More than a year has passed since I first uncovered evidence of war crimes in the continuing conflict in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Civilians have endured atrocities including sexual violence, ethnic cleansing, systematic massacres, unspeakable torture and starvation. The horror stories are endless. Yet Ethiopia’s government denies them.

All sides of the conflict have committed war crimes. A mound of evidence gathered by investigative journalists and rights groups suggests that Ethiopian government troops, allied soldiers from Eritrea and local Amhara forces have committed terrible atrocities against ethnic Tigrayans. These acts could potentially amount to genocide, as defined in international law.…  Seguir leyendo »

The wall of victims at the Red Terror Martyrs' Memorial Museum in Addis-Ababa. © Thijs Bouwknegt

“I had a lot of pain last night”, Eshetu Alemu coughed, “but I will try to be present during the entire day”. The 68-year-old Ethiopian-Dutchman has terminal lung cancer and he attended his trial via video link from prison. A convicted war criminal, he wants his entire 2017 life sentence– for 75 murders, 6 cases of torture and 320 arbitrary detentions in cruel and degrading circumstances between February and December 1978 in the cities of Debre Markos and Metekel – quashed. He “regrets” that all these things happened. But he maintains he was never at any crime scene.

On 19 April, Alemu heard his Dutch lawyer plead his case.…  Seguir leyendo »

Watch List 2022. Africa. Ethiopia: Giving Talks a Chance

Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries facing deadly conflict, humanitarian emergency or other crises in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could save lives and enhance prospects for stability.

Ethiopia: Giving Talks a Chance

Ethiopia enters 2022 at an impasse in its civil war that opens a narrow window for peace. The conflict between the federal authorities and Tigray regional government has devastated the country’s north, leaving tens of thousands dead. In November 2020, political discord led to armed confrontation, with federal units, allied forces from Amhara region, which neighbours Tigray, and Eritrean troops moving into Tigray.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women wait during a food distribution organized by the Amhara government near the village of Baker, 50 km southeast of Humera, in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, on July 11, 2021. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

On 19 December, the leader of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region announced that Tigray’s forces would pull back to their home region, marking yet another significant turnabout in Ethiopia’s brutal thirteen-month civil war. Tigray’s leadership said they had taken the decision to open space for negotiations. Addis Ababa, meanwhile, asserted that its counter-offensives had succeeded in pushing Tigray’s forces back. The latest shifts – and particularly the Tigray leader’s call for talks – afford a rare chance for a cessation of hostilities that all parties must seize. All should stop shooting immediately. In a welcome move, the federal government responded on 22 December by saying it will not push further into Tigray to try to completely defeat the resistance.…  Seguir leyendo »

A boy sits on the barrel of a military tank destroyed during fighting between the Ethiopia's National Defense Force and the Tigray People's Liberation Front in Ethiopia's Amhara region on Dec. 7. (Reuters)

Ethiopia’s year-long civil war between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is affecting civilians across the country. Members of the Qemant community, a minority ethnic group in the Amhara region, have experienced violence, arbitrary arrests and destruction at the hands of government security forces and militia.

Over 2,000 Qemant refugees have fled into Sudan since July, according to U.N. reports, and thousands more are believed to be displaced. In October, Al Jazeera documented the destruction of hundreds of buildings in Qemant communities along the Shinfa River, near the Sudanese border.

In the town of Aykel, attacks by Amhara regional security forces and Fano militia since April resulted in the deaths and displacement of many Qemant civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »

A police officer talks to new volunteers who registered to conduct night patrols during the ceremony for new military recruits who are joining the Ethiopian National Defence Force in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 24, 2021. Amanuel Sileshi / AFP

Ethiopia’s civil war has taken another turn. After months on the back foot, federal troops and allied militias launched a counteroffensive in late November, retaking several towns in Amhara and Afar regions. Tigray forces, which had come within a few hundred kilometres of the capital, halted their advance and withdrew north. Tigray leaders say the setback is temporary. For his part, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, having staked so much on the Tigray resistance’s defeat, is also committed to keep fighting. But given the popular support and mobilisation on both sides, neither is likely to deliver a mortal blow to the other.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force transport a 100mm antiaircraft gun in Shewa Robit on Dec. 5. (Amanuel Sileshi/AFP)

The war in Ethiopia has entered a crucial but uncertain stage. The Tigray Defense Force took control of the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha in early November, but it’s unclear whether it will be able to advance on Addis Ababa or even hold onto these towns after a late November counteroffensive by government forces.

Regional and international diplomats continue to try to negotiate a cease-fire to prevent further violence. My research suggests one big lesson from past mediation efforts will probably be key: Successful mediators use smart pressure.

What does this mean, exactly? Smart pressure in cease-fire negotiations first entails pushing for a comprehensive and precise cease-fire agreement rather than getting the parties to just sign a document.…  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 »

Ethiopia Is Spiraling, and There’s One Man’s Mistake Behind It

Thousands of people killed, more than two million internally displaced and nearly a million facing famine. The conflict in Ethiopia, begun a year ago when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military assault on the Tigray region, is spiraling out of control.

The crisis has been building since June, when Tigrayan fighters took back control of much of the Tigray region and, emboldened, crossed into neighboring regions. After an uneasy hiatus, government forces last month tried to push them back. But the Tigrayan fighters repulsed the offensive and, in a stunning reversal of fortune, captured strategically important towns on the way to the capital, Addis Ababa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking the oath during his incumbent ceremony at the parliament building in Addis Ababa on Oct. 4. (Tiksa Negeri/REUTERS)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s forces have not lost the war that he launched one year ago against the rebellious ruling party of the country’s northern Tigray region, though the conflict appears to be spiraling out of control as militias and separatist groups mobilize and join forces against the government.

