International Crisis Group recommendations to the UN on Ethiopia

Working toward a ceasefire in Ethiopia

Source: ICG

The conflict centred around Ethiopia’s Tigray region between the federal government and Tigray forces has already created a severe humanitarian crisis, which is likely to worsen with the fighting in a dangerous new phase.  The UN has been active in engaging with Ethiopian stakeholders but needs to do more to urge all parties – including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Tigray’s leadership – to back off from the battlefield, where an expanding war could easily cause massive casualties.

Since the conflict started in November 2020, neither the federal government nor Tigray’s forces have exhibited willingness to unconditionally pause hostilities and pursue dialogue.  The consequence has been a dire humanitarian emergency where, according to the UN, over five million people in the region are in need of assistance. Some 400,000 of them are acutely food-insecure.  The fighting has also interrupted the planting season, with harvests estimated at only about 25-50 per cent of average levels. After withdrawing from most of the region in late June, federal authorities have blockaded Tigray, in effect, cutting off telecommunications, electricity and banking services.

On the battlefield, the Tigray forces have been buoyed by forcing federal Ethiopian troops to depart Tigray region and have made incursions since mid-July into the neighbouring Afar region to the east and Amhara region to the south.  These manoeuvres – which could cut off a critical trade route to Djibouti – are partly aimed at pressuring Addis Ababa into accepting the Tigray forces’ terms for a deal, including formation of a transitional government. The Tigrayans have nonetheless met stiff resistance and have not achieved all their military objectives. The federal government, meanwhile, has responded to its military setbacks and the Tigray offensive by enlisting paramilitaries from other regions, launching a mass mobilisation campaign and calling on “all eligible civilians” to sign up for the national army. Since November, Eritrea’s military has lined up alongside Ethiopia’s, while Amhara regional forces are still occupying territory in western Tigray.

The unwavering commitment by all sides to pursuing a military solution threatens not just many more deaths but also the Ethiopian state itself. Addis Ababa has employed dangerous rhetoric antagonising Tigrayans while calling on civilians to join the fighting. This fervour, combined with decades-long resentment of Tigrayan leaders for their part in a period of authoritarian rule, could lead to further serious fractures in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, a continuing advance by the Tigray forces could lead to thousands more deaths, bring a widening humanitarian crisis and ratchet up domestic pressure on Abiy, which – while still unlikely in the short term – could lead to an alarming implosion in Addis Ababa and an ensuing power struggle with serious risks of a broader breakdown. These factors warrant a commensurate response from international actors, including the UN, which needs to impress on all parties the need to quickly de-escalate before the situation deteriorates further.

Building on his 26 August statement to the Security Council emphasising that “the unity of Ethiopia and the stability of the region are at stake”, Secretary-General Guterres should adopt an increasingly assertive approach to the crisis. He should use his channels in Addis Ababa, especially his direct contacts with Abiy, to underscore the urgent risks of a wider conflict that could have consequences far outside Tigray. The secretary-general should counsel Abiy to drop his resistance to negotiating with Tigray’s leaders and urge both sides to cast their military plans aside in favour of a deal. Diplomats from the U.S., the European Union (EU), Germany, France and the UK should back up the UN initiative with outreach to, primarily, Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, a key interlocutor for international actors, to convey the same messages about the need for a pact.

Such an agreement could have several elements. The secretary-general should call on the federal government to lift its de facto blockade of Tigray and restore basic services while granting humanitarian agencies access to Tigray – if Tigrayan leaders freeze their military operations and soften their negotiating positions. A core Tigray demand is the withdrawal from western Tigray of all Amhara forces and administrators who moved in at the outset of fighting in November as well as the exit of all federal and Eritrean forces from the region. Guterres should urge the Tigrayan side to give federal, Amhara and Eritrean leaders time to complete these steps rather than trying to achieve them via military means. In exchange for a withdrawal, Tigray’s leaders could commit to politically addressing the territorial dispute over western Tigray with the Amhara region in the future and also dropping their demands for a transitional government involving Abiy’s departure.

The Tigray conflict has expanded to a worrying scale. Leaders in both Addis Ababa and Mekelle have so far been unresponsive to external diplomatic initiatives. This is all the more reason for the UN to step up its efforts, conscious of the considerable risks ahead if the conflict continues along its present trajectory.

25 comments

  1. There is no “western Tigray,” in the first place. That area was strategically taken by TPLF when they were “ruling ,”Ethiopia for the last 27 ፡ years ፡ preparing ፡ “ታላቐ ፡ ትግራይ ፡ ,” to establish to have boarder to Sudan.
    Ethiopian citizens don’t have a bad blood with Tigray tribes. If they don’t support those handful Banda leaders and get rid of them there is always peace to live side by side with the rest of tribes in Ethiopia. Ethiopians are a collective of different tribes and religions who tend to leave in harmony as our previous ancestors did and now also do. We don’t need outsiders to solve our problem, we can solve it and as we speak we’re solving it. Thank you listening

    1. Your previous ancestors where the amhara imperial colonist who sucked the blood of all nationalities.
      You, amhara , don’t want to live in harmony with any one. It isn’t secret your moving earth and sky to return all nationalities to their yesterday inferiority and marginalization – under the false banner of one Ethiopia.
      Speak for your type only, not any other nationality. Every one is wide awake and doesn’t allow the yesterday colonizers to speak for them. PERIOD!!

