Although fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region ceased following the Pretoria agreement of November 2022, peace remains tenuous and spillover conflicts persist in other regions of the country. The war in Tigray has blighted many aspects of Ethiopia’s economy and social fabric, disrupting intercommunal relationships and causing widespread insecurity and humanitarian crisis in the north.
Ethiopia has historically maintained a pre-eminent position in the Horn of Africa region, but the conflict significantly impaired and complicated its relations with regional and international partners. Evolving conflict dynamics across northern Ethiopia, newly erupted conflict in Sudan (from April 2023), and the vested interests of neighbouring states risk significantly derailing the peace process outlined in Pretoria and subsequently in Nairobi.
Based on key informant interviews and incorporating a wealth of information on the geopolitics of the Horn of Africa region, this paper identifies opportunities for Ethiopia to leverage its external relationships to strengthen regional mediation mechanisms and secure sustainable peace in northern Ethiopia, in line with the arrangements agreed in Pretoria.
- The civil war that raged between 2020 and 2022 in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and which spread to other regions of the country, including Amhara and Afar, will continue to have a far-reaching impact for many years to come. It will create profound challenges for Ethiopia’s economy, social fabric and intercommunal relationships, its state-building process, and the safety and security of its citizens. This is despite the November 2022 Pretoria agreement (the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement – CoHA) which brought the active conflict to an end.
- Several regional and international state and non-state actors have become embroiled in the war. In order that a sustainable resolution to the conflict can be reached, it is critical that Ethiopia’s partners understand and engage with the entangled interests and concerns of external players.
- Peace needs to be consolidated in northern Ethiopia to enable the country’s government to re-engage more actively in regional diplomacy and regain its former pre-eminence in regional affairs.
- Regional and international diplomatic efforts should be leveraged to encourage the full and complete withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Ethiopia. Common borders should be clearly demarcated and official protocols and agreements reached between the two countries that will govern the bilateral relationships, as opposed to the existing ad hoc relationships. This will demand fresh thinking from Ethiopia’s partners on approaches to engaging with the authorities in Asmara, given cooling relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea and limited options for direct Western influence.
- Ethiopia’s international partners must demonstrate their enduring commitment to supporting the robust monitoring and implementation of the CoHA, including through the provision of financial backing and technical resources to both the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.