By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 2 April 2018-13 May 2022 1 Figures reflect violent events reported since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power on 2 April 2018.
- Total number of organized violence events: 2,921
- Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 15,984
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 7,233
By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 7-13 May 2022 2Some events from this coverage period might be included in the data in subsequent weeks due to reporting delays.
- Total number of organized violence events: 10
- Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 34
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 12
Last week, in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), violence continued throughout the week in Konso zone and Derashe Special woreda. On 9 May, federal forces from the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), federal police, and SNNP regional special forces exchanged gunfire with Derashe ethnic militias in Hataya and Selele rural villages, near Gedole town. An unknown number of people were reportedly killed during the clashes. Later, on 11 and 12 May, unidentified gunmen attacked civilians in the Becho area of Gumayde town in Segen woreda in Konso zone, killing at least one person. Violence in SNNPR during the last week is a continuation of heavy fighting that started in late April this year (for more details, see the EPO Weekly: 23 April-6 May 2022).
In Tigray region, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces fired artillery shells at Eritrean military targets in Badme and Rama border area. Armed clashes were later reported between Eritrean and TPLF forces in the Rama area. Soldiers from the Eritrean Defense Force have been in control of Badme town since the outset of conflict in northern Ethiopia in November of 2020. Eritrea’s alliance with the government of Ethiopia against the TPLF has been a point of tension, with the international human rights community accusing Eritrean troops of serious abuses against the Tigrayan population in Tigray region (Human Rights Watch, 5 March 2021). In the 2018 peace deal initiated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia returned the control of Badme town to Eritrea based on the ruling of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission in 2002 (Al Jazeera, 9 July 2019).
In Oromia region, government-associated media reported that protests were held against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane in Kuyu woreda in North Shewa zone and in Nekemte in East Wollega zone (Oromia Communication Bureau, 13 May 2022; Oromia Communication Bureau, 9 May 2022). Meanwhile, OLF-Shane militants clashed with the ENDF in Adaba woreda in West Arsi zone, Sagli kebele in West Hararge zone, and Gumi Idalo woreda in Guji zone (see the map below). Along with ongoing clashes, several events involving violence against civilians were also recorded. On 10 May, ENDF and Oromia regional special forces reportedly killed eight people and injured another in Galan Wedesa in Ambo Zuria woreda in West Shewa zone after accusing them of supporting the OLF-Shane. A day later, ENDF forces shot and killed three other civilians in Midagdu kebele in West Hararge zone allegedly for the same reason. ENDF and Oromia regional special forces also shelled and destroyed an unknown number of civilian houses in Leman and Kare Kora villages in North Shewa zone last week. In a statement released on 12 May, the Oromo Federalist Congress claimed that 297 civilians were killed by government forces in the past few months alone (Ethiopia Insider, 12 May 2022).
Weekly Focus: Assessing the Current Status of the Ethiopian National Dialogue
For many in Ethiopia, the upcoming national dialogue represents a hopeful opportunity to end a long and difficult period in Ethiopian politics. Violence and instability over the past two years have affected a large part of the population. Inflation and broken supply chains have made food and fuel in short supply. Displacement, uncertainty, and an increase in funds collected by the government from various sources in society to support the war effort have all contributed to a difficult environment for civilians throughout the country.
Last week, the chairperson of the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) announced that the national dialogue, which aims to resolve Ethiopia’s current political woes, will begin in November 2022 (Amhara Media Corporation, 14 May 2022). Its initiation has not been smooth – many political institutions have denounced its initial committee selection process as unfair and exclusive. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity to attempt to mend deepening divisions throughout the country.
On 29 December 2021, the House of Peoples’ Representatives adopted Proclamation No. 1265/2014 which established the ENDC with a majority vote, one abstention, and 13 votes against the proclamation (House of Peoples Representatives of FDRE, 29 December 2021). Those who voted against the dialogue expressed concerns about the timing of the initiative and the ongoing conflict. A couple of months later, 11 commissioners consisting of people with different academic backgrounds and past experiences were tasked with leading the ENDC after being elected by the House of Peoples’ Representatives. On 4 February 2022, the speaker of the House announced 42 shortlisted candidates out of 632 nominations (House of Peoples Representatives of FDRE, 4 February 2022).
According to the proclamation, the national dialogue is a consultation among different stakeholders on identified agendas. The mandate of the ENDC can be summarized into five activities: (1) to set the agenda for the national dialogue; (2) to identify participants; (3) to facilitate the national dialogue; (4) to follow up on the implementation of the outcomes from the national dialogue; and (5) to establish a sustainable national dialogue system which can assist in resolving “current problems” through dialogue (Proclamation No. 1265/2014, Articles 2, 6 and 9).
At the beginning of this month, the Commission took over the responsibilities of the Administrative Boundary and Identity Issues Commission and the Reconciliation Commission – both established at the end of 2018 (Fana Broadcasting Corporate, 3 May 2022). Commissioners of these two Commissions were renowned people, religious leaders, and leaders of opposition parties (Borkena, 5 February 2019; Borkena, 5 February 2019). The main purpose of the Administrative Boundary and Identity Issues Commission was to resolve disputes over internal boundaries and identity-related disputes (Proclamation No. 1101 /2019). On the other hand, the Reconciliation Commission was established “to maintain peace, justice, national unity and consensus and also Reconciliation among Ethiopian Peoples” (Proclamation No.1102 /2018, Article 5). Due to several reasons, including the imprisonment of several of their members, ongoing conflict, and inability to reach a consensus, these commissioners failed to achieve their objectives and their roles were shifted to the ENDC.