      — FROM THE LONG MARGINALIZED —

    2. Well there is and there will be forever and ever. We don’t have to argue with your nonsense. If you have a little thinking ability all the towns are tigrigna names. Do you think that is a coincidence? 97% of the people that live there speak Tigrigna. Why don’t you learn about your own ethnicity instead of calling your self this funny name Amhara. There is no ethnic amhara. Either you have to be kimant, agew, argoba … who are you?

    3. Jery please refer either to historical back ground or current ideological document which is signed by agreement with Amhara and Tigray leadership as the legal Ethiopian and world map shows.
      Please let us not take side as numbers of people are dying from both(different) groups of people just for geopolitics gain as the people in that area used to or will live together speaking same language.

  2. Which western areas of Tigray are you talming about. Who give these areas to Tigray region. These areas were the lands of Amhara people for centuries. When Tplf came to power , they forcely took or demarcated to Tigray region. You didn’t mention the root couse of the conflict. Ethiopian army were severly shot and thousands were found dead. Ethiopian people want justice. These criminals must have to stand in front of the law.

    1. Amharas are about to lose Lalibela which belongs to the Kimant people, while staring at Western Tigray, Assab and Finfine.

    2. I am an Ethiopian and my people actually thank tplf – for they are the ones that gave us the precious self governing gift which by the way is the first ever glimpse of rights – feeling equal Ethiopians to your kind.
      You , amhara, we see you well; trying to snatch back that gift from us. Stop the stupid trick of ethiopianism. Speak for you people only – the amhara.

  3. Amhara imperialists should not be allowed to comment their denialist nonsense here. We know that for them, all land under the sky belongs to Amhara. And they don’t care about the extermination of a people, because their issue with TPLF is not its dictatorial rule, but that it’s not an Amhara dictatorship.

    ICG should acknowledge the facts on the ground and use the IL term “genocide”. Everything else is bullshit.

  4. Why you say western Tigray? If you want to say western Tigray limit you srlf in Shire and surrounding.Tigray has no land beyond Tikezze river in history. But annexed the the region by fore with out the will of original resident- the Amharas after the come to power in 1991. The TPLF massacared,cleansed, looted the origional (residends) Amharas and brought their entinic Tigray include their demobilized army selle them for 27 years Wolkite_Tsegede. If you are not the mouth of TPLF or independet go and see the map of Tigray prior to 1991.Why you say nothing about Kadra river/Maikadra massacar, why you are slilent about current masacars of innocent people (women, children, young people and elderly) rapes destroying of public facilities such as hospitals, schools,banks,telecoms, collegs and university, warehouses, etc, looting in Amhara and Afar regions?

  5. Why you say western Tigray? If you want to say western Tigray limit you self in Shire and surrounding.Tigray has no land beyond Tikezze river in history. But annexed the the region by force with out the will of original resident- the Amharas after the come to power in 1991. The TPLF massacared,cleansed, looted and consificated the lands of the origional (residends) Amharas and brought their entincty from central Tigray include their demobilized army setlle them for 27 years in Wolkite_Tsegede. If you are not the mouth of TPLF or independet go and see the map of Tigray prior to 1991.Why you say nothing about Kadra river/Maikadra massacar, why you are slilent about current masacars of innocent people (women, children, young people and elderly) rapes destroying of public facilities such as hospitals, schools,banks,telecoms, colleges and university, warehouses, etc, looting in Amhara and Afar regions?

  6. The article is well written and the conflict can engulf the whole region. As the “ICC” put it together, the UN and AU can’t be part of the solution. On the other hand , the UN can help the needy and Force Abiy Ahmed to lift all kind of blockage against Tigray. The US, EU,France, Germany and UK have to force to create free fly zon to Tigray. Isayas Afeworki has go out of Tigrayan territory by Force. The Will be solved easily Rhen by TDF and be OLA, No quetion about that.

  7. Ethiopia is administrated by the current constitution for the last 30 yrs. Talking about western Tigray Amhara militia with support of Eritrea animals and Biltsigna arawit have occupied the land. Someone said western Tigray was part of Amhara prior to EPRDF rule and the truth is it was taken from Tigray during Haileselasie regime. If someone takes land by force we will take it by force too. Forget western Tigray Lalibela and Woldia and many cities in south Tigray are now under the galant forces of TDF. This tells you when you want to use force then force will face you. Amhara elites should stop expansionist idea that claims land from Tigray, Oromia and Benshangul. See now a lot of land of Amhara is under Sudan. In my understanding the main obstacles of Ethiopia’s situation are the Amharahas who stick themselves to any ruler who is on power. When they say Ethiopia they really mean Amhara and this doesn’t work at all.

  8. By Western Tigray if you mean Shire and surrounding areas there are no Amhara and no federal forces there. They are occupied by TPLF. But if you meant Western Tigray to refer to Welkait, Humera, Tsegedi and Telemet and you are talking about returning them back to Tigray you must be a day dreamer. You are simply naive and laughable to even be thinking about the idea. These lands are back to their rightful owners and will remain Amhara lands permanently. No talks and no negotiations. The file is closed.

  9. ICG people have been advocates of the TPLF. The western politicians should stay away. Whatever they touch spoils like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. TPLF is in its last leg and will get crashed ultimately. As for Wolkayt, it is vlosed file.
    ICG is trying to secure funding cycling what it said months ago.

  10. There is no “western Tigray,” in the first place. That area was strategically taken by TPLF when they were “ruling ,”Ethiopia for the last 27 ፡ years ፡ preparing ፡ “ታላቐ ፡ ትግራይ ፡ ,” to establish to have boarder to Sudan.
    Ethiopian citizens don’t have a bad blood with Tigray tribes. If they don’t support those handful Banda leaders and get rid of them there is always peace to live side by side with the rest of tribes in Ethiopia. Ethiopians are a collective of different tribes and religions who tend to leave in harmony as our previous ancestors did and now also do. We don’t need outsiders to solve our problem, we can solve it and as we speak we’re solving it. Thank you listening

  11. Oh yes, Somalis never felt Ethiopians before the Tplf government as they are credited for the formation of so called self-governing nations. Even though this was flawed and ripped with bias and slavery under the Tplf no doubt it was a good beginning. The Ethiopian constitution underlines the right for self determination. Nations in Ethiopia should exercise this right for a lasting peace. Those who do not wish to be part of bigger Ethiopia should leave the Union. This is the only long-term solution for not only Ethiopia but much of Africa. Life is too short. No more blood-shed!

    1. Their is no called self determination, in any part of the world . unless and otherwise, the countries union have been a contractual union of,like that of the Soviet Union of 1922 or the European Union of 1993. I feel shame on those TPLF ‘s leaders and radical ethnic based activist. Where is their History knowledge?????????? Dear my country activists and politicians do you know ?that ,There is no ground to create a new independent countries in Africa or in any part of the world?????? Do you know that , what International Law means????? where is your education?????? Who is the responsible for the failures of your history education ????????. I need answer from the international crisis groups .God will protect Ethiopia. amen

      1. May I respectfully point out that the Western Sahara, Kashmir and Scotland are just some countries calling for self determination?

        1. Countries in Africa and, India have maintained independence and sovereignty by the reference of colonial agreement’s and colonial treaty’s . For example , the western Sahara issue is the issue of morocco . because morocco was a colony of France and Spain. …,,, the cases of Kashmir, British has never been ruled Kashmir separately, it had been ruled in Indian subcontinent. The case of Scotland, both British and scotland are Anglo-Saxon .

  12. ICG is more worried about Ethiopia’s “unity and stability” than the genocide in Tigray. You always need to read between the lines to see their real intention. Here are those subversive lines in this article:

    “Guterres should urge the Tigrayan side to give federal, Amhara and Eritrean leaders time to complete these steps [to move out from West Tigray] rather than trying to achieve them via military means.”

    Imagine putting your trust on Abiy, Isaias and Amhara leaders to move out of West Tigray peacefully out of their volition—there cannot be a more twisted and evil-intentioned proposal than this. And ICG knows it; it is simply doing this to influence the UN in favor of the Ethiopian government.

  13. Ethiopia has 10 regional and 2 federal states, respectively. Those states are living under the federal government of 🇪🇹 Ethiopia law and orders , though , the federal government has the obligation and the responsibility to re enforce law and orders whenever those regional states misbehaving to wards to the federal government of Ethiopia. However Tigrai people liberation Front has misbehaved to the federal government of Ethiopia military, TPLF attacked the federal defense force on the middle of the night, to dis establishes the Federal government today the international community and western governments are watching TpLF’s misbehaving to the people of Tigrian.Ethiopia

  14. Ethiopia government has the right to enforce law and order in Tigrai and in any part of the country. hawever, The TPLF’s major wish and expectations are to create ; alawless Ethiopia, Which provides an economic benefits for TPLF ,In the Expanses of the mother land 🇪🇹. by doing so ,it expects creating a default state of Tigrai. Taking into consideration, the international crisis groups should tell us haw many new independent countries to be created in Africa in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Or the international community must oppose the misbehaves of TPLF Leaders, by doing so, we can bring peace for Tigrai and Ethiopia in general.

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