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.
This week on The Horn, Alan speaks with Ethiopia scholar Christopher Clapham about Addis Ababa’s bid for its own seaport, including its controversial recent deal with Somaliland, as well as the many internal crises facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Govt struck deal with Somaliland to secure Red Sea access, ratcheting up regional tensions; violence in Amhara and Oromia persisted; and Tigray’s humanitarian crisis mounted.
Tensions with Somalia spiked over Ethiopia-Somaliland deal. Ethiopia and Somaliland 1 Jan signed memorandum of understanding that would allow Ethiopia to develop naval base along Somaliland’s coast; Hargeisa said deal includes recognition of Somaliland’s independence, though Addis Ababa’s commitment to this step appears tentative. Announcement fuelled regional tensions. Mogadishu, which views Somaliland as part of Somalia’s territory, 2 Jan called agreement an “act of aggression” and rallied regional allies (see Somalia). African Union Peace and Security Council 17 Jan held emergency session, agreed to dispatch envoy to mediate. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 18 Jan called extraordinary meeting, Ethiopia did not attend but in leaked letter dated 22 Jan requested IGAD summit to discuss issue. Despite backlash, ruling Prosperity Party 26 Jan pledged to press ahead with deal.Violence in Amhara region persisted. Military continued battling Amhara nationalist militias known as Fano. Notably, Fano militants 3 Jan entered North Shewa Zone’s administrative capital, Debre Berhan, assassinated head of zonal peace and security office before military next day ejected them. Fano 6 Jan attacked Gondar city, disrupting transport and business for two days. Ethiopian Air Force 12 Jan conducted drone strikes on Fano units near school in Merhabete Woreda (North Shewa Zone), killing two. State of emergency due to expire early Feb, even as military struggles to suppress rebellion.Oromia insurgency continued. Insurgency in Oromia region pitting govt forces against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) continued. Notably, security forces 12 Jan conducted drone strike in Horo Guduru Wollega Zone, killing four. OLA 28 Jan declared twenty-day ban on transport and business throughout region.Humanitarian situation in Tigray region deteriorated further. Tigray interim administration’s (IRA) emergency task force 10 Jan said about 4.5mn people are at risk of famine, wrought by war-related economic destruction, drought and inadequate relief efforts; IRA 29 Jan said region is on brink of humanitarian catastrophe not seen since “infamous” 1984-1985 famine. Meanwhile, internally displaced persons in regional capital Mekelle 24 Jan protested slow implementation of Pretoria peace agreement.
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...
The deal [with Tigrayan leaders] was a huge diplomatic and political victory for the [Ethiopian] federal government.
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...
This week on The Horn, Alan speaks with Michael Woldemariam, associate professor at the University of Maryland, about the new crisis engulfing Ethiopia’s Amhara region and escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
A rebellion in the Amhara region risks plunging Ethiopia into wider conflict. The federal government should seek talks with the militants as part of efforts to resolve the country’s interlocking crises. Outside powers should keep nudging Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to take this conciliatory tack.
The CrisisWatch Digest Ethiopia offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
A victim’s relative is among those accusing Meta in a Kenyan court of failing to adequately police incendiary speech on Facebook during Ethiopia’s civil war. Much greater effort from the company is warranted. But Meta’s task is hardly straightforward.
In this video series, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia William Davison explains the context surrounding the recent truce that put a stop to the fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region. He discusses the situation preceding the ceasefire, what it looks like, and the challenges it faces in its implementation.
Ethiopia’s federal government and leaders in the war-torn Tigray region signed a peace accord on 2 November, followed by an implementation deal ten days later. After making these steps toward ending the conflict, all parties must act responsibly to build a solid foundation for peace.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Murithi Mutiga, Crisis Group’s Africa director, about last week’s cessation of hostilities between the Ethiopian government and leaders from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, and whether it can end what has been a horrific war.
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