By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 25 February 2022-3 March 2023
- Total number of political violence events: 1,202
- Total number of reported fatalities from political violence: 6,553
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 2,715
By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 25 February-3 March 20231Some events from this coverage period might be included in the data in subsequent weeks due to reporting delays.
- Total number of political violence events: 4
- Total number of reported fatalities from political violence: 12
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 7
While violence has subsided in Ethiopia recently, there was an uptick in demonstration activity last week compared to the previous weeks. A number of protests opposing a newly announced rearrangement of administrative levels in Oromia region were reported, with two protests being violently dispersed. Last week, the regional government of Oromia announced the rearrangement and reestablishment of six cities,2Bishoftu, Shashemene, Adama, Robe, Maya, and Batu cities. See Oromia Broadcasting Network, ‘The Oromia Regional Government Council passed various resolutions during its regular meeting,’ 27 February 2023 a change of the administrative levels for nine cities,3According to the new arrangement, Metu, Agaro, Bule Hora, Nejo, Sendafa Beke, Sheno, Moyale, Dodola, and Shakeso cities will be directly under the regional government rather than the woreda and/or zone. See OBN, ‘The Oromia Regional Government Council passed various resolutions during its regular meeting,’ 27 February 2023 and the establishment of a new zone – East Borena zone – in the region.4OBN, ‘The Oromia Regional Government Council passed various resolutions during its regular meeting,’ 27 February 2023 ACLED records seven protest events in connection with these new arrangements in the region (see map below). On 28 February, residents of Bore town in Guji zone protested the new restructuring of Negele town under the newly established East Borena zone. Oromia regional special forces intervened and fired live bullets, reportedly killing three protesters and injuring two others. The next day, similar protests were held in Bule Hora town in West Guji zone, and Adola and Shakeso towns in Guji zone. In Adola, police dispersed protesters by beating them. At least one person was injured. The protests continued in these three towns on 2 March.
On 2 March, Ethiopians celebrated the 127th Adwa Victory Day – a celebration of the victory of Ethiopian forces under King Menelik II over Italian forces in March 1896. In most parts of the country, the day was celebrated peacefully. However, like last year, tensions were high in the capital city, Addis Ababa, in connection with the location of the celebration (for more details on last year’s celebration, see EPO Weekly: 26 February-4 March 2022). Most residents of Addis Ababa prefer to celebrate the day at Menelik II Square in Piyasa in Addis Ababa, where the statue of King Menelik II is located.5Facebook @Christian Tadele Tsegaye, ‘Statement from the Amhara National Movement (NaMA) regarding the celebration of the 127th year of Adwa,’ 2 March 2023 This year, the government-sponsored celebration of the Adwa Victory Day was held at Meskel square, with various programs, including a military parade by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF).6Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Parades of the 127th Adwa Victory Day Etv | Ethiopia | News,’ 2 March 2023 Menelik II’s expansion of the Ethiopian empire into Oromia, Somali, Afar, Gambela, Benshangul/Gumuz, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region (SNNPR) make him a historically divisive figure, and statues and other public memorials of him are contested in Ethiopia’s public spaces.7Awol Allo, ‘How a major anti-colonial victory divided Ethiopia,’ Al Jazeera, 1 March 2019
In an effort to keep the main celebration event at Meskel Square, government security forces, including the ENDF, federal police, and Addis Ababa police blocked roads to Menelik II Square and restricted public access to the area. Later, security forces fired tear gas and plastic bullets at people who came out to celebrate the Adwa Victory Day at Menelik II Square. Some reports stated that police began dispersing people while they were peacefully celebrating the day at the square.8Ethiopia Media Service, ‘EMS Mereja Thu 02 Mar 2023,’ 2 March 2023 Other reports indicated that youths in the crowd threw stones and chanted “here (Menelik II) is our king.”9TIKVAH-Ethiopia, ‘Adwa celebration in Addis Ababa?,’ 2 March 2023 Two people were reportedly killed, and an unidentified number of people, including 15 members of the Saint Gorgies Church Sunday School students, were injured. Students had gathered at the nearby Saint Gorgies Church to have a religious ceremony celebrating the occasion.10Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church Broadcasting Service Agency, ‘A statement from Addis Ababa Diocese regarding the illegal act committed by the government security forces at Menagesha Genet Tsege Kidus Gorgis Cchurch,’ 3 March 2023 Security forces fired tear gas inside the church. According to some reports, one of the victims died because of suffocation from tear gas while celebrating the religious ceremony inside the Saint Gorgies Church,11EOTC Broadcasting Service Agency, ‘A statement from Addis Ababa Diocese regarding the illegal act committed by the government security forces at Menagesha Genet Tsege Kidus Gorgis Cchurch,’ 3 March 2023 while the second victim, a member of the National Movement of Amhara party and a civics teacher at a high school, died of gunshot wounds after security forces fired into the crowd.
