By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 2 April 2018-4 June 20211Figures reflect violent events reported since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power on 2 April 2018.
- Total number of organized violence events: 1,566
- Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 7,747
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 4,223
By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 29 May-4 June 2021
- Total number of organized violence events: 3
- Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 3
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 1
Last week, there were fewer organized violence events and fatalities compared to the previous weeks (see figure below). The week started with protests against the intervention of foreign countries in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. On 30 May 2021, protesters gathered under the slogan of “our voice for our independence and sovereignty” to denounce US sanctions on Ethiopia, calling for the US to reconsider its recent imposition of visa restrictions against Ethiopian officials (Fana Broadcasting, 30 May 2021). More than 50,000 protesters reportedly took part in this demonstration in Addis Ababa (ESAT, 30 May 2021). On the same day, similar protests were held in the cities of Asosa, Dire Dawa, Gambela, Harar, Hosana, Silte, and Welaita Sodo (Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 30 May 2021a, Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 30 May 2021b). A second protest was held in Addis Ababa in front of the US embassy on 1 June 2021.
In the Oromia region, armed clashes between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane and government forces occurred across Western Wollega, Kellem Wollega, Horo Guduru, Guji, and West Guji zones (see EPO Weekly: 8-21 May 2021; EPO Weekly: 22-28 May 2021). Last week, civilians caught between clashing groups of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane and government forces complained of crackdowns by non-Oromo speaking government security forces in the Horo Guduru zone (Addis Standard, 31 May 2021).
In the Amhara region, the command post led by the federal military force in Ataye and surrounding areas has undertaken different activities to bring about sustainable peace in North Shewa and Oromia Special zones. The command post was established after OLF-Shane and local Oromo militias clashed with Amhara regional special forces and federal troops in Ataye and surrounding areas (see EPO Weekly: 10-16 April 2021). On 2 June 2021, traditional reconciliation practices were conducted in Dessie city in Dewa Chefe woreda Teref kebele (Amhara Media Corporation, 2 June 2021). Nevertheless, most people affected by the conflict in Ataye city are still in provisional shelters as most properties were completely destroyed when OLF-Shane and local Oromo militias clashed with Amhara regional special forces and federal troops in Ataye and surrounding areas (see EPO Weekly: 1-7 May 2021).
Unidentified armed groups continued to ambush and kill security forces in the Bench Sheko zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) last week (see EPO Weekly: 22-28 May 2021). On 4 June 2021, an unidentified armed group ambushed and killed six SNNPR security force members and injured one civilian in Wejemta kebele in Guraferda woreda in the Bench Sheko zone. After this attack, around 4,000 civilians fled the area. On 5 and 6 June 2021, the unidentified armed group burned houses and farms in Gabita and Semerta kebeles in Guraferda woreda (DW Amharic, 7 June 2021).2This event will be included in the ACLED dataset next week. ACLED data is current through 4 June 2021. This event was reported on 7 June 2021. Two weeks prior to this attack, on 18 May 2021, unidentified armed groups ambushed and killed nine security officers and wounded three others in Sheko woreda in the Bench Sheko zone.
On 2 June 2021, the Afar regional government stated that it had taken over the administration of Sawne kebele, which had been administered by authorities from the Tigray region over the last 30 years (Wazema Radio, 2 June 2021). Similarly, since November 2020, the Amhara regional government has been administering part of west Tigray. It is not clear how the federal government will resolve these types of administrative contests that have emerged during the conflict with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Weekly Focus: Government Efforts to Stabilize the Tigray Region
Last week, the government released a number of reports on the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region. These reports focused on addressing what the government calls “baseless and politically motivated” reports (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021). Ambassadors and international organizations who are based in Addis Ababa were briefed on government efforts in the region by the deputy prime minister of Ethiopia and other higher officials (Fana Broadcasting Corporate, 3 June 2021).
In the reports, the Ethiopian federal government admitted that active conflict with TPLF forces is ongoing in at least two locations despite efforts to wrap up operations in the region (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021). As more territory is gained by government troops, TPLF forces have turned to guerilla-type warfare, targeting provisional administrators and convoys. This has drastically complicated efforts to maintain basic services and provide a working government even in locations squarely under the control of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces (VOA Amharic, 1 June 2021).
Government records indicate that from November 2020 till mid-May 2021, militants linked to the TPLF have assassinated 22 members of the Tigray provisional administration, injured 4 other members, and kidnapped 20 individuals linked to the provisional government in the region (Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check, 26 May 2021). Last week, an additional 2 members of the provisional government were killed by members of TPLF. On 28 May 2021, TPLF forces attacked a government building in Adigrat in the Eastern Tigray zone, killing the provisional mayor of the city, along with an unidentified associate. A member of an INGO was also killed in the crossfire (UNOCHA, 3 June 2021). A few days later, on 3 June 2021, TPLF members killed a member of the Tigray provisional administration in Raya Azebo woreda (ESAT, 5 June 2021).
Despite an official end to the six-month state of emergency in the Tigray region, the Attorney General stated that “the federal intervention mandated by the House of Federation is still in force” (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021). This means the federal government can legally continue the administration of the Tigray region. This decision has been met with resistance from the provisional government which wishes to see a return of power to regional authorities (VOA Amharic, 1 June 2021). In addition, the government indicated that the Eritrean forces have commenced withdrawing from the region (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021).
In response to heavy pressure to investigate crimes perpetrated by armed forces in the region, the Attorney General presented a report detailing the prosecution of 28 soldiers accused of killing civilians “without military necessity” and 25 soldiers accused of sexual abuse and rape (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021). Other investigations are also underway. Furthermore, 23 other people who are believed to be involved in killing civilians in the Maikadra area are on trial (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021). Claims of human rights violations in the Tigray region are being investigated by four different groups: the military court, the Tigray Police and Justice Bureau, the federal police with assigned investigators, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) with the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).
Despite these improvements, the government also admitted that it was facing major security and financial challenges as a result of the conflict. TPLF associated forces have repeatedly attacked convoys, slowing the movement of supplies. The sheer number of those in need has overwhelmed financial resources. Government sources also point toward “distortion of data” — allegedly by international news outlets — as an obstacle to addressing issues in the region (Office of the Prime Minister – Ethiopia, 3 June 2021).
Update on Election Related Disputes
Last week, as per the decision of the Federal Cassation Court, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has registered four members of Balderas for True Democracy (Balderas) as candidates for the upcoming election (Addis Ababa Balderas, 3 June 2021; NEBE, 4 June 2021; see EPO Weekly: 22-28 May 2021). To accommodate this decision, NEBE destroyed 1.3 million ballot papers (NEBE, 4 June 2021). This decision affected 843 polling stations in four election constituencies for the Addis Ababa City Council election and 14 election constituencies for the House of People’s Representatives election in Addis Ababa (NEBE, 4 June 2021).
Furthermore, NEBE announced that elections will not be held in 37 election constituencies in five regions for different reasons (NEBE, 1 June 2021; NEBE, 22 May 2021). In 26 of the 37 election constituencies, security was given as the main reason for not holding the election (NEBE, 1 June 2021; NEBE, 22 May 2021). These 26 election constituencies consist of four election constituencies in Benshangul/Gumuz, eight election constituencies in the Amhara region, and seven election constituencies in each Oromia region and SNNPR (NEBE, 1 June 2021; NEBE, 22 May 2021).
With only two weeks left until election day, intimidation of opposition parties’ supporters is being reported. Farmers who support opposition parties in Yilam and Densa woreda in the West Gojam zone stated that the local administrators restricted their access to fertilizer essential for the current season of sowing (DW Amharic, 3 June 2021). Moreover, the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) could not campaign in Chagni town in the Amhara region and Sere election constituency in the Oromia region due to restrictions imposed by the local administration (EZEMA, 29 May 2021; EZEMA 7 June 2021). EZEMA has faced intimidation and violence in the Oromia and Amhara regions, including the killing of two of their candidates in Bishoftu (Oromia region) and in Ataye town (Amhara region).