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FLASH ALERT: ETHIOPIA DECLARES SIX MONTH-LONG STATE OF EMERGENCY

FLASH ALERT: ETHIOPIA DECLARES SIX MONTH-LONG STATE OF EMERGENCY AS REBEL FORCES HEAD TOWARDS ADDIS ABABA

Team: AFRICOM

Sachin Khunte, Editor; Demetrios Giannakaris, Editor; Brendan Paige, Senior Editor

Week of: Monday, November 1, 2021



Ethiopian National Defense Force Soldiers[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for international residents, in-country Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Ethiopian citizens following the declaration of a six-month-long state of emergency by the Ethiopian government on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. This declaration comes as the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has captured strategic territory in the Tigray and Amhara regions, and continues to advance towards the capital city, Addis Ababa.[2] The Ethiopian government ordered its citizens to defend the capital from the TPLF.[3] As the Tigray forces continue approaching Addis Ababa, increasing violence is very likely to result in civilian casualties, reduced governmental stability, and humanitarian crises.


CTG is on HIGH alert and monitoring the likelihood of an imminent large-scale conflict reaching Addis Ababa. TPLF’s arrival in Addis Ababa will almost certainly destabilize the Ethiopian government, negatively impact the economy, worsen the humanitarian conflict, and result in more civilian deaths. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, has been criticized by countries, including the United States, for human rights violations and the escalation of conflict within the country since November 2020.[4] As the conflict continues to result in widespread human rights abuses, the United States may suspend Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and expand sanctions; the United States has already revoked trade privileges in the form of duty-free access to Ethiopian exports.[5] This will almost certainly negatively affect the economic situation of the country and hinder the reach of humanitarian aid to conflict-ridden areas. Moreover, the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia will negatively impact its bilateral relationship with the United States and neighboring countries, which will almost certainly impede counterterrorism activities in the region and further destabilize the Horn of Africa.


On October 31, 2021, following TPLF’s claims to have gained more territory in the north and threats to march towards the capital city, Addis Ababa, Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency, calling citizens to defend themselves, neighborhoods, and the capital city.[6] TPLF’s claims were further supported by a United Nations report about TPLF heading south from Kombolcha, a city on the path to Addis Ababa.[7] The TPLF has joined forces with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and share the same goal of overthrowing the Ethiopian government by using military force.[8] This alliance will almost certainly provide additional manpower, military support, and resources for the TPLF in its conflict against the central government; this will likely lead to an initial military-led government or even a political alliance if they succeed in taking over the capital. Moreover, even if this military alliance succeeds, decades-old unresolved differences between TPLF and OLA will likely hinder the governance of the country even after the conflict ends.


State-affiliated broadcasts have claimed that the state of emergency was declared to protect citizens from TPLF atrocities.[9] The state of emergency allocates Ahmed the power to impose curfews, restrict the news, and arrest and detain critics.[10] President Abiy Ahmed is likely to use this state of emergency to further exert control over the citizens of Ethiopia, which will likely lead to escalation of conflict resulting in more human rights violations, communications blackout, and restrictions on NGOs and international observers.


In November 2020, the initial campaign against the TPLF launched by Abiy Ahmed aimed to be swift with little to no casualties.[11] The escalation of the conflict and its expansion across several regions within Ethiopia has almost certainly challenged Abiy Ahmed's authority and diminished his popularity in Ethiopia by further highlighting previous atrocities committed by his government. Even if Abiy Ahmed successfully stops the Tigrayan forces, his authoritarian governance will likely continue to create conflicts. If the TPLF reaches the capital, they will likely attack and gain access to important government buildings like the Ethiopian parliament building and city hall, which will almost certainly disrupt government activities. The public’s growing frustration with Abiy Ahmed, in addition to the Tigray and OLA forces moving toward the capital, will likely increase public support to these anti-government forces which in turn will almost certainly increase the risk of undermining and overthrowing the Ethiopian government. Moreover, weak governance and porous borders will likely attract more conflict and extremist groups from neighboring countries such as Sudan and Eritrea into Ethiopia.


The UN has warned that 700,000 Ethiopians face famine and seven million more need emergency assistance in the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions as the conflict has exacerbated the nation’s existing economic and agricultural crisis.[12] The expulsion of UN officials last month from Ethiopia will impede the distribution of humanitarian aid to those in need.[13] The ongoing famine and continued lack of appropriate humanitarian aid will likely lead to conflicts between various groups over resources which will likely worsen the country’s law and order. Furthermore, the newly imposed state of emergency, combined with escalating conflict, will almost certainly worsen the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and will likely force thousands of Ethiopians into Sudan, straining the country’s already limited resources and further destabilizing the Horn of Africa.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH. As Ethiopian troops direct their focus on the domestic conflict, it is almost certain the state of emergency will further decrease the effectiveness of counterterrorism operations in Somalia against Al-Shabaab. It is unlikely that future counterterrorism partnerships with the African Union and the United States will happen as Ethiopia continues to receive international backlash for the conflict and human rights abuses. The risk of a severe humanitarian crisis is HIGH as internal and cross-border displacements increase the risk of regional instability. CTG further assesses that the risk of increased terrorist and criminal activity is HIGH as they will likely exploit instability to gain resources and manpower among Ethiopians negatively impacted by the conflict. The AFRICOM Team recommends that NGOs and civilians in the region remain vigilant near the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions. Civilians in Addis Ababa should seek to remain sheltered and removed from armed confrontations to limit casualties. For the long-term, CTG recommends that the African Union, United Nations, and the United States continue to exert pressure on the TPLF and Ethiopian government to attain a negotiated settlement.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of continuing violence if the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front do not establish a ceasefire and negotiate a settlement. The violence will highly likely worsen the humanitarian crises, decrease the popular support and legitimacy of the Ethiopian government, and risk regional destabilization if the conflict spreads outside of Ethiopia.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) produces Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.CH) intelligence to deliver critical intelligence and investigation services to pinpoint and assess regional variations of global threats. We can provide you with the safety and protection needed to feel secure. No matter if it’s just one person or an entire organization, we can handle everything for your peace of mind. We are the present, and future solution to the ever-evolving global threat landscape. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1] “Ethiopian National Defense Force Soldiers” by DoD, Eric A. Clement licensed under Public Domain

[2] Ethiopia Declares Nationwide State of Emergency, Al Jazeera, November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/2/ethiopia-declares-nationwide-state-of-emergency

[3] Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency as Rebels Advance Toward Capital, The New York Times, November 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/world/africa/ethiopia-state-of-emergency.html?referringSource=articleShare

[4] Ibid

[5] Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency as Conflict Escalates, Financial Times, November 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/fd336b4b-bd74-453f-8c68-96ab516cb11a

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ethiopia Armed Group Says It Has Alliance with Tigray Forces, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/11/ethiopia-armed-group-says-it-has-alliance-with-tigray-forces

[9] Ethiopia Armed Group Says It Has Alliance with Tigray Forces, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/11/ethiopia-armed-group-says-it-has-alliance-with-tigray-forces

[10] Ibid

[11] Ethiopia Armed Group Says It Has Alliance with Tigray Forces, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/11/ethiopia-armed-group-says-it-has-alliance-with-tigray-forces

[12] Ibid

[13] Ethiopia is Facing an ‘immense humanitarian crisis’, UN Chief Warns, The Guardian, October 2021 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/07/ethiopia-facing-humanitarian-crisis-un-chief-warns

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