Source: Al-Monitor

Mariam al-Mahdi

April 7, 2021

CAIRO — The round of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam between the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian ministers of water and irrigation concluded April 6 without agreement in Kinshasa, Congo. No consensus was even reached to continue the diplomatic process to settle the unresolved disputes over the filling and operation of the dam.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a press statement after the meetings ended, “The meeting has not achieved any progress and will not result in an agreement on relaunching the negotiations. Ethiopia refused the Egyptian and Sudanese proposal to form an international quartet led by the Democratic Republic of Congo as mediator between the three countries.” He also said, “Ethiopia also refused a proposition that Egypt made during the closing session and Sudan supported to resume negotiations under the wing of the Congolese president and with the participation of observers.”

He added, “The Ethiopian stance once again proves the lack of Ethiopia’s well-intentioned political willingness to negotiate. It is stalling and procrastinating, and it is clinging to a formal and ineffective negotiation mechanism.”

The round of talks was held in Congo because the country now heads the African Union Commission. The three-day talks between the ministers of water and irrigation of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia began April 4 after Ethiopia insisted on proceeding with the second stage of filling the dam reservoir during the flood season in July and retaining around 13.5 billion cubic meters of water.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs blamed Sudan and Egypt for the failure of the talks and seeking to “undermine the AU-led process and take the matter out of the African platform,” adding that the scheduled second filling of the dam will proceed as scheduled.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi released statements that directly threatened and warned against any measures that infringe upon Egyptian interests in Nile water.

The talks aimed at determining the approach, process and timing of negotiations, in addition to mechanisms ensuring commitment to them to secure constructive negotiations and overcome the stalemate that has cast a shadow over the talks since the sponsorship of the African Union began in June 2020. The objective was to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam in a way that would ensure the interests of the three countries and maintain the rights of the two downstream countries, avoiding the creation of risks or damages for Egypt and Sudan when the dam stores water.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during the first session of the Kinshasa talks April 4 that the negotiations “are the last chance to reach an agreement on the operation and filling of the dam before the next flood season.”

An Egyptian technical source who participated in the Kinshasa meetings told Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian delegation attended the Kinshasa meetings based on instructions from the political leadership to offer several alternative solutions to the remaining points of contention through serious dialogue and diplomatic means. The Egyptian suggestions were backed by Sudan and observers participating in the meetings.”

The source added on condition of anonymity, “A detailed report about the meetings and their outcomes will be presented, and the situation will be assessed, given the failure to reach an agreement and the Egyptian political leadership’s halt of negotiations. Moving forward, Egypt has several scenarios to deter any attempts to impose a fait accompli and sabotage the Nile water.”

During the talks, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi had warned against unilateral measures that Ethiopia might take in filling the dam reservoir. In statements cited by the Sudan News Agency, she said Ethiopia’s first filling of the dam “unilaterally resulted in a week of thirst, and it negatively affected irrigation and the animal wealth needs. By proceeding with the second filling despite Sudan’s warnings, Ethiopia would be achieving short-term political gains.” She said, “Sudan refuses any unilateral filling of the dam because a conflict over resources would mean an unwanted future for Africa.”

Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, a former Egyptian minister of water resources, told Al-Monitor, “If Ethiopia proceeds with the second filling without Egypt and Sudan’s approval, it would be somewhat declaring war.”

Hani Raslan, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Ethiopia has made its own bed by proceeding with the second filling in any case. Egypt is unlikely to accept that another state controls the fate and lives of 100 million Egyptians. The Ethiopian leadership is responsible for dragging the region into an unjustified conflict.”

Raslan said, “There were many opportunities to reach consensual solutions to cooperate in the eastern Nile and achieve the interests of all parties by generating electricity to Ethiopia and not harming the water supplies of Egypt and Sudan, thus avoiding a conflict that would be costly for all. However, Ethiopia has dealt with the GERD issue as a zero-sum game, without caring about peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.” The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is also known by its initials, GERD.

He said any decision to launch a military attack on the dam could strengthen Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration “amid the conflicts and divisions inside Ethiopia, particularly with the nearing elections.”

With the failure of the negotiations, international law expert Musaed Abdel Aty told Al-Monitor, “Egypt and Sudan have a legal commitment to return to the Security Council, under Article 7, and brief it by giving a unified speech that includes a legal and technical narration of what happened during the negotiation rounds under African Union auspices. Their briefing must describe the current situation in the region and Ethiopia’s clear and direct threats to peace and security, and it must urge the council to fulfill its role and issue a decision to stop the second filling until a satisfactory agreement that guarantees the interests and rights of the downstream countries is reached.”

He added, “The Kinshasa talks revealed the Ethiopian recklessness and foiling of any chance at peaceful settlement of the conflict by refusing international mediation. This is a violation of the rules of international law.”

Before the meetings, Sisi had addressed the Congolese president in a letter in which he said Egypt was striving for an agreement to be reached fairly quickly, before the flood season.

Abdel Aty said, “Sisi’s discourse carried several connotations about Egypt’s respect for the African Union’s efforts and quest to solve the dispute through diplomatic and peaceful means.”

Coincidentally with the meetings of the ministers of water and irrigation in Kinshasa, the chief of staff of Egypt’s armed forces, Mohamed Hegazi, was in Sudan attending the end of air maneuvers of the Nile Eagles 2 exercise, in which top Egyptian fighter jets participated, at Merowe air base. The exercise follows the Nile Eagles 1 maneuvers held in November. Hegazi said, “Egypt stands by the Sudanese army. We are in the same boat, and we look forward to a promising and secure future.”

