Ethiopia: Week in Review

April 18, 2021

Review of developments in Ethiopia from the past week. We'll cover the ongoing violence against civilians, upcoming elections, the GERD, Tigray, and other headlines.

1. More than 100 Amhara civilians were killed and dozens of homes were burned to the ground in the North Shewa Zone towns of Ataye and Shewa Robit and the Kemisee town of Oromia Special Zone in a highly organized four day assault by Oromo Liberation Army militants.

Local officials reported that their regional forces were unable to resist the attackers and said that significant human and material damages resulted from the attacks although they didn't provide an official number of casualties or an estimate of the property damages. The Amhara Association of America independently reported that more than 100 people were killed just in North Shewa Zone alone.

OLA militants watching from afar as homes they set on fire burn.

2. A grenade blast in Addis Ababa killed 2 people and injured another person on Sunday. Dozens of students in Addis Ababa university walked out in a protest against the latest attack in the North Shewa Zone and other intensifying massacres of the Amhara people in various parts of Ethiopia. And earlier in the week an unverified video footage of a young man being dragged out of a bajaj and killed by a mob in Chagni town outraged many Ethiopians on social media. On Sunday, Ethiopia's Ministry of Defense publicized the establishment of a command post in three zones in the Amhara region.

3. With elections less than 8 weeks away, National Election Board Chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa reported only about 50% of the country's polling stations are operational. With only one week left of voter registration she reported that Afar and Somali states have not started registration and various polling stations have been unable to function due to ongoing security challenges. The chairwoman further reported that there has been very low voter registration and that the board will fall far short of ensuring the participation of a projected 40 million people. Despite the challenges of turnout, various competing opposition party politicians expressed their optimism about the fairness of the upcoming elections.

4. The first election debates took place this week and in a heated debate on Ethiopia's ethnic-federalism Fiseha Yitagesu of the ruling Prosperity Party reaffirmed the party's commitment to the current system of ethnic federalism while opposition politician Dr. Berhanu Nega of Ezema argued that ethnic federalism has dismally failed Ethiopia and the country needs to move towards a federalism that's not based on ethnicity. Other participants on the stage from the Hibir Ethiopia Democratic Party and All Ethiopia Unity Party also echoed Dr Berhanu's sentiment.

5. Ethiopia will not recognize Egypt and Sudan's claim to the Nile stated Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen who reaffirmed Ethiopia's right to equitably use the Nile's waters in a webinar held by the Ethiopian Embassy in the UK. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that work on two spillways of the GERD have been completed in preparation for the second filling of the GERD this summer. Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Water and Energy further stated that 13 additional outlets are under construction that will allow water to flow to downstream countries.

After weeks of belligerent rhetoric, Egypt conceded this week that the second filling this summer will not cause harm to its citizens. It wasn't all chummy though as the Egyptian foreign ministry sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council to complain against what it calls Ethiopia's "unilateral" plans to fill the GERD this summer. Egypt also invited the Russian Foreign Minister to Cairo this week to discuss the GERD and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his desire to see the African Union resolve the GERD dispute as opposed to the EU, US, and the UN which Egypt had demanded two weeks ago.

6. Ethiopia called on the international community to put pressure on Sudan on the Al Fashaga border crisis. Sudan for its part reiterated that it will not cede the disputed Al Fashaga district to Ethiopia. Spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dina Mufti accused Sudan of no longer having her own agenda on the GERD and other matters and of simply serving Egypt's interests.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok extended an invitation to Egyptian Prime Minsiter Mostafa Madbouly and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to a summit to resolve the three countries' disagreements on the GERD. Sudanese Minister of Irrigation Yasser Abas explained why he views the GERD as a threat to Sudan in an interview.

7. Ethiopian National Defense Forces announced the arrest of two Tigrayan journalists, one of whom was working for Tigray Media House accusing them of spreading false propaganda. Earlier in the week Lt. General Bacha Debele also declared that the ENDF had launched successful attacks against TPLF remnants in eight areas in Tigray state declaring that they had been completely eliminated. Amnesty International once again accused Eritrean troops of killing 3 and injuring 19 in a report published on Friday.

8. Ethiopia had 1,792 cases of COVID in the past 24 hours taking the nationwide tally to 242,028 according to the Nation’s Ministry of Health. According to the Addis Ababa City Health Bureau over 82,000 vulnerable health workers and other segments of society have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Ministry of Health has reported that it has shared a total of 2.2 million COVID-19 vaccines among all states and city administrations in the country and is making preparations to vaccinate more than 5 million people.

The US Centers for Disease Control gave a $20 million coronavirus aid relief and economic security (CARES) project to strengthen the country's public health capabilities. Officials are reporting that the country is running low on ventilator and oxygen supplies adding to the challenges. In other vaccinations, 5.8 million children under five received the Polio Vaccine.

9. The UN Security Council once again held a closed door discussion on the humanitarian situation in Tigray. The UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten stated that women and girls are being subjected to sexual violence “with a level of cruelty beyond comprehension” and Mark Lowcock UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs told the closed-door meeting that starvation is being used as a weapon of war. Ethiopia's Ambassador to the UN Taye Atske accused Mr. Lowcock of "behaving not like a humanitarian but a nemesis determined to exact some kind of retribution". Nonetheless, the ambassador reaffirmed Ethiopia's zero tolerance policy on sexual violence and that the country will investigate rape allegations and ensure accountability.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield accused Eritrean troops of re-uniforming in Ethiopian military attire. Eritrea sent a letter to the UN Security Council blaming the TPLF for starting the conflict and declared that it will withdraw its troops from boundary areas in the Tigray region now that "the looming grave threat has been largely thwarted". US Senator Chris Coons stated that he was encouraged by the steps Prime Minister Abiy has taken since he was dispatched as an emissary to Ethiopia by President Joe Biden. Three days later, following US ambassador Greenfield's statements, he reversed course and expressed his disappointment accusing the Prime Minister of "not yet [fulfilling] his commitments to withdraw Eritrean forces, remove obstacles to humanitarian access, & hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable".

10. The IMF concluded that Ethiopia's current debt situation is sustainable. Ethio-Telecom announced that it will soon start offering mobile money services. Russia and Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding on developing peaceful nuclear energy. Ethiopia is allowing people to import certain goods using their own foreign currency to control the rising inflation rate which currently stands at 20%. The National Bank of Ethiopia has ordered all banks to increase their minimum capital to 5 million birr ($120 million) essentially forcing most banks to merge. The Ethiopian Fuel Distributors Association stated that more support is needed from the government to control the rising fuel shortages in the country. And in some good news, Ethiopia evacuated 2344 nationals stranded in Middle Eastern countries.

Interesting Reads

Institutionalized Tribalism, by Obang Metho

• Interview with Ethio Human Rights Commission Comissioner Daniel Bekele

Why are Garment Producers Choosing Ethiopia

• Ethiopian Survivors of a fire set by Houthi Rebels in Yemen tell their story

A New Study says Climate Change might negatively impact Ethiopia's Coffee Industry

• A Week in the Horn, by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

• Egyptian Foreign Policy: Implications for Ethiopia

That's it for this week. Hope you have a wonderful and productive week.

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