Ethiopia Peace Observatory Weekly: 23 April-6 May 2022 [EN/AM]


By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 2 April 2018-6 May 2022

  • Total number of organized violence events: 2,912
  • Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 15,961
  • Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 7,225

By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 23 April-6 May 2022

  • Total number of organized violence events: 34
  • Total number of reported fatalities from organized violence: 154
  • Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 69

Ethiopia data are available through a curated EPO data file* as well as the main ACLED* export tool.

Situation Summary

At the beginning of May, Muslims in Ethiopia celebrated Eid Al Fitr. However, the celebration took place amid a multi-day wave of inter-communal violence and riots. On 26 April, an unidentified armed group attacked Muslims in Gondar city after violence erupted during the funeral of a prominent local sheikh. A bomb was thrown into a group of Muslims as they attended the funeral, killing three people and wounding five others. The violence spread into the city when rioters attacked and burned more than 20 Muslim businesses and houses. Rioters also burned mosques and looted 11 residences (Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 29 April 2022). This reportedly led to the death of 17 people, and an additional 118 people were also injured.

The unrest in the city continued for the next few days. On 28 April, three people were killed and an unspecified amount of properties were damaged in Gondar city due to unrest after a funeral ceremony of people who were killed in the 26 April attack on Muslims by an unidentified group in the city (DW Amharic, 29 April 2022). As a result, the Gondar city administration put in place a curfew between 7 pm and 5 am and restricted the carrying of weapons within the city (Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 29 April 2022). Police arrested more than 370 people accused of looting properties and destroying religious places and other properties (Amhara Media Corporation, 29 April 2022). Six political and security sector leaders were also arrested later in Gondar for not taking appropriate measures during the 26 April unrest (Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, 3 May 2022).

These religion-based attacks spread to other parts of the country during the next few days. On 28 April, a group of Orthodox Christians attacked and burned two mosques in Debark town in North Gondar zone in Amhara region. The attack occurred after a rumor that the Gotet Mariam Orthodox Church in kebele 01 burned down when, in fact, a fire occurred inside the compound of the church but the church did not burn down. It is not clear if someone set this fire on purpose or if it was an accident (EMS, 28 April 2022). According to the head of the North Gondar Zone Security Office, one member of the security forces was killed by an unidentified shooter from a nearby mosque (Debark City Communication, 29 April 2022). On 29 April, Muslims gathered in Jimma in Oromia region, Dire Dawa, Semera in Afar, Jigjiga in Somali, and Werabe in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) to demonstrate against the attack on Muslims in Gondar city (DW Amharic, 29 April 2022). The demonstration in Dire Dawa turned violent as demonstrators threw stones at police and injured 22 officers. Demonstrators also damaged banks and government vehicles. In return, the police forces opened fire. One child was killed by a stray bullet. Eighty-nine people were arrested in Dire Dawa in connection with this violent demonstration. In Werabe, Muslim demonstrators attacked and burned two Orthodox and three Protestant churches on 28 April. The next day, they burned another Orthodox church. Similarly, on 28 April, a group of Muslim rioters entered the Sankura St. Gebrael Church, attacking the monks and burning the church in Alem Gebeya in Sankura woreda in Silte zone in SNNPR. The rioters also destroyed hotels belonging to Christians, injuring around 15 people. According to the Silte Zone Administration Communication Office, 79 people were arrested in connection with these violent demonstrations in Werabe and Sankura (VOA Amharic, 9 May 2022).

In the capital city, Addis Ababa, a peaceful protest against the attack on Muslims in Gondar was held in the Anwar Mosque on 27 April. On 2 May, federal police forces dispersed rioters using tear gas and gunfire after clashes erupted between police forces and Muslim worshippers at Mesqel Square in Addis Ababa during the Eid Al Fitr prayer. This happened after a federal police officer “accidentally” fired tear gas. The National Peace and Security Joint Task Force announced that 76 people were arrested over suspicion of leading riots in Addis Ababa. The police accused the detainees of preparing and bringing knives and different banners to Eid Al Fitr prayer “to ignite religious violence” (Ethiopian Federal Police, 2 May 2022). In Adama city in Oromia region, 145 people accused of conspiring to incite religion-based attacks following the Gondar incident were also arrested (Fana Broadcasting Corporate, 4 May 2022). Meanwhile, on 4 May, a member of federal police was brought to court for allegedly firing tear gas during the Eid Al Fitr prayer in Addis Ababa which led to clashes between rioters and security officers (DW Amharic, 4 May 2022).