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Border clashes between Ethiopia’s Afar and Somali regions have killed at least 100 people, a regional official said on Tuesday, the latest outbreak of violence ahead of national elections in June.

Around 100 civilians were killed since clashes broke out on Friday and continued through Tuesday, Ahmed Humed, deputy police commissioner for the Afar region, told Reuters by phone. He blamed the violence on an attack by Somali regional forces.

Ali Bedel, a spokesman for the Somali region, said 25 people had been killed on Friday and an “unknown number of civilians” died in a subsequent attack by the same forces on Tuesday.

Both sides deny having initiated the attacks and blame the other for the violence. Reuters could not verify whether the 25 deaths claimed by the Somali official were in addition to the 100 deaths or included in that figure.

Clashes along the border predate the six-month-old conflict in the north that has pitted the federal government against the former ruling party of the Tigray region.

Yet the violence has intensified just as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is trying to assert control over Tigray - underscoring how the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner is struggling to keep the country together. The election is regarded as a litmus test for the country’s fragile unity, challenged by many newly resurgent regional and ethnically based parties.

“The Somali region special forces ... attacked the areas of Haruk and Gewane using heavy weapons including machinegun and rocket-propelled grenades. Children and women were killed while they were sleeping,” Ahmed said.

In 2014 the boundary between the two states was redrawn by the federal government, then headed by a multi-ethnic ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Three small towns were transferred to Afar from Somali, which has since tried to win them back.

As a result militias from the two eastern states have clashed before over their disputed boundaries. In October last year 27 people were killed in a wave of clashes over the border, with each side blaming the other.

Source=At least 100 killed in border clashes between Ethiopia's Somali and Afar regions - official | Reuters


Source: Daily Telegraph

In an exclusive investigation, witnesses tell of 182 civilians killed in cold blood as reports of human rights abuses in the region escalate

Activists gather outside the United Nations to protest the Tigray conflict

In early February, the crash of shells and bullets in the remote Jawmaro mountains in northern Ethiopia seemed to have stopped.

Civilians in Abi Addi, a town in the Temben region of Central Tigray, were relieved. At last, a small measure of peace.

But on February 10, all the terrors of Ethiopia’s civil war descended on the town and at least a dozen surrounding villages.

In exclusive testimony shared with the Telegraph, 18 witnesses told how Ethiopian federal soldiers and Eritrean troops surrounded the area and went from house to house killing a total of 182 people.

“I saw dead bodies scattered, bodies half-eaten by dogs. The soldiers did not allow anyone to get close to the corpses,” said 26-year-old Tesfay Gebremedhin from the village of Semret, who fled into the mountains along with many other terrified young men.

“But later, they started to feel disturbed by the terrible smell of the dead bodies. So they covered the bodies with dust.”

One of those who survived the massacre in Wetelako village was five-year-old Merhawit Weldegebreal. She was shot in her leg. Her uncle, Abrha Zenebe, died trying to shield her from the bullets.

“The soldiers came and shouted at my uncle. They also shouted at my father. But dad ran away. The soldiers hit my uncle in his leg with their guns. And then they shot him in his belly. They also shot me in my knee,” the little girl told the Telegraph on the phone from her hospital bed in the Ayder hospital in the regional capital Mekele.

60-year-old Amdemaryam Mebrahtu, a survivor of the massacre recovers in hospital

60-year-old Amdemaryam Mebrahtu, a survivor of the massacre recovers in hospital

Since the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the most powerful military in Africa into the country’s northern Tigray region to oust its ruling party in November, all hell has been unleashed on the ethnic Tigrayan people.

Mr Abiy sided with forces from Eritrea and ethnic militias from Tigray’s neighbouring Amhara region to crush forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in a three-pronged attack.

Now a deluge of credible reports pointing towards a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing, rapeand man-made starvation are emerging.

Survivors told the Telegraph that civilians, mainly farmers, had been massacred in Abi Addi and the villages of Adi Asmiean, Bega Sheka, Adichilo, Amberswa, Wetlaqo, Semret, Guya, Zelakme, Arena, Mitsawerki, Yeqyer and Shilum Emni – villages about 60 miles from Tigray’s capital.

Four brothers in their 20s were among those killed at Adi Asmiean. Gebremedhin, Kibrom, Gueshaya and Tesfamariym Araya were at the family farm, harvesting their sorghum crop when Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers arrived.

Witnesses told the Telegraph they were shot and their bodies were dumped in a nearby crater. It took five days for their father, Araya Gebretekle, and his eldest son, Mebrahten Araya, to find the bodies of their loved ones.

“When they took my sons, I was in town with Mebrahten purchasing some goods. Returning home, I heard neighbours saying the Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers took many young men from the village. That was when I also learned my sons were among those taken,” says Mr Araya.

Mr Araya was only able to identify his sons by their clothing. “They asked me if I was sure the bodies belonged to my sons. I told them I was sure. How can I not know my sons?” he says.

In the village of Adi Asmiean near Abi Addi, parents and elders say that they begged Ethiopian soldiers to allow burials to take place.

Solomon Gebremaryam, a 32 year old civil servant and survivor of the massacre

Solomon Gebremaryam, a 32 year old civil servant and survivor of the massacre CREDIT: Lucy Kassa

“On February 15, the Ethiopian soldiers showed us the whereabouts of the dead bodies they threw into the crater. We went there with some parents of the dead. When we arrived, all villagers could not move an inch towards the bodies because of the terrible smell,” says Hadush Meruts, a local priest.

