The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region appears to have entered a dangerous new phase, as Addis Ababa reneged on a unilateral ceasefire. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had pulled federal troops out of the northern region amid a string of battlefield losses to the rebel Tigray Defense Forces (TDF). But he reversed course as the TDF launched a fresh offensive to recapture western lands annexed by neighboring Amhara region during the eight-month conflict. Amhara officials assert that the lands belong to their region, and are calling up a militia force, risking a widening ethnic conflict. Also entering the fray are forces from Oromia (Abiy’s home region), Sidama, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples (SNNP) region. Escalation now seems inevitable in a war that has already left hundreds of thousands facing famine. (Map via EthioVisit)
At least 29 were killed, including women and children, when gunmen attacked a church in Horo Guduru zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state. Local residents were gathered in the church to celebrate the start of the two-month Lent fast by followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo rite. The massacre was the bloodiest in a wave of attacks on residents of the Amhara ethnicity in the region over the past months. The National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) blames the attacks on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), but also accuses the central government of complicity. NaMA said that at rallies in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the region, Amhara are stigmatized and referred to by the pejorative “neftegna“—meaning “rifleman” or “musketeer,” a reference to armed settlers in Oromia under the Amhara-dominated Abyssinian monarchy. (Photo via Addis Standard)
The already horrific conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray state seems set to escalate after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that a three-day ultimatum for local forces to surrender had expired, clearing the way for a government offensive on the regional capital Mekele. At least 20,000 refugees have fled to Sudan amid air-strikes and mounting reports of atrocities on both sides. Neighboring Eritrea has also apparently entered the conflict—ironically on the side of the Ethiopian government, long its bitter enemy. The state government of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) accuses Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of troops over the border to support Ethiopian federal forces. Although this is denied by Eritrea, Tigray state forces have fired rockets into the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Mekele has also fired rockets at the airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar in Ethiopia’s Amhara state, whose local forces have joined the conflict on the side of the central government. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
Ethiopia’s attorney general filed charges against 24 activists for alleged terrorism and incitement to violence. Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, two leading opposition politicians of the Oromo Federalist Congress, were among those charged. The charges arise from events that occurred after the death of Hachalu Hundessa in June. Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist, was murdered, though the precise motivation remains unknown. Following Hundessa’s death, inter-ethnic violence erupted, resulting in the deaths of up to 239 people. Despite being the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Oromo have historically faced political and economic marginalization. Jawar and Gerba actively oppose the Ethiopian government and have called for the federal state to give “self-rule” to Oromos and other ethnic groups in regions where those groups constitute the majority of the population. (Photo: Petterik Wiggers via Ethiopia Insight)
The military has been deployed in the Ethiopian capital amid a general uprising by the Oromo people that broke out after the assassination of a popular singer. Hachalu Hundessa, shot while driving on the outskrits of Addis Ababa, was an icon of the Oromo protest movement that has been mounting since 2015. His songs have been hailed as the “soundtrack of the Oromo revolution,” and he was named “Oromo Person of the Year” by cultural advocates in 2017. Two have been arrested in the killing, but rebellion continues to spread across Central Ethiopia. At least 80 have been killed and many detained. Oromo leader Jawar Mohammed is among those arrested. (Photo: DAGI Pisctures via BBC News)
Nearly 70 people have been killed in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region following a week of unrest and ethnic violence. The eruption began after Jawar Mohammed, prominent advocate for the Oromo people, posted on social media about an imminent attempt on his life by security forces. Supporters surrounded his house and police retreated, but violence quickly spread. The army has now been deployed to put down the protests. Illegal sales of traditional Oromo lands to facilitate urban expansion on the outskirts of Addis Ababa has long been a grievance of the Oromo people. But anger has been unleashed on ethnic minorities in Oromia. In Sebeta, a town within the Oromia Special Zone surrounding the capital, eight members of Gamos people were killed, apparently by a mob of Oromo youth. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as Muslims have also been targeted, with both churches and mosques attacked. (Photo of gathering outside Jawar Mohammed’s home via Twitter)
Dozens of members of Ethiopia’s National Movement of Amhara (NaMa) have been arrested since the ethnic-based opposition party apparently attempted to seize power in Amhara state in a regional coup. In the uprising, the regional president and three officials were killed in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar. The army chief of staff was also killed by his own bodyguards in the national capital, Addis Ababa. NaMa has denied any link to the violence, and says 250 of its followers have been detained in the sweeps. NaMa has quickly come to challenge Amhara regional state’s ruling Amhara Democratic Party, which is aligned with the national ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The Amhara people are growing increasingly restive under the rule of the EPRDF, which they perceive as dominated by the Tigray people. (Photo via Twitter)
Following peace talks hosted by Eritrea, the government of Ethiopia announced a peace deal with the Oromo Liberation Front rebels. The deal guarantees rebel leaders the right to participate in Ethiopia's political process in exchange for laying down arms. The OLF has long been backed by Eritrea, and the pact comes one month after a formal end was declared to the two-decade state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with Ethiopia ceding its claim to the contested border town of Badme. This points to a softening of positions under Ethiopia's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The Badme deal was also said to have been quietly brokered by the United Arab Emirates, which has emerged as politically isolated Eritrea's most significant foreign patron, part of an apparent design to encircle Yemen. (Photo: Yassin Juma)
Oromo activists in Ethiopia launched a "fuel blockade," occupying roadways to halt shipment of oil through the country. The action was called following a massacre at the village of Moyale, near the Kenyan border. Troops gunned down nine unarmed residents, apparently mistaking them for militants of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Nearly 5,000 have fled across the border to Kenya—some having directly run from gunfire. Ethiopia last year imposed a state of emergency in response to mounting Oromo protests. Roadblocks are reported from several points around the country, so far without violence. (Photo via UNPO)
Ethiopia's Amhara people are staging a local uprising to oppose a change to internal borders that would favor Tigray region, homeland of the country's ruling elite.
Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 since November, and arrested tens of thousands more, in efforts to quash protests in the Oromia region.
Several have been killed in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, in protests over plans to expand the city's borders to incorporate outlying Oromo-dominated municipalities.