Meanwhile, week-long unrest and armed clashes were recorded in Derashe Special woreda in SNNPR. As a result, all public and private institutions were closed for over a week. On 26 April, Gumayde ethnic militias, who are allegedly supported by armed groups from Derashe Special woreda, kidnapped eight Indian tourists and an unidentified number of Ethiopians traveling from Arba Minch town to Jinka, after attacking their vehicle, the driver, and a member of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in Holte kebele. An unknown number of federal police officers and members of SNNP regional special forces were also killed in Holte kebele as they entered the area to rescue the kidnapped tourists. The abductees were released when government forces entered the woreda (DW Amharic, 28 April 2022).

On 27 April, Gumayde ethnic militias clashed with SNNP regional special forces and kebele militias in Gato kebele and Gidole town in Derashe Special woreda (see map below). These clashes resulted in an unknown number of reported fatalities from both sides. Hundreds of civilian homes were destroyed and residents were forced to evacuate Gato kebele. The militants burned the homes of Derashe special woreda government officials in Gidole town. This forced the officials to go into hiding. Armed clashes between Gidole and Konso ethnic militias were also recorded on 27 and 29 April in Gidole town. On 30 April, Derashe and Konso ethnic militias also clashed in the same town. On 30 April, a local administrator was killed by rioters in Busta Killa kebele in Derashe Special woreda. Rioters accused him of not passing the people’s request to form their own administration level to the higher officials. The administrator had been hiding in a forest near Busta Killa kebele since 27 April due to ongoing unrest in Derashe Special woreda. Derashe is one of the woredas in SNNPR where demand for the establishment of a zonal administration is being raised. Moreover, there are other administration requests by different kebeles within the woreda. Derashe Special woreda consists of 19 kebeles and a town. Residents of Gato kebele 01 and 02 want their kebeles to be identified as towns while residents of kebele 01 also want to be part of Konso zone. Before 2018, Amaro, Burji, Derashe, Konso, and Ale woredas were administered under Segen Area People’s zone which was established on 28 March 2011. Amaro, Burji, Derashe, and Konso had the status of ‘Special Woreda’ before 2011 which made them semi-autonomous and accountable directly to SNNPR Council rather than to the zonal administrative level. In November 2018, the Konso and Ale groups split from the Segen Area People’s zone. Konso gained status as a zone (see EPO’s Conflict Profil page Segen Area Peoples Zone Conflict* for more details*).

For the past two weeks, armed clashes between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane and government forces continued in Oromia region. The OLF-Shane clashed with ENDF and Oromia regional special forces in Guji (Gumi Idalo woreda and around Wadera town), West Guji (Suro Berguda and Gelana woredas), Horo Guduru (Abay Chomen, Ababo, and Guduru woredas), East Wollega (Ibantu woreda), West Wollega (Begi and Mana Sibu woredas), West Shewa (Ejere-Addis Alem woreda and Bustilo Dhera), South West Shewa (Ameya woreda), and East Shewa zones (Fentale woreda). Around 27 April, the ENDF clashed with OLF-Shane in Melka Guba in Gumi Idalo woreda in Guji zone and took control of the area shortly after. According to the government, 200 members of the OLF-Shane were killed, 100 members including the “front’s” OLF-Shane deputy leader were injured, and 20 others surrendered (EBC, 27 April 2022). The government indicated that different “operations” against the OLF-Shane are being undertaken by government forces in Oromia region. During these operations, “many” members and leaders of the group have been either killed, injured, or captured, according to the government. Reportedly, members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) who participated in training the OLF-Shane or fighting were also arrested (FDRE Government Communication Service, 29 April 2022).

