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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
This week on The Horn, Alan speaks with Michael Woldemariam, professor at the University of Maryland, about the tumultuous relations between Eritrea and Tigray and how the historical grievances between both sides have shaped the recent conflict in northern Ethiopia.
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