Africa Report: Another Ethiopian crisis could overtake the Tigray conflict
[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]
To receive the Africa Dossier by email, please subscribe here.
Takeaway key: The ceasefire agreement between the Ethiopian government and rebel forces in Tigray indicates that the Ethiopian government faces an even more pressing threat elsewhere. Multi-level conflict in Oromia – which surrounds the capital and is the country’s largest and most populous regional state – is deepening Ethiopia’s humanitarian crisis and could lead to its fragmentation or a change in national leadership.
Figure 1. The Salafist-Jihadist movement in Africa: April 2022
Source: Authors and Kathryn Tyson.
A recently declared humanitarian truce has allowed limited aid to enter Tigray in northern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government, in partnership with local armed groups and the Eritrean military, has severely restricted humanitarian access in Tigray since the start of the current conflict in November 2020. The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that half of Tigray’s civilians face acute starvation and starvation conditions. The Ethiopian government has announced “indefinite humanitarian aid truceon March 24 to allow the delivery of aid to Tigray. Initially pro-government militias refuse switch to humanitarian convoys in the first weeks of the ceasefire, but aid convoys has begun arriving At the beginning of April.
The Ethiopian government likely declared a truce in an effort to freeze the Tigray conflict so it could devote resources to another pressing priority. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has previously declared a cease fire, in June 2021, to thwart the advance of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) outside Tigray. The current ceasefire has largely held despite some slight struggle between ethnic militias and TPLF forces in the border regions of Tigray in late March. Reports of troop mobilizations just south of Tigray in late March indicate that federal forces could be preparing for a future offensive. A TPLF Withdrawal from the neighboring Afar region on April 14 could be a concession to prevent another offensive, but it could also signal a willingness to negotiate.
The Tigray conflict has contributed to a more generalized destabilization of Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a ethnic federalist political system that administers the geographical areas of the country according to the local ethnic majority, and political parties are formed according to ethnic and regional criteria. The Tigray war and the government’s response havenormalized political violenceand encouraged ethnically aligned armed groups to mobilize or re-mobilize to address perceived injustices. Regional ethnic militias took advantage of the frustrations among Oromo civilians and other aggrieved populations to take up arms. The Oromo to understand 36% of the 120 million Ethiopians, but historically lack access to state power and resources.
Figure 2. Regions of Ethiopia
An Oromo uprising developed alongside the Tigray War. Oromo insurgent groups appear in many forms throughout Ethiopian history. The Oromo fought against the domination of the Amhara ethnic group during the Ethiopian war. imperial period. More recently, young Oromo protesters have played a key role in eviction The TPLF-led Ethiopian coalition in 2018, helping pave the way for Prime Minister Ahmed to take power. Ahmed’s actions included reaching a peace deal with the previously banned political party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). His Prosperity Party The coalition has come to rely on a close relationship with mainstream Amhara political parties, a relationship that has intensified as Ahmed’s government has partnered with Amharian militias in the conflict with the TPLF since 2020. These developments have *dissolved once hopeful feelings among Oromo activists.
The separatist Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) capitalized on Oromo community grievances and disillusionment to reignite an insurgency. The OLA was the armed wing of the OLF but *Split in 2018, opposing the peace deal with Ahmed’s government. Oromo frustrations swelled in June 2020 when millions protested the murder of a popular Oromo singer and faced harsh repression,*emboldening Oromo militant groups to step up attacks on government institutions and ethnic minorities. The Tigray war created another opportunity for the OLA, which ally with the TPLF alongside eight smaller rebel groups in May 2021. Politics*factions within the national and regional governments of Oromia are *Split on how to to respond at OLA.
The OLA insurgency fuels and is fueled by the mobilization of militias in the neighboring Amhara region. Amharian militias, some of which are affiliated with the regional government, have taken up arms alongside Ethiopian federal forces to fight the TPLF. One such group is the Fano, a loosely organized Amhara nationalist*militia. The Fano joined the federal government against the TPLF, in particular by to reject the TPLF summer 2021 offensive. TPLF signaled atrocities against Amharian civilians increased Fano recruitment and mobilization. Amharian militias have also been accused of reprisals attacks against Tigrayan civilians. The Amhara mobilization is not limited to the border areas of Tigray. Tensions also increased between Oromia and Amhara regional governments on *clashes between pro-government militias and regional forces’ *incursion in Oromia-administered lands in April 2022.