This most recent incident has contributed to an all-time low in the relationship between the government and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC).12In February 2023, tensions between the government and the EOTC were high due to internal conflict within the EOTC. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Government Communication Service blamed “actors who had plans to disrupt the celebration” for initiating the unrest at Menelik II Square.13FDRE Government Communication Service, ‘The 127th Adwa Victory Day was celebrated across the country according to the program. The government would like to thank all those who contributed to this achievement,’ 2 March 2023 On the other hand, the EOTC Addis Ababa Diocese blamed the government for the unrest that “disrupted the religious celebration” at the Saint Gorgies Church.14EOTC Broadcasting Service Agency, ‘A statement from Addis Ababa Diocese regarding the illegal act committed by government security forces at Menagesha Genet Tsege Kidus Gorgis Church,’ 3 March 2023 The diocese asked the government to bring to justice the responsible security forces who had fired tear gas into the church, and release the arrestees without any conditions within 15 days. Otherwise, the church warned, it would take additional actions.15EOTC Broadcasting Service Agency, ‘A statement from Addis Ababa Diocese regarding the illegal act committed by government security forces at Menagesha Genet Tsege Kidus Gorgis Church,’ 3 March 2023 It is unclear what these actions might be.
Elsewhere, in Gambela region, Murle ethnic militiamen from South Sudan crossed the border and attacked civilians in Boy kebele in Agnewak zone on 25 February, killing one and injuring another civilian. The incident triggered clashes between kebele militia members and Murle militiamen in an unspecified location in Dima woreda. The regional government claimed that five Murle militiamen were killed and three AK-46 machine guns were seized.16Gambella Regional Government Press Secretariat Office, ‘The Peace and Security Administration Office announced, militants of the Murle tribe who crossed the border from South Sudan killed one person and wounded another person in Dima woreda in Gambela region,’ 26 February 2023
Last week, a conference to establish the Tigray regional transitional government was held from 1 to 2 March in Mekele city in Tigray region. During the conference, representatives of people in Tigray, Tigray armed forces, civil societies, and religious institutions were present. However, most opposition parties, including representatives from the ruling Prosperity Party, were not present. The opposition parties boycotted the conference, raising questions over the “legitimacy, fairness and participation of the transitional administration.”17Deutsche Welle Amharic, 1 March 2023 The conference concluded with an agreement to establish the Tigray regional transitional government. The transitional government will have 28 members, with one president and two vice presidents. It was reported that 50% of these members would be from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), 29% from Tigray forces, and the remaining 21% from opposition parties.18Yohannes Anberbir, ‘It was decided to establish a transitional government with 28 members in Tigray,’ Ethiopian Reporter, 5 March 2023 Based on the peace agreement signed on 2 November, the TPLF and Ethiopian government agreed to establish an “inclusive” interim transitional government until a regional election can be held.19The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, ‘Agreement for Lasting Peace Through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF),’ 4 November 2022 The transitional government will be in power for six months to one year, during which the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) will organize a regional election to establish the Tigray regional government. The transitional government will be established once TPLF representatives and the federal government hold a meeting and approve the arrangement.20Yohannes Anberbir, ‘It was decided to establish a transitional government with 28 members in Tigray,’ Ethiopian Reporter, 5 March 2023
Lastly, on 1 March, NEBE decided to cancel the referendum results in Wolayita zone due to various vote registration and election irregularities.21National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, ‘The National Election Board of Ethiopia report on the referendum held in six zones and five special woredas in SNNP regional state of Ethiopia and the outcome,’ 1 March 2023 On 6 February, a referendum was held in six zones – Gamo, Wolayita, Gofa, Gedeo, Konso, and South Omo zones – as well as in five special woredas – Burji, Amaro, Derashe, Basketo, and Ale – in SNNPR. The referendum was held to decide on the establishment of a new regional state incorporating the above-named zones and special woredas. NEBE also canceled the outcomes of 81 polling stations from all zones and special woredas. However, since these cancellations would not have affected the general outcome, NEBE released the referendum’s results in the remaining zones and special woredas. The majority of voters supported the establishment of a new regional state.22NEBE, ‘The National Election Board of Ethiopia report on the referendum held in six zones and five special woredas in SNNP regional state of Ethiopia and the outcome,’ 1 March 2023