Ethiopian civil conflict (2018–present)

Many of the roots of the ongoing civil conflict within Ethiopia date back decades. However, following the dissolution of the ethnic federalist, dominant party political coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, there was an increase in tensions within the country, with newly resurgent regional and ethnically based factions.[9][10]

Ethiopian civil conflict
Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa
Ethiopia location map.svg
Map of Ethiopia
Detailed map of the war
Date2 April 2018 – present
(3 years, 5 months, 1 week and 5 days)
Result Ongoing


Gumuz militias

  • Gumuz Liberation Front
  • Buadin

TPLF (alleged)


Multiple unidentified armed groups


Commanders and leaders
Sahle-Work Zewde
Abiy Ahmed
Siraj Fegessa
Eritrea Isaias Afwerki
Eritrea Filipos Woldeyohannes
Tigray Region Debretsion Gebremichael Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
Sudan Abdalla Hamdok
Sudan Yassin Ibrahim Yassin Abdel-Hadi
Units involved
Ethiopian National Defense Force
Eritrean Defence Forces
Tigray Defense Forces Sudanese Armed Forces
Casualties and losses
4+ killed[8]
Thousands killed and displaced


Emperor Menelik II, who was of Amhara origin, seized Oromia, Sidama and Somali territory in 1889. League of Nations in 1935 reported that after the invasion of Menelik's forces into non Abyssinian lands of Somalis, Harari, Oromo, Sidama, Shanqella etc., the inhabitants were enslaved and heavily taxed by the gebbar system leading to depopulation.[11] During the emperorship of Haile Selassie and the following Derg epoch, when Ethiopia was mostly ruled by Mengistu Haile Mariam, ethnic discrimination occurred against Afars, Tigrayans, Eritreans, Somalis and Oromos.[12] The Amhara culture dominated throughout the eras of military and monarchic rule. Both the Haile Selassie and the Derg government relocated numerous Amharas into southern Ethiopia where they served in government administration, courts, church and even in school, where Oromo texts were eliminated and replaced by Amharic.[13][14][15] In the following period, ethnic federalism was implemented by the Tigrayan dominated Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and discrimination occurred against Amharas, Oromo and other ethnic groups, leading to the 2014–2016 Oromo protests which removed the TPLF from power.[16]

Afar and Somali RegionEdit

In 2014, the federal government under the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), redrew the boundary between the two regions of Afar Region and the Somali Region. As a result, the Afar Region gained three towns from the Somali Region which has tried to gain them back since. Border clashes in April 2021 killed around 100 civilians.[10]

Amhara and Oromia RegionEdit

The Prime Minister's Office accused Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, head of the Amhara region security forces, of leading the coup d'état plot. Asaminew was later shot dead by security forces after escaping. Fano members are accused of participating in ethnic massacres, including that of 58 Qemant people in Metemma during 10–11 January 2019.[17]

According to Hassan Hadiya, a resident of Kemise, the conflict started between Oromo residents and Amhara Special Forces after Amhara Special Forces killing an individual at the entrances of the grand mosque in Ataye, North Showa Zone of Amhara region. Another resident of Kemise, Ahmed says The Amhara region Liyu Police are attacking civilians and ongoing a blazing movement. Eyewitness evidence blames the Amhara regional special forces while the Amhara regional government accuses both OLF-Shene and TPLF as scapegoats of the violence.[18][19] Two members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly accused Amhara liyu police for killing Oromo civilian in Ataye, Oromia Zone by labeling them what he called ‘’bread name" refers to OLF. "Amhara Militia used OLF-Shane as a pretext to commit war crime on Oromo farmers in Wollo for the three major reasons the MP said on 11th Session of parliament of Ethiopia. The reasons are (1) their national identity (being an Oromo), (2) their religious identity (being Muslim) and (3)use the atrocity as a bargaining threat to fulfill all their demands in the Oromia region"[20] On the occasion of the attack of Wollo Oromos in Oromia Zone of Amhara Region by Amhara region militia in March 2021, OPP and APP came with opposite statements, each blaming the other ethnic group for being the cause of the violence and killings.[21][18] Borkena news website and Amhara region official claimed OLF involved Ataye town[22] The death toll reached more than 300 in March 2021[23] and up to 200 in April.[24]

In November 2020, in the Guliso district of the West Welega Zone in Oromia region, suspected members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) attacked ethnic Amharas, killing at least 54 people.[25]

Benishangul-Gumuz RegionEdit

Benishangul-Gumuz is home to several different ethnicities including the Gumuz, Berta, Shinasha, Mao, Komo and Fadashi. The Gumuz have had tensions with agricultural Amhara, Oromos, Tigrayans and Agaw migrants, who in Metekel Zone constitute minority ethnic groups with some Amhara groups calling for Metekel to be incorporated into Amhara. Large scale land acquisitions by both local and foreign investors have also pushed the Gumuz off the land.[26][27] Gumuz are alleged to have formed militias such as Buadin and the Gumuz Liberation Front that have staged attacks against those seen as "settlers".[28][29][30] In the Metekel massacre in December 2020, about 200[30] mostly Amharas, Oromos, and Shinashas were killed by a suspected Gumuz militia.[27] An unidentified armed group took over the county of Sedal Woreda in the Kamashi Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in April 2021.[31]

