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Key Points:oct-16-ethiopia

  • The government’s declaration of a state of emergency comes amid increasingly violent protests.
  • Protestors have ethnic, economic, political, and religious qualms with the government.
  • More than 500 people have reportedly been killed.

Situation Summary:
Civil Unrest: The government has announced the implementation of a state of emergency after popular discontent which has been ongoing for a year and has become increasingly violent. The military are to take over internal security and there will be a lower threshold for the use of force; curfews are to also be expected. There are a number of state reasons for the recent unrest. Muslims are unhappy that the government has forced them to name approved leaders and farmers are angry at a government plan to move them from their land to make way for commercial agriculture. But probably the largest cases of violence have been attributed to the Oromo and Amhara peoples. Combined, these groups are about 60% of the population but believe that they are being dominated by the Tigre ethnic group, who number less than 10%. They are also angry at the redrawing of Ethiopia’s internal map. The spark factor which led to the state of emergency was the clashes in Oromia during the annual Ireecha celebrations when at least 55 were killed as a result of a stampede.

Intrinsic Comment:
The situation remains particularly uncertain at present, partly because the full nature of the state of emergency is unclear. Should the declaration lead to more repressive moves by the government (as seems likely), more violence is to be expected. Ethiopia’s economy has grown exponentially in recent years, thanks largely to foreign investment. Protestors have taken out much of their anger against foreign companies, viewing the government as favouring outsiders over its own people; an American woman was recently killed when her vehicle was stoned. Hotels popular with foreign tourists have also been attacked. Protestors have also blocked a number of routes into and out of Addis Ababa, making travel conditions hazardous.

Calls for calm by foreign nations has led to the government blaming groups in Egypt and Eritrea for contributing to the unrest; Ethiopia’s longtime regional rivals. The evidence for this is not particularly strong at this point.

 Intrinsic Security Advice:
Risk Ratings: Ethiopia: High Civil Unrest: High
It is advisable for foreigners (especially) to employ increased security precautions in the medium-term as the current outlook is very unclear. Such individuals should also make precautionary evacuation plans given the current trend of unrest. It is also advisable for those in Ethiopia to seek out alternative means of communication as the Ethiopian government regularly block internet and cellular signals in restive areas. Foreign businesses have been targeted in the recent violence; foreigners are advised to keep a low profile as this targeted violence is expected to continue.

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