But even if fighters loyal to Abiy manage to pull off a military victory against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Abiy has forever lost the image of savior and peacemaker. The young leader who was once compared to Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama is now mentioned in the same breath as war criminals such as deposed Sudanese strongman Omar Hassan al-Bashir.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elena plays checkers using bottle tops with Hailemariam in May at a reception and day center for displaced Tigrayans in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Thousands of Eritrean refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the Tigray conflict. (Ben Curtis/AP)

For the past year, Ethiopian federal troops have been fighting against troops loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced over 2 million. Last month, armed conflict escalated in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions. And this week, Ethiopia’s government called for citizens in Addis Ababa to prepare to defend the capital as rebel groups reportedly seized towns along the road to Addis Ababa.

A month ago, the Ethiopian government alleged that United Nations officials had meddled in the country’s affairs and expelled seven of them. This move may complicate civilians’ access to humanitarian assistance, as the threat of famine looms.…  Seguir leyendo »

The sudden fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has rightly drawn much of the world's ire and attention. Fears of women's rights and civil liberties being swept aside by Islamic extremism, along with trepidation about the country's threat to regional stability, have all justly triggered global concern.

And yet, much to our distress, for nearly a year the world has paid comparatively little attention to another brutal and escalating conflict; the catastrophic violence in Ethiopia that is affecting the lives of millions and imperiling stability in the Horn of Africa.

The fighting, which first erupted in November 2020, is the result of a dispute between the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and fighters in the country's mountainous northern region of Tigray.…  Seguir leyendo »

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region just took an unexpected turn. Seemingly isolated in mountainous reaches of central Tigray only weeks ago, Tigrayan rebels last week overran regional capital Mekelle and other cities and towns they had left last November when federal troops moved in. They were met by dancing and cheering crowds. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who had promised a short clash in Tigray and declared victory late last year, pulled federal forces back after a run of battlefield defeats. It’s a stunning turnabout in a brutal war.

So, is the fighting over? Sadly, probably not. If Abiy and Tigrayan leaders can somehow reach agreement on a ceasefire and getting urgently needed aid into Tigray, that would calm things down.…  Seguir leyendo »

He Promised Peace. Then He Tore His Country Apart

Ahead of Ethiopia’s general election on Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been laying out his grand ambitions for the country. He wants it to be “comfortable for all Ethiopians,” he recently told a TV interviewer, “where every Ethiopian moves around relaxed, works and prospers.” The country, he said, should be one whose “sovereignty is respected and feared, and whose territorial integrity is preserved.”

He’s going about it in a horrifying way. For eight months, Mr. Abiy’s government has been waging brutal war on one of its regions, Tigray, killing thousands of people, displacing over two million and creating a disastrous famine.…  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 »

In 2018, after a two-year conflict, two historically warring nations — Ethiopia and Eritrea — at last signed a peace agreement. The following year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who brokered the peace, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the two years since, Abiy joins the ranks of controversial Peace Prize recipients and nominees, as his record now includes overseeing what may amount to war crimes. Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, was awarded the prize in 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights"; shortly thereafter, her government was accused of genocide against the Rohingya minority.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the Blue Nile near Dejen, Ethiopia, in September 2020. (Yonas Tadesse/FTWP)

Egypt and Ethiopia are inching, slowly but surely, toward conflict.

Negotiations over the construction and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile — which Egypt fears will cause droughts in the country downstream — have collapsed. On Tuesday, the Egyptian president warned that “no one can take a single drop of water from Egypt, and whoever wants to try it, let him try”. The following day, the Egyptian military revealed joint air force training with Sudan, which it is calling the “Nile Eagles”. (Sudan also depends heavily on Nile water from Ethiopia). Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government is moving forward with plans to fill the reservoir of the dam, which it wants to complete by 2023.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’ll use this month’s President’s Take to highlight two places where we’re worried things could fall apart further over the month ahead, at enormous human cost.

First is Yemen. The UN calls the war the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

It has left almost a quarter of a million people dead, more than half from malnutrition and disease. Many millions more are starving, displaced or homeless. The UN’s humanitarian chief recently warned of the “worst famine the world has seen in decades”. Four hundred thousand children under the age of five are severely malnourished, he said, and “in their last weeks and months” of life.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian Army soldiers stand near children at the Mai Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia on Jan. 30. (Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly three months have passed since the conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began. Despite Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s assurance that the military operation ended in late November, the conflict in Tigray is far from over. United Nations officials this week cited reports that Ethiopian troops may not have the region under their command, and warned of grave food shortages, calling for the government to allow aid workers to enter the region.

On social media, pro- and anti-government groups continue to vie for control of the conflict narrative. Abiy released a statement on Tuesday encouraging Ethiopians to launch an offensive against the TPLF’s distortions and “lies” in the international arena.…  Seguir leyendo »

Etiopía no es cualquier país. Etiopía es un espejo que plasma bondades y desventuras de todo el continente africano. Lejos de las hambrunas de los años 80 que subyacen en nuestro imaginario, Etiopía crece hoy económicamente por encima de la media africana y del mundo; posee voz propia, resistiendo injerencias extranjeras, y presume de orgullo patrio por ser el único territorio no colonizado de África. Sede de la Unión Africana, la llegada al poder en 2018 del Primer Ministro, Abiy Ahmed, reconocido en 2019 con el Premio Nobel de la Paz por finalizar el conflicto duradero con la vecina Eritrea, encarnó la esperanza africana para este siglo.…  Seguir leyendo »