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  • Publication Date: 10-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: European Institute of Peace (EIP)
  • Abstract: Like many federal and devolved systems, Ethiopia has both federal and regional security forces. In the last fifteen years, however, Ethiopia’s regional states have established regional special police forces, in addition to the regular regional state police. Established first in Ethiopia’s Somali region in 2007 to conduct counter-insurgency operations and riot control, special police quickly spread to all other regions of Ethiopia. The role and status of special police forces in Ethiopia remain contested. Resembling paramilitary forces, the regional special police units are well armed and receive military training. They are rapidly growing in size and have successfully recruited senior (former) army officers into their ranks. Special police forces have become deeply involved in Ethiopia’s interregional conflicts and border disputes, most notably in the current conflict in Tigray. They have even been involved in international operations in Somalia and Sudan and internal coup attempts. They have also been linked to severe human rights abuses. While federal and regional governments are empowered to establish their respective police forces, no specific legal provision deals with the special police force. As trust in the federal government waned in many regional capitals, states have linked the mandate of their special police forces with self-government. Still, special police have overstepped that boundary and engaged in activities, such as international border security and settling interregional disputes, that fall within the exclusive mandate of the federal government and federal forces. This report explores the origins and growth of the special police and its roles in current Ethiopia. It investigates the force’s constitutional and legal ambiguity and places the special police within the broader debate over Ethiopian federalism. Finally, it suggests several models that Ethiopia could adopt to regulate its proliferating special police forces. A failure to do so may have dire consequences for the future of the country.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Regional Cooperation, International Security, Police, Legal Sector, Human Rights Violations
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: European Institute of Peace (EIP)
  • Abstract: ​Fake news, misinformation, and hate speech have thrived in the Ethiopian media ecosystem, and particularly online. This is strongly correlated with significant, tragic, real-world consequences, exacerbated pre-existing tensions, and contributed to violence and conflict. To date, the Government of Ethiopia’s response to combating the spread of fake news, misinformation, and hate speech has been, by necessity, heavy-handed, with the go-to response to escalation being to turn off the internet for the entire country. The vulnerability assessment aims to outline an approach and framework to improve the understanding of fake news, misinformation, and hate speech in Ethiopia, to develop a more nuanced and tailored approach to addressing a real national challenge. While this study is preliminary and indicative, drawing on a relatively small sample size, it is hoped that it can be illustrative and used to improve the national conversation regarding the federal response to fake news, misinformation, and hate speech. Still, it does not claim to be and should not be considered the final word on the matter. The assessment found that Ethiopia’s media ecosystem’s weaknesses have made it vulnerable to fake news, misinformation, and hate speech. Some of the driving factors are undoubtedly historical, including the weak state of private media in Ethiopia, the critical role of the Ethiopian diaspora in media ownership, and the proliferation and wild rise in popularity of entertainment-news page services Facebook and Twitter. The report proposes a pro-active and risk-based approach, which identifies likely and potentially fake news, misinformation, and hate speech flashpoints and lays out the actions that will be required to mitigate them.
  • Topic: Communications, Mass Media, Media, News Analysis, Hate Speech, Disinformation, Misinformation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Terje Østebø, Jörg Haustein, Fasika Gedif, Muhammad Jemal Kadir, Kedir Jemal, Yihenew Alemu Tesfaye
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: European Institute of Peace (EIP)
  • Abstract: In recent months, the conflict in Tigray has dominated most analyses of Ethiopian politics. The scale of that crisis makes this understandable, but it remains important to keep analysing the inter-communal tensions and conflicts lines that had already emerged all over the country before the fighting in Tigray and continue to persist in parallel. This report addresses in particular the question of religiously motivated violence and its relationship with ethnic conflict. It analyses in detail two specific instances of inter-communal conflict that occurred in Mota (Amhara region) in December 2019 and in Shashemene (Oromia region) in July 2020. Both incidents might be seen as archetypical cases for inter-communal tensions and conflict motivated by religious (Mota) and ethnic (Shashemene) difference. Yet as the report will go on to show, these two aspects of collective identity formation are not clearly separate in Ethiopia but overlap and interact with one another in complex ways. This renders moot all mono-dimensional analyses of inter-communal conflict in Ethiopia, especially as different narratives compete in the interpretation of violence and its causes. Socio-economic variables undoubtedly play a role in defining the wider context, but the formation of communities, the genesis of conflict, and the circulation of interpretative narratives typically rest on references to ethnicity and religion. Given the current emphasis on ethnicity in Ethiopian politics, the role of religious affiliation is often overlooked, yet it is here that the accusation of “extremism” is most frequently and most consequentially raised. The report engages critically with such accusations and the corollary notion of rising religious extremism in Ethiopia. It will show, moreover, how the mere expectation or accusation of extremism has sufficed to generate inter-communal violence and deepened a climate of mistrust.
  • Topic: Race, Violent Extremism, Ethnicity, Violence, Countering Violent Extremism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Kjetil Tronvoll, Filata Boroje, Kairedin Tezera
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: European Institute of Peace (EIP)
  • Abstract: On 14 and 15 January 2020, the European Institute of Peace presented a report entitled “Sidama’s quest for self-rule: a study of the referendum on regional statehood” in Addis Ababa, to an audience of politicians, policy makers, activists, academics and researchers, civil society organisations, and interested citizens of Ethiopia. This study, conducted by Professor Kjetil Tronvoll with Filata Boroje and Kairedin Tezera on behalf of the Institute, assesses the referendum that was held among inhabitants of the Sidama zone Ethiopia on 20 November 2019.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Nation-State, Autonomy, Independence, Statehood
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Yonas Adeto
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Institute of Peace (EIP)
  • Abstract: In his first year in office, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has executed sweeping political changes; nevertheless, Ethiopia faces daunting challenges. One the most pressing challenges is the spike in violence between the country’s many ethnic groups. In September 2018, scores were killed in Addis Ababa in clashes between Oromos and non-Oromos. Fighting has occurred along the border of the Oromia and the Somali regional states; Tigrayans have been forced out of Amhara; Amharas have been expelled from Oromia and Benishangul; and violent conflicts between the Oromo and Gedeo ethnic groups displaced approximately 970,000 people in the western Guji and Gedeo zones. Recently, federal forces were deployed as a coup attempt was thwarted in the Amhara regional state and protests over an independence referendum in Sadama turned violent. Many other incidents of ethnic violence go unreported in international media. To raise awareness about this issue, the European Institute of Peace has partnered with Dr. Yonas Adaye Adeto of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University. The policy paper investigates the causes and drivers of ethnic extremism, and argues that it presents a clear and present danger for the survival of Ethiopia as a nation. Dr. Yonas offers various recommendations to address extremism through comprehensive government action, which would ensure the success of the ongoing political reforms and address one of the most formidable challenges Ethiopia will face in the years to come.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Violent Extremism, Political Extremism, Countering Violent Extremism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia