Ethiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a sovereign state located in the Horn of Africa. It is the only African country remain independent through the colonial period, it is one of the founding members of the United Nations, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77. It gave moral and material support for the decolonization of Africa which culminated in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, which replaced the OAU in 2002, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Aviation Training HQ, the African Standby Force, and much of the global NGOs focused on Africa.

Ethiopians are ethnically diverse, with the most important differences on the basis of linguistic categorization. Although the constitution provides that “all Ethiopian languages shall enjoy equal state recognition” it names Amharic as the official language; together with Oromo, it is one of the two most widely spoken languages in the country. In the 1990s ethnolinguistic differences were used as the basis for restructuring Ethiopia’s administrative divisions.

The Derg took power in 1974 and promised to bring revolutionary change to Ethiopia, however the regime committed a variety of atrocities, killing an estimated 60,000 people. The Derg stayed in power until 1991 when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), took over.

The TPLF stayed in power until 2018 when tensions between the government and the Amhara and Oromo groups led to the resignation of the Prime Minister and subsequent election of Amiy Ahmed. Abiy was the first Oromo to hold the position of Prime Minister. Although the new regime was greeted with significant hope, tension and violence have continued.

Abiy’s reforms had a special effect on the TPLF, who until then had been the dominant group within the coalition although they represent less than 10% of the population. Tensions among the government and the former ruling group began to escalate, it got out of hand after the government delayed a general election scheduled to take place in 2020. Despite the delay, officials in the Tigray region held elections on a local level, the animosity between both sides erupted into violence in November that year.

Ten months after the outbreak of war in Tigray, UNHCR reports an estimated 650,000 civilians have been displaced within the region and 120,000 have been forced into Sudan. The conflict has spread and affected not only Tigrayans but other communities, including Somali, Afar, Amhara and Oromia as well as Eritrean refugees who had been sheltering in Tigray.

In 2020 and 2021 there have also been violent disputes over territory between the Afar and Somali region claiming the lives of over 100 people in the month of April 2021 alone. There have been reports from civilians from ethnic groups living on both sides of the border between Amhara and Oromia that have been subject to attacks, a state of emergency in the southern part of the Amhara region was declared, in a bid to stem deadly ethnic violence.

Update March 2023

Although ACLED reported over a 50% decrease in violent events overall and a 74% decrease in battles in Ethiopia as a whole in February, continuing violence in Oromia was perpetrated by Oromia regional special forces.[1] Fighting between OLA and the Ethiopian...

Monitor March 2023

Atrocities Watch Africa MonitorMarch 2023 Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA) is a non-partisan, civil society organisation that provides continental leadership in matters pertaining to the prevention of mass atrocities within Africa, our strategies and approaches are...

Discussion on the Ethiopian Peace Process: filling in the gaps

After two years of fighting the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,[1] on 2 November 2022 in Pretoria South Africa. This was followed by the signing of an Executive Declaration on...


Atrocities Watch Africa Monitor No 5, June 2022 Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA) is a non-partisan, civil society organisation that intends to provide continental leadership in matters pertaining to the prevention of mass atrocities within Africa, our strategies and...

Update June 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 5, June 2022Read full newsletter here. The situation in Ethiopia remains volatile. Although levels of violence in northern Ethiopia have declined, there are now more, less deadly incidents spread out over a larger geographic area....