Source: Oryx

The Cargo Cleared For Print: UAE Wartime Deliveries To Ethiopia

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The number of cargo flights between the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia has left little doubt that the UAE has taken an active role in supporting the Ethiopian military in its fight against Tigray forces in the northern parts of Ethiopia. In two months, some 70 Il-76 cargo aircraft flying out of the UAE landed in Ethiopia. [1] [2] While some of the large cargo aircraft appear to have landed at Addis Ababa international airport, in most other cases they landed at Harar Meda air base, undoubtedly to unload their military cargo away from prying eyes and cameras.
Still, relatively little is known about the types of weaponry and other military equipment that the UAE has supplied to the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF). What is known is that the Ethiopian military is deploying a large VTOL type unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) armed with two mortar rounds supplied by the UAE, while Ethiopia’s Republican Guard makes use of at least three types of Emirati-supplied carbines and sniper rifles. [3] [4] It is likely only a matter of time before more UAE-supplied weaponry starts showing up in footage from the war in Tigray.
In the meantime, the Ethiopian government made a rare acknowledgement regarding some of the equipment received from the UAE. But rather than consisting of guns or ammunition, the donated cargo on this occasion instead consisted of 50 Toyota Land Cruiser ambulances equipped for basic emergency services. [5] The delivery of 50 ambulances would account for the cargo content of seventeen out of 68 (confirmed) flights by Il-76s to Ethiopia. This means that the content of 51 Il-76 cargo aircraft is unaccounted for, likely consisting of various types of armament that have yet to make their public debut in Ethiopia.

Although one might argue that the delivery of ambulances to Ethiopia’s health sector is completely unrelated to the conflict in the Tigray Region, the UAE’s decision to supply Ethiopia with Toyota Land Cruisers as ambulances strongly suggests that most of these vehicles will immediately be pressed into service with the Ethiopian military in the Tigray Region instead. The excellent off-road capabilities of the Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 and the fact that the vehicles appear to have been drawn from military stocks (judging by their khaki paintjob) certainly hints that this is indeed their intended use.

At least part of the contents carried aboard the UAE air bridge between Ethiopia and the UAE has meanwhile been identified. Their ostensibly civilian status set aside, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that many of these ambulances will end up being used on the frontline to transport wounded Ethiopian soldiers to hospitals. If this indeed is the case, it will be just one more facet of a conflict that is still growing in its totality, forcing its unwilling participants to commit ever greater amounts of manpower and equipment lest they eventually succumb to the pressures of war.
Gerjon | חריון.
October 29, 2021

The Government of Rwanda, the African Union and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency on 14 October 2021 signed the First Addendum and extension to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated 10 September 2019 between the Republic of Rwanda, the African Union, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees establishing an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) from the State of Libya to the Republic of Rwanda.

This addendum takes effect immediately and will ensure that the established ETM in Gashora, Rwanda continues until 31 December 2023, and increases its capacity from the initial 500 to 700 persons at anyone time.

Under this agreement, the Government of Rwanda will continue to receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as others identified as particularly vulnerable and at-risk, who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya. They will be transferred to safety in Rwanda on a voluntary basis. After their arrival, UNHCR will continue to pursue durable solutions for the evacuees. While some may benefit from resettlement to third countries, others will be helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted, or to return to their home countries if it is safe to do so. Some may be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities.

Evacuation flights are expected to resume and will be carried out in co-operation with Rwandan and Libyan authorities. The African Union will continue to provide assistance with evacuations, mobilise resources, and provide strategic political support with training and coordination. UNHCR will provide protection services and necessary humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education, and healthcare.

Rwanda has received a total of 648 refugees and asylum seekers so far, who arrived in six evacuation flights from Libya to the ETM since its establishment in September 2019. UNHCR and the Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) will continue to conduct individual registration of all the individuals and issue Proof of Registration (POR) documents that allow them to travel in the country and access assistance provided in the centre. The registration activities are followed by individual case processing for solutions, including Refugee Status Determination (RSD), Best Interest Determinations (BIDs) for children with specific needs, including unaccompanied and separated children and resettlement interviews. Currently, the ETM in Rwanda hosts 214 refugees and asylum seekers from eight African countries, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.

However, some 1,680 Persons of Concern (POCs) are currently inside detention centres across Libya. They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions. The AU and UNHCR urge the international community to continue contributing resources towards the implementation of the agreement and assist POCs in these detention centres, and called on other Member States to emulate Rwanda’s example.

For further information, please contact:


Mr. Claude Kabengera | Tel: +250 78 889 4825 | Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mr. Aristarque Ngoga| Tel: +250 788 764 501| Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  1. Ms. Rita Amukhobu | Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs & Social Development (HHS), African Union Commission | Tel. +251 91 164 5915| E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  2. Mr. Beatram Okalany | Senior Migration Advisor | Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs & Social Development (HHS), African Union Commission| Tel. +251 91 555 5654, | E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  3. Ms. Wynne Musabayana | Head of Communication Division | Information and Communication Directorate, African Union Commission | E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  • In Kigali, Elise Villechalane, +250 78 831 5198, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In Tripoli, Paula Barrachina, +218 91 001 7553, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In Tunis, Tarik Argaz, +216 29 9612 95, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In Brussels, Maeve Patterson, +32 470 99 54 35, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • In Addis Ababa, Damien Mc Sweeney, +251 948058016, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Information and Communication Directorate, African Union Commission I E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Follow Us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube


“The war is with your closest enemy who is sitting in Ethiopian cities collecting information and spending money to your killers.”

The Facebook post below is a sign of the depths to which the supporters of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy have sunk.

As their forces have suffered reverses in the war with the Tigray Defences Forces, they have turned on their Tigrayan neighbours. The Facebook post  below (originally in Amharic) is an example. Little wonder that Tigrayan civilians are being arrested, attacked and murdered in Ethiopian cities.

This is not the first example of hate-speech by the Prime Minister’s supporters. 

In September the United States on Monday condemned a speech by a prominent ally of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed which compared Tigrayan rebels to the devil and said they should be “the last of their kind”.

“Hateful rhetoric like this is dangerous and unacceptable,” a State Department spokesperson told AFP in response to the speech last week by Daniel Kibret, who is often described as an adviser to Abiy and was nominated to the board of the state-run Ethiopian Press Agency last year.

The UN and US have recently voiced concern about hate speech and dehumanising rhetoric in the conflict, but Daniel’s comments were the first to draw specific criticism from Washington. At an event in Amhara attended by high-ranking officials, Daniel called for the total erasure of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated national politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018.

“As you know, after the fall of Satan, there was nothing like Satan that was created… Satan was the last of his kind. And they (the TPLF) must also remain the last of their kind,” Daniel said. “There should be no land in this country which can sustain this kind of weed. “They should be erased and disappeared from historical records. A person who wants to study them should find nothing about them. Maybe he can find out about them by digging in the ground,” he said to applause.

Facebook is under scrutiny for fanning hate speech in Ethiopia

Hate and division on Facebook are not just a problem in the U.S. That’s one of the messages whistleblower Frances Haugen took to Congress last week, where she accused Facebook’s algorithms of quote, “literally fanning ethnic violence in Ethiopia,” a country that’s endured nearly a year of civil war.

Dejene Assefa

• The war is with the one who is your neighbor for ages and is with you and your people and is waiting for your death.
• The war is with the traitor you raised.
• The war is not only with the invader Junta that came from Tigray but also with the one who is next to you who is drinking your blood instead of your death.
• The war is with your closest enemy who is sitting in Ethiopian cities collecting information and spending money to your killers!!!!!
• The war is with your neighbor who throws whiskey when he thinks your killer has won!!!!!
= If you can control and control these thorny thorny elements you have hugged in your guyah… Don’t doubt the victory is yours!!!!. AND YOU KNOW THEM!!!!.
Do it even when you are sad!!!!!. You won’t get worse than them!!!!.
Who is evil… Who is the real one… Who is a traitor… Who is wearing a neck… Who is the cruelest one… History will remind him as it was!!!!.
Starting today in Dessie in Kombolcha in Habru… This should be done in Addis Ababa and all the cities… You will see the change immediately!!!!.
Embrace your killer and killer but expect nothing!!!!.
Hold on let go of us!!!!. Be wise because they look good on you!!!!.
So hurry up!!!!!. Hurry up!!!! Still hurry up!!!!!
Only if you are quick, you will save your people from humiliation and destruction of your country!!!! It’s not greater than your existence!!!!. Protect your unity and do this.. Ethiopia will win!!!!!


For PDF Version see herevoluntary returns to eritrea_Swiss policy


Table of contents                                                                                

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

  1. The Swiss asylum procedure……………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Offices involved ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Procedure …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 2

Problems………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

  1. Criterias applied when treating asylum claims ……………………………………………………………………. 3
  1. Law enforcements against Eritrean asylum seekers …………………………………………………………….. 4

List of law enforcements ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4

  1. Results …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5
  1. Further problems…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5


In Paragraph 18 of the latest UK home Office Report on the Situation in Eritrea, published in September

2021, there is a disturbing allusion referring to the possibility of “voluntary returns”. This possibility is brought  into  the  discussion  after  the  dire  human  rights’  situation  in  the  EMNS  and  the  problems returnees  had  faced  after  being  forcibly  repatriated  to  the  country  were  extensively  evaluated.  It almost appears as if the last passage would lacks a logical connection with the rest of the report – as if it had been included at a latter stage of writing and after a hint from somewhere or somebody.

To us who have been accompanying Eritrean refugees in Switzerland for the past six to seven years, the allusion to “voluntary returns” automatically rings all the alarm bells. This (rather hypothetical) possibility which in practice is taken advantage of only by a small number of Eritreans (most of them elderly  individuals  previously  sympathetic  with  the  government  or  people  suffering  from  severe psychological or even psychiatric issues) has nevertheless decided on the fate of hundreds of asylum seekers searching refuge from the dictatorship in Asmara.

In this paper, I’d like to outline the most important developments in Switzerland resulting in an almost complete  turn-down  of  Eritrean  applicants  and  hundreds  of  affected  people  stranded  either  in clandestine conditions in the  neighbouring countries (including Great Britain) or in a legal limbo  in Switzerland.

  1. The Swiss asylum procedure

The Swiss asylum procedure has undergone a reform coming into effect on 1st of March 2019. As most of the cases I am going to refer to, however, have been treated under the old system, I will briefly mention its procedures, its actors and its main problems.

Offices involved

  1. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM): Is responsible for the treatment and evaluation of

the asylum cases, issues country policies and asylum decisions.

  1. The Federal Administrative Court (FAC): treats appeals lodged by asylum seekers and their legal representatives against negative asylum decisions; court of last appeal!
  2. The Cantonal Migration Offices: Are responsible to house and finance the refugees during the procedures; are also responsible to execute expulsion decisions issued by the SEM.


  1. Arrival at the border after illegal entry (or at the airport after legal entry), transfer to one of the four reception centers;
  1. Shortly after  arrival:  Brief  interrogation  on  personal  data,  family  ties,  documents,  journey, health  and  –  if  time  was  available  –  a  few  questions on  the  respective  country  and  on  the reasons why asylum is claimed;
  2. Many months (or even one  or two  years)  later:  A profound  interview  in which the asylum claims and the flight from the home country are discussed. Cross-questionning is a frequent mean of checking and counter-checking.
  3. A few months later: An asylum decision is issued by the SEM; 30 days for appeal.
  4. (in case  of  appeal):  Appeal  is  briefly  checked  by  the  instruction  judge;  when  prospects  to succeed are given, free charge is granted;
  5. Many months (or years) later: The case is decided by three judges. A verdict is issued.


  Interrogation situation: Small rooms, long interview durations, cross-questionning, etc.

  Credibility (character of applicant, years at school, trauma, sexual violence not mentionned because of tabu or trauma, etc.).

  no legal representatives unless an appeal is lodged against the negative asylum decision

  Rumours  within  the  community  and  purposely  distributed  false  information  from  pro- government agents;

  Manipulative behaviour of interpreters during interviews.

  1. Criterias applied when treating asylum claims

The individual asylum claims are treated based on the claims the applicant made during the interviews.

The person who evaluates the claims is not the one who had previously questionned the applicant. The following criteria are applied when issuing an asylum decision:

  1. Credibility: The claims are checked on their plausibility and on the country knowledge acquired by the  country  experts  at  the  SEM.  Contradictions,  illogical  or  unreasonable  behaviour  or claims and off course forged evidence obviously minimize the chances of being granted asylum.
  2. Right to asylum: If a person manages to illustrate that he or she had been persecuted by state actors (or that state actors are not willing or able to protect him or her) from e/g persecution by family members, if the persecution is intense enough to create an “unendurable physical or psychological pressure on the applicant” and if there is no internal flight alternative (inside the home country) available, the person is attributed the refugee quality as well as the right to asylum (permanent stay).
  3. post-flight reasons:  If  a  person’s  behaviour  while  or  after  fleeing  the  country  amounts  to persecution by State actors after his or her return, the applicant is granted temporary refugee status, but no asylum (e/g until 2016, the illegal exit from Eritrea was sufficient to justify a temporary refugee status).
  4. Temporary admission  for  humanitarian  reasons:  If  an  applicant’s  claims  neither  meet  the criteria  to  obtain  asylum  nor  to  grant  a  refugee  status,  two  aspects  need  to  be  evaluated before a decision to expel a person maybe issued:
  5. Admissability of return: If the expulsion violates  international law (e/g the  ECHR, the CAT, CEDAW or Child’s convention), the return is not admissible.
  6. Unreasonability of return: If there is a general situation of violence, a civil war or generally dire situation existing in the home country, the expulsion becomes unreasonable; the same is the case  if  a  person’s  health  is  seriously  endangered  after  return  or  if  no  socio-economic network is available in order to help the applicant with his or her re-integration (Art. 83 §4

Asylum law: “If a person faces to be pushed into an existentially threatening situation of poverty after return).

  1. Law enforcements against Eritrean asylum seekers

Since 2010, Eritrean asylum seekers have increasingly become a target of xenophobic political attacks;

this can be observed in the media as well as in parliamentary discussions or legal changes  directly attempting to stem the influx of Eritrean asylum seekers into Switzerland.

In 2015 and 2016, the negative media campaign, mainly driven by right-wing politicians in collaboration with  Eritrean  pro-government  agents  establishing  themselves  as  “experts”  on  this  “problematic” community, reached a peak. In February 2016, a group of 5 Swiss parliamentarians went on a journey to  Eritrea,  organised  by  Honorary  Consul  Toni  Locher,  a  notorious  pro-government  agent  of  Swiss origin. The parliamentarian’s conclusions could later be  found in all media: “We were able to walk around in Asmara and enjoy our Espresso without being harassed by anybody. The UN’s claims must be completely exaggerated.”

At the same time, a so-called “Fact Finding Mission” consisting of 2 experts from the SEM and one of the  BAMF,  travelled  to  Asmara.  They  were  able  to  hold  several  talks  organised with  different representatives (the usual round-tripping), and they issued a report shortly afterwards.

Based on this report, the SEM organised a Press conference on June 23nd, providing details on the above-mentioned report. A consequence was that the illegal exit as a sole asylum claim would no longer justify a temporary refugee status.

Important to bear in Mind!: The press conference was held on the very same day when thousands of Eritreans gathered in Geneva in order to utter their approval with the UN report. Whereas their demonstration wasn’t mentioned in a single line, the law enforcement was broadly perceived and discussed in each Swiss newspaper.

List of law enforcements

  2012:  as  an  addition  to  Art.  3  Asylum  law,  §2  explicitly  excludes  desertion  from  military

service as an asylum claim; this, however, didn’t prove to be sufficient to turn down Eritrean asylum claims as the conditions in EMNS were generally perceived as inhumane and degrading (violating Art. 3 ECHR) and amounting to slavery or forced labour (in violation of Art. 4 ECHR).

  Sept 2013: As a result of a reform of the Asylum law, the possibility to ask for asylum at a Swiss embassy  abroad  was  abolished;  family  reunion  was  reduced  to  spouses  and  under-age children.

  June 2016: The SEM issues a statement saying that illegal exit would no longer justify a post- flight reason (previously resulting in temporary refugee status).

  30. Jan 2017: 1. Landmark decision on Eritrea (D-7898/2015): The FAC approves the SEM’s interpretation on illegal exit.

  17. Aug 2017: 2. Landmark decision (D-2311/216): The FAC undertakes the task of doing an updated assessment on the general situation in Eritrea; it comes to the conclusion that the general  situation  does  no  longer  justify  that  expulsion  to  Eritrea  (as  long  as  it  happens voluntarily) should be considered unreasonable.

  Second half of 2017: An increasing amount of negative asylum decisions emerged in which, respective to a decision issued by the European Court for Human Rights, the SEM stated that the mere probability that an applicant could be conscripted into the EMNS after his/her return was not sufficient to justify a violation of Art. 3 and 4 ECHR. To justify the inadmissibility of return, the fear of persecution must be proven so that “a real risk” would be given.

  10. Jul 2018: 3. landmark verdict, E-5022/2017: The FAC examines whether conditions in EMNS do violate Art. 3 and 4 ECHR. It reaches the conclusion that the treatment of conscripts is indeed harsh and problematic, but there were no indications that the ill-treatment was wide- spread (systematic) and flagrant enough to justify a general violation of Art. 3 and 4 ECHR. This would be the case as long as the rejected applicants would fulfil their duty by settling their relationship with the Eritrean government.

  2019-2020:  Based  on  the  2.  Landmark  verdict,  the  SEM  announces  that  3’200  temporary admissions  for  humanitarian  reasons  on  Eritreans  would  be  re-evaluated.  In  sheer  panic, several dozens of Eritreans fled to neighbouring countries. According to the SEM, “only” 9% of all evaluated cases were affected and the temporary admissions were withdrawn.

  1. Results

These three landmark verdicts resulted in an almost systematic turn-down of Eritrean asylum claims as  long  as  no  solid  evidence  could  be  produced  that  the  person  had  evaded  EMNS  or  even  fled detention.

A very cynical contradiction is that Swiss authorities do still acknowledge the evasion from military or National Service as a reason to grant asylum, but they would not hesitate to send rejected asylum seekers back into these very same conditions.

The EASO-report issued by the SEM which was published in Sept 2019 claims that the diaspora status which is achieved by settling the relationship through paying the 2% tax, signing the repentance letter and by giving detailled information on the whereabouts of all the family members would last no longer than 6 to 12 months after return. Thereafter, the returnees would face the same treatment as Eritreans who had stayed in the home country.

  1. Further problems
  2. No Monitoring:  No  monitoring  of  returnees  is  done  by  the  SEM.  There  are  no  reliable

information on what happens to Eritreans who voluntarily returned home.

  1. Data exchange: The cantonal migration offices routinely Exchange data from rejected asylum seekers with the Eritrean consulate in Geneva. By doing so, the cantonal migration offices hope to later obtain travel documents from the consulate once a treaty on forcible returns has been negotiated.

For further information, please contact the author. Annelies Müller

Verein Give a Sandstrasse 5, Erdgeschoss CH-3302 Moosseedorf/BE Tel.: +41 (0)31 850 10 94

Mob.: +41 (0)79 830 57 63 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

source=Ethiopia’s Civil War: Cutting a Deal to Stop the Bloodshed | Crisis Group

What’s new? Ethiopia’s devastating civil war has worsened and broadened. Since June, the Tigray region’s forces have turned the tables on the federal military and its allies. Although their offensive has galvanised resistance, especially in the neighbouring Amhara region, Tigray forces have recently made new gains, increasing the pressure on Addis Ababa.

Why does it matter? Continued fighting will further destabilise Ethiopia and could draw in Sudan if Tigray forces seek to reclaim western Tigray from Amhara control. Combined with an insurgency in the Oromia region and economic challenges, the situation could trigger a collapse in federal authority that would roil the Horn of Africa.

What should be done? International partners should back former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the new African Union envoy to the Horn, in seeking a choreographed de-escalation of the conflict and demilitarisation of the flashpoint area of western Tigray. Tigray leaders should freeze their offensive as Addis Ababa unblocks aid and services to the region.


The war in northern Ethiopia grinds on and is likely to worsen. On the back foot since hostilities erupted in November 2020, the Tigray region’s forces recovered, compelling federal and allied Eritrean troops to retreat in June. The Tigray forces then advanced into the adjacent regions of Amhara and, temporarily, Afar, causing mass displacement. They remain set on reclaiming Tigray’s west from Amhara control. Meanwhile, Addis Ababa has renewed restrictions on aid headed into Tigray, deepening famine conditions there, and has also been buying arms, recruiting tens of thousands of fighters and, most recently, launching a new campaign to reverse Tigray’s gains. The conflict could draw in other parties, too. It may embroil Sudan if Tigray’s encircled forces seek an external supply line. Insurgents in Oromia region have allied with Tigray. While the parties are not yet ready to talk, when they are, African Union (AU) regional envoy Olusegun Obasanjo will be best positioned to broker a choreographed de-escalation leading to a ceasefire that can help stabilise an increasingly fragile Ethiopia. Donors, neighbours and others should back his efforts.

There is no end to Ethiopia’s instability in sight. Tigray forces are fighting to reopen aid channels to the region, which Addis Ababa has largely blocked, remove security threats and recapture territory that they have lost in the conflict and not yet reclaimed. The Tigray offensive has uprooted at least 450,000 people in Afar and Amhara. But resistance from local militias and regular forces has thus far stymied some of the Tigray leaders’ plans, including their bid to take back western Tigray, which is administered by Amhara’s government backed by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers. Moreover, opposition to the Tigray advances has also helped the federal government enlist fresh forces, setting the stage for its own military push in October, although that appears to have sputtered, allowing the Tigray forces to gain more ground in eastern Amhara as they counter-attacked.

Despite probably tens of thousands of fatalities, both sides remain committed to war. The Tigray leadership, emboldened by their military resurgence, and unwilling to accept either the federal blockade of Tigray or occupation of western Tigray by their historical northern rivals, the Amhara, are geared up to keep fighting. For its part, Addis Ababa has procured more military hardware from abroad to better arm and equip its new recruits as they try to regain the upper hand in the conflict. Those efforts seem to be suffering setbacks, however, as Tigray forces advance through eastern Amhara in mid-October, occupying strategic locations and, at the time of publication, threatening to take Dessie and Kombolcha cities.

More combat promises disastrous near-term consequences, increasing instability and exacerbating the humanitarian emergency in the north. Similarly, due to the presence of Eritrea’s military, Tigray’s fighters are unlikely to quickly drive the Amhara and allied forces out of western Tigray, raising the risk of further atrocities there and continuing destructive warfare, with recently armed civilians joining the fray. Meanwhile, an August alliance between the Tigray forces and anti-government insurgents in the central region of Oromia has ratcheted up the likelihood of all-out civil war. That is something that the Ethiopian state, already buckling under an economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, would struggle to withstand. In addition, if the Tigray forces start receiving supplies from neighbouring Sudan, tensions would heighten between Addis Ababa and Khartoum, possibly triggering an inter-state war. Once the bulwark of security in the Horn, Ethiopia would then become a source of crisis presenting a major threat to the region’s stability.

 Given the mass suffering and economic woes inflicted on Ethiopia’s population ... a cessation of hostilities and negotiations are more essential than ever. 

Given the mass suffering and economic woes inflicted on Ethiopia’s population, as well as the growing risk of regional conflagration, a cessation of hostilities and negotiations are more essential than ever. In pressing the parties to move down that path, the U.S., the European Union (EU) and Ethiopia’s neighbours should throw their collective weight behind the diplomatic initiative led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the new AU envoy to the Horn. With fighting having ramped up in October, now is not an opportune moment for Obasanjo to make major progress on his new brief. Still, as federal leaders oversee a rapidly deteriorating situation and Tigray faces a famine, it is possible to imagine a time when all parties will see an incentive to take conciliatory steps in order to steer away from ever more disastrous outcomes. Through pressure (including, where appropriate, targeted sanctions) and suasion, outside actors should urge them to adopt this approach.

Obasanjo and others should encourage the parties to embrace a choreographed de-escalation along the following lines: first, both sides should publicly state their desire for a negotiated settlement, with each saying it would be willing to recognise the other’s legitimacy. He should then press for a trade-off that involves Tigray’s forces freezing their advance in Amhara in exchange for Addis Ababa’s full cooperation in expediting humanitarian assistance to the north. It is imperative that the federal government immediately cease blocking that assistance, as millions of Tigrayans are perched on the edge of starvation. But Obasanjo and other international partners can use negotiations to insist that Addis Ababa lift any remaining controls and broaden access, as well as restore services such as electricity, banking and telecommunications. These steps would be accompanied by an Amhara departure from western Tigray, in return for similar Tigray moves in Amhara, and the withdrawal of Addis Ababa’s Eritrean allies from the area, which the federal government and outside actors should demand in unison.

Addressing the situation in western Tigray will pose a particular challenge: any negotiations over how to resolve the conflict there will be particularly fraught due to a longstanding territorial dispute between Amhara and Tigray and the bitterness among both Amhara and Tigrayans at having suffered atrocities at the other’s hands. The Amhara occupation is unacceptable to Tigray’s leaders, who say they will not stop fighting until they regain the area. The Amhara administration, meanwhile, is not about to simply vacate territory that many of its officials and supporters believe was illegally and violently annexed by Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in the aftermath of Ethiopia’s civil war in the 1980s. Still, if the parties can find a way out of the impasse, they could then pursue long-term solutions, including agreeing to jointly administer the area, ensuring minority rights protections or creating an autonomous district.

