern Nations region; casualties unknown. Also in Amhara, clashes in border area between Jille Dhumuga district in Oromia Zone and Efrata Gidim district in North Shewa Zone around 18-19 April reportedly left 20 dead, over 5,000 displaced; Amhara region officials accused Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group of initiating violence, while ethnic Oromo residents blamed Amhara militias known as Fano, and regional special forces. In Oromia region, federal govt forces along with Oromia regional forces early April launched renewed offensive against OLA: intense fighting reported 2-3 April along highway connecting Hawassa city to Ethiopia-Kenya border town of Moyale; violence throughout month persisted in Oromia’s North, West and South West Shewa zones, also Horo Guduru Wollega, West and East Guji zones, with all conflict actors reportedly targeting civilians.
Federal govt declared humanitarian truce to allow aid into Tigray region; violence remained rampant in several other regions. In northern Tigray region, Ethiopian air force 4 March conducted two drone attacks near Bahre-Negash resort and airport in Shire city, North Western Zone; death toll unknown. Federal govt 24 March declared “indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”, saying it hoped to help facilitate free flow of humanitarian aid into Tigray; Tigray govt next day pledged to respect ceasefire if aid was speedily delivered. In neighbouring Afar region, Tigray forces and Afar regional special forces and militias throughout month continued to clash in Kilbati Rasu (Zone 2). Skirmishes also reported in Amhara region between Tigray forces on one hand, and Amhara regional special forces, Fano militias and Amhara ethnic militias on the other, in Kobo (North Wello Zone) and Sekota (Wag Hamra Zone) districts along Amhara-Tigray border. Also in Amhara region, Fano militiamen around 7-10 March clashed with Amhara regional special forces in East Gojam Zone; four regional police officers killed in Mota town. In Oromia region, fighting between security forces and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) further expanded and intensified in West, North and East Shewa zones. Both sides reportedly targeted civilians: notably, OLA 8 March attacked and reportedly killed seven civilians in Illu Galan district in West Shewa Zone; violence continued next day in and around Ejaji town. Further complicating conflict in Oromia, suspected Fano militia 5-7 March shot dead unknown number of ethnic Karayyu pastoralists in Fentale district of East Shewa Zone. In same area, unidentified assailants 31 March killed 26 people in ambush on Oromia govt-backed militia vehicle. In Benishangul-Gumuz region, unidentified gunmen 2 March ambushed civilian convoy and its military escort in Metekel Zone; 20 soldiers, three civilians and 30 assailants killed; regional security forces and militia next day reportedly rounded up suspects and summarily killed 11, most of them ethnic Tigrayans. Gambela regional govt 12 March said clashes between South Sudanese military and rebels in border areas had in recent days killed at least one and displaced over 9,000 residents of Lare and Jikawo districts, Nuer Zone.
Fighting continued in northern areas, particularly in Afar region, further hindering humanitarian operations; widespread insecurity persisted in other regions. In Afar region, clashes between Tigray forces on one hand, and Afar special forces and militias backed by Ethiopian air force on the other, early to mid-Feb spread from border town of Abala into other areas of Kilbati Rasu-Zone 2. Afar regional govt 7 Feb reported Tigray forces advancing toward Serdo checkpoint, which regulates traffic to Ethiopia’s only access to sea via Djibouti port. Amid ongoing violence in Afar, delivery of humanitarian supplies into Tigray via Semera-Abala-Mekelle road remained suspended. In Amhara region, Tigray forces and federal and Amhara regional forces late Feb reportedly clashed in Raya Kobo Woreda in North Wollo Zone; also in Amhara, unidentified gunmen 7 Feb attacked prison in South Gondar Zone, breaking prisoners out of jail; 16 gunmen reportedly killed. UN Deputy Sec-Gen Amina Mohammed 9 Feb completed five-day visit to Ethiopia, said country in “much better place” than months ago to resolve Tigray conflict. Federal govt 15 Feb lifted state of emergency imposed last Nov. Security situation in Oromia region continued to deteriorate. Insurgent group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 3 Feb killed at least three in ambush on Oromia President Shimelis Abdissa’s security detail near Bule Hora in West Guji Zone; several encounters reported 19-21 Feb between OLA and federal forces in West Guji and Guji Zones. Also in Oromia, ethnic Amhara militias launched attacks on civilians, notably killing at least 31 in Horo Guduru Wollega and East Wollega Zones 12-25 Feb. Political tensions ran high in Somali region as ex-regional officials early Feb challenged rule of region’s President Mustafa Omar; regional govt mid-Feb accused “anti-peace elements” of seeking to disrupt peace and stoke unrest. In Gambela region, members of ethnic Murle militia from South Sudan 9-11 Feb killed at least four people and abducted three children in Agnewak Zone. Meanwhile, three parties – Oromo Federalist Congress, Oromo Liberation Front and Ogaden National Liberation Front – 4 Feb said national dialogue lacked impartiality, transparency and inclusivity, making boycott of process likely.
Despite lull in large-scale fighting since late Dec, airstrikes and skirmishes continued notably in western Tigray. Fighting near Abala town along Tigray-Afar border continued to block only available route for humanitarian supplies to Tigray region; aid trucks unable to enter Tigray since 14 Dec. Medical staff at Tigray’s largest hospital 5 Jan attributed 117 deaths at facility to insufficient medical supplies, without providing dates, while UN World Food Programme 14 Jan warned aid operations “about to grind to a halt” as vital supplies running out. UN human rights office same day said airstrikes allegedly carried out by Ethiopian air force in Tigray region had killed at least 108 civilians and injured another 75 since 1 Jan, said attacks could amount to war crimes. Notably, airstrike on camp for internally displaced people in Tigray’s Dedebit area 8 Jan killed over 50 people. In phone call with PM Abiy, U.S. President Biden 10 Jan raised concerns about airstrikes, civilian deaths and detentions under state of emergency. Federal govt 26 Jan decided to lift months-long state of emergency citing improving security situation. Meanwhile, govt 7 Jan said it would open dialogue with political opposition and released six former Tigray People Liberation Front leaders, notably founding member Sebhat Nega; also released Oromo Federalist Congress leaders Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, and journalist and opposition leader Eskinder Nega. UN Sec-Gen Guterres same day lauded “significant confidence-building step”. Security forces intensified offensive against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in Oromia region, with fighting early to mid-Jan expanding to West and East Hararghe Zones, Jimma Zone, Kellem Wollega Zone and all zones of Shewa surrounding capital Addis Ababa; OLA also reported aerial attacks in East Wollega Zone. Clashes late-Jan intensified in West Gujji Zone, with OLA forces reportedly taking control of Torre and Shamole towns. State media 7 Jan said Jaal Odaa Qabsoo, leader of OLA Eastern Command, captured in Harar city. Abdulwahab Mahdi, former leader of rebel group Benishangul-Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement, 5 Jan escaped from prison in Asosa city; regional officials said he might have crossed into Sudan.
Federal govt halted its offensive against Tigray forces after latter announced retreat; moves could help usher in negotiations to end year-long war. Tigray forces 20 Dec announced complete withdrawal from neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions back into Tigray and called for ceasefire. Federal govt 24 Dec said National Defence Forces would pause at current positions, refraining from advancing further into Tigray. UN Sec-Gen Guterres same day urged parties to “grasp this opportunity” to cease hostilities and ensure provision of “much-needed humanitarian assistance”; U.S. State Dept late month said recent developments offered opportunity for parties to come to negotiating table. Earlier in month, federal govt made major territorial gains, reclaiming all of Amhara: federal govt 1 Dec claimed control of number of towns in North Shewa Zone of Amhara, including Shewa Robit, Molale, Mezezo and Raza; 6 Dec said it had recaptured strategic Amhara towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, as well as Bati, Gerba, Kersa and Degan; 18 Dec claimed full control of Amhara’s North Wollo Zone; and 23 Dec said its forces and Amhara regional forces had gained control of Tigray’s Alamata town and were marching northward to Korem town. NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International 16 Dec jointly accused pro-govt forces of “mass detentions, killings and forced expulsions of ethnic Tigrayans”. UN Human Rights Council next day voted to establish independent investigation into alleged abuses by all parties to northern Ethiopia conflict since Nov 2020. Meanwhile, in Oromia region, unidentified assailants 1 Dec killed 14 people including traditional elder in Karrayyu district of East Shewa Zone; govt blamed Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) while OLA and some residents accused govt. OLA early Dec claimed to have captured several towns in East and West Shewa Zones, and repelled govt offensives in East and West Wollega Zones. Federal govt early Dec conducted drone and air attacks in East Wollega. Oromia regional forces 27 Dec said they had neutralised 18 suspected OLA rebels in recent security operation in Mieso locality, West Hararghe Zone.
Intense fighting continued in north, with federal and allied regional forces resisting Tigray fighters and allies’ push toward capital Addis Ababa. In Amhara region, Tigray forces along with Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 4 Nov captured Kemissie town in Oromia Zone. Fighting in following days continued toward south and west, with Tigray and OLA units capturing Karakore and Ataye towns in North Shewa Zone 16 Nov and Shewa Robit town in Semien Shewa Zone. In Afar region, Tigray forces failed to capture strategic town of Mille, Awsi Rasu Zone; Afar forces and local militia loyal to PM Abiy put stiff resistance to Tigray forces’ advance reportedly regaining control of Chifra and Kasa Gita late Nov. Govt 24 Nov said Abiy had gone to battlefield, and 30 Nov claimed “great strides” in past few days forced Tigray forces “to relinquish their occupation of key areas” in north. Earlier in month, Tigray forces’ advance toward Addis Ababa reportedly prompted thousands of residents to join self-defence groups, and nine anti-govt groups, including Tigray forces and OLA, 5 Nov formed alliance in bid to unseat Abiy. After govt 2 Nov declared six-month nationwide state of emergency, giving security forces right to detain any suspect without court warrant, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 7 Nov alleged authorities arresting people based on ethnicity, and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 16 Nov said at least 1,000, mostly ethnic Tigrayans, detained in past week. In Oromia region, OLA 16 Nov claimed control of “much” of North Shewa and West Shewa Zones as well as Gidami, Begi and Qondala towns in West Wollega and Kellem Wollega Zones; clashes reported late Nov in East Wollega and West Wollega Zones. Also in Oromia, Oromo and Amhara communities 19 Nov clashed in Nono area, West Shewa Zone, leaving at least 20 dead. Insecurity persisted in Benishangul-Gumuz region: unidentified gunmen 9 Nov killed four civilians in Mandura Woreda in Metekel Zone; security forces killed 19 assailants; federal and regional forces around 22 Nov reportedly clashed with unidentified armed group in Asosa Zone, killing at least 30. Renewed fighting with Sudanese forces reported late-Nov in disputed al-Fashaga border zone (see Sudan).
Amid escalatory fighting in north, Tigray forces captured more territory in Amhara region and could launch an offensive on capital Addis Ababa in coming weeks; clashes between insurgents and govt forces spiked in Oromia region. Following federal airstrikes 7-8 Oct against Tigray forces positions near Wergessa town in North Wello Zone and Wegel Tena town in South Wello Zone, federal troops alongside allied Amhara forces 11 Oct launched ground offensive against Tigray forces in Amhara region. In subsequent days, clashes caused large number of deaths, and Tigray forces pushed back against assault, capturing towns including Wuchale in Amhara and Chifra on Amhara-Afar border. After moving further southward, Tigray forces 31 Oct poised to take control of Dessie and Kombolcha cities (both Amhara region). In Tigray region, federal air forces 18-28 Oct launched airstrikes on regional capital Mekelle for first time since Addis Ababa pulled out of most of Tigray in June; 20 Oct also bombed nearby Agbe town; govt said it targeted Tigray forces’ facilities, but locals reported civilian deaths. Anti-Tigrayan hate speech increased with TV journalist Mesay Mekonnen 30 Oct calling for all Tigrayans to be placed in concentration camps. Meanwhile, in Oromia region, clashes between insurgent group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and govt forces spiked. Guji Zone saw fiercest clashes, with local officials claiming security forces killed scores of insurgents 2-6 Oct; rebels claimed 700 security forces killed and hundreds more injured in Sept-Oct, mostly in western and southern Oromia. In East Wollega Zone, unidentified attackers 10-11 Oct killed 22 civilians and displaced over 900 households; regional officials blamed OLA, while residents accused ethnic Amhara gunmen. Oromo and Amhara militias 18 Oct clashed in Horo Guduru Wollega Zone. Insecurity persisted in Benishangul-Gumuz region, with unidentified gunmen reportedly killing at least four civilians in two attacks in Metekel Zone 19 Oct. PM Abiy, sworn in 4 Oct for second term, 6 Oct reshuffled govt. After Addis Ababa late Sept expelled seven top UN officials for allegedly meddling in internal affairs, UN Sec-Gen Guterres 6 Oct denounced “unprecedented” act, demanded “evidence” of wrongdoings during UN Security Council emergency meeting.
Tigray forces’ advance faced resistance in Amhara and Afar; violence continued in Oromia and federal govt deployed reinforcements to Benishangul-Gumuz. Federal govt 9 Sept said military and Afar forces had compelled Tigray forces to withdraw from Afar region; Tigray forces denied claim, said they redeployed to neighbouring Amhara region. Large parts of Amhara’s North Wollo Zone, including Weldiya and Lalibela cities, still under Tigray forces’ control by month’s end. Amhara officials 8 Sept accused Tigray forces of having killed over 120 civilians in Chenna village near Dabat town (North Gondar Zone) 1-2 Sept – in what would be one of deadliest massacres of ten-month war; Tigray forces rejected “fabricated allegation”, as well as claims they executed dozens of civilians in and around Kobo town in North Wollo Zone starting 9 Sept. Mobilisation continued, with military graduating tens of thousands of new recruits in Sept. UN humanitarian agency 2 Sept reported less than 10% of required aid had entered Tigray region since mid-July, 1.7mn in Afar and Amhara food insecure due to war. U.S. President Biden 17 Sept allowed U.S. govt to sanction individuals and entities involved in conflict. Addis late Sept expelled seven senior UN officials, citing “meddling”. Violence increased in Oromia region following Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)’s Aug alliance with Tigray forces. OLA late Aug-early Sept claimed to have captured localities in East Wollega Zone and parts of Borana Zone from govt forces; around 22 Sept clashed with federal govt and Oromia forces in North Shewa Zone. OLA also continued attacks on civilians, reportedly killing at least 28 in Kiramu district, East Wollega Zone 16-18 Sept. Meanwhile, federal govt deployed troops from four regions to Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west after regional authorities 9 Sept accused ethnic Gumuz rebels of killing five security forces and one Chinese national in Metekel Zone previous day; attacks in Metekel have displaced hundreds of thousands since Sept 2020. Delayed parliamentary elections held 30 Sept in Somali, Harari and Southern Nations (SNNPR) regional states; voters in part of SNNPR same day voted in referendum to decide whether or not to form South Western regional state.
