Review of developments in Ethiopia from the past week. We'll cover internal security challenges, upcoming elections, the GERD, Tigray, and other headlines.
1. Ethiopians celebrated Good Friday and Easter with many making a pilgrimage to Lalibela to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, along with Orthodox compatriots in other parts of the world, observe the Julian Calendar and celebrate Easter roughly 13 days after Western Churches which follow the Gregorian Calendar.
2. The TPLF is a newly designated terrorist group according to a resolution approved by the council of ministers. A group called Shene (presumably the Oromo Liberation Army) has also been added to the terrorist list. The Tigray region continues to be highly fragile as violence and conflict persist according to a situation update by relief web. The UN says "unpredictable security" issues are hindering aid delivery. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Secretary once again called on the Ethiopian Prime Minister to remove Eritrean troops from the region. UK parliamentarians called on their government to increase pressure on the Ethiopian government to end the conflict. In some good news, Mekelle University announced that internet services have resumed after a 5 month blackout.
3. Death tolls may be as high as 200 from a mid-April clash in Northern Amhara region between members of Ethiopia's two largest ethnic groups according to the country's chief ombudsman. The Amhara Association of America released a grim quarterly report warning that due to Ethiopia's "weakened state capacity and lack of agency among vulnerable Amharas, ... massacres against Amharas will continue unabated". Gunmen killed at least 20 Amhara civilians last week in western Ethiopia according to a regional government official. On Wednesday, local authorities in Amhara regional state reported that a military attack took place in Wag Hemra Zone by armed forces from the Tigray region. The Woreda's head of peace of security said civilians were killed and property damaged but declined to give numeric specifics. The Ethiopian Defense Force on Friday declared that "the security problem in Ataye is resolved and peace restored" and urged "compatriots displaced from their homes to return". Elsewhere, The Ethiopian Ministry of Revenues reported that it had confiscated 186,240 machetes that were about to enter the country.
4. Sudan has fully secured its eastern border with Ethiopia according to a statement by a Sudanese Commander on Wednesday. In early November, while Ethiopia was preoccupied with the Tigray conflict Sudan took the opportunity to displace tens of thousands of Ethiopians in the disputed Al Fashaga region. Since then Egypt and Sudan have signed a military pact and have used this new leverage to try to exact concessions from Ethiopia on the GERD. Meanwhile, Ethiopia downplayed Sudan's threats over the GERD saying it is "futile" to respond to each threat posed by the two downstream countries. Sudan's Foreign Minister warned that Ethiopia risks compromising its sovereignty over the Benishangul region (where the GERD is located) by rejecting the 1903 agreement which required Ethiopia to consult Britain (colonial overlord over Egypt and Sudan) prior to constructing dams on the tributaries of the Nile.
5. Prime Minister Abiy touted the upcoming elections as a crucial first chapter in "Ethiopia's resurrection" piggybacking on the symbolism of the Easter holiday. The OFC/OLF and OLA (newly designated as a terrorist group) urged the federal government to enter a national dialogue and scrap the plans for an election. A bi-partisan statement from five US senators warned that the upcoming Ethiopian elections may not be internationally credible if held under current conditions. The Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia rejected a decision by the National Election Board that disallowed Hararis living outside Harari regional state from voting for National Assembly Members, a practice that Harari voters enjoyed over the past five elections.
6. Ethiopia announced 322 cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours taking the country's total tally to 258,384 according the country's Ministry of Health. Ethiopian airlines announced that it will launch a high-end COVID-19 testing lab at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport "to provide quick and accurate testing for passengers".
7. Two African phone giants are bidding for Ethiopia's massive untapped telephone market. Ethiopia inked a deal with the World Bank to receive a $904 million economic recovery package. IOHK, the company behind Cardano, the proof-of-stake blockchain protocol inked a deal with Ethiopia's Ministry of education to track the performance of 5 million students. Ethiopia's National Macro-Economic Committee stated that the economic outlook remains positive despite challenges induced by COVID and the conflict in the Tigray region. The African Development Bank provided $31.2 million to boost nutrition services in Ethiopia. Opposition politician Lidetu Ayalew had his travel ban overturned by The Federal First Instance Court and is now permitted to travel to the United States to receive treatment.
• Clearing the Air, by Laura Meader
That's it for this week. Hope you have a wonderful and productive week.