In March 2020, the leader of one of the groups called Fano, Solomon Atanaw, stated that the Fano would not disarm until Benishangul-Gumuz Region's Metekel Zone and the Tigray Region districts of Welkait and Raya are placed under the control of Amhara Region.[32]

Oromia and Somali RegionEdit

Clashes between the two largest regions, the Oromia region, which constitutes primarily those of the Oromo ethnic group, and Somali region, which primarily constitutes those of the Somali ethnic group, began in December 2016 following territorial disputes. Somalis are mostly pastoralists and Oromos tend to be farmers, as well as pastoralists. It has been difficult to demarcate clear borders between the states as pastoral communities tend to cross borders in search of pasture for their animals. This has led to competition, such as for wells and grazing land, over the years, with tens of thousands of people being displaced in some conflicts. In 2004, a referendum to decide on the fate of more than 420 kebeles, the country's smallest administrative unit, gave 80% of them to Oromia, leading to Somali minorities fleeing those areas.[33] By 2020, hundreds of people were killed and more than 1.5 million people fled their homes from the resulting conflict.[34] The regional special police of both states, called the Liyu in the Somali region and the Liyu Hail of Oromia state, were both accused of committing atrocities.[35]

Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' RegionEdit

Bench Maji ZoneEdit

In the Guraferda woreda of the Bench Maji Zone in the SNNPR in October 2020, about 30 people were killed by an unidentified armed group. The victims were said to have been Amhara.[25][36]

Gedeo ZoneEdit

In 2018, clashes began between the Gedeo Zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR), made up of mostly Gedeo people, and the Guji Zone in the Oromia region, made up of mostly Guji Oromos. The clashes led to about 800,000 mostly ethnic Gedeos fleeing their homes, a higher number and over a shorter period of time, than occurred at the height of the more publicized Rohingya crisis in Myanmar the year before. The government pressured the refugees to return to their homes even though they fear for their lives, often by denying refugees access to humanitarian aid.[37]

Konso ZoneEdit

The Segen Area Peoples' Zone, formerly a zone in the SNNPR, split in 2018 to form the Konso Zone, inhabited mostly by Konso people, as well as the Burji special woreda, Dirashe special woreda and Amaro special woreda and there has been intermittent violence since then. Violence in the latter half of 2020 attributed to Oromo and Konso communities[38] killed dozens of civilians and displaced at least 90,000 people.[39]


The Sidama Zone was previously part of the SNNPR and the Sidama people were the largest ethnic group in that region. In July 2019, clashes between groups on the issue of greater autonomy for Sidama led to deaths and internal displacement.[40] A vote in favor of greater autonomy in the 2019 Sidama Region referendum resulted in Sidama Zone becoming the country's 10th region. A number of other ethnic groups in the region are also pursuing demands to form their ethnic-based state.[41]

Wolayita ZoneEdit

In the Wolayita Zone, at least 17 people were killed in August 2020 by security forces. This was following calls for making a separate region for the Welayta people in the same fashion as the Sidama region for the Sidama people.[25]

Tigray RegionEdit

The Tigray Regional Government was led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which formerly dominated the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition. Hostilities between the central government and the TPLF escalated after the TPLF rejected the federal government's decision to postponing August 2020 elections to mid-2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing the government of violating the Ethiopian constitution.[42] The TPLF carried out its own regional elections, winning all contested seats in the region's parliament.[43] The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) launched an offensive, capturing Mekelle, the capital of Tigray in November 2020. The ENDF was reported to be assisted by forces from neighboring Eritrea.

Amhara and Tigray RegionEdit

Throughout much of Western Tigray, security is mostly maintained by uniformed "special forces" from neighboring Amhara states and civil servants have also arrived from Amhara to take over the administration of some Tigrayan towns and cities, a move that risks inflaming ethnic tensions.[44] On 18 December 2020, looting was reported by EEPA, including 500 dairy cows and hundreds of calves stolen by Amhara forces.[45] On 23 November, a reporter of AFP news agency visited the western Tigray town of Humera, and observed that the administration of the conquered parts of Western Tigray was taken over by officials from Amhara region.[46] As of 1 March 2021, several geographical places had been renamed by the new authorities and many residents of Tigrayan ethnicity had been deported to Central Zone.[47] Eyewitnesses report ongoing ethnic cleansing and settlements void of inhabitants;[48] geographer Jan Nyssen claims that the Amhara region authorities plan to resettle Amhara people to these locations.[49]

The Humera massacres in 2020 that killed around 92 people of Tigrayan origin was attributed to Fano and ENDF. The Humera massacres in 2021 that killed Tigrayans were also attributed to Fano and possibly Eritrean soldiers.[50][51] Fano are also accused of participating in the Mai Kadra massacre, which had both Amhara and Tigrayan victims, while Amnesty International, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Council attributed it to local Tigrayan youths.[52][53]


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