Should the parties reach the point where they are ready to make peace in western Tigray, and they are looking for a way to secure and demilitarise the area, an international presence may be the best solution. A multilateral peacekeeping contingent, whether UN or AU or a mixture, cannot be a tool to force a settlement: it would only be viable with full support from Addis Ababa, and right now the federal government, and the other conflict parties, for that matter, all seem unlikely to give the go-ahead. Still, that could change. As the fighting continues and war fatigue sets in, the federal government could find itself seeking ways to create space for the negotiations needed to produce a sustainable resolution to the ugly Amhara-Tigray dispute. If the parties are seeking a way out, an international mission could provide the necessary monitoring or security guarantees. With that in mind, the UN, AU and other actors should give early thought to how an international mission might be stood up and sustained.

In the meantime, outside actors should work with the AU envoy in pressing leaders on all sides of the conflict in the direction of de-escalation, ceasefire and dialogue with the goal of defusing a dangerous situation that increasingly threatens the stability of not just Ethiopia but also the region beyond.

II.A Widening War

A.Tigray Conflict Spills Over and Grinds On

Ethiopia’s civil war, pitting Tigray forces against a coalition of federal troops, allied paramilitaries, militias and the Eritrean army, has widened dramatically in recent months, pushing up the death count and driving hundreds of thousands more civilians toward starvation.Since mid-2021, the Tigray forces, overwhelmed at first when the conflict erupted the previous November, have rebounded, scoring major victories over their opponents on the battlefield and capturing thousands of federal troops.The resistance in Tigray was able to recruit en masse and win support among Tigrayans in large part due to widespread revulsion at the intervening forces’ reported atrocities against civilians.In stepping up its military campaign, mainly by moving into Amhara region, the Tigray leadership has been trying to achieve a number of goals.

First, it has tried to pressure Addis Ababa to end restrictions on aid reaching the region.Efforts thus far have been largely unsuccessful: violence is still impeding delivery of humanitarian supplies, while the federal authorities and their allies on the ground maintain a de facto blockade that a senior UN official says is an effort to “starve the population either into subjugation or out of existence”.Roads into Tigray from Amhara are no longer open, partly because the conflict parties (each blames the other) have destroyed bridges over the Tekezze river, which separates central and western Tigray.Taking a circuitous route through the Afar region is therefore the sole option for convoys bearing aid overland to Tigray. Interference from federal and Afar authorities and militias has reduced what arrives in Tigray to a trickle.“There are lots of issues with humanitarian supplies. People are dying. We can’t help it – it is because of blockages, because of the siege. We have very serious problems”, says a top Tigray official.

Secondly, the Tigray leadership aims to recover all the territory it lost in the war’s first phase, including, eventually, the disputed lands of western Tigray, a fertile sesame-growing area that borders Sudan and is now under Amhara control. In June, Tigray forces expelled Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers from central parts of Tigray, taking back most of the region as the administration installed by Addis Ababa the preceding December withdrew.They then reasserted their authority over a southern section of Tigray, known as Raya, which Amhara forces had also seized in the war’s first weeks. They have stopped short, however, of advancing into western Tigray, where significant numbers of heavily armed Eritrean and federal troops back up Amhara paramilitaries and militias.

Tigray forces instead drove south into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions as they pursued a war of attrition against Addis Ababa and its allies. In mid-July, they advanced across the Tekezze near Mai Tsebri and into the Amhara region’s North Gondar Zone.They also moved, briefly, into Chifra, a town on the Afar-Amhara border around 50km south east of Weldiya town, claiming that they could cut off the Addis Ababa-Djibouti trade route at Mille nearby.In early August, Tigray forces seized Lalibela, a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site known for its monolithic churches, thereby grabbing international headlines.Then, on 12 August, they occupied Weldiya, a major Amhara transport and commercial hub on the main road to Addis Ababa. They still control the town. Now, after holding off a federal offensive and hitting back hard, they occupy other strategic locations, such as Chifra and, at the time of publication, are poised to threaten two other cities to Weldiya’s south on the Addis Ababa road, Dessie and Kombolcha, and also Mille on the Addis Ababa-Djibouti road.

In September, the Tigray advance had slowed and, in some cases, was reversed. Federal and regional authorities tapped into hostility to the TPLF, the banned ruling party of the Tigray region and the former leading member of a coalition that ruled Ethiopia from 1991 to 2019 with frequent repression, spurring locals to organise into militias to beat back Tigray forces.One former Ethiopian diplomat said the Tigray forces “are facing stiff resistance, massive mobilisation. They will not be facing the military, they will be facing the people”.In August and September, the Tigray forces met resistance to the south of Weldiya near Hayk town, north of Gondar around Debark and Debat towns, and to the west of Weldiya along the route that leads to Debre Tabor town. In addition, they pulled out of almost all the Afar region in September after running into federal troops and Afar fighters around Chifra and in low-lying areas in northern Afar.Tigray’s leaders claimed to have merely paused to regroup and absorb new recruits after capturing materiel and territory.

 The Tigray forces’ incursions and the resulting counter-offensives have made the chances of dialogue slim. 

The Tigray forces’ incursions and the resulting counter-offensives have made the chances of dialogue slim at present. Instead, amid mobilisation on both sides, Tigray’s leaders look set to ramp up the pressure on the federal and Amhara governments as Addis Ababa and allied parties seek to push Tigray forces back. The political atmosphere in the country remains poisonous, meanwhile, as evidenced by the belligerent and at times hateful rhetoric, particularly from the federal side.Abiy’s office had said negotiations with the TPLF, which federal authorities designated as a terrorist organisation on 6 May, would be possible only after a new parliament reappointed the prime minister. But he did not actually commit to talks, even then, and indeed seems to be in no rush. Abiy was sworn in on 4 October, and there has been no indication since the ceremony that negotiations are on the agenda, while his forces instead went on an unsuccessful offensive in Wollo in Amhara region a week later.

B.Risks of Escalation

Despite the growing turmoil, all parties for now remain committed to war. While there are indications that some in Addis Ababa believe a rethink is necessary, there have also been strong signals that federal authorities are doubling down on the military strategy, including the illegal blockade.Federal arms purchases and the mobilisation of tens of thousands of new soldiers and militiamen preceded an offensive that began on 11 October, after the rainy season tapered off the month before.The Tigray forces are, notwithstanding challenges in September, looking to retake control of western Tigray.Should Tigray forces control the Gondar area, they could push west to the Sudan border town of Metemma and also north as part of an operation to reclaim the contested territory.

As the conflict expands, the costs are set to climb. The mid-2021 fighting has already displaced at least 450,000 people in Afar and Amhara, in addition to the nearly two million who were driven from their homes in Tigray.According to some reports, Tigray forces have also looted aid warehouses, shelled residential areas and killed civilians in neighbouring regions.If they continue to confront recently formed popular militias operating among civilians, “there could be massive casualties, so they have to be very careful”, says a former Ethiopian diplomat.On 18 October, Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs commented on recent fighting by suggesting that Tigray forces had killed only civilians as they advanced into areas south of Weldiya and that continued constraints on aid to Tigray would be the result.On the same day, Ethiopia’s air force bombed targets in Tigray’s capital Mekelle, killing three, with more aerial attacks following on 20 October.

A battle for western Tigray, flat terrain that exposes fighters, could also exacerbate the risks for civilians, who have already suffered in the area.Moreover, it could draw Sudan into the war if Tigray forces move to open up a supply route for aid and arms through the east of that country. Addis Ababa would view any Sudanese assistance to Tigray’s leaders – including the facilitation of aid – as a hostile act, pushing the two countries toward open conflict. Relations between Addis Ababa and Khartoum are already at a low ebb, mainly due to disputes over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that Ethiopia is constructing on the Blue Nile, affecting downstream Sudan’s water supply, and al-Fashaga, the disputed farmlands adjacent to western Tigray, which Sudan occupied in December.If Sudan steps in on the Tigray forces’ side, Abiy might well think that Khartoum supports Tigray leaders in seeking to remove him. For his part, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki might fear that better armed and supplied Tigray forces could eventually muster attacks on the Eritrean military, leaving him exposed.

 Should Tigray’s autonomy struggle become a full-blown war of independence ... de-escalation will become still more difficult. 

Should Tigray’s autonomy struggle become a full-blown war of independence, new risks will emerge, and de-escalation will become still more difficult. As one senior observer put it: “Definitely [the western Tigray issue] is going to spark a regional war if it is mismanaged”.

C.The Connection to Oromia’s Conflict – and Beyond

Meanwhile, conflict is also escalating to the south in Oromia, Prime Minister Abiy’s home region and the country’s most populous, where tensions are running high between the authorities and Oromo nationalists, who allege that the premier has undermined their struggle for greater autonomy and democracy even though it was mainly protesters in Oromia who catapulted him to power. As Tigray’s leaders do, they also suspect Abiy has plans to reform Ethiopia’s ethnic federalist constitution, thereby threatening the region’s autonomy.

At the centre of these tensions is the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which is operating an insurgency that appears to be gaining momentum after Oromo opposition parties boycotted the mid-June elections. The OLA is a splinter from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a popular yet fragmented party that advocates for Oromia’s self-determination. Abiy’s government sees the OLA as posing a significant threat, in part because it has the potential to choke trade to and from the capital and is already controlling swathes of rural central and western Oromia, including near Addis Ababa.The federal parliament classified it as a terrorist organisation in May.Partly in response, the OLA and Tigray forces allied – striking a military cooperation agreement – in August, with the stated goal of trying to replace Abiy’s cabinet with a transitional administration.

One major factor contributing to the growing violence is that the political situation in Oromia is increasingly fraught.Prior to the pandemic, parliamentary and regional elections in Oromia set for 2020 were expected to be competitive between the allied OLF and Oromo Federalist Conference (OFC), on one hand, and Abiy’s Prosperity Party, on the other. Then came the 29 June 2020 murder of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa and a ten-month election delay, which upended the country’s politics.Although authorities blamed OLF elements, many Oromo opposition supporters believe he was assassinated for criticising the government. His killing triggered deadly unrest in Oromia and Addis Ababa, including attacks by Oromo mobs on Amhara civilians.Amid the chaos, federal authorities detained Oromo activists, including the popular OFC politician Jawar Mohammed, putting him and others on trial on terrorism charges.Both the OLF and OFC protested the crackdowns by boycotting the rescheduled elections, which took place on 21 June 2021, citing widespread arrests and closures of party offices.

In the wake of the boycott, which handed Abiy’s Prosperity Party a thumping victory in Oromia when polls were for the most part held, the OLA insurgency intensified.Starting on 15 August, for example, the group blocked the main southerly route to Kenya, from Bule Hora in Oromia’s West Guji Zone to the Kenyan border town Moyale, and also clashed around the same date with regional and federal security forces in West Shewa Zone adjacent to Addis Ababa.

As the violence has escalated, historically rooted tensions between Ethiopia’s two largest communities, the Oromo and Amhara, have continued to flare. In late August, locals and officials said OLA fighters killed more than 100 Amhara civilians in East Wollega Zone.The insurgents said all those killed in fighting were government-affiliated militiamen from Amhara.The turmoil relates to a broader political dispute that involves Oromo nationalists classing Amhara settlers as their main oppressor during an imperial era that ended in 1974. Amhara activists argue that innocent civilians are persecuted by Oromo nationalists and other ethno-nationalists as a result.

If the fault line between Amhara and Oromo widens further, it could set in train other destabilising effects. First, these tensions could deepen rifts within the Oromo and Amhara chapters of the country’s ruling Prosperity Party.Secondly, the violence could spill over into another region, Benishangul-Gumuz, which borders Sudan and where armed factions are also operating, imperilling security around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.There, militias from the Gumuz ethnic group have mobilised over the last year, creating disruptions that led to delayed elections in most of the region.The militias, operating largely in Metekel Zone, have killed ethnic Amhara, Shinasha and Oromo people, whom they perceive as settlers, and conducted deadly ambushes on convoys servicing the dam. In April, they also briefly took over one district in Kamashi Zone.

III.Mass Suffering

The situation in northern Ethiopia is dire and set to get worse. Millions of Tigrayans are suffering food shortages, with estimates suggesting hundreds are dying daily of hunger-related causes.Since 28 June, when federal troops and administrators left most of Tigray, around 1,000 aid trucks – bearing only about 14 per cent of the needed aid – have arrived in the region.Aid agencies say government impediments, as well as security incidents, notably the 18 July and 19 August militia attacks on aid convoys in Afar, explain most of the shortfall.A compounding factor is Addis Ababa has cut Tigray off from budget transfers and telecommunications, electricity and banking services, thereby making the population suffer for the federal dispute with Tigray’s leaders. Researchers estimate that, due to the war, only up to a quarter of Tigray’s land will produce “reasonable outputs”, while the UN says Tigray’s crop yields in 2021 may be as low as 13 per cent of normal, raising famine concerns.On 1 October, Addis Ababa expelled seven top UN officials for assisting the TPLF, making it harder for humanitarian actors to do their jobs.

The management of aid flows has become a key factor in the conflict. After Addis Ababa installed an interim administration in Mekelle in December 2020, humanitarian aid into the region gradually started flowing again, but fighting made deliveries to the hinterland difficult and dangerous. Notably, Eritrean and Ethiopian military checkpoints blocked routes into areas where Tigray forces were concentrated. Eritrean troops allegedly also looted medical clinics, food stores and agricultural tools, as well as killing oxen and other livestock.With the TPLF now back in Mekelle, federal authorities are once again restricting aid flows, prompting the U.S. delegation to the UN Security Council to say the Ethiopian government’s obstruction of humanitarian supplies and vital services may amount to war crimes.Addis Ababa has at times blamed the Tigray forces’ offensive for disrupting aid, and it claims to be unable to deliver telecommunications and power services to the region due to Tigray fighters’ attacks on utility company staff.

 Although most suffering is inside Tigray, the war’s spread has created its own emergency in parts of Amhara and Afar. 

The humanitarian and economic crisis related to the conflict could have devastating effects nationwide. Although most suffering is inside Tigray, the war’s spread has created its own emergency in parts of Amhara and Afar. Afar authorities said more than 140,000 people were displaced by the end of August, and Amhara’s government said at least 233,000 people have fled to Dessie and Kombolcha in South Wollo Zone, an area where Tigray forces have recently been focused.The war is hurting all Ethiopians by further weakening a pandemic-stricken economy marked by an annual inflation rate of 34 per cent in September and a hard currency shortage that limits imports.With the government facing aid cuts, and struggling with debt repayments, there is little sign of relief on the horizon.In February, the International Monetary Fund said it expected Ethiopia’s economic growth to be only 2 per cent in the fiscal year that ended 7 June, due to the pandemic’s effects. Previously, it estimated that the rate would rebound to 8.7 per cent for the 2021-2022 budget year, but now says there is too much uncertainty to make a forecast.

Moreover, conflict dynamics could make things still worse. The country’s economic predicament could grow more serious if the OLA’s insurgent activities increase, pulling Oromia deeper into crisis, and greatly so if the Tigray forces succeed in blocking the main trade route to Djibouti.More broadly, further war means that conditions will continue to deteriorate, with Addis Ababa unable to impose its authority in several regions that have become restive at the same time. If the Abiy government’s control were to keep dwindling, the end result could even be a disastrous fragmentation of the Horn of Africa’s most populous state, especially given that opposition plans for a transitional administration seem unformed at best and that some other political actors are implacably hostile to the notion of a TPLF-OLA-led interim administration.One former senior Ethiopian official – who is not a former TPLF member – believes the federal leadership must reconsider: “If they do not go for talks, the country will collapse – no ifs, no buts”.

IV.Path to Talks

Ethiopia urgently needs a respite from the conflict that could very well pull it apart, even if the parties are not yet ready to think about talks and de-escalation. Through a combination of pressure, diplomacy and forward planning, outside actors should work together to move the parties toward the path of peace.

A.Pressure Increases

Pressure on the conflict parties to find a resolution to the situation in Ethiopia’s north is growing, and it is coming from a range of domestic and international sources. In September, 24 Ethiopian civil society organisations called for a cessation of hostilities and talks to address all the country’s crises.Ethiopia’s worried neighbours have been increasingly vocal about the need for negotiations and are likely to keep lending momentum to the idea of peace talks. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is also chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the East African regional body, offered on 4 August to mediate the conflict, as he had done before; as with his previous offers, Addis Ababa rebuffed him, partly due to poor Ethiopia-Sudan relations.President Salva Kiir of South Sudan has also proposed trying to broker a peace agreement, receiving no formal response from Addis Ababa.

Other African leaders have also started pressing for dialogue. In New York on 26 August, Kenya, speaking on behalf of the “A3+1” (ie, the three African states on the UN Security Council plus St. Vincent and the Grenadines), urged a negotiated settlement and, among other suggestions, said Ethiopia’s federal parliament should remove terrorist designations from the country’s armed movements to pave the way for talks.While the AU has so far been muted, the chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Mahamat Faki, named former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as his Horn of Africa envoy. Expectations are that Obasanjo will focus on trying to end Ethiopia’s civil war.When Abiy visited Kampala and Kigali in late August, both President Yoweri Museveni and President Paul Kagame are said to have told him to seek a negotiated settlement. Other African heads of state delivered similar messages at Abiy’s inauguration in early October.