Amharan militias, particularly the Fano, are an increasingly powerful force with *grievances of their own. Fano and the OLA are engaged in a cycle of retaliatory violence in the Amhara-Oromia border area. *Targeted executions have extended *further away in Oromia or Amhara Territory since August 2021. The Fano now claim to be defending Amharian civilians in central Ethiopia from OLA aggression. Amharian militias committed *atrocities against Oromo civilians and other ethnic minorities whom they accuse of complicity with the OLA. Fano’s mobilization also challenges the federal government, which has sought to regain control of the Amharian militias. Protests against arrests of Fano members escalated into *clashes between Federal forces and Fano forces in Amhara in March 2022.
The violence in Oromia and neighboring areas is aggravating the already serious humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. Civilian casualties in Oromia increased by a factor of 17 in 2022 compared to 2018-2021. The militias have committed hundreds of *kidnappings, raids*assassinationsand executions against each other and against civilians in 2022. The OLA, other militias and civilians using homemade weapons have committed murders in neighboring regions such as Sidama or Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). Fano and allied militias retaliate against Oromo civilians and commit atrocities along disputed border areas and Oromo communities deeper in the Amhara region. Regional government forces and the police also contribute to ethnic violence through extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detentions.
Fighting in central Ethiopia is disrupting access to government services and humanitarian aid, exacerbating displacement and healthcare shortages during a historic drought. Oromia and neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz region*reported more than 1.5 million IDPs combined in 2022, and the capital*addis ababa receives more than 1,000 refugees from affected areas daily. Base rates *foodstuffs increased in 2022 as conflictdryness caused by *record low rainfalland global supply chain problems lead to severe food insecurity. A recent *meningitis the epidemic in conflict-affected regions highlights the obstacles to *basic service.
The Ethiopian government is reallocating resources to fight the OLA insurgency. The OLA now *holds eight of the 21 zones of the Oromia region, including the territory within 60 miles of the capital Addis Ababa, and he led attacks and assassinations in the 21 zones in 2022. The Ethiopian army announcement a major offensive against the OLA in southern Oromia, near the Kenyan border, on April 4. The Ethiopian army and regional government forces have launched operations in five more areas of Oromia in April 2022 in an attempt to encircle the OLA and prevent it from establishing safe havens in neighboring countries. The Ethiopian government also struck *security pacts with neighboring Kenya and South Sudan at *to prevent OLA fighters to cross their borders. The three states have limited capacity to seal the *porous borders though.
Figure 3. Main conflict-affected areas in Ethiopia: April 2022
The TPLF and OLA insurgencies are only the most recent and resounding examples of the deterioration of the Ethiopian state. The Somali region in eastern Ethiopia also faces a *Politics and *Security crisis. Riots and *intercommunity violence peaked in the South West region and the SNNPR in the spring of 2022, and transnational criminal organizations proliferated in the *Gambela Region. The overflows of the conflict and the problems of internal security as well Plague the Benishangul-Gumuz region, where the recent completion – and regional controversial—The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is located.
The security situation is disrupting the Ethiopian economy. Major infrastructure projects, including one *Turkish Railway investments, have stagnated for security reasons. A regional*transit initiative on break after OLA capture sections of a transnational highway in November 2021 and again in February 2022. Addis Ababa overtook Dakar, Senegal, while Very expensive city in Africa in 2022, while food prices skyrockets at national scale. The conflict also *injured the infrastructure needed to distribute the benefits of GERD, which aims to mitigate the high price of *home energy Across the country.
The current level of pressure on the Ethiopian system is most likely unsustainable and will lead to major changes in national governance, although it is not yet clear whether fragmentation, a change in leadership or another dramatic outcome is most likely. . A return to the pre-2020 status quo is unlikely as the Ethiopian federal government most likely lacks the capacity to defeat multiple insurgencies militarily at once. This reality may push the government of Ahmed to negotiate, and in fact it *announcement a national dialogue at the end of 2021. This dialogue excludes however, the TPLF and OLA make this framework unlikely to end current conflicts.