Situation Update
  • On 02 November 2021, the U.S. Department of State declared a “Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory” for Ethiopia, restricting U.S. Embassy personnel from traveling outside of Addis Ababa and advising all U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to leave the country.

  • The advisory comes after rebel groups – the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) – seized two strategically important towns 235 miles north of the capital along Ethiopia’s north-south A2 highway, effectively splitting the country in two. Armed conflict and civil unrest continue in Amhara, Afar, and Tigray.

  • The Ethiopian central government declared a six-month state of emergency and authorities in Addis Ababa and the state of Amhara have also called on residents to register any weapons and prepare to fight. The state of emergency gives the government wide legal power to arrest anyone suspected of providing financial, material, or moral support to the rebel group. Reports of the arrests of ethnic Tigray in Addis have circulated over the past several days.

  • Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (HAAB/ADD) is still fully operational; however, it is unclear if ADD will remain open to commercial flights should conflict reach the outskirts of the city. Flights are reported to be fully booked, as diplomats, expatriates, government officials, and Ethiopian citizens flee Addis.

Context

  • Now one year into the civil war, both the scope and tide of the conflict have dramatically changed. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy joined forces with Eritrea's dictator Isaias Afwerki to dislodge the heavily armed Tigray regional government in a pincer movement. The brutal fighting has since killed tens of thousands and pushed millions out of their homes and to the brink of famine. Gross violations of human rights have been documented on all sides.

  • In June 2021, Ethiopia's government declared a unilateral ceasefire, after Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekelle. The TPLF rejected the truce and subsequently forged an alliance with its former enemy, the OLA, opening multiple fronts against the central government. The rebel groups have put federal forces on the defensive and have been making steady gains since October. While a TPLF spokesperson has denied that the group intends to march on the capital, the central government is preparing for this possibility.

Analysis

  • Ethiopia is fast approaching becoming a failed state. In October, Ethiopia joined Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria as the only countries that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) withheld economic forecasts for, highlighting the degree of uncertainty surrounding the fate of the country.

  • After touting military victories for the better part of the year, the rhetoric from Addis has shifted indicating the government’s anxieties of collapse. As the risk of violence in the capital increases, so do the chances of a coup or forced government resignations.

  • As an ethnically fractious country in a war-torn region, the risks of escalating inter-ethnic conflict are increasing and spillover into neighboring countries cannot be ruled out.
ADVICE
  • Global Guardian recommends for expatriates to depart the country as soon as possible, in case the window of opportunity closes.
  • Those who remain in-country should expect communication blackouts, an enhanced security presence to possibly include a strict curfew and a run on critical supplies.
  • Should the fighting reach Addis Ababa, it is advised to shelter in place.
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