For several months, Ethiopia has witnessed an escalation of threats on various fronts, both internal and external, although this does not negate that the Ethiopian federal government sat at the negotiating table with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This was evident during the visit of the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, at the end of July to Ethiopia, where he discussed efforts to establish lasting peace between the two parties.
Ethiopia suffers from many crises and security threats, which can be detailed as follows:
1- Internal conflicts without settlement
The Ethiopian state has faced a number of internal crises, which attempts to remedy still face great challenges, as follows:
A- Tensions escalate in Oromia:
Ethiopia is at the epicenter of a potential crisis, with at least 260 people belonging to the Amhara ethnic minority killed in the Oromia region of western Ethiopia at the end of last June. According to some accounts, the Oromo Liberation Army was responsible for this attack.
The Gambella Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army announced a joint operation to liberate Gambella in mid-June. At the beginning of July, it was announced that about 160 people had been killed, with the blame on the Oromo Liberation Army again, but the group denied these accusations, accusing the federal government and the Amhara militia of responsibility for the incident.
B- Negotiations between Addis Ababa and Tigray falter:
On August 17, the Ethiopian government announced that it had submitted a peace proposal to the African Union to resolve the conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, stressing the importance of signing a comprehensive ceasefire agreement first, before entering into direct negotiations with the TPLF to establish peace. Addis Ababa also formed a peace committee to prepare for the negotiations.
“The so-called peace committee is playing its usual game of defrauding the international community, while actively provoking its forces on several fronts,” said Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, in a tweet on Twitter. Ababa, on August 18, the front refused to hold peace talks, which threatens to renew the conflict between the two sides again.
It is noted that the deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions may be a pressure on the two sides to return to negotiations, as the Tigray region suffers from cutting off vital services, such as communications, electricity, and banking services. Nearly five million Tigrayans are in urgent need of food and medicine, including an estimated 116,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition.
On the other hand, the Ethiopian government is facing severe economic crises, as the annual inflation rate reached 37% last April, and the United Nations estimated in early 2022 that up to 30 million Ethiopians, three quarters of them women and children, need urgent assistance. Based on the foregoing, Addis Ababa realizes the importance of resuming peace efforts, in order to obtain international grants, and attract foreign investments, to get out of its economic impasse.
2- Existing border disputes
Ethiopia still suffers from a number of border crises with its neighboring countries, which can be detailed as follows:
A- The border crisis with Sudan:
The border area between Sudan and Ethiopia witnessed an exacerbation of border tensions, which crystallized through the execution of eight Sudanese prisoners in the Sudanese Al-Fashqa area last June, and the subsequent exchange of artillery between the two sides on the border. It is not expected that the border dispute will develop into a full-blown war between the two sides, given that both countries are facing intense internal crises and deteriorating economic conditions, which make it difficult for the two sides to engage in an all-out war.
B – Al-Shabab penetrated the Ethiopian border
Tensions escalated in the border region between Somalia and Ethiopia, specifically in the Ogaden region, as Al-Shabab managed, in mid-July, to send 500 members to it, who infiltrated the region and carried out terrorist attacks.
The leader of the Al-Shabaab movement, Fuad Muhammad Khalaf, nicknamed “Shungali”, threatened the Ethiopian government with new attacks, adding that victory would be their ally, which means that Al-Shabaab may continue its attempt to focus on carrying out attacks inside Ethiopia.
3- An acute humanitarian crisis
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicated that the number of humanitarian convoys to the Tigray capital, Mekele, amounted to about 4,308 since the beginning of April until July 19, but the organization indicated that this aid is insufficient. The World Food Program also indicated that more than nine million citizens need humanitarian assistance.
On the other hand, the areas controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front during the past year are still deprived of basic services, such as electricity, telecommunications and banking services. These challenges have been compounded by the country’s worst drought in four decades, which has killed millions of livestock and increased malnutrition. In addition to the above, about 2.5 million citizens were displaced within the country, in addition to the flight of about 3,000 people daily from Tigray to eastern Sudan. At the beginning of March 2022, about 60,000 Ethiopians were accepted as refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan.
Files stuck with Tigray
The crisis of negotiations between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the federal government comes at the top of the challenges facing the Ethiopian government. The most prominent contentious files between the two parties are as follows:
1- Choose the mediator in the conversations
There are still differences between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray Front over who will mediate those talks, and where they should take place.
2- Reclaim West Tigray
On 15 June, the leader of the Front Departition made the main main demands of Tigray, the most important of which was the return of the western Tigray region to his territorial administration. Amhara forces, allied with the Ethiopian government, took control of western Tigray in November 2020, declaring western Tigray their historical land, and even displaced hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans.
3- Recognition of the Tigray forces
Another important requirement of the Tigrays is that the territory retain the military forces that were created and fought against the federal government. It is possible that Addis Ababa will insist that the front reduce its military forces, as it represents a constant threat to the federal government and the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
4- Hold a referendum on the secession of Tigray
Front leader Debretsion has reiterated Tigray’s desire to hold a referendum on secession from Ethiopia, a right guaranteed by the constitution and which can be implemented if the federal government recognizes its administration as a legal regional authority. June 2, that Ethiopia’s territorial integrity is non-negotiable.
The Ethiopian government is facing severe economic crises, as the annual inflation rate reached 37% last April. The United Nations estimated in early 2022 that up to 30 million Ethiopians, three-quarters of them women and children, needed urgent assistance.
The areas that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front seized over the past year are still deprived of basic services, such as electricity, telecommunications and banking services. These challenges were exacerbated by the country’s worst drought in four decades.