The U.S. government, which has its own regional envoy, has been vocal about the crisis and even taken punitive measures, although with limited success so far. As well as urging talks, the U.S. has enacted sanctions, notably a 23 August asset freeze on Eritrea’s military’s leader.Due to alleged human rights abuses, the U.S., Ethiopia’s top bilateral donor, has also suspended security and some economic assistance to the government. Though it will exempt humanitarian programs from the suspension, much of the $500 million it gives annually for education, health and other projects may not be renewed.Potentially more significantly, the U.S. says it will not support International Monetary Fund and World Bank funds for Ethiopia and warns also that Ethiopian exporters may lose preferential access to the U.S. market due to the government’s alleged rights abuses.Ethiopian officials and pro-government activists have reacted by accusing the U.S. and other outside actors – as well as the Western media, rights groups, UN agencies and humanitarian organisations – of supporting a TPLF return to federal power.

Piling pressure on the Ethiopian and Eritrean parties to end the war, the Biden administration on 17 September issued an executive order setting up a new sanctions regime targeted at what it described as individuals and entities “responsible for or complicit in”, among other things, “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Ethiopia, or that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the crisis in northern Ethiopia or obstructing a ceasefire or a peace process”.

Among the sanctions that would flow from this regime are travel bans as well as asset freezes and other constraints on economic activity tied to the U.S. Conversely, the White House also said if there is progress toward negotiations it will help increase economic assistance and consider providing debt relief to Ethiopia.Abiy responded to the sanctions threat with an open letter in which he accused the U.S. of applying “unwarranted pressure characterised by double standards”.Given that federal officials are defiant, and the leadership set on achieving military gains, these measures are not going to elicit an immediate switch in policy. But combined with diplomatic urging from former President Obasanjo amid a deteriorating overall economic and security situation, they may at least boost efforts to convince the Abiy government to change course.

B.A Narrow Pathway Out

 A peacemaking opportunity is most likely to arise if neither side makes decisive gains. 

With Addis Ababa looking to ramp up its military campaign and the Tigray leadership adamant it will not stop fighting until it removes threats to Tigray, overcomes the “siege” and clears all “enemy forces” from the region, the immediate prospects for peace are dim.Still, they could brighten over time through a combination of internal and external pressure coupled with – more importantly – war fatigue and a deteriorating situation for all belligerents. In particular, a peacemaking opportunity is most likely to arise if neither side makes decisive gains, with Tigray leaders needing to change tack to alleviate a famine and Abiy fearing that his authority could dissipate.

Outside actors like the U.S. and EU, as well as Ethiopia’s neighbours, should help prepare the ground for this moment by throwing their full weight behind AU Envoy Obasanjo as he marshals support from African leaders and presses all the Ethiopian warring parties toward choreographed de-escalation and negotiations. Empowering a credible regional figure to lead international mediation efforts will be key to their success when the moment comes, and it will have the added benefit of promoting coordination among external actors. As for the goals he lays out, Obasanjo should encourage the parties in the following direction.

As a first step to reset the tone and encourage concessions, all sides should announce that they seek a peaceful solution and are willing to recognise one another’s legitimacy.While the federal government should immediately remove its egregious restrictions on humanitarian assistance into Tigray, Obasanjo and others could use the moment to press it to lift any remaining controls, broaden access for donors and restore essential services to the region – such as banking, electricity and telecommunications – that have been cut off.For their part of the trade-off, Tigray leaders could freeze their military positions. Tigray forces might then follow up by withdrawing from Amhara, and Amhara forces by departing western Tigray. Ethiopian parties and international allies would also have to insist that Eritrea bring its troops home from western Tigray, a request that President Isaias is likely to resist.

The long history of grievance between Amhara and Tigray, rubbed raw by the current war’s events, is a major obstacle to untangling the knot of western Tigray and will present a special challenge for Obasanjo. Crisis Group and others, including the U.S. government, have called for the withdrawal of Amhara forces, whose occupation even the federally appointed Tigray interim administrators opposed.But all sides are dug in. The Amhara say western Tigray is historically Amhara land that the TPLF violently seized as it consolidated power in the 1990s. They are disinclined to relinquish control of the land, especially now that Tigray forces occupy Amhara territory, where locals report them committing atrocities.Meanwhile, Tigray leaders are dead set on reclaiming the west. They say the Amhara takeover in the wake of the November 2020 federal intervention was an unconstitutional annexation that led to mass expulsion of Tigrayans – a charge that echoes the historical Amhara complaint.

Over the long term, there are ways that the parties could deal with the western Tigray issue other than perpetual warfare, such as via joint administration, agreements to ensure minority rights protection or creation of an autonomous area. Initial talks could aim toward eliciting Tigray and Amhara region pledges to engage in peaceful consultations to address competing claims and grievances.But to have a chance of reaching a lasting settlement, the parties must first stabilise the area, which would as a first step likely involve reaching a consensus on interim security arrangements for the disputed land. Because they are at war with the central authorities, Tigray’s leaders would be unlikely to accept federal forces as a solution, even on a temporary basis. Nor is Amhara likely to yield control of the territory to an actor it gravely mistrusts.

 One solution, unlikely though it may currently seem, may be an international presence endorsed by all the parties. 

One solution, unlikely though it may currently seem, may be an international presence endorsed by all the parties. For political, practical and other reasons, this solution could be effective only if it is introduced at a point when Addis Ababa and the other parties are looking for a solution for how to secure western Tigray, and actively support the idea of bringing in international peacekeepers.The motivation for the parties to take this step would be that such a force could reassure both Amhara and Tigray authorities that neither side will try to control territory while grievances relating to western Tigray are being resolved. It would therefore give them the sense of security they need to demilitarise. Peacekeepers would also soothe all sides’ worries about renewed conflict flaring while negotiators are seeking solutions to Ethiopia’s political crisis and outlining Tigray’s precarious future relations with the Ethiopian state.

For the present, there are numerous obstacles in the way of the peacekeeping idea, not least that Ethiopia’s government would vehemently oppose any such suggestion, labelling it as a violation of sovereignty, and that Tigray’s leaders believe they have every right to forcibly end Amhara control of western Tigray. But given the possibility that all sides may at some point see sense in looking for peaceful remedies, the AU, UN and their member states should at least begin considering what would be required to stand up and sustain such a mission.

Coaxing the parties toward and then down a de-escalatory path will be no easy task for Obasanjo, and he will need ample support, starting with a capable team. To this end, the AU Commission and AU member states should provide him with the resources and authority to bring on board the experts he needs, including from the UN system, if he requests them.

While ending the bloodshed in the north must be the priority for all, Ethiopians will also need to come together in a national dialogue – at the appropriate time –to chart the country’s path toward a more harmonious future. The government already plans such a dialogue and Obasanjo should use his broad writ to support this homegrown process where appropriate. To boost its chances of success, the planned discussions should include some of Tigray’s dissident leaders, jailed top Oromo and other opposition figures, and representatives of other armed groups, including from Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions.


Unless all sides in Ethiopia make the necessary concessions to bring about a cessation of hostilities, followed by talks, many thousands more people will die amid conflict and famine. More war would also threaten the federal government’s authority and possibly even the Ethiopian state’s integrity and stability. Its collapse would have disastrous consequences not just for many of Ethiopia’s 110 million people but also for other Horn of Africa nations, all of which border the country. Some federal allegations against the Tigray leaders may well be valid, including that their attitude and actions have helped destabilise the country. But leaders in Addis Ababa are also responsible for the present situation and the Tigray forces have shown that they are formidable and cannot be completely defeated. The leaders who brought about this catastrophe may not be able to erase that part of their legacy, but by taking conciliatory steps they could begin to build a new and better one – as peacemakers and architects of a more stable future for Ethiopia.

Nairobi/Brussels, 26 October 2021


WASHINGTON, October 27, 2021—Today, World Bank Group President David Malpass issued the following statement on Sudan:

“I am greatly concerned by recent events in Sudan, and I fear the dramatic impact this can have on the country’s social and economic recovery and development. In recent weeks, I visited Khartoum to meet with Sudanese authorities, including Prime Minister Hamdok and Chairman al-Burhan, and discussed the country’s economic and social transformation. I heard a clear commitment of all parties to work together toward a more prosperous future for the Sudanese people following 30 years of authoritarian rule and disengagement from the international community.

 The World Bank Group has been a close partner of Sudan, working alongside other development partners to establish the Sudan Family Support Program and support the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Sudan was embarking on an ambitious package of economic reforms, which paved the way for the country’s arrears clearance as it became eligible for debt relief under the HIPC initiative.