Mr Meruts and three other priests managed to retrieve just seven corpses.

“It was difficult to pull them out. Most were already eaten by wild animals. Others were half-eaten by dogs. Their bodies were torn into pieces; their faces were filled with insects. We splashed fuel on the bodies to cleanse the insects,” he says.

When asked for comment about the massacre, Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, could not address the events of Abi Addi specifically.

“The government of Eritrea has zero tolerance for and never targets civilians in war. But in the past four months, we have seen a barrage of fabricated accusations mainly from TPLF remnants,” he said.

The Telegraph asked the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office to comment but had received none at the time of going to press.


A report by the American based World Peace Foundation accuses the Ethiopian federal forces, Eritrean troops and Amhara militia of committing what they describe as “starvation crimes on a large scale,” in Tigray.

Hunger, acute malnutrition and causing deaths and the study says that 50 – 100 deaths a day “is credible.”

Although the authors admit that information is incomplete, because journalists and aid workers are unable to visit large parts of Tigray they conclude that the armed forces are “deliberately causing starvation” and that the available data is “extremely alarming”, “pointing to a massive crisis.”

They highlights the impact that the war has had on Tigray’s population. Of the 5.7 million people some 4.5 million are estimated by the United Nations to be in need.

Since March 22nd this year, aid agencies report that they have had improved access to Tigray and that some supplies have been transported into the region. But areas under the Tigray Defence Force are still all but impossible to reach. This has meant that emergency relief supplies have only reached approximately 1 million of the 4.5 million people in need.

The study points out that since the outbreak of the fighting in November 2020 the food security has deteriorated very rapidly. They quote the Famine Early Warning System’s prediction that by May 2021 large parts of Tigray will be in a Phase 4 crisis. It is just one step below a formal famine and lives will be lost.

The absence of food is not – the authors argue – a phenomenon to be seen on its own.

Families have been deprived of their means of survival by a range of measures inflicted upon them by the invading forces. These include looting, the theft of livestock and cattle and the destruction of crops.

To this list are added the damage inflicted on factories across Tigray, which have meant that families cannot supplement their incomes by wages. Banks too have been destroyed and  records lost or frozen. This has left 400,000 households unable to access their savings.

In a forward to the report the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, says that the fighting must stop to allow the humanitarian agencies to reach the people in need. Presently there is little hope of this plea being answered.

The report ends: “our stark conclusion is that the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are starving the people of Tigray.”

Full Report Below

WPF Starving Tigray report April 2021

       Federation  and Confederation

Tuesday, 06 April 2021 18:58 Written by

I have been following the discussions on “ Federation and Confederation “of the EPDJ led by the self-appointed Eritrean president and its followers in diaspora Eritrea. Before dwelling to the why and how would like what these two methods or systems mean, and the organizing principles and institutions.

What is Federation ? Federation is a system of divided powers where a central government and territorial units ( known as provinces, regions, states or cantons) each have different policy responsibilities.

What is a Confederation ? A confederation is a union of equal , sovereign states ( each recognized by the international community) that have formed, for limited general purposes, a common government. A confederation a treaty based/ based on the peoples will/ union that concedes few powers to the Centre for the sake of liberty of the constituent units which are in principle free to secede. Do Essyas of Eritrea and Abiyu of Ethiopia  abide by the principles of this two systems, or it is a cover to cheat the people by stating some systems they don’t believe and practice.

A federation has  a constitution, which presupposes the permanency of the union designed both to secure individual rights and divide power- the purpose being to reconcile unit self-government and individual freedom. Why is the PFDJ at this time calling for federation or confederation with Ethiopia while it is carrying wars in Ethiopia and inside Eritrea ? Admitting their failure in national economics is their failure in leading the country politically, economically and socially, does the call for federation and confederation with Ethiopia solve the problem inside Eritrea ?  The Eritrean political elite and professionals must make aware the people that any system must be decided by the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The difference is clear in the legislative institutions of both types of union, but Eritrea has no legislative and executive institutions and Ethiopia led by Abiyu  has already dismantled the legislative and executive institutions in Ethiopia and is in war with all people in Ethiopia. Before federation and confederation the two countries must transfer the power to the people.

Confedration is defined as a union of states, whilst a federation is a union of states and community of individuals. Given the need to respect state equality and sovereignty decision on these two systems are not taken by one man rule in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Any change is based on the consent of the people not by leaders who oppress their citizens and incite hate politics and warmongers.

If the followers of the HGDF/ EPDJ really want remedy the economic failure in Eritrea they must first assess 30 year policies of the dictatorship in Eritrea and react strongly that the leadership of Essayas must be removed and then a leadership elected by the people can take the responsibility of how to cooperate locally, regionally and globally based on the principles of federation and confederation.

Yes, to federalism and confederalism but not at this time suffering under a one- man dictatorship in Eritrea and Ethiopia both the two leaders with their conspiracies must be removed and the Eritrean and Ethiopian people must respect the equality and sovereignty of  each country.( Eritrea and Ethiopia)


  1. Riker, William H. Federalism; Origins, Operation and significance.
  2. Stepan, Alfred. “ Federalism and Democracy.
  3. Dahl, Robert A. How Democratic is the American Constitution? New Haven Yale University Press, 2001.


