Bridging the Divide in Ethiopia’s North - Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°156

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What’s new? Tigray and Amhara, the powerhouse regions of northern Ethiopia, are locked in a bitter land dispute exacerbated by national politicking that pits their elites against each other. Given dim prospects for a comprehensive settlement, the dispute could escalate into conflict.
Why does it matter? Ethiopia’s delayed elections will likely be sometime in 2021.
Amhara nationalists could stoke sentiment against Tigray’s ruling class during the campaign. Tigray’s government is arming itself as hardliners promote secession.
Confrontation between the regions would draw federal military intervention, potentially exposing ethno-regional cracks in the army’s cohesion.
What should be done? Federal leaders should provide incentives to Tigray’s ruling party to come to the table. They should urge Tigrayan and Amhara factions to temper provocative stances and explore compromise. The parties could consider an outcome in which Tigray guarantees political representation and language rights to minority populations in the disputed territories.