 The World Bank Group paused disbursements in all of its operations in Sudan on Monday and it has stopped processing any new operations as we closely monitor and assess the situation. We hope that peace and the integrity of the transition process will be restored, so that Sudan can restart its path of economic development and can take its rightful place in the international financial community.”

Source=World Bank Group Paused All Disbursements to Sudan on Monday




Washington D.C
David Theis
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Sudan coup: Why the army is gambling with the future

Thursday, 28 October 2021 13:42 Written by

Source=Sudan coup: Why the army is gambling with the future - BBC News

By Alex de Waal

Africa analyst

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

Sudan's coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has taken a leap into the dark.

He has endangered Sudan's international standing as a nascent democracy, imperilled essential debt relief and international aid, and jeopardised peace with rebels in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains.

He was head of Sudan's Sovereign Council and the face of the army in the country's civilian-military cohabitation - until Monday, when he seized complete power.

He dissolved the country's civilian cabinet, arresting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other prominent civilians with whom the military had agreed to share power until elections were held next year.

The general's autocratic ambitions were no secret.

Over the last months, he showed impatience with Mr Hamdok's leadership, signalling that a strong ruler was needed to save the nation.

At a recent military-backed demonstration in the capital, Khartoum, protesters blamed Mr Hamdok for deteriorating living conditions - not helped by a blockade at the main port in the east which has led to shortages.

Sudanese democrats were alert to the army's stratagems, which seemed to be copied from the playbook that led to Abdul Fatah al-Sisi's military takeover in Egypt in 2013.

The Sudan Professionals Association and the multitude of neighbourhood committees that had orchestrated the non-violent protests which brought down the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 prepared for a new round of street demonstrations.

Sudanese protesters chant near by burning tires during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum, Sudan - Tuesday 26 October 2021
Image caption,Protesters are determined not to allow the army to steal the revolution that saw Omar al-Bashir ousted in 2019

Foreign diplomats were also worried. US Special Envoy Jeffrey Feldman visited Khartoum at the weekend to press for agreement between the generals and the civilians. He left the city on Sunday with - he thought - a pact agreed.

The coup was staged hours later, leaving the Americans not only dismayed but outraged.

Making it clear that they had been deceived, the US administration has "paused" a $700m (£508m) financial assistance package.

An even bigger issue is the status of Sudan's debt relief package, recently negotiated by Mr Hamdok.

After two years of painful delays, international aid to salvage Sudan's economy was finally in prospect - and is now in jeopardy.

The African Union (AU), the United Nations, the East African regional body Igad and all of Sudan's Western donors have condemned the coup and called for a return to civilian rule.

The Arab League has also called for the constitutional formula to be respected. The grouping is usually in step with the Egyptian government, raising the question of how much Gen Burhan can count on the backing of Cairo.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which provided crucial financial aid to Gen Burhan in 2019, have stayed silent so far.

Their sympathies probably lie with the army strongman, but they will also know they cannot cover the costs of bailing out Sudan.

Gen Burhan was already the most powerful man in the country, his role legitimised by the August 2019 power-sharing deal between the military and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a loose coalition of civilian groups.

So why would he risk it all on a blatant power grab?

Commercial empires

According to that agreement, Gen Burhan was due to step down as chairman of the Sovereign Council next month.

At that point, a civilian chosen by the FFC would become the head of state, and the civilians in government would be better placed to push ahead with implementing key items on their agenda.

Soldiers in Khartoum, Sudan - September 2021
Not only was the army commanding a vast share of the national budget, but military-owned companies operate with tax exemptions and often alleged corrupt contracting procedures"
Alex de Waal
Africa analyst

One is accountability for human rights violations. The government is committed in principle to handing over ex-President Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

His former lieutenants - including Gen Burhan and leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces Gen Mohamed Hamdan "Hemeti" Dagolo - wanted him to be tried in Sudan and not in The Hague.

They have good reason to fear that Bashir will name them as culprits in the alleged atrocities meted out during the Darfur war.

Gen Burhan and his fellow officers have even more reason to fear that investigation into the massacre in Khartoum in June 2019 would also point the finger of blame in their direction.

It took place two months after Bashir's removal by the army, when peaceful protesters were calling for civilian rule.

Tackling corruption and implementing security sector reform were other agenda items that worried the generals.

Take the cumbersomely named "Commission for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds."

This was not only exposing and uprooting the network of companies owned by the Islamists forced out of power in 2019, but also the tentacles of the commercial empires owned by senior generals.

Mr Hamdok had become increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the military entanglement in the economy.

Not only was the army commanding a vast - and still-increasing - share of the national budget, but military-owned companies operate with tax exemptions and often allegedly corrupt contracting procedures.

Placing the army under proper civilian control was also a priority for the next stage of the transitional period.

Risk of rebel action

Gen Burhan is claiming he is keeping the transition to democracy on track - and has promised a technocratic civilian government and elections in two years.

Most Sudanese see this as an unconvincing façade.

The crackdown has dissolved the key trade unions and professional groups that organised the previous street protests. Internet and social media are largely shut down. Troops have fired on protesters, reportedly killing 10. Street activists have overcome such clampdowns before and forced the army to back down, most notably in the aftermath of the June 2019 killings.

The generals must also face the reality that the civil war in parts of the country is not over.

A peace agreement last year brought several armed opposition groups into government - but no deal was yet reached with the biggest two rebel forces.

Chairman of Sudan's Sovereignty Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (L) speaks with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during a reception ceremony in the capital Khartoum on October 8, 2020
Image caption,Gen Burhan (L) and civilian PM Hamdok (R) were part of a power-sharing administration

In Darfur there is the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, and in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan there is the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu.

Both command popular support and have shown military resilience. Both were in peace talks with the government and had confidence in Mr Hamdok. The coup threatens renewed conflict.

With his unconstitutional seizure of power, Gen Burhan has taken a huge gamble.

He is offering no answers to Sudan's most pressing issues - the economy, democratisation and peace - and is risking turmoil and bloodshed at home and pariah status abroad.

In July 2019, following the army's violent crackdown on the democracy movement, the "quartet" of the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, working hand-in-glove with the AU, stepped in to press for a negotiated solution - which followed the next month.

A similar process may be needed to bring Sudan back from the brink. The problem is, after Monday, who can trust Gen Burhan to keep his word?

Alex de Waal is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the US.

African Union suspends Sudan over coup

Wednesday, 27 October 2021 20:19 Written by

Source=African Union suspends Sudan over coup | African Union News | Al Jazeera

The pan-African body says the suspension will be in place until the civilian-led transitional government is restored.

The African Union said Sudan's suspension would be in place until 'the effective restoration' of the transitional authority steering the country towards elections [File: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

The African Union Political Affairs Peace and Security on Wednesday tweeted the news of the suspension, an expected move typically taken in the wake of military coups.

In a communique, the pan-African body said the suspension would be in place until “the effective restoration” of the transitional authority steering the country towards elections.

Meanwhile, state oil company workers and doctors said they would join a growing campaign of civil disobedience called by a coalition of unions against the power grab.

Soldiers on Monday seized Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and briefly detained him in the coup that came just more than two years into a fragile power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the former removed longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 in the wake of mass protests against his rule.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan imposed a nationwide state of emergency across the country and dissolved Hamdok’s transitional government and the top ruling body, the Sovereign Council, a joint military-civilian power-sharing authority.

The news prompted tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators to pour into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city Omdurman. The demonstrations met gunfire by the security forces, with at least seven people killed and dozens more wounded, according to health sources.

Protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday despite the security forces’ violent response, blocking roads with burning tyres and setting up barricades.

A group of neighbourhood committees in Khartoum announced on Wednesday plans for further protests, leading to what it said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday. In one Khartoum neighbourhood, a Reuters journalist saw soldiers and armed people in civilian clothes removing barricades erected by protesters.

A few hundred metres away, youths came out to build barricades again minutes later. One of them said, “We want civilian rule. We won’t get tired.”

In a televised speech on Tuesday, al-Burhan defended the military’s move, saying it was meant to avoid a civil war. He also pledged to hold elections, as planned, in July 2023, and to appoint a technocratic government in the meantime.

Following widespread international condemnation, the military allowed Hamdok and his wife to return home under guard on Tuesday night.


Google Maps/screenshot
A map showing Sudan and surrounding countries.
25 OCTOBER 2021


Washington — Monday's military coup in Sudan crippled the nation's leadership and could have sweeping regional implications, including inflaming already bitter disputes among Sudan's neighbors, analysts say.

"I would say key in today's considerations really are questions of the ongoing conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam," said Jonas Horner, a senior analyst and Sudan expert at the International Crisis Group.

The longstanding dispute over Ethiopia's hydroelectric dam stems from Ethiopia's insistence on building and filling the dam to help alleviate poverty in the country, and Egypt and Sudan's opposition to it, Horner said.

