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: Sudanese-Ethiopian relations deteriorate; violence spreads in Ethiopia.

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

Sudanese-Ethiopian relations are deteriorating. Sudanese armed forces have clashed with Ethiopian soldiers and armed Ethiopian farmers, known as shifta, along the Sudanese-Ethiopian border since December. Sudanese forces took advantage of the distraction created by the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia to seize disputed territory in the Fashqa triangle in early December. Sudan held talks with Ethiopia about demarcating the border later that month. Clashes between rival forces *have *continued since, however, *most recently on January 11. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman warned Sudan on January 12 that Ethiopia is losing patience over Sudan’s military buildup along the shared border. Sudan’s foreign ministry on January 13 threatened “grave consequences” for Ethiopia if it continues violating Sudan’s airspace.

Relations between the two countries have also soured over stalled Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations. The negotiations resumed on January 3 after a six-week hiatus.Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Egyptian officials failed to reach an agreement on how to proceed in the negotiations on January 10, however. Sudanese officials *prohibited an African Union expert team from participating in the meeting after disagreeing with the team’s proposed dialogue framework.

Violence is spreading to other Ethiopian regions. Unidentified attackers killed over 80 civilians in the Metekel Zone of western Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region on January 12. The region borders Sudan, and the Metekel Zone is home to the GERD. Ethnic Gumuz massacred ethnic Amhara, Oromo, and Shinasha in late December, prompting the Ethiopian federal government *to establish a task force to target the perpetrators. Such ethnic violence risks instability around the GERD, which could present Sudan and Egypt with an opportunity to meddle in Ethiopia. The violence in Benishangul-Gumuz also reflects an overarching challenge to the stability of the Ethiopian state as the Tigray conflict shifts power dynamics, ethnic-based armed groups mobilize in response to localized grievances, and the federal government becomes increasingly reliant on select ethnic-based militias.

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Feb '21
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