Ensuring Peace in Ethiopia

A peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed in November with the goal of ending Ethiopia’s two-year civil war in the northern region of Tigray, is in jeopardy this week. Many local sources claim that Eritrean troops, which fought in cooperation with the Ethiopian military and friendly militias against rebel groups in Tigray, have remained in the region in violation of the 2022 agreement, which mandated their full withdrawal. Officials from the United States and the United Nations have expressed their concern this week amid reports that Eritrean soldiers have continued their notorious abuse of civilians and disruption of humanitarian aid which contributed significantly to the war first coming to international attention and earning warnings of genocide from some observers.

Although the war has been overlooked by many policymakers and media figures, it has been the bloodiest conflict of the 21st century, with most estimates counting over 500,000 civilians dead – almost one tenth of the Tigray population – and some estimates reach still hundreds of thousands more than that. Although many are dead due to famine or a lack of medicine caused by a government blockade, reports of massacres and other atrocities against civilians also shocked international observers, although Ethiopian authorities successfully suppressed much reporting by arresting thousands of journalists in May of last year. 

Citing “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the Government of Ethiopia,” the U.S. terminated its trade preference program with Addis Ababa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act in January of last year. Ethiopia, which already holds a $907 million USD financing agreement with the World Bank, is actively seeking economic relief through the restoration of this status — but U.S. officials have quietly said this is impossible without Eritrea’s full withdrawal from Tigray. 

Questions and Background

  • What role does the U.S. have in maintaining peace in Ethiopia?
  • What role do international institutions, especially the United Nations or the African Union, have in responding to violations of the November agreement?
  • What tools are available, especially to the U.S., to prevent future abuses of human rights in Tigray?

Ukraine Understandably in Focus, But Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict is World’s Largest
Ambassador Mark Green. Wilson Center. October 25, 2022.

To Cement Peace in Ethiopia, Take Action on Eritrea
Michael Rubin. 19FortyFive. November 3, 2022.

Eritrean Troops Endanger Ethiopian Peace Deal
Nicolas Bariyo. The Wall Street Journal. January 21, 2023.   

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