Egypt favors military rule in Sudan, while Ethiopia will likely back a civilian transition in hopes that the potential for improved relations will move the needle on the dam, Horner told VOA.

"Egypt is very keen to see a military dispensation in Sudan because they believe that they will take care of their interests best when it comes to representing Egyptian concerns over the dam," Horner said.

The coup in Sudan could also affect Ethiopia's ongoing crisis in the Tigray region, which is spreading and has seen a recent escalation. The Ethiopian government may have cause to worry if the Sudan military remains in power, Horner said.

"The concern is that the military, if it is indeed in the ascendancy and there is no mediation from civilians, that they will more robustly perhaps support the Tigrayans as they fight against the central government in Addis Ababa," he said.

The United Nations and the African Union condemned the military takeover. The Norwegian Refugee Council issued a statement Monday appealing to Sudan's rulers to protect civilians and keep commitments to allow humanitarian aid to reach millions of people affected by war.

Monday's military takeover was triggered by a fear that the military was losing control over Sudan's Sovereign Council as the deadline for transfer to civilian rule was approaching, analysts said.

Khartoum was in political and social chaos after Sudan's military chief, Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, declared a state of emergency and dissolved the joint civilian-military council that has run the country for the past two years.

Protesters took to the streets, derisively chanting Burhan's name and singing Sudan's national anthem.

Medical sources say dozens of people have been injured in the protests, and at least seven people died in clashes with security forces in Khartoum amid an internet and telecommunications shutdown.

With Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other officials of the ruling Sovereign Council in detention, the future of the nation's leadership is in turmoil.

"I think the thing that the military was most fearful of losing (was) control of the Sovereignty Council -- the executive authority in the country," said Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

Internal pressure from hundreds of thousands of protesters who came out from different towns across Sudan in recent weeks demanding civilian rule made Sudan's top military leader feel "under siege," Hudson said.

"This is a reaction internally to release the pressure that they were feeling," Hudson told VOA.

The coup seems to have the backing of the Sudan Armed Forces and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces under General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, some analysts said.

But Hudson warned that the army might be divided on this.

"What we don't know and what we should be fearful of is there are divisions within the military, especially in the younger ranks, the lower ranks of the military," he said. "We should not be surprised if we see a counter coup of some kind of younger military officers who push back against what happened."

The military takeover looks hurried and poorly planned, according to Hudson, and may have dangerous consequences, including street violence, which escalated Monday.

"It's a very dangerous situation, because you have the military trying to assert its control, and now you have people taking to the streets in protest," he said.

Sudan's neighbors are watching closely, possibly fearing a spillover effect, Horner said.

"There are plenty of autocratic governments that are in Sudan's immediate neighborhood and then even across the Red Sea and elsewhere, too, who will concern themselves with what inspiring effect a successful civilian transition might have to their own populations," he said.

VOA's Kathleen Dawson contributed to this report. 

Reports from the field say the Tigray forces have held off the first wave of the new federal offensive and may be gaining ground

Into the hell of war, again


Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021

In the run-up to the first year’s anniversary of the war in Tigray, no clear victor has emerged and there is a high risk that the conflict, devastating lives and the economy, could rumble on for many more months with each side claiming periodic breakthroughs.

Hopes that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s election victory, alongside the country’s falling economic growth and investment, might prompt a serious bid to open negotiations with the Tigrayan leaders have been thwarted again.

Both sides are digging in for a more drawn-out fight. After restocking the army, recruiting and training thousands of new soldiers, and importing military supplies from overseas allies, the Ethiopian National Defence Force launched a new offensive against the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) in the first week of October. The Tigray forces claim to have thrown back the offensive, destroyed entire divisions of ENDF soldiers and inflicted thousands of casualties on ‘human wave’ attacks, according to General Tadesse Werede Tesfay, the TDF commander, speaking on Tigray state television on 16 October. A further official statement on 18 October by Tigray spokesperson Getachew Reda claimed that the ENDF had collapsed entirely and no longer existed as an organised force.

The Tigrayans also claim that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has secretly contacted them for negotiations. The government in Addis Ababa has not released its account of how the offensive has fared or commented on these claims.

The TDF appears to have made critical gains in the Wollo area, eastern Amhara. If these reports are correct, the rebels will have added to the pressure on Abiy’s administration to make peace.

Attacks by the Ethiopian Air Force on TDF positions opened Abiy’s new offensive on 11 October, followed by a ground offensive. After defending strongly, Tadesse said, the TDF counter-attacked, occupying high ground to the north of Dessie, and taking the town of Chifra, which is 27 miles from the main Addis Ababa-Djibouti road, a vital transport artery, and inflicting enormous casualties.

International organisations are backing the mission of the African Union’s new special envoy to the Horn, Nigeria‘s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is expected to get mediation under way.

United States President Joe Biden is ready to impose sanctions on federal, Amhara, Tigray and Eritreancommanders if fighting does not cease and humanitarian aid is not allowed to reach affected populations (AC Dispatches 7/9/21, Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo takes on mediating role in war as brickbats fly on both sides). The US sanctions could target military commanders, government officials and state institutions. Even the national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines – which US cable news networks accused of transporting arms – could be targeted. European governments want to keep channels open to Abiy’s new government, while urging moderation, of which there is little sign in Addis Ababa (see accompanying feature, Abiy’s war party digs in).

As the TDF fights the ENDF, the rebellious Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) has opened a new front against the federal government in the south (AC Dispatches 16/8/21, A nightmare scenario for Premier Abiy Ahmed as regional opponents coordinate against the federal government). A Tigrayan official said they have been co-ordinating their attacks with the OLA, which clashed with the government forces and Amhara militias in southern Oromia on 4 October. Affected areas include West and North Shewa, near Addis Ababa.

Abiy had been telling Western diplomats that no peace efforts could be made until his new government took office, but they believed this was only intended to buy time before the launch of the latest offensive.

On 5 October, ENDF formations approached Gashena, which lies on the main road west of the TDF-occupied city of Weldiya, but the TDF, which holds the high ground around Arbit and Bego Chereka, west of Gashena, was able to throw them back, security sources said. Gashena lies close to the world-famous rock churches of Lalibela, also controlled by the TDF. As of 17 October, fighting continued around the town, with ENDF units receiving air support, the sources added. The Tigrayans claim that they mounted devastating ambushes on the federal forces (AC Vol 62 No 18, Lies, damned lies and statistics).

Tadesse, who once headed the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, a flashpoint of conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, said that initially federal forces cut the Weldiya-Debre Tabor road at Hamusit village, leaving TDF forces in Gashena potentially exposed, but this ‘challenging’ offensive was eventually repulsed by TDF counter-attacks. ‘We were then able to completely destroy the four divisions that were in the area,’ he said. An ENDF infantry and mechanised convoy proceeding through Wurgessa and Wichale, adjacent to each other on the north-south main road that links Weldiya to Dessie, was ambushed by the TDF and dispersed.

Tadesse said the TDF controlled Bizen, the highest mountain in the Ambassel range, where peaks reach over 3,200 metres above sea level. Around Wegel Tena, between Gashena and Wichale, federal ‘human wave’ attacks had been taking place on 16 October, and around Geregera, he said. He said the corpses of the federal soldiers lay so thick on the ground that he was reluctant to let video footage be shown. He said he had never seen such horrendous losses in his entire military career.

The TDF claimed to have taken both Wegel Tena and Wichale on 17 October, and said it was poised to capture Dessie and Kombolcha. Ten miles south-east of Dessie, Kombolcha and its major fuel depot is a strategic objective. There have been suggestions, not from the TDF, of further TDF incursions towards Dessie, and unconfirmed reports that the ENDF was withdrawing from the city.

North of Chifra, on the Amhara-Afar border, the TDF has also been in action against the ENDF, the security sources say, and controls the Agamsa and Boren hills, where the highlands descend to the flatter ground of Afar. ENDF has been firing heavy artillery and ordering drone strikes in these areas. As the fighting intensified 10 fuel trucks heading from the Afar capital of Semera to the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle via Abala were turned back.

ENDF ambitions to control vantage points between Weldiya and Gashena, such as Ambassel, Weshebo, Kon and Geregera, have been stopped but officially the command is blaming ‘unanticipated circumstances and logistical bottlenecks’, security sources said. ENDF reportedly lost 13 armoured personnel carriers and almost 1,000 troops, with another 900 missing. Horrendous as these losses have been, neither side says that it thinks a breaking point in the conflict will come any time soon. More hopeful voices in Tigray suggest that Abiy’s flair for unpredictability, as well as growing internal pressures, might prompt him to make enough political concessions to unlock the first stage of some negotiations