Ahmed Soliman

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Sudanese men at Port Sudan on 31 December 2018. Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images.

Currently much of the world’s attention is focused on the UN’s struggle to achieve a ceasefire and avert  humanitarian catastrophe in Palestine. At the same time, another devastating war rages in Sudan, with similarly violent consequences for millions of people and an inability to reach a ceasefire.

Sudan is now the country with the largest number of displaced people in the world – more than 11 million people. Since April alone, 5.4 million people have been internally displaced and 1.3 million have fled to neighbouring countries including Chad, Egypt, and South Sudan. While over half the population – 25 million people (including 13 million children) – urgently need humanitarian assistance.…  Seguir leyendo »

The supply chain of a seemingly innocuous cash crop – sesame – has intersected with transnational conflict dynamics, exacerbating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan.

Late 2020 saw the beginning of the devastating war in Tigray and the occupation of a disputed region on the Ethiopia–Sudan border – Al Fashaga – by the Sudanese army. These shocks disrupted settled patterns of land ownership and control in both Ethiopia’s volatile north and Sudan’s borderlands, historically the heart of the sesame and oilseed production that is economically vital to both countries.

These seemingly harmless cash crops are now embedded in local, subnational and national political contestations in both countries. Sesame value chains are being reshaped, with power and profits being used to entrench the grip of political and armed actors who are reinforcing new patterns of land control and driving informal and illicit trade – impacting the coping mechanisms of local communities and threatening to fuel further conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Memorial service for the victims of the Tigray conflict organized by the city administration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images.

The conflict between the federal government and the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) has spread beyond Tigray, intensified old animosities between Tigray and Amhara, and drawn in armed groups from Oromia, Benishangul, and Afar, deepening identity-based contestations across Ethiopia.

These days fighting is moving ever closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, threatening a catastrophic escalation. Ethiopia’s cabinet declared a nationwide state of emergency and there are widespread reports of Tigrayan civilians being arrested without reasonable grounds. Governments around the world, from the US to Turkey, are advising their citizens to leave the country immediately.

Meanwhile, northern Ethiopia is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis, with more than eight million people in urgent need of assistance.…  Seguir leyendo »

Spraying next to a stencil painting of Sudan's top army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan with a writing in Arabic that reads 'leave' during a protest in Khartoum against the 2021 military coup. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

The head of Sudan’s armed forces Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan claims the military coup of 25 October was to protect the transition to democracy because political infighting was stalling progress on establishing crucial institutions. But despite a clear determination to make the coup stick, the military is clearly under pressure and may have overestimated its chances of success.

The coup has been accompanied by arrests of politicians, activists, and leaders of local resistance committees, including some of Sudan’s most effective advocates for democratic transformation. Additionally, administrators appointed since the revolution have been dismissed while members of the old regime and Bashir’s feared intelligence service have reappeared.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imperfect elections do not fortify Ethiopia’s transition

Ethiopia’s current government is hoping gaining a new electoral mandate will give them the authority needed to pursue their reform agenda, which includes drafting a new constitution and potentially redrawing regional state borders.

This election represents the first true test for the ruling Prosperity Party (PP), led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, since it was formed in 2019 from the ashes of Ethiopia’s formerly dominant political coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Originally scheduled for August 2020, the elections have been postponed twice – firstly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then recently due to logistical challenges and rising insecurity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sudan's ousted president Omar al-Bashir (centre) during his trial along with others over the 1989 military coup that brought them to power, at a courthouse in Khartoum. Photo by Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The demand for justice was a major driver of the December 2018 Sudanese revolution that saw former President Omar al-Bashir removed after almost three decades in power, and ensuring accountability is now one of the biggest challenges facing the transitional government which replaced him.

Atrocities committed under the Bashir regime are already well documented, such as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile.

The Darfur situation was referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the UN Security Council back in 2005, and arrest warrants were issued against Bashir and four others.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Blue Nile river passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) near Guba in Ethiopia. Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images.

Ongoing talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan attempting to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the dispute over the Blue Nile Basin offer a unique opportunity for trans-boundary cooperation and have huge significance for a region dealing with multiple complex issues.

With trust clearly at a premium, the continuation of talks demonstrates good faith, but there is an urgent need to strengthen negotiations through all available diplomatic channels. The African Union (AU) is well-placed to continue mediating, but sustained high-level engagement is also needed from regional and international partners such as the EU and US, as well as multilateral support in terms of both financial and technical resources.…  Seguir leyendo »

Burned buildings which were set on fire during the violence after the assassination of Oromo's pop singer Hachalu Hundessa are seen in Shashamene, Ethiopia on 12 July 2020. Photo: Getty Images.

Violent unrest in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region has led to the loss of over 177 lives, with the detention of thousands and widespread destruction to property. The rise of identity-based conflict and related political tension is the most severe test of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leadership since he came to power two years ago.

Protests erupted after the assassination on the 29th of June of Hachalu Hundessa, a prominent Oromo singer and activist. They spiralled into widespread rioting, looting and arson which devastated some towns. Targeted attacks and killings, particularly against ethnic minorities in Oromia, have damaged communities’ social fabric and heightened regional tensions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sudanese protesters open their smartphones lights as they gather for a "million-strong" march outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on April 25, 2019. Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images.