Source: Erisat

ERISAT: News – An attack was carried out targeting Ethiopian soldiers inside Sawa Training camp

01/04/21 Eritrean Movement For Justice (EMFJ) put out a statement claiming that on 29/03/21, after detailed preparation, it undertook an attack on Eritrea’s main training base – the Sawa military training academy.

Their target was the 150 Ethiopian soldiers they say were receiving training there.

EMFJ says that 30 of the Ethiopian soldiers were killed and 36 were severely wounded as the result of the attack.

The Ethiopian soldiers were staying in “Enda Hamshay” barracks inside Sawa.

EMFJ claims that the attack was designed to serve as a warning to the Ethiopian army which, it believes, is mobilizing on Eritrean soil with impunity.


Finnish Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, has been visiting the UAE and Saudi Arabia before travelling to Ethiopia. His aim: to resolve the war in Tigray.

The trip has been covered in the Arab media, but little information has been revealed.

It should be recalled that the Saudis have played a considerable role in the Horn. It was in their capital that the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace agreement was signed in 2018.

And UAE is reported to have cemented the 2018 deal with a $3 billion in aid and investment for Ethiopia. No similar aid was reported for Eritrea, but it was likely to have been made.

Pekka Haavisto may have concluded that the road to peace in Ethiopia runs through Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Is he right? Time will tell.

Foreign Minister Haavisto travels to Ethiopia to represent the EU crisis in Tigray on the agenda

Source: HBL

During his trip to Ethiopia, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto will meet with the country’s leadership and convey the EU’s views on the crisis in Tigray.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Greens) travels to Ethiopia for the second time to represent the EU. In Ethiopia, Haavisto will discuss the country’s difficult situation, and especially the crisis in Tigray and its consequences.

The last time Haavisto traveled to Ethiopia to act as EU envoy was at the end of February.

During the trip, Haavisto will meet with Ethiopia’s leadership and convey the message of the EU’s constant concern over the humanitarian situation in Tigray. Haavisto will appeal to the warring parties to make peace. In addition, he will ask them to respect international humanitarian rights and urge them to start allowing independent reviews of the human rights violations reported.

Haavisto will also discuss the situation in Ethiopia with representatives of the African Union.

In addition to Ethiopia, Haavisto also travels to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Even there, the crisis in Tigray is the planned topic of conversation.

After the trip, Haavisto will report to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the Council on Foreign Affairs, on the results of the discussions.

Press release

A statement from the Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the USA and the High Representative of the EU.

From:Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MPPublished:2 April 2021

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union are strongly concerned about recent reports on human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in Tigray.

We condemn the killing of civilians, sexual and gender based violence, indiscriminate shelling and the forced displacement of residents of Tigray and Eritrean refugees. All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law.

We recognize recent commitments made by the Government of Ethiopia to hold accountable those responsible for such abuses and look forward to seeing these commitments implemented. We note that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the human rights abuses committed by all parties in the context of the Tigray conflict. It is essential that there is an independent, transparent and impartial investigation into the crimes reported and that those responsible for these human rights abuses are held to account.

We urge parties to the conflict to provide immediate, unhindered humanitarian access. We are concerned about worsening food insecurity, with emergency conditions prevailing across extensive areas of central and eastern Tigray.

We welcome the recent announcement from Prime Minister Abiy that Eritrean forces will withdraw from Tigray. This process must be swift, unconditional and verifiable.

We call for the end of violence and the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray and which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process.

We the G7 members stand ready to support humanitarian efforts and investigations into human rights abuses.

Source=Ethiopia: G7 Foreign Ministers' statement on Tigray - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


“For instance, in our first operation against the Junta, it only took us three weeks.

It (the junta) used to have a uniform, its place was known and it fought using all armaments.

The Junta which we had eliminated within 3 weeks has now mingled in the farmers and started moving from place to place and now, we are not even able to eliminate it within 3 months.

Eliminating an enemy which is visible and eliminating an enemy which is in hide and operates by assimilating itself with others is not one and the same.

It is very difficult and tiresome. We have conducted a wide operations in the last three days and we have caused a heavy damage to the enemy of the people and weakened its capacity seriously. And this will be strengthened and continued.”

Currently, the national defence forces and the federal forces are in a major  fight  on 8 fronts in the north and the west (parts of the country) with the enemies which are anti-farmers, anti-civilians and caused strife among Ethiopians and are paying a sacrifice.”

How different this is from PM Abiy’s confident prediction of 9 November 2020

As a colleague pointed out – it is almost as if PM Abiy has never heard of guerrilla warfare.


Both federal and resistance forces are digging in for a lengthy battle in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Conditions for civilians are dire, with famine a growing danger. Outside powers should urge Addis Ababa to let more aid into the war zone, while maintaining pressure for talks.

Source: International Crisis Group

What’s new? War rages on in Ethiopia’s Tigray region – with civilians bearing the brunt of a brutal conflict marked by atrocities. Under international pressure, Addis Ababa has offered concessions on aid access and pledged that Eritrean troops will withdraw. But prospects of a negotiated settlement appear dim.

Why does it matter? An entrenched Tigrayan resistance combined with Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities’ determination to keep Tigray’s fugitive leaders from power mean that the conflict could evolve into a protracted war. That would further devastate Tigray and greatly harm Ethiopia, the linchpin state in the Horn of Africa.

What should be done? With a decisive battlefield win for either side a remote prospect, parties should consider a cessation of hostilities that allows for expanded humanitarian aid access. This practical first step would reduce civilian suffering and ideally pave the way for a return to dialogue down the road.


