Africa File

A biweekly analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics.   Each edition begins "At a Glance." Country-specific updates follow.

Ethiopia Crisis Update: Ethiopian federal forces’ campaign to weaken the TPLF’s military capabilities is affecting civilian areas

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

Ethiopian federal forces are attempting to degrade Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces’ military capability with air strikes on the Tigray regional capital. The TPLF accused federal forces of targeting a university in the Tigray capital, Mekelle, on November 19. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration has said that it only strikes military targets and accused the TPLF of storing military equipment in civilian areas, including religious institutions and schools.

The air strikes are likely intended to weaken the TPLF militarily as federal and allied forces attempt to advance toward Mekelle on multiple fronts. Abiy announced a “final” phase of operations in Tigray on November 17. Fighting and air strikes inside Mekelle increase the likelihood of greater civilian harm.

 The TPLF again fired a rocket into neighboring Amhara regional state in retaliation for Amharan forces’ participation in the Tigray conflict. The TPLF fired a rocket toward Amhara’s regional capital, Bahir Dar, for the second time this month on November 20. The fighting between Tigray and Amhara regional forces risks reviving a land dispute between the neighboring regions.

Abiy is pressuring international organizations to isolate the TPLF. He accused the Tigrayan head of the World Health Organization, Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of attempting to supply the TPLF with weapons on November 19. Ghebreyesus denied the claim. Abiy successfully pressured the African Union to sack its Tigrayan security chief on November 11.

 Abiy’s administration continues to suppress press coverage of the Tigray conflict. The Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority suspended the press license of an in-country Reuter’s correspondent on accusations of false and biased reporting. It also *threatened to take similar action against other international media outlets, including the BBC.

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. More than 30,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan from Tigray since early November, the greatest influx of refugees into eastern Sudan in over 20 years. The UN called for an immediate temporary cease-fire in Ethiopia on November 20. It also urged establishing corridors to allow humanitarian aid workers access to civilians in need.

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