Amid spreading conflict across Ethiopia’s north, Tigrayan forces and federal govt intensified war rhetoric and took steps to mobilise reinforcements; clashes in centre left hundreds dead. Tigrayan forces continued to launch offensives into Amhara and Afar regions, seizing several towns and prompting thousands to flee. Federal govt 6 Aug threatened to “deploy the entire defensive capability of the state” if offensives continued, 10 Aug urged “all capable” citizens to join military effort. Tigrayan forces next day formed alliance with insurgent group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) with stated aim of toppling federal govt. Rights abuses reported on all sides. Notably, Afar authorities accused Tigrayan forces of launching attack on displaced civilians, reportedly killing over 200, in Galicoma area 5 Aug; NGO Amnesty International 11 Aug accused Ethiopian, Eritrean troops and allied militias of using sexual violence “to terrorise, degrade, and humiliate” ethnic Tigrayans. NGO Human Rights Watch 18 Aug also reported authorities conducted arbitrary detentions and forcibly disappeared at least 23 ethnic Tigrayans, mostly on apparent basis of ethnicity, in capital Addis Ababa in June-July. U.S. development agency (USAID) 19 Aug said govt’s obstruction of humanitarian aid and personnel creates looming food aid shortages in Tigray region; govt next day denied accusations. USAID 31 Aug accused Tigrayan forces of looting its warehouses in Amhara region in previous weeks. U.S. 23 Aug warned “large numbers” of Eritrean troops had re-entered Tigray after reportedly withdrawing in June (see Eritrea). Federal govt 5 Aug rejected Sudan’s offer to mediate Tigray conflict, prompting Khartoum to recall its ambassador 8 Aug (see Sudan). In west, Benishangul-Gumuz regional govt 14 Aug said its forces had killed 170 armed “anti-peace elements” allied to Tigrayan forces who had reportedly entered from Sudan, mid-Aug also arrested 32 suspected Tigrayan forces “operatives” after they reportedly crossed from Sudan in alleged attempt to destabilise region. Meanwhile, in Oromia regional state in centre, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 26 Aug said OLA insurgents had killed some 150 ethnic Amhara in Gida Kiremu district 18 Aug, prompting retaliatory attacks which left 60 dead next day; OLA immediately denied it had targeted civilians, said Amhara militias initiated clashes.
Tigrayan forces advanced into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions as federal and regional state govts took steps to reinforce their military capacity, making greater instability countrywide likely in coming weeks. After capturing Tigray’s capital Mekelle from federal troops in June, Tigrayan forces 4 July set conditions for ceasefire negotiations with federal govt, including withdrawal of Eritrean troops and Amhara regional forces from Tigray, independent UN probe into alleged war crimes, and “procedures” for holding PM Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accountable for their actions in Tigray. Tigrayan forces 12 July launched southward and westward offensives with apparent view to driving ethnic Amhara forces off disputed territory, reportedly seizing Korem and Alamata towns 12-13 July; Abiy 14 July vowed to repel Tigrayan “enemies”, effectively tearing up unilateral ceasefire declared by federal govt late June; most of country’s ten regional states in following days said they would send reinforcements. Tigrayan forces 17-19 July clashed with Afar regional forces and militias in Afar regional state, leaving at least 20 civilians killed and some 54,000 displaced; 25 July said they had seized Adi Arkay town in Amhara regional state, which latter denied; Afar and Amhara regional govts 23 and 25 July called on civilians to take up arms. Tigrayan forces mid-month allegedly abducted over a dozen Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Adi Harush camp; Tigray leaders 22 July denied targeting Eritrean refugees. Federal authorities 30 June-2 July reportedly arrested at least 11 journalists, 15-21 July temporarily suspended license of Ethiopian magazine Addis Standard for allegedly advancing Tigray leaders’ agenda; police throughout month reportedly arbitrarily detained hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans and closed Tigrayan-owned businesses across country. Elsewhere, tensions between Afar and Somali regional states in east resumed: Somali region 27 July accused militia from neighbouring Afar region of killing hundreds of civilians in contested border area 24 July. Meanwhile, electoral commission 10 July said ruling Prosperity Party had won 410 of 436 seats in federal parliament in June elections. Tensions remained high between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt as Addis Ababa completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Amid looming famine, Tigrayan forces made significant gains against federal troops in Tigray region; meanwhile, general elections held despite insecurity in several regions. Following large-scale counteroffensive against federal govt forces in Tigray regional state (north), Tigrayan forces 28 June reportedly entered regional capital Mekelle, allegedly prompting federal govt to declare “unilateral ceasefire” same day; federal govt said it had withdrawn its forces for humanitarian reasons. Tigrayan forces 29 June dismissed ceasefire as “joke”, vowed to “intensify struggle” until “enemies completely leave Tigray”; by month’s end, Tigrayan forces reportedly controlled most of region. Earlier in month, army airstrike 22 June reportedly killed dozens of civilians in Togoga village, drawing widespread condemnation; military 24 June said attack only struck Tigrayan forces. Unidentified gunmen 25 June killed three NGO Doctors Without Borders staff in central Tigray. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 4 June warned famine was imminent in Tigray and “hundreds of thousands” could die; 15 June said over 350,000 are already experiencing famine conditions and accused Eritrean forces of using starvation as weapon of war. African Union (AU) mid-June launched inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Tigray; govt 17 June urged AU to “immediately cease” inquiry, saying it had not agreed to it. Parliamentary and regional elections held 21 June, results expected 1 July; opposition accused local officials and militias of blocking opposition observers in Amhara and Southern Nations regional states; AU observer mission 23 June however said poll was “peaceful and credible”. Ahead of elections, govt 10 June postponed vote in Harari and Somali regional states to Sept, citing logistical issues; vote also not held in Tigray, parts of Oromia and most of Benishangul-Gumuz. Seven opposition parties 12-13 June alleged irregularities in electoral process. Meanwhile in Oromia, police 1-4 June reportedly killed 95 suspected Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents in Guji and Borana Zones. Opposition party Oromo Liberation Front 11 June alleged Eritrean troops had deployed in Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz and called for their withdrawal. In disputed al-Fashaga area at border with Sudan, Ethiopian militia 5 June allegedly killed two Sudanese farmers; govt 8 June reportedly sent reinforcement to area, and Sudan 10 June mobilised additional troops.