Though Ethiopia’s federal government claimed the war in the country’s Tigray region was over in November, fighting continues – at great cost to a stricken population trapped in a multi-sided conflict. Tigray’s ousted leadership appears to have consolidated its position in rural areas and its resistance commands support from a Tigrayan population that values the region’s autonomy. As part of the federal war effort, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed enlisted forces from Eritrea and also from Ethiopia’s Amhara region. This move added to Tigrayans’ sense of injustice and broadened backing for the rebellion, particularly as Eritrean and Amhara combatants stand accused of atrocities against civilians. While mounting evidence of abuses and international pressure have forced concessions from Addis Ababa, including an announcement that Eritrean forces will withdraw, the war looks set to continue. Led by the U.S., European Union, African Union and UN, external actors should press for a pause in the fighting as an urgent priority so as to allow increased aid delivery – and keep demanding that the parties pursue a negotiated settlement.

All sides in the conflict in Ethiopia’s northernmost region appear to be girding for a protracted battle. The Tigrayan leadership, though driven from power in Mekelle, the region’s capital, has rallied under the banner of the Tigray Defence Forces, an armed resistance group. It is led by the removed Tigrayan leaders and commanded by former high-ranking Ethiopian National Defence Force officers. It currently operates primarily from rural areas in central and southern Tigray, while federal troops control the main roads and urban areas. Eritrean soldiers have their heaviest presence in northern Tigray and Amhara forces patrol western Tigray and the far south. All sides are fixated on securing a military victory. None appears capable of achieving one in the near term. The Tigrayan resistance appears to enjoy broad support in the region, while federal authorities and their allies are determined to capture its leaders and put them on trial. The parties’ positioning means that the conflict could well last for months, or even years, an outcome that would be even more disastrous for Tigray and the rest of the country.

Urgent measures are needed to stem the tragedy. Direct talks between the parties appear a distant prospect at present, given that Prime Minister Abiy rejects the notion of engaging Tigray leaders he portrays as traitors. For now, the U.S., EU, AU, UN Security Council and other actors should press for more limited but critical gains. Notably, they should demand a cessation of hostilities that at least allows for rapidly expanded aid delivery. To stave off the risk of mass starvation it is critical that ploughing and planting take place as Tigray’s rainy season arrives in the next few months. Addis Ababa should also tacitly allow aid groups to negotiate access to Tigray-held areas. Getting Eritrean forces out may not be easy, given Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s apparent determination to crush the Tigrayan leadership, but Ethiopia’s foreign partners should hold Abiy to his pledge that these forces will leave. First steps along these lines could – if all goes well – eventually usher in talks between the federal government and Tigrayan representatives.

II.An Entrenched Resistance

The war in Tigray has become a grinding stalemate. Neither side appears poised to achieve a definitive victory, despite the federal government’s success in pushing Tigray’s leadership out of Mekelle.The presence of Eritrean and Amhara forces fighting alongside federal soldiers has galvanised Tigrayan resistance to the intervention. On 26 March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Eritrean troops would withdraw “effective immediately”.These were welcome words, though it remains to be seen whether the soldiers will in fact depart. Nor is it clear that Eritrean forces can withdraw without giving a boost to the Tigrayan forces Addis Ababa is set on defeating.Amid international outcry, authorities have increased media and humanitarian aid access, while promising to probe atrocities. But outside parties’ key demand – the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces – will not be easy to achieve, given that one of the political imperatives that drew both these actors into the conflict, namely the elimination of Tigray’s former ruling party as a political force, remains unmet.

After fleeing to rural areas, Tigray’s fugitive leaders have dug in. Their campaign commands popular support, meaning that it will most likely endure.Meanwhile, the federal government has signalled its intent to keep pursuing a military victory.A drawn-out conflict would lead to even greater suffering for civilians, potentially subjecting those in inaccessible areas to mass starvation. It would also threaten Ethiopia’s stability and potentially that of the Horn of Africa, given the country’s pivotal position in the region.

 A drawn-out conflict would lead to even greater suffering for civilians, potentially subjecting those in inaccessible areas to mass starvation. 

The rival combatants’ fortunes have waxed and waned over the past few months. In the early weeks of fighting, federal forces and their allies made rapid territorial advances, culminating when they ousted Tigray’s government and took control of Mekelle on 28 November, just over three weeks after war broke out. In December, the removed Tigrayan leadership went into survival mode, retreating to far-flung rural areas in the face of a drone-led aerial campaign that killed some leaders and destroyed military hardware commandeered from the federal army.To avoid detection, they shut down all external telecommunications and went to ground.Since December, however, their resistance has hardened. The Tigray Defence Forces appear to have established a foothold in rural central Tigray.Tigrayan media regularly report what they describe as victories by these forces over either the Ethiopian or Eritrean armies.These claims are hard to verify due to an internet blackout and access restrictions.

Broadly speaking, Tigray’s territory is now a battleground for four different forces fighting on two sides. The Tigray Defence Forces are on one side. They hold territory in rural parts of Central Tigray Zone, as well as some areas of Eastern, South-eastern and Southern Tigray Zones.Those forces are pitted against the Ethiopian military, which occupies towns and cities; Amhara regional forces, both regular and irregular, which patrol most of western Tigray and parts of southern Tigray; and the Eritrean army, which is present mostly in the northern sections of North-western, Central and Eastern Tigray Zones. In early 2021, the Eritreans have also fought further south, according to, among others, the UN.

