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: Fighting blocks humanitarian access in Tigray; Ethiopian troops clash at base in Somalia; Sudan advances into disputed territory

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

Ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is preventing humanitarian access. Ethiopian troops captured the Tigray regional capital, Mekelle, from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 28. TPLF leadership withdrew west of the capital and fighting has continued since. Federal forces were roughly six miles from the TPLF leadership’s hideout in the mountainous area of Werkambe town on December 4, according to an Ethiopian army colonel. Continued fighting in Tigray has prevented humanitarian organizations from accessing the region despite the Ethiopian government’s promise to give UN aid agencies access to government-controlled territory on December 2.

The conflict is harming civilians and health care. A doctor from a hospital in Mekelle reported that artillery and rocket shelling killed 27 civilians and wounded 100 others the day federal forces captured Mekelle. The hospital had to stop offering care due to a lack of supplies and power. 

Ethiopia’s conflict is disrupting security in a second region of Somalia. Ethiopian federal forces are active in the fight against al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab in Somalia on a bilateral basis and as part of an African Union force. Ethiopian forces *withdrew from the Gedo region in southwestern Somalia’s Jubbaland State shortly after fighting in Tigray began in early November. Tensions have now broken out among Ethiopian troops in central Somalia. Ethiopian forces exchanged gunfire at a military base camp in the Halgan area of Somalia’s Hiraan region on December 6 after Ethiopian forces attempted to disarm ethnic Tigray members of their own force. The fighting killed 21 Tigray soldiers and 20 others. Pro–al Shabaab media *reported clashes between al Shabaab and Ethiopian forces following the dispute, suggesting that al Shabaab will exploit the tensions, possibly to raid military bases for equipment.

Sudan is using Ethiopia’s conflict to take disputed territory, raising the risk of a border conflict in addition to the current hostilities in Tigray. Sudanese armed forces *claimed control of Khor Yabis, disputed territory in the Fashqa triangle bordering Sudan and Ethiopia, from Ethiopian militiamen after 25 years on December 2. Sudanese troops continued deploying forces to the area on December 5.

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Dec '20
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