Authorities faced further international pressure to end war in Tigray and new accusations of human rights violations in centre, and slightly postponed general elections to 21 June. Amid continued fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, U.S. State Dept 23 May imposed restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia over alleged human rights abuses, and visa limitations for current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials accused of undermining efforts to stem violence; Addis Ababa next day denounced “attempt by U.S. to meddle in its internal affairs” and thousands of pro-govt protesters 30 May rallied against sanctions in capital. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 25 May warned of “serious risk of famine” in Tigray, said humanitarian access had deteriorated since March with aid operations being “attacked, obstructed or delayed”. Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers overnight 24-25 May reportedly beat up and detained over 500 IDPs in four camps in Tigray’s Shire town, 27 May reportedly released most of them following international pressure. Authorities 6 May designated former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgent group as terrorist organisations. In Oromia regional state in centre, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 6 May voiced “serious concern” over arbitrary detentions across region, accused authorities of committing “grave violations of human rights”. News magazine Addis Standard 12 May accused local security forces of having recently extrajudicially executed suspected OLA member in Dembi Dollo town. Suspected OLA insurgents 22 May reportedly killed seven in West Guji Zone. Electoral commission 20 May postponed already delayed general elections, due 5 June, to 21 June, citing logistical issues. EU 3 May said it had cancelled deployment of its electoral observation mission, citing disagreements with govt over mission’s independence. Meanwhile, Ethiopian militiamen mid-May reportedly clashed with Sudanese forces in Eastern Gallabat area of disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, where latter reportedly seized five settlements controlled by Ethiopia since 1995. Tensions ran high between Ethiopia,Sudan and Egypt amid reports Addis Ababa had started second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
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).
Govt faced mounting international pressure to address serious crimes in Tigray regional state; violence erupted in centre and clashes with Sudan continued in disputed area. Amid ongoing fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 4 March said multiple conflict parties had committed grave violations that could amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Tigray since Nov 2020. PM Abiy 9 March said govt had taken “concrete steps to address alleged human rights abuses”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken next day denounced “acts of ethnic cleansing” in Tigray, which govt 13 March “vehemently” denied. Abiy 23 March admitted for first time that Eritrea had deployed troops in Tigray since conflict broke out; 26 March said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces. Govt-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and UN human rights office 25 March said they would jointly investigate alleged abuses by all parties. In Oromia region in centre, suspected armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents 6-9 March reportedly killed at least 42 ethnic Amhara civilians in Horo Guduru Welega area and 30 March reportedly killed another 30 civilians in West Welega area; OLA later denied responsibility. Opposition party Oromo Liberation Front 8 March said it would not participate in 5 June general elections, citing continued harassment and detention of its members by federal and Oromia regional state authorities. Army 1-2 March reportedly clashed with Sudanese forces near Barkhat settlement, last area still under Ethiopia’s control in disputed Al-Fashqa border zone; death toll unknown. Sudan 17 March demanded all Ethiopian forces withdraw from “Sudanese territory”, tied negotiations over land dispute to Addis Ababa’s recognition of Sudan’s sovereignty over it. UN humanitarian office 22 March said Eritrean forces had been deployed alongside Ethiopian troops and ethnic Amhara militias near Barkhat. Govt remained at loggerheads with Sudan and Egypt over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river (see Nile Waters).
Deadly clashes in disputed border areas with Sudan continued, and fighting persisted in Tigray regional state amid serious humanitarian crisis. As number of troops grew on both sides, Ethiopian forces along with local militias and Sudanese army throughout month clashed in Al-Fashqa and nearby Al-Qureisha border regions, killing several Sudanese security personnel and civilians, and leaving unknown number of Ethiopian forces dead. Khartoum 14 Feb accused Ethiopian forces of entering Sudan, condemned “aggression” and “unacceptable escalation”. Mauritanian media 17 Feb reported AU had tasked AU Special Envoy to Sudan Mohamed el Hacen Lebatt with mediating border dispute. In Tigray regional state in north, fighting continued between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces. EU 8 Feb called for withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, said they were “fuelling the conflict” and “exacerbating ethnic violence”; Eritrea next day rejected accusation(see Eritrea). U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 27 Feb called for “immediate withdrawal” of Eritrean and Amhara regional forces from Tigray and cessation of hostilities. NGO Human Rights Watch 11 Feb accused Ethiopian federal forces of having carried out “apparently indiscriminate shelling of urban areas” in Tigray in Nov. Security forces mid-Feb violently suppressed anti-govt protests in regional capital Mekelle and other towns, death toll unclear. UN 4 Feb said humanitarian situation in Tigray “extremely alarming” and “continues to deteriorate rapidly”, 19 Feb said Tigray faced “very critical malnutrition situation”. In Oromia region in centre, demonstrators early to mid-Feb took to streets, demanding release of prominent Oromo politicians–detained since June–after they launched hunger strike late Jan; security forces early Jan reportedly shot and killed protester in Borana zone. Amid accusations that United Arab Emirates (UAE) contributed to Ethiopia’s drone campaign in Tigray, authorities 3 Feb said they had arrested 15 individuals for allegedly planning to attack UAE embassy in Ethiopia. Amid stalled AU-led negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River, Egypt 24 Feb endorsed Sudan’s proposal for quadripartite mediation by AU, EU, U.S. and UN.
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.
Violence erupted in disputed border area with Sudan, deadly fighting continued in Tigray region and intercommunal clashes killed hundreds in Benishangul-Gumuz region. Sudanese military early Dec reclaimed territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area on border between Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state. Ethiopian gunmen 15 Dec killed at least four Sudanese troops in Al-Fashqa. Border demarcation talks between Sudan and Ethiopia 22-23 Dec failed to yield agreement. In following days, Sudan allegedly made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Quraisha border regions, 31 Dec said its forces had taken control over all border territory it accuses Ethiopia of encroaching upon. Ethiopia 29 Dec warned Sudan of counter-offensive if it “does not stop expanding into Ethiopian territories”. Despite PM Abiy declaring victory in Nov, fighting continued between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces. Tigray President and former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael 4 Dec again accused neighbouring Eritrea of supporting federal govt’s military offensive in Tigray (see Eritrea). UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 9 Dec expressed concern over “ethnic profiling” and “hate speech” against ethnic Tigrayans in rest of country. Tigray’s transitional govt – established by federal parliament’s upper house in Nov – took office 13 Dec. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, suspected members of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 8 Dec killed at least ten ethnic Amhara civilians in Metekel zone; attack by suspected ethnic Gumuz gunmen 23 Dec killed at least 207 mostly Amhara and Shinasha civilians and displaced more than 40,000 in Metekel. In Oromia region in centre, suspected OLA combatants mid-Dec killed at least 19 mostly ethnic Amhara civilians in Horo Guduru Wellega and West Wellega zones; local authorities 16 Dec claimed security operations had killed some 400 OLA combatants in recent weeks. Clashes in border area between Afar and Somali regions late Dec reportedly left several dozen dead. Electoral board 25 Dec scheduled legislative and regional elections for 5 June 2021; said it would announce poll date for Tigray later on.
Violent conflict erupted in Tigray region, killing thousands and displacing many more; despite capture by federal forces of Tigray’s capital late month, regional leaders vowed to continue fighting. Following months of tensions between federal and Tigray’s govts, PM Abiy 4 Nov ordered military offensive against Tigray after alleged attack same day by regional forces on federal military in Tigray, which reportedly killed dozens. Federal troops, supported by Amhara regional forces, subsequently launched ground and air operations against Tigray forces; fighting reportedly killed thousands and prompted tens of thousands to flee to neighbouring Sudan. Both sides reportedly committed atrocities including 9-10 Nov massacre by Tigrayan militia of at least 600 civilians in Mai-Kadra town in West Tigray Zone. Tigray 13 Nov fired rockets at Bahir Dar and Gondar airports in neighbouring Amhara region; and 14 Nov and reportedly 27-28 Nov at Eritrea’s capital Asmara, after accusing neighbouring country of supporting federal forces’ offensive (see Eritrea). As federal forces advanced on Tigray’s capital Mekelle, Abiy 22 Nov issued 72-hour ultimatum demanding Tigray regional forces lay down arms; 26 Nov announced he had ordered assault on Mekelle after Tigrayan leadership refused to surrender; 28 Nov said federal forces had taken control of Mekelle and announced end of military operations in Tigray. Tigray President and ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael immediately said its forces would continue “to fight these invaders to the last”. Amid conflict, Abiy 8 Nov replaced army chief, head of intelligence and FM; Ethiopian human rights commission 30 Nov said it received complaints throughout month about ethnic profiling and harassment of ethnic Tigrayans, notably within civil service and federal army. In Oromia region in centre, suspected members of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 1 Nov reportedly killed tens of ethnic Amhara in Western Wollega zone; following attack, Oromia security forces launched operations reportedly killing over 150 OLA fighters. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, unidentified gunmen 14 Nov killed at least 34 civilians in Metekel Zone. In Southern Nations region in south, unidentified assailants mid-Nov reportedly killed dozens. Tripartite negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam remained stalled (see Nile Waters).
Feud between federal govt and Tigray region reached breaking point, threatening to spark violent escalation in Nov; intercommunal violence left dozens dead in several regions. After Tigray held regional elections in Sept in defiance of federal govt’s COVID-19-related postponement of polls, Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 5 Oct recalled its representatives from federal govt and parliament, considering their mandates had expired. Tensions further increased after federal parliament’s upper house 6-7 Oct directed federal govt to cut ties with Tigray’s leadership and approved redirection of federal funding away from Tigray’s executive. Peace Minister Muferiat Kamil 9 Oct called on both sides to engage in dialogue and de-escalate tensions; TPLF 24 Oct however said Addis Ababa “is driving the Tigray region away from the federation” and that withholding of funds, due 4 Nov, would be “tantamount to a declaration of war”. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, unidentified militia 6-7 Oct killed 14 civilians, including some ethnic Amhara, in Metekel zone; security forces reportedly killed 14 assailants. Also in Metekel, at least a dozen ethnic Amhara and Agew civilians 11 Oct were shot dead in unclear circumstances. In Southern Nations region in south, unidentified gunmen 18-21 Oct killed at least 31 civilians, reportedly all ethnic Amhara, prompting reported displacement of thousands of Amhara in Bench Sheko zone. In border area between Afar and Somali regions, clashes between ethnic Afar and Somalis late Oct left at least 27 dead. In Oromia region, regional police chief 1 Oct said more than 500 people had been arrested on suspicion of plotting violence during Oromo festival in late Sept-early Oct; security forces 11 Oct opened fire on protesters demanding release of political prisoners, leaving one dead in Bale zone; unidentified assailants mid-Oct killed two security personnel in East Wellega zone. Federal parliament’s upper house 6 Oct approved request by five zonal administrations and one district of Southern Nations region for referendum on creation of regional state. Tripartite meeting on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam took place 27 Oct (see Nile Waters).
