Update June 2023

The ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans in Western Tigray is ongoing despite the November 2022 cessation of hostilities agreement. Local authorities and Amhara forces have continued to kill, torture, arbitrarily arrest, and expel Tigrayans in what may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a recent Human Rights Watch investigation.[1] A government task force was supposed to investigate the violations in the area by December 2022, however, so far there are no details of these investigations nor has anyone been held responsible.[2]

Tensions rose between Amhara regional forces and the government when the latter indicated they would disarm Amhara regional forces and integrate them into the federal army in April. The Amhara population saw this as an undermining their regional autonomy and self-administration. Prominent Amhara figures spoke out against this, considering it an advance of “militant Oromo nationalism that seeks to forcefully assimilate other groups.” Protests took place throughout the region, a curfew was imposed in the city of Gondar and clashes were reported. In Addis Ababa, some Amhara-linked journalists and community leaders were arrested.[3] The situation worsened when Girma Yeshitila, the head of the Prosperity Party (PP) in Amhara, was killed and the federal government announced a law enforcement operation against “extremist forces”. Amhara forces have been organising against the federal government, a new FANO militia called the Gondar Brigade was formed in late May and sporadic clashes were recorded in the region.[4]

In addition, in the past months, the situation in Oromia has been particularly worrisome. An initial round of peace negotiations between the government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) ended in early May. Regrettably, although the parties agreed to continue negotiations, no substantial agreements were reached.[5] However armed clashes between the OLA and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and violence against civilians continued and there was a spike in political violent events following the first round of negotiations.[6]

Despite over 20 million Ethiopians relying on food aid, the assistance was temporarily suspended after reports of it being mismanaged. Both the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and USAID halted their operations throughout the country on 9 June, after discovering a “widespread and coordinated campaign” orchestrated by federal and regional government entities that was diverting the food from Ethiopians in need. USAID had already suspended operations in Tigray, where over six million people are in need of assistance, a month prior, as food was not reaching intended recipients and was instead being sold in local markets.[7] Witnesses said rebel Tigray authorities had regularly taken a proportion of beneficiaries’ aid rations during the war as tax.[8] It is unknown when these operations are expected to resume, but women in southeastern Tigray are dying of hunger according to a local news source.[9] The situation in Tigray continues to be a cause for concern, as the implementation of the peace agreement has been slow and the suspension of food supplies may undermine the faith in the ongoing process.

[1] Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Ethnic Cleansing Persists Under Tigray Truce,” 1 June 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/06/01/ethiopia-ethnic-cleansing-persists-under-tigray-truce

[2] Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Ethnic Cleansing Persists Under Tigray Truce,” 1 June 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/06/01/ethiopia-ethnic-cleansing-persists-under-tigray-truce

[3] BBC, “Ethiopia’s Amhara region hit by protests over move to dissolve regional forces,” 10 April 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-65194146

[4] Ethiopia Insight, “Amharas turning on Abiy are short of Ethiopian allies,” 7 June 2023, https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2023/06/07/amharas-turning-on-abiy-are-short-of-ethiopian-allies/

[5] Anadolu Agency, “Peace talks between Ethiopia, Oromo rebels conclude without deal,” 3 May 2023, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/peace-talks-between-ethiopia-oromo-rebels-conclude-without-deal/2888352

[6] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, EPO weekly: 29 April-19 May 2023, 24 May 2023,  https://epo.acleddata.com/2023/05/24/epo-weekly-29-april-19-may-2023/

[7] USAid, Pause of U.S. Food Aid in Tigray, Ethiopia, 3 May 2023, https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/may-03-2023-pause-us-food-aid-tigray-ethiopia

[8] The Guardian, “Food aid suspended in Ethiopia after ‘widespread and coordinated’ thievery,” 9 June 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jun/09/food-aid-suspended-in-ethiopia-after-widespread-and-coordinated-thievery

[9] Tigrai TV, 29 April 2023, https://twitter.com/tigrai_tv/status/1652367797350006784?s=46&t=gPCV6UcsqZiGO_KhCPEn-Q