Many Sudanese believe that the uprising is moving in the right direction and will ultimately deliver a transition to a legitimate civilian government. However, this outcome remains finely balanced and there are valid concerns about the intentions of the new transitional military council and a possible return to dictatorship.

The military council maintains the need for a transitional period of up to two years before handing over power to civilians. But the protests have continued, despite the military’s attempts at gentle dispersion, and there are worries about how much patience the armed forces will continue to show.

There is significant potential for increased violence, particularly if demands for a rapid transition towards an inclusive, transitional civilian government are not met.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in January. Photo: Getty Images.

It has been a whirlwind year for Ethiopia since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister. He has initiated a raft of reforms to overhaul Ethiopia’s authoritarian government structure, significantly improved relations with neighbours and received widespread international acclaim, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. But the same period has seen a sharp increase in lawlessness, intensified domestic conflict, heightened identity-based violence and huge internal displacement.

The fervour of ‘Abiymania’ has waned in recent months, as the reality of the monumental tests that lie ahead hit home. Having created massive expectations among competing constituencies, there are growing fears that Abiy’s reforms might end up achieving neither good governance nor stability.…  Seguir leyendo »

New prime minister Abiy Ahmed attends a rally in Ambo, Ethiopia. Photo by Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images

After a turbulent three years for Ethiopia, including large-scale anti-government protests, new prime minister Dr Abiy Ahmed is likely to enjoy a honeymoon period - and seems early on to have persuaded many he can bring stability, unity and reform to the country.

Abiy - an Oromo leader in his early 40s with a mixed ethnic and religious background - is now the youngest leader of any African country, and heads up one of the four ethnically-based constituent parties, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO).

He faces significant long-term obstacles that will need to be confronted, and the pace of change will create tensions and significant resistance, especially considering Dr Abiy’s rise was partially a direct response to the popular protests which have gripped Ethiopia since 2014, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which account for almost 60 per cent of the population.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Sudan President Salva Kiir in Juba in October. Photo: Getty Images.

South Sudan faces an existential crisis. More than four million people – between a third and half of the population – are displaced from their homes. Nearly eight million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.  The economy is in tatters. After almost four years of civil war, conflict has devolved into fighting across multiple fronts.

A new regional peace effort

In an attempt to address the ongoing crisis, the Horn of Africa’s regional organization, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), initiated the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in June. The forum is intended to revive an effectively defunct 2015 peace accord, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), which collapsed following fighting in Juba in July 2016 between government forces and the armed opposition loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar.…  Seguir leyendo »

The foreign ministers of Somalia and Qatar hold a joint press conference on 25 May. Photo: Getty Images.

Regional stand-off risks polarizing partners in the Horn

The Horn of Africa and the Gulf share close geographical, historical, cultural and political links. Increasing layers of engagement and the formalization of security, governance, trade and development ties between the two regions, particularly visible in the last two years since the war in Yemen began, mean that the longer the Gulf dispute goes on, the greater the ramifications will be for countries in the Horn of Africa.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have formed a strong alliance over issues of mutual importance. While Riyadh’s primary concern is opposing Iranian influence in the region, most visible through the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen, Abu Dhabi has worked to counteract political Islam, which it believes threatens security in the Gulf and for its Middle East allies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of new president Mohamed Abdullahi celebrate in Mogadishu. Photo: Getty Images.

On 8 February, widespread street celebrations took place in Somalia, following the election of its 9th president: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed 'Farmajo'.

A popular former prime minister and dual Somali-US national, his victory has raised hopes that the country remains on track in its gradual emergence from a 30-year civil war—and protracted fight against the insurgency of Islamist militants al Shabaab. Though serious flaws with Somalia’s political system remain, the election was the most extensive effort at a democratic exercise in the country for many decades. Successive peaceful transfers of power hint at emerging layers of democracy not always visible elsewhere on the continent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A ballot box in Baidoa. Somalia. Photo by Getty Images.

The Somali presidential elections have been postponed four times since 10 September, reflective of an imperfect process and the country’s many problems. Despite the resolution of contests for over 90 per cent of seats in the lower house, and the selection of a majority of the 54 members of the newly constituted upper house, repeated interruptions and the need to re-contest some seats mean that the selection of the next president and government will be pushed into 2017.

But progress to date also highlights the success of reforms and an evolution of the political transition. Despite its flaws, Somalia has a more competitive electoral process and political landscape than many countries in the Horn of Africa or elsewhere on the continent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Djiboutian electoral agent searches for a voter card at a polling station on 22 March 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

Tight political choreography ensured that Djibouti’s presidential polls on 8 April resulted in the re-election of Ismael Omar Guelleh for his fourth five-year term. The vote highlighted both the enhanced strategic importance of the tiny state and the choices facing its ruling elite. Revenues from foreign military bases and transit trade are rising fast; and Guelleh’s legitimacy in the eyes of key overseas allies and neighbouring Ethiopia appears assured.

What is less certain is whether the president, now 68, has either the will or capacity to transform his considerable diplomatic and economic capital into tangible improvements in welfare, education and employment for the many Djiboutians facing acute poverty.…  Seguir leyendo »