Tigray held regional elections in defiance of federal govt, authorities continued to crack down on opposition, and intercommunal violence left over 100 dead in Benishangul-Gumuz region. In run-up to Tigray’s regional elections, Tigray govt 3 Sept said any move to disrupt polls, held despite federal govt’s decision to postpone elections due to COVID-19, would amount to “declaration of war”; federal parliament’s upper house 5 Sept declared elections unconstitutional and said it would not recognise outcome but PM Abiy 8 Sept ruled out military intervention or punitive budget cuts. Ruling-Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 9 Sept won 189 out of 190 seats in regional parliament. After health minister 18 Sept told federal parliament’s lower house that general elections could be held nationwide if precautions against COVID-19 are in place, lawmakers 22 Sept voted to hold polls in 2021. TPLF late Sept said federal govt’s stay in power beyond 5 Oct (constitutional term limit for both houses of parliament) would be “constitutionally illegal” and that Tigray would not comply with any federal laws enacted after that date. In wake of late June-early July violent unrest in Oromia region, federal and Oromia regional prosecutors throughout month filed criminal charges against several opposition leaders including Jawar Mohammed and Eskinder Nega for their alleged role in instigating violence. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, ethnic Gumuz militia early-to-mid Sept reportedly killed up to 140 people, mostly Amhara civilians, in several localities in Metekel zone; violence displaced more than 25,000. Also in Metekel, unidentified gunmen 25 Sept killed at least 15 civilians in Dangur district. In Somali region in east, police 3 Sept opened fire on demonstrators protesting against alleged police mistreatment of their community in Afdher zone, leaving at least nine dead and 39 injured. In Afar region in east, security forces 16 Sept shot and killed three youths in Abala town for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions. U.S. early Sept announced temporary suspension of some aid to Ethiopia citing recent completion of first phase of filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without agreement with Sudan and Egypt and “lack of progress” in tripartite talks (see Nile Waters).
Security forces violently suppressed protests in Oromia region and Southern Nations region, while tensions persisted between federal govt and Tigray region over Tigray’s planned elections. In Oromia region in centre, unrest sparked by June killing of popular Oromo musician continued. Demonstrations 17 Aug broke out against detention since late June of two prominent Oromo opposition leaders; security forces violently suppressed protests reportedly killing at least 40 people 17-24 Aug. Amid major cracks in Oromia’s ruling establishment, Oromia branch of ruling Prosperity Party 9 Aug suspended party membership of Defence Minister Lemma Megersa and two other senior officials; as part of cabinet shake-up, PM Abiy 18 Aug replaced Lemma as defence minister. In Southern Nations region, protests 9 Aug erupted in Wolayta zone’s capital Sodo following same day arrest of local officials and activists seeking regional statehood for Wolayta ethnic group; security forces 9-12 Aug killed at least 21 protesters in Sodo and other towns in Wolayta; Southern Nations branch of Prosperity Party 28 Aug replaced Wolayta zone administrator. Also in Southern Nations, clashes between ethnic Konso and Ale late Aug reportedly left at least a dozen dead. In Somali region in east, protests 17 Aug broke out in Degehabur city following police killing of youth previous week; police reportedly arrested “scores” of protesters. Political tensions persisted as Tigray region pressed ahead with preparations for regional elections scheduled for 9 Sept in defiance of federal govt’s COVID-19-related postponement of polls. Despite PM Abiy ruling out military intervention in July, Tigray in apparent show of force early Aug staged several military parades in regional capital Mekelle and other towns. Speaker of federal parliament’s upper house early Aug said govt will be forced to take “necessary and proportional measures” if Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front fails to halt electoral preparations. Tigray authorities reportedly detained throughout month at least 300 ethnic Amhara who refused to register for polls, and thousands of Amhara reportedly fled region. Talks continued between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Street violence early July left over 200 dead in capital Addis Ababa and Oromia region, while relations between federal govt and Tigray region reached critical point. Late June killing of popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa sparked wave of deadly protests in Addis Ababa and Oromia: heavy-handed suppression by security forces and Oromo youth targeting of non-Oromo ethnic minorities 30 June-2 July left at least 239 dead; amid protests, govt shut down internet, deployed military in Addis Ababa and arrested at least 5,000 including prominent opposition leaders Jawar Mohammed and Eskinder Nega. PM Abiy 3 July described Hundessa’s killing and subsequent violence as “coordinated attempts” to destabilise Ethiopia. Attorney general 10 July announced arrest of two suspects who reportedly confessed to killing Hundessa on orders of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) with goal of inciting ethnic tensions and overthrowing govt; OLA 15 July denied allegation. Relations between federal govt and Tigray region reached critical point after Tigray region in June vowed to organise regional elections in 2020 despite federal govt decision to postpone them due to COVID-19: in Addis Ababa, authorities 9 July arrested two senior officials of Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front on allegations of involvement in late June-early July unrest; amid reports of large-scale recruitment of security forces by Tigray authorities, Tigray President 20 July reportedly said “Tigray region will be a burial ground” for those attempting to obstruct election. Abiy 29 July said elections in Tigray were unconstitutional but ruled out military intervention. Amhara region’s president 23 July announced Amhara’s intention to regain lands “illegally taken” by neighbouring Tigray and said 85 insurgents entered Amhara from Tigray. In Southern Nations region in south, late July clashes between ethnic Konso and Ale reportedly killed at least thirteen and forced thousands to flee. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, gunmen 27 July killed at least fourteen ethnic Amhara. Abiy 21 July said Ethiopia had achieved its first-year target for filling reservoir of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River thanks to heavy rainy season (see Nile Waters).