To carry out its tasks, the ENDC has divided its activities into four chapters: In the first chapter – the pre-preparation chapter – the Commission designs its strategies and techniques to have a road map guiding the Commission to achieve its goals. The ENDC is also drafting directives, regulations, and policies concerning the national dialogue during its pre-preparation period. In the second chapter – the preparation chapter – the Commission will provide training and identify participants and agendas for the national dialogue. Then, in its third chapter, the ENDC will commence and facilitate the national dialogue. Finally, in its last chapter, the Commission will implement the outcomes of the national dialogue. The chairperson of the ENDC indicated that, within the next two weeks, the Commission will present its strategies and techniques to stakeholders for discussion (Amhara Media Corporation, 14 May 2022).
The Commission is still at its initial stages. Hence, it is difficult to assess its activities in detail. However, most opposition parties have voiced their objection against the Commission since its inception. The Ethiopian Political Parties Joint Council – a coalition of more than 50 registered political parties in Ethiopia – issued a statement and requested the House of Peoples’ Representatives to halt the selection process of the commissioners, claiming the process lacked inclusiveness and trust. The Joint Council said that the names of all 632 candidates should have been made public to ensure trustworthiness, and expressed concern that there is no clear indication whether the selection of the 42 candidates has been done as per the listed prerequisites in the proclamation (Ethiopian Political Parties Joint Council, 17 February 2022). The Council also opposed the adoption of the proclamation without holding a second consultation on the draft. Nevertheless, on 6 May, after long deliberation, 40 members of the Ethiopian Political Parties Joint Council voted to participate in the upcoming national dialogue (ESAT, 6 May 2022).
Other major opposition parties also released similar statements. The Balderas for Genuine Democracy Party called the Commission “failure before its formation” due to the selection process of the commissioners (Balderas, 21 February 2022). The Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) has also expressed its opposition to the way the proclamation was adopted and the nomination process of the commissioners, calling for the shortcomings to be addressed (EZEMA, 23 February 2022). The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) issued statements saying “the process of the nomination of Commissioners to lead it is not impartial (OFC), [is] unknown (OLF) and lacked representation (ONLF)” (Addis Standard, 4 February 2022).
The ENDC is facing a daunting challenge. For the national dialogue to be successful, all stakeholders in the country must participate in the dialogue. Yet, it is not clear whether the TPLF and OLF-Shane will be included in the national dialogue due to their status as designated “terrorist” organizations by the House of Peoples’ Representatives in May 2021. Nevertheless, the chairperson of the Commission stated that “there is no restriction on the proclamation” which established the ENDC, and indicated that the national dialogue will be inclusive of all stakeholders (Gebeyanu, 12 March 2022). For now, it is unclear how this will be accomplished without at least a negotiated ceasefire between the government and TPLF. Even though there is a humanitarian truce since the end of March 2022, various sources indicate that another round of war might reignite in the north in the coming few months (DW Amharic, 16 May 2022; Amhara Media Corporation, 13 May 2022).
Furthermore, most Ethiopians are not familiar with the powers and duties of the Commission and how the national dialogue is defined in the proclamation. Many raise the question of how the national dialogue will be held without an agreed ceasefire in the north and want the national dialogue to commence with a negotiation between the conflicting parties of the northern conflict in Ethiopia. However, the chairperson stated that “our job is not to spontaneously establish reconciliation or to order or force negotiation between different stockholders but to open the space for dialogue in order to reach an understanding over disagreements” (Gebeyanu, 12 March 2022). Since the ENDC has not yet released its strategies for the national dialogue, it is hard to know the agenda of the national dialogue.
Different patterns of political conflict are observed in Ethiopia. These patterns are: (1) the northern conflict between the federal government and TPLF; (2) armed conflict between OLF-Shane and government forces; (3) identity-based attacks by different armed groups; and (4) self-administration related conflicts (see EPO Weekly: 23 April-6 May 2022 for more details on the Trajectory of Conflict in Ethiopia). The national dialogue might be more successful in resolving identity-based and self-administration related conflicts if the Commission manages to involve all stakeholders and follow the implementation of agreed outcomes of the national dialogue without any delays. One of the causes of violent conflict over identity and self-administration is the lack of prompt response to such demands by the government. Bringing sustainable peace through national dialogue in the northern conflict might take a long time as most issues are complicated and intertwined with political decisions. The same is true for the conflict with the OLF-Shane. The commissioners’ term of office is three years with a possibility of extension by the House of Peoples’ Representatives. The ENDC is expected to “develop a political culture that can solve internal problems that have been simmering for centuries through dialogues and create a conducive environment for the building of a democratic system” (Proclamation No. 1265/2014, Article 6(5)).
At the moment, it is too early to conclude whether the national dialogue will succeed or fail because, as mentioned above, the ENDC has not yet released its strategies on how it will set the agenda for the dialogue, select stakeholders, and hold the national dialogue. The inclusiveness, legitimacy, transparency, and trustworthiness of the national dialogue process will determine the national dialogue and Commission’s success or failure in resolving disputes and conflicts in Ethiopia. As noted before, there was a lack of transparency during the nomination and selection process of the commissioners. However, there is an opportunity for the Commission to establish an inclusive, legitimate, transparent, and trustworthy national dialogue that might resolve the root causes of various conflicts in the country. If the ENDC fails to hold a national dialogue without incorporating these characteristics, then the Commission will likely face the same fate as the Administrative Boundary and Identity Issues Commission and the Reconciliation Commission.