Furthermore, On 26 April, the ENDF clashed with OLF-Shane in Korka, Albasa, Sunbosre, Geshe, Gongo, Chele, and Julayu kebeles in Debati woreda in Metekel zone in Benshangul/Gumuz region, taking control of these areas shortly after. ENDF and Benshangul/Gumuz regional special forces arrested over 300 people, including an Oromo Abbaa Gadaa (Oromo traditional leader), in Galesa kebele and its surrounding areas in Debati woreda over suspicion of having links with the OLF-Shane. Out of 300 arrested people, 180 were released a week later (DW Amharic, 5 May 2022). Starting from 3 May, thousands were internally displaced from Chancho, Geshe, and Gish Gara rural kebeles of Debati woreda (DW Amharic, 5 May 2022). The exact reason behind this displacement is unknown. Government forces have been undertaking operations against different armed groups, including the OLF-Shane, in the woreda.

Attacks against civilians also continued in Oromia. On 23 April, the ENDF opened fire on civilians in Daye Wilincho in Kuyu woreda in North Shewa zone, killing eight civilians. The reason behind this attack is unknown. On 29 April, Oromia regional special forces conducted home-to-home raids in Geba Jimata kebele in Ejere-Addis Alem woreda in West Shewa zone and killed at least 21 civilians after accusing them of hiding OLF-Shane militants. The attack occurred one day after OLF-Shane militants ambushed a convoy of the regional special forces in the area, killing at least 10 members of Oromia regional special forces and injuring three others. The deputy head of the Security Office in Oromia region denied the killing of civilians (BBC Amharic, 30 April 2022). Further, on 1 May, the ENDF opened fire on civilians attending a wedding ceremony in Doro Erbata kebele in Lome woreda in East Shewa zone, killing one person and injuring four others. The government forces also arrested 26 people attending the wedding. The reason behind the attack and arrest is unknown. On 3 May, members of Oromia regional special forces killed 14 people in Kajama military camp in Were Jarso woreda in West Shewa zone after accusing them of being OLF-Shane members. The victims were taken from their homes in Aware Gorje kebele the day before. Similarly, members of Oromia regional special forces shot and killed three civilians in Gemene Gudene kebele in Guduru woreda in Horo Guduru Wollega zone, after accusing them of collaborating with the OLF-Shane and refusing to pinpoint where the group militants were stationed. Finally, Oromia regional special forces shot and killed a teenager in Sichawo village in Jimma Horo woreda in Kellem Wollega zone after finding his picture in an OLF-Shane music video and accusing him of being a member of the rebel group.

Seven peaceful protests against the OLF-Shane were recorded in Oromia region. Five of these seven protests were held in West Shewa zone. In this zone, protests were recorded in Awara and Bake Kelate towns in Abuna Ginde Beret woreda, Seyo in Dano woreda, Inchini in Adda Berga woreda, and Ambo town. Similar protests were also held in Gohatsion in Wara Jarso woreda in North Shewa zone and Bule Hora town in West Guji zone.

In Harari region, on 24 April, unidentified people threw a grenade at Yod hotel in Nefetegna Sefer in Shenkor woreda in Harar city. Eight people were injured due to this attack.

During the last week of April, the government announced that 34 people suspected of being members of Al Shabaab and accused of conspiracy to conduct attacks within the country were arrested in Addis Ababa city and in various areas of Oromia and Somali regions.

Lastly, on 25 April, the TPLF announced that its forces have completely withdrawn from Afar region (Reuters, 25 April 2022). However, the Afar regional government and the federal government denied this claim and stated that TPLF forces still control the surrounding areas of Abala woreda and other woredas in Afar region and some areas in Amhara region (Afar Regional State Communication Affairs Office, 27 April 2022; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, 29 April 2022; FDRE Government Communication Service, 29 April 2022). The spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia indicated that the TPLF is mobilizing its forces in areas adjacent to both Amhara and Afar regions (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, 29 April 2022). In the past two weeks, over 80 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies reached Mekele city (ICRC, 30 April 2022; WFP Ethiopia, 25 April 2022; WFP Ethiopia, 1 May 2022), but still the delivered humanitarian supplies are not enough to meet the needs on the ground. Meanwhile, the government claimed that even though 145 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies entered Tigray region since the humanitarian truce, only less than 40 trucks have returned (FDRE Government Communication Service, 29 April 2022).

Weekly Focus: The Trajectory of Conflict in Ethiopia

The last two weeks of political violence in Ethiopia mark a continuing trend of decreased violence country-wide, mostly a reflection of the overall decrease in levels of conflict in Ethiopia’s north. The northern conflict, which started in November of 2020, is an intensely violent conflict, and its associated number of events and fatalities overshadow other conflicts throughout the country. However, as the past two weeks have illustrated, smaller, more geographically spread conflicts are on the rise in the country. These smaller conflicts overwhelm security forces and affect civilian lives just as much as the northern conflict.

Religious violence is relatively rare in Ethiopia, and the multiple attacks documented in this report’s weekly summary reveal a disturbing trend of the overall weakened capacity of communities to resolve differences peacefully. Its rapid spread to other parts of the country – from Gondar to Addis Ababa to SNNPR – illustrates how quickly smaller conflicts can affect other communities besides those in the immediate vicinity of the original conflict. In part, this can be directly attributed to non-state actors, armed groups that were formed as part of the larger conflicts against the TPLF and OLF-Shane who are also involved in other conflicts – such as those that fall along religious or community lines. It can also represent an overall degradation of traditional community peace mechanisms. In Oromia region, Abbaa Gadaas, who traditionally managed local conflicts, have been unable to resolve inter-communal clashes or the larger conflict between the OLF-Shane and the government of Oromia region. Similarly, religious elders were unable to stop violence in Gondar city before the damage had already been done.

The Ethiopian society is polarized along many lines, and in many ways the situation today is more volatile than it was during the mass demosntration era of 2014-2018. In Oromia region, a one-month military operation against the OLF-Shane appears to have brought some changes, but civilians continue to be negatively affected by the ongoing armed clashes between the two parties (DW Amharic, 11 April 2022). OLF-Shane fighters continue to engage with Ethiopian security forces in expanded areas, and pull security forces away from their normal duties that include securing roadways from criminal activity. There has been an uptick in civilian killings by government forces – including in an airstrike that hit civilians in an area near Ginde Beret (DW Amharic, 3 May 2022). Inter-communal clashes, targeting of ethnic minorities, and territory disputes all threaten to raise conflict levels in Oromia region.

In Amhara region, the presence of non-state armed forces presents a major challenge to government security forces. All throughout the last few weeks, there have been intermittent clashes involving these groups. Although small in number, these clashes represent a new type of security challenge for Amhara region not seen prior to this year. As in the case with religious conflict in Gondar city, there have been accusations that these non-state groups like Fano militia were involved as instigators. If these forces continue to exist outside of the structure of the Amhara regional government, the risk of exacerbated conflict in the region will be high.

In SNNPR, local authorities are struggling to contain violence in the Konso/Segen People’s area. As detailed in the summary report, requests for administrative changes, and a failure by the local government to respond to these requests in a timely manner and contain violence has led to an increasingly difficult situation. These clashes, relatively small compared to the armed conflict in the north, have already overwhelmed local security forces. Local elders and religious leaders from each kebele in the woreda have taken over the responsibility of administering their respective kebeles and calming the situation because the local government has failed to administer the area due to a week-long conflict in Derashe Special woreda (DW Amharic, 3 May 2022; EMS, 30 April 2022). The ENDF took charge of security in the area in an attempt to bring sustainable peace. Clashes in Derashe Special woreda over the past two weeks represent a continuation of fighting that occurred last in January of 2021, and in November 2020 before that.

In Benshangul/Gumuz region, small conflicts that have continually worsened for the past two years appear to be improving, with few incidents reported over the past 2 weeks. However, conflict has severely disrupted the lives of civilians in the Metekel zone, and a recent estimate by local authorities indicates that only 35% of the plantable land in the zone was cultivated this year (OCHA, 30 April 2022).

Fatigue in Ethiopia’s north appears to be waning as both the TPLF and the Ethiopian government have traded accusations over the status of Afar region (VOA, 3 May 2022). The likelihood that conflict will re-emerge in these areas is high, as no comprehensive peace plan has emerged. For smaller conflicts throughout the country, the national dialogue planned by the National Dialogue Commission provides a glimmer of hope. However, disputes over its initial conception, participation, and a long initiation process indicate that conflict levels are likely to slowly return to those seen last year, although it will likely be more geographically spread than before.