Killing of popular ethnic Oromo singer sparked deadly unrest in capital Addis Ababa and Oromia region while tensions heightened between federal govt and Tigray region over electoral calendar. In Addis Ababa, unidentified gunmen 29 June shot and killed popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa; large-scale protests erupted next day in Addis Ababa and across Oromia region, clashes between security forces and protesters left at least 52 dead on both sides; amid unrest, authorities 30 June shut down internet and arrested Jawar Mohammed, prominent critic of PM Abiy and member of opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress. Senior official of Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party Keria Ibrahim 8 June resigned from her post as speaker of federal parliament’s upper house, citing opposition to postponement of Aug general elections due to COVID-19. Upper house 10 June voted to extend federal and regional parliaments’ terms – set to expire in Oct – until elections take place; despite term extension, Tigray regional parliament 12 June voted to go ahead with regional elections. Electoral board 24 June said Tigray has no legal right to hold elections. In Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region in south, regional parliament 18 June transferred power to new Sidama regional state following 2019 referendum for ethnic Sidama statehood. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, clashes between ethnic Amhara and Berta youth early June reportedly left at least four dead in Bambasi district. Fighting between police and local militias 4 June killed at least three in Asosa zone. In Oromia region in centre, armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 3 June shot and killed police officer in East Wellega zone; 48 suspected OLA members arrested in area over next few days. Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam resumed 9 June but broke down 17 June due to disagreements over drought mitigation, arbitration mechanism and legal status of final agreement; parties 26 June agreed African Union would facilitate another two weeks of talks (see Nile Waters).
Ethnic violence flared up in several regions and tensions erupted with Sudan following cross-border attack by militia. In Somali region in east, inter-clan clashes 1-3 May reportedly left at least two dozen dead in Erer and Afdheer zones. Ethnic Afar 11 May reportedly launched raid on ethnic Somalis in town of Madaane; initial attack and subsequent fighting left at least eight dead on both sides. In Amhara region in north, ethnic clashes 16 May reportedly killed eleven in Agew Awi zone; unidentified gunmen 31 May shot and killed two local officials in North Wollo zone. In Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ region in south, land dispute triggered clashes between ethnic Misqan and Mareqo leaving at least six dead in Gurage zone 18 May. In Oromia region in centre, fighting between armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army and police early May left at least a dozen police officers and unknown number of insurgents dead in Guji area; local sources accused security forces of killing around a dozen civilians in Kellem Wellega and West Wellega zones 19-26 May; authorities denied claims. In Tigray region in north, ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front 4 May said it may organise regional elections as planned in Aug despite postponement of general elections due to COVID-19; PM Abiy 7 May warned against “unconstitutional attempts to undertake illegal elections”. Also in Tigray, police 17 May shot man dead for reportedly violating COVID-19 restrictions in regional capital Mekelle. Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt took steps to revive negotiations over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river. All three countries 21 May agreed to resume tripartite negotiations between water ministers (see Nile Waters). Cross-border attack by militia allegedly supported by Ethiopian army 28 May left at least one Sudanese soldier dead in Sudan’s Al-Qadarif province; Sudan 30 May summoned Ethiopian envoy; Ethiopia next day called for joint investigation into incident.
Ethnic violence broke out in north west, armed groups continued to launch attacks against civilians in Oromia region and govt declared nationwide state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, armed group 3 April launched attack, reportedly ethnically motivated, on Gilgel Beles town leaving at least eight dead. In western Oromia, suspected members of armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 9 April killed three civilians in Genji town. After COVID-19 pandemic late March prompted electoral board to delay general elections planned for Aug, opposition parties Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) 2 April said postponement offers opportunity to address “mistakes that have been threatening to derail Ethiopia’s transition to democracy”. Political party Tigray People’s Liberation Front late April said elections should proceed as planned. In response to COVID-19, govt 8 April declared five-month nationwide state of emergency, including ban on gatherings of more than four people. COVID-19 restrictions sparked isolated incidents: in capital Addis Ababa, police mid-to-late April arrested some 50 individuals for violating state of emergency, including at least one opposition leader; four individuals mid-April reportedly beat to death man, who urged them to adhere to social distancing, in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region. Amid stalemate in negotiations with Egypt and Sudan on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile