As Arab Gulf states and Turkey ramp up their competition for influence in the Horn of Africa, USIP’s Payton Knopf says the increased attention “has tended to exacerbate some of the internal tensions and political insecurities” in Ethiopia and Sudan—two states undergoing democratic transitions vital for regional stability.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has remained in the news in the weeks following his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize—but not for the reasons you’d expect. An estimated 86 people have died in violence sparked by an alleged assassination attempt against a prominent political opposition leader. This tragedy is symptomatic of Ethiopia’s fragile transition and demonstrates the urgency for Dr. Abiy to focus his energies at home to deliver a peaceful transition for the 105 million Ethiopians counting on his leadership.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic engagement with neighboring Eritrea and initiating a host of domestic reforms. USIP’s Susan Stigant explains how the award shines a light on his accomplishments and “sets an expectation that he will continue to provide that leadership going forward."
In February 2019, the Ethiopian parliament adopted a landmark proclamation establishing a national reconciliation commission, the first-ever such institution in Ethiopia. Six months on, the commission has developed a three-year plan and begun consultations. But the body was formed without broad-based political consensus regarding its mandate, so has yet to win the critical trust of Ethiopia’s many social and political groups. Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso discusses the mandate of this body, the challenges ahead, and how the commission could help build peace in Africa’s second most populous country.
Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement just over a year ago to end two decades of a “frozen war.” The accord, which resolved a seemingly intractable border dispute after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office and accepted an independent commission’s 2002 boundary decision, was greeted with tremendous optimism in both countries and by international observers.
The southern Ethiopian area of Sidama is famous for its coffee. But amid the beans, bitterness lingers. More than 50 people were killed in recent violence, as Ethiopia struggles with demands for the creation of a new Sidama ethnic federal state—a right explicitly permitted by the national constitution. USIP’s Aly Verjee discusses the implications of this latest challenge to peace in Africa’s second most populous country.
In Ethiopia, political prisoners are free and the security services revamped. Women now comprise half the cabinet, and serve as ceremonial head of state, chief justice, and chair of the electoral commission. Significant steps have been taken toward resolving a 20-year conflict with neighboring Eritrea and reforms to unleash the economy—already one of Africa’s fastest growing—are ostensibly on the way. Elections are slated for next year. Under Abiy Ahmed, the nation’s popular new prime minister, Ethiopia is changing in ways long desired by American policymakers, agreed four former U.S. ambassadors to the country. Yet the most the U.S. is likely to do is offer encouragement and a bit of support, they said.
A year ago today, 42-year old reformist politician Abiy Ahmed became prime minister of Ethiopia. Abiy came to power during a deep political crisis with widespread grievances across this country of over 105 million people, and quickly began to enact political reforms. USIP’s Aly Verjee and Payton Knopf discuss Abiy’s year as prime minister and identify the challenges that lie ahead for eastern Africa’s most populous country.
David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, examines how great and regional power competition is impacting political and security dynamics in the Horn of Africa and complicating U.S. interests in the region.
The Trump administration has appointed four special envoys to coordinate U.S. policy toward key hot spots: Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Afghanistan. Yet in the Red Sea—one of the most volatile and lethal regions of the world afflicted by several interconnected conflicts and rivalries that pose significant challenges to American interests—U.S. policy has been rudderless in large part due to the absence of a similar post.