Most of the combat over the past few months has occurred in central Tigray, where Tigrayan leaders fled from Mekelle, and increasingly in the two southern zones. For example, battles erupted in Samre district in South-eastern Zone on 14 February, and again in March, as well as further south in several locations (Tigrayan claims of the latter received rare corroboration from non-Tigrayan media on 14 March).From 9 to 12 February, a major clash broke out between Tigrayan and Eritrean forces to the north in the Werie Leke district of Central Tigray Zone.February fighting between, on one side, Tigrayan forces and, on the other, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces also clustered around Abiy Adiy town, whose roads the UN says are inaccessible due to insecurity. More recently, the Ofla and Endamehoni districts in southern Tigray experienced heavy fighting, with Tigray forces’ victory claims over Ethiopian and Eritrean troops contradicted by media that support the federal intervention.Tigrayan forces also staged a deadly attack inside Amhara region on 18 March.

International pressure appears to have contributed to a shift in Addis Ababa’s public positioning on the presence of Eritrean troops. In the third week of March, U.S. President Joe Biden dispatched Senator Chris Coons to deliver a message to Prime Minister Abiy. A Democrat from Biden’s home state of Delaware, Coons is close to the president and sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Shortly after the senator’s visit, Abiy publicly acknowledged the Eritrean role for the first time.After making a trip of his own to Asmara on 26 March, the Ethiopian premier said Eritrean troops would withdraw.

 The presence of Eritrean soldiers – and their reported role in atrocities in the course of the war – has inflamed Tigrayan popular sentiment. 

The presence of Eritrean soldiers – and their reported role in atrocities in the course of the war – has inflamed Tigrayan popular sentiment.While getting the Eritreans out is critical, their exit could bring its own complications. It would give some respite to civilians who seem to have borne the brunt of Eritrean forces’ violence and may win some political space for the interim administration, which has demanded that the Eritreans pull out.But it could also relieve pressure on Tigray’s forces and allow its emboldened leaders to claim they had forced the withdrawal, thus intensifying the conflict as they next seek to force a federal retreat.The Eritreans’ continued presence, however, particularly if more atrocities ensue, would also strengthen Tigrayan resolve to fight on.

The incursion of Amhara combatants into Tigray has not helped, either. Amhara regional leaders say they have reclaimed territory that they contend the rebels-turned-rulers from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) snatched from Amhara hands as they consolidated their power in the early 1990s.Even though the western areas are relatively quiet at present in terms of fighting, sustained Amhara control – or formal inclusion of the territory in Amhara region – could trigger years of instability as many Tigrayans, including top officials from the federally appointed interim Tigray government, strongly reject Amhara administration.

The Tigrayan armed resistance seems to have grown in strength, although it has still at times been under considerable pressure, even surrounded.Its commanders include former Chief of Staff General Tsadkan Gebretensae, who led the Ethiopian military into war with Eritrea from 1998-2000, and another, more recently retired former senior officer, Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede. The Tigrayans appear to have held mostly central rural areas and claim to have been able to stand up to federal and Eritrean forces.The war began with Tigray’s leaders capturing tanks, missiles and rocket launchers from the federal military, but that equipment was destroyed or discarded in the face of the aerial campaign. Now, Tigrayan forces are more mobile and lightly armed. While it is unclear how many fighters are involved, Tigrayan ranks are said to be swelling due to popular anger at the intervention, in particular at the atrocities allegedly committed against civilians.

Hundreds of Tigray’s fugitive political and military leaders are still at large (including ousted Tigray President and TPLF chair Debretsion Gebremichael), with only around a third of those sought in custody.The Ethiopian government did not report having detained or killed any of the wanted leaders in February or March, again suggesting that the TPLF leadership has steadied its position. Tigray’s commanders claim they routinely capture and kill enemy combatants, and seize trucks, rifles and ammunition to sustain their rebellion.From the outset, senior TPLF figures said they do not need an external supply line (though they would like one), because the supportive population will provide food – even amid the shortages – and they can grab more materiel from their foes.

Federal authorities offer a strikingly different assessment of battlefield dynamics, however. In a 23 March address to parliament, Abiy cast the TPLF as an all-but-defeated force. “What I would like to tell the people of Tigray, the friends of Tigray and the honourable parliament is that the TPLF has now become like grain powder that has been dispersed by the wind. We can’t collect it again and make it edible powder”.

But in addition to the factors noted above that are fuelling the rebellion, there are other considerations suggesting that the war will continue. For one, a sizeable number of Tigrayans oppose the Eritrean and Amhara forces’ presence and are outraged at the atrocities both are reported to have committed against civilians.The fury runs so deep that even the interim Tigray administration, appointed by the federal government, has expressed it.Still, that interim administration enjoys little support. Most Tigrayans back the ousted regional leadership.Eritrean withdrawal would perhaps ease opposition to the interim administration, but it would be unlikely to dilute anger at the federal overthrow of Tigray’s government or at the Amhara irredentism. Even more worryingly for long-term stability in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, many Tigrayans now voice support for secession from the Ethiopian federation.A sustained bid for independence would inflame the Amhara-Tigray territorial dispute and might destabilise Eritrea, causing many years of strife.

With the conflict still in the balance, it remains to be seen whether the federal military will seek to calm the situation somewhat by jettisoning its Eritrean and Amhara allies, thereby risking boosting Tigray’s resistance. Even if it wishes to do so, Addis Ababa might find it challenging to move in this direction. Although his government has still not admitted its role, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has an opportunity to claim areas in northern Ethiopia granted to Asmara by a 2002 UN boundary commission decision that Addis Ababa refused to respect.Moreover, the Eritrean leader has a longstanding ambition to cut the TPLF down to size. Isaias views Tigray leaders as ungrateful junior partners who turned Ethiopia’s military against his regime in 1998 despite strong Eritrean support for the TPLF’s rebellion against Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military dictatorship.Eritrean troops’ looting of Tigray could be seen as payback for the destruction Eritrea suffered in the 1998-2000 war, said a close observer, who dismissed the idea the Eritreans would pull out: “Isaias will not sleep until the TPLF is destroyed”.

Additionally, federal forces’ reliance on Eritrean support has grown amid Ethiopia’s armed confrontation with Sudan over a disputed borderland. In mid-December, clashes broke out again in the al-Fashaga area along the Ethiopian-Sudanese border after Sudan’s military – taking advantage of Ethiopia’s distraction by the Tigray conflict – moved to control territory it claims Ethiopians occupied from the mid-1990s. The hostilities, which also have drawn in Eritrean forces, are of particular concern to Amhara leaders, as farmers from that region were evicted by Sudan’s incursion.The border fight means that, for now, an Eritrean exit from Tigray would further stretch Ethiopia’s military, unless Asmara repositions troops to Ethiopia’s Sudanese border.

Another factor suggesting the conflict will continue is that the federal government has not fully achieved its key intervention objectives: to disarm the TPLF, prosecute all wanted Tigrayan leaders and re-establish a constitutional government in Tigray.With elections in Ethiopia (excluding Tigray) just over two months away, Abiy is likely to worry that he will look weak if he submits to talks with a fugitive Tigrayan leadership that his government has classified as treasonous. Moreover, Abiy faces little domestic pressure to change course. The war in Tigray enjoys broad popular support in much of Ethiopia and, outside Tigray itself, Abiy has successfully cast the TPLF as villains who have been sowing the seeds of civil strife for the past two years.Nonetheless, whether Eritrean troops maintain a presence or not, Addis Ababa seems unlikely to dislodge the Tigray Defence Forces from rural areas and convince Tigrayans to curtail their support for the resistance. The sad reality is that the war looks set to grind on, probably for months, if not longer, absent significant action by outside powers to bring it to a close.

III.Civilians in the Firing Line

Conditions on the ground are dire. Aid agencies estimated on 5 March that 4.5 million people in the region, or more than two thirds of the population, needed emergency food supplies.The UN’s humanitarian agency said the same number of people “have been without access to electricity, communications and other essential services for more than four months”.In March, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network projected that parts of eastern and central Tigray would suffer “emergency outcomes” – just below “famine” conditions – through at least September.Until February, the federal government was blocking media and aid agency access to Tigray. Although it has now relaxed these restrictions, progress has been slow, with aid workers expanding their operations only incrementally over the last few months.

Tigray suffers from chronic food shortages. Even before the war, these had been aggravated by the worst desert locust invasion in decades.Fighting then broke out around harvest time. The shutdown of telecommunications, closure of banks and, seemingly primarily at Eritrean troops’ hands, destruction of more than two thirds of health facilities and widespread looting of public and private property – including food stores and oxen for ploughing – has exacerbated the hardship.Moreover, the conflict has displaced almost one million people inside Tigray, many of them from western Tigray.The federal government said on 30 March that it is delivering food aid to 4.2 million people in Tigray, a huge increase over the 950,000 who needed assistance before the war, while humanitarian actors say they have delivered adequate food to one million of the 3.5 million people in need who are in accessible areas.

International pressure has contributed to the federal government promising “unfettered” aid access, which should lead to more relief getting into areas under federal control.Authorities have also eased bureaucratic obstacles to access to the region and there already are more humanitarian workers on the ground.But the fact that the Tigray Defence Forces hold territory and the presence of Eritrean troops means aid workers will not reach large parts of Tigray unless authorities allow them to negotiate access to Tigrayan-held areas and persuade the Eritreans to consistently allow increased aid flows. Greater humanitarian access to some Eritrean-held areas did start to occur in March.Yet with no end to the conflict in sight, humanitarian assistance is likely to remain insufficient.There is a genuine threat of mass starvation in the months ahead, especially if the ploughing and planting season is interrupted, with heavy rains starting around June.

 Greater humanitarian access to some Eritrean-held areas did start to occur in March. Yet with no end to the conflict in sight, humanitarian assistance is likely to remain insufficient. 

All four belligerents stand accused of committing atrocities against civilians. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a legally autonomous federal institution, has joined Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in accusing Eritrean forces of mass killings of civilians in the ancient city of Axum in late November.Human Rights Watch also said the federal military indiscriminately bombed urban areas.The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on 4 March that “serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed by multiple actors in the conflict”.So far, however, the evidence for such crimes is mainly limited to witness accounts obtained remotely, given that research into the reported atrocities was carried out amid a blanket ban on media and aid agency access. Ethiopian and particularly Eritrean soldiers have reportedly engaged in widespread sexual violence, looting and massacres.

There have also been several reports of serious rights abuses in western Tigray, where federal troops first intervened before Amhara regional forces took control.They suggest that Amhara factions have forcibly moved Tigrayans en masse from western Tigray, with an intensification of the depopulation in the last month.Also in western Tigray, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Tigrayan militiamen backed by local officials killed hundreds of mostly Amhara civilians in Mai Kadra town on 9 November.

Equally worrying are multiple reports of retaliatory attacks on Tigrayan civilians by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers following armed confrontations with Tigray forces, particularly as such atrocities may well increase as fighting intensifies.Notable incidents include an early January massacre at Debre Abay to the south west of Shire city, one at Axum in late November and, most recently, the reported murder of civilians by federal soldiers near Wukro town.Although Abiy has recently pledged that Ethiopian soldiers will be held to account for abuses, days before that his office also said Tigrayans will face “misery” if their leaders do not surrender and those who joined the rebellion do not return home.

IV.Preventing Contagion

If war persists, it would pose a serious threat to Ethiopia’s overall stability and potentially to that of the entire Horn of Africa. A concern Crisis Group highlighted at the conflict’s outset was that it could exacerbate problems in Ethiopia, such as mounting intercommunal killings in Benishangul-Gumuz region, bordering Sudan in the west, simmering discontent in the country’s largest region of Oromia, and national fault lines.Growing hostilities with Sudan complicate the picture further.

For now, the authorities seem to have sufficient control in most areas outside Tigray, but they could lose it. In Oromia, home to a burgeoning insurgency, political discontent is high, though the opposition is relatively fragmented. If fighting intensifies in Tigray – and clashes with Sudan escalate – Addis Ababa’s opponents in this region may feel emboldened as the 5 June election approaches. The election could deepen fault lines, particularly given that the main opposition parties in Oromia are boycotting it, citing state repression.Thus, while Abiy still commands domestic support for the intervention in Tigray, protracted conflict there nonetheless risks sparking unrest elsewhere.

Peace talks seem a long way off. On the battlefield, both sides are swinging for a knockout blow, but neither can realistically hope to land one, regardless of whether or not Eritrea withdraws. The federal government cannot eradicate the armed resistance, which appears to be entrenched in rural areas and command widespread popular support. The Tigray Defence Forces have zero chance of re-establishing control over Tigray given the resources – especially manpower – at Addis Ababa’s (and Asmara’s) disposal. Moreover, the federal government rejects the idea of negotiating with the ousted Tigray leadership, which it accuses of treason.That position, it seems, still has plenty of popular support in Ethiopia outside of Tigray. Meanwhile, many Tigrayans, including senior former officials, consider the TPLF regional government’s reinstatement as essential to honouring Tigray’s self-determination rights.It is hard to imagine Addis Ababa acceding to this demand.

Moreover, the path to Eritrean and Amhara withdrawal is strewn with obstacles. In addition to President Isaias, who for reasons noted above, and despite Abiy’s announcement that Eritrean forces will withdraw, may baulk at doing anything that eases pressure on the TPLF, Amhara’s leaders and activists may present a challenge. They believe they acted in justice’s interest by reclaiming territory in Tigray they contend the TPLF annexed in the early 1990s.Even if he wanted to remove the Amhara, Abiy would have to do so by force, which would strain his ties with their leaders, weaken him politically, and so boost Tigray’s resistance and Sudan’s position. A federal move against the Amhara would widen rifts in Abiy’s Prosperity Party, where tensions are already evident between the two largest regional chapters in Amhara and Abiy’s home region, Oromia.Amhara control of western Tigray also creates a buffer zone to prevent the Tigray Defence Forces from resupplying through eastern Sudan. Simmering Khartoum-Addis tensions may tempt Sudan’s military to support Tigray’s forces if the Amhara leave Tigray.

 The territorial dispute between Tigray and Amhara can only sustainably be resolved via negotiations and legal means, starting with a boundary commission assessment. 

But despite this bleak picture, there are things outside actors can do. Abiy’s declaration that Eritrean troops will exit illustrates how important international pressure is. Foreign leaders should proceed by targeting limited initial goals. They should press for a pause in the fighting to increase aid coverage. Crucially, that would allow more ploughing and planting to occur, with Tigray’s rainy season arriving around June. They should push Addis Ababa to tacitly allow aid groups to negotiate access to Tigray-held areas, as occurs with rebel groups in other war zones. They should also keep pressure on Abiy to fulfil his pledge to get Eritrean troops out, investigate abuses and allow unrestricted aid access. The territorial dispute between Tigray and Amhara can only sustainably be resolved via negotiations and legal means, starting with a boundary commission assessment. The African Union and UN Security Council should follow Brussels’ and Washington’s lead and pressure all parties to pause fighting. The AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government is well positioned to urge Abiy to abandon the quest for a total victory on the battlefield.

A cessation of hostilities in Tigray and improved humanitarian conditions just might then pave the way for talks. Abiy will perhaps want to pursue those negotiations after the elections, assuming that his Prosperity Party wins a majority in the federal parliament and the premier is in a stronger position. Talks would focus on finding a sustainable settlement, including the vexatious issue of political representation in Tigray, given the TPLF leadership’s broad popular support. As the issues are so thorny, this process should feed into the sort of inclusive National Dialogue that would address Ethiopia’s wider destabilising schisms – as Crisis Group and others have long advocated.


With Tigray’s resistance growing, fuelled by anger at alleged atrocities by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, and given deep popular attachment to the region’s hard-won self-determination rights, the conflict looks set to grind on. A long war would further devastate Tigray, wreck any prospect of a democratic transition led by Abiy and destabilise Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa’s fulcrum. It is imperative that outside actors do all in their power to encourage Addis Ababa to facilitate access for humanitarian aid, reassess its calculations regarding the war and seek to stop this stain on Prime Minister Abiy’s record from spreading.

Nairobi/Brussels, 2 April 2021