Ethiopia: A Threat to Peace, Security and Stability in the Horn Region

Politics News Opinions Sophia Tesfamariam

The situation in Ethiopia is a real threat to the peace, stability and security of the entire Horn of Africa region.

The situation in Ethiopia is a threat to the peace, stability and security of the entire Horn of Africa region.
The center can no longer hold. The situation in Ethiopia behooves the U.S. led international community to heed the calls of the suffering Ethiopian people and stop supporting the ‘genocide by attrition’ that is taking place there.


At the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, Hailemariam Desalegn, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, gave lip service to “multilateralism” and international principles. Hailemariam Desalegn said:

“…Geo-political tensions reminiscent of the cold war are increasing; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is posing real threats to global peace and security; terrorism and violent extremism continues to wreak havoc across different parts of the world; global income inequality is no longer a development challenge but also a security threat; climate change is not a fiction but real and we are witnessing its devastating consequences for humankind and the planet. Countries such as my own continue to face this horrendous challenge to their development… global problems certainly require global solutions. That is why commitment to multilateralism and adherence to principles that underpin it have never been as urgent as they are currently….”

Ethiopia’s development challenges stem from the myopic leadership’s misguided internal and external policies. Its insecurity stems from anxiety and fear of its own people, who are protesting its brutal rule and negligence. If there is proliferation of arms in the Horn of Africa, this bandwagon mercenary regime should know, as it is the only regime that is amassing arms and arming terrorist groups to “wreak havoc” in the region. A brutal regime that has displaced, pauperized and securitized Ethiopian society, a regime that uses food as a weapon of war against its own people, cannot feign concern about humanity’s fate…Charity begins at home!

Ethiopia has violated the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions of 2002 and 2007 respectively and continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme, in violation of the African Union and UN Charters.

It is a regime that has reneged on international agreements it willingly signed, such as the 2000 Algiers Agreements between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It continues to reject the final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions of the independent Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission delivered on 13 April 2002 and November 2007 respectively. The Ethiopian regime does not have the moral or legal authority to talk about “multilateralism” or “adherence to principles”. The Prime Ministers statements are as hollow as the seat it holds on the UN Security Council.

Despite media reports about Ethiopia having one of the “fastest growing economies in the world”, and despite being one of the biggest recipients of international humanitarian and development aid, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Ethiopia is a country that cannot feed its own people, or provide healthcare, education or shelter.

In Addis Ababa alone, estimates are that perhaps 100,000 children, some as young as 5 years old, live on the streets and there are about a million homeless throughout the country. The average age at which children first find themselves homeless is between the age of 10 and 11 years. The regime’s racist ethnic based policies have resulted in the marginalization of millions and the destruction of the livelihoods of millions more.

According to the recently released UN Report of global hunger and poverty, “there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people go hungry”.

In Ethiopia over 8 million are in need for emergency food aid and another 1.8 million Street children are in need of other humanitarian assistance. Reports coming out of Ethiopia today have a familiar and very predicable ring. Anytime there is conflict in Ethiopia and it looks like the Ethiopian regime is threatened, there is an avalanche of stories about drought, hunger, famine in Ethiopia…a convenient diversion. Today, as the violent conflicts rage in the Somali and Oromia regions, and as thousands are being displaced in yet another conflict instigated by the regime through its special forces, the Norwegian Refugee Council released this report on 19 September:

“…The nation is facing its worst drought in decades. 8.5 million men, women and children need immediate food assistance…”

The headlines for the last two decades have repeated the same tired line. Each year since the regime came to power, the mainstream media and the donor community said that Ethiopia was experiencing “the worst drought in years”.

Ethiopia, despite being the recipient of billions in humanitarian and development aid in the last two decades, it has not translated into meaningful change in the standard of living of its people. There should be no shortage of food in Ethiopia as the country has ample water and land resources to feed its own people as well as all its neighbors. Ethiopia is said to be exporting food to others in the region, and many more are utilizing its vast lands to feed their own peoples. So why are its own people starving?

The reports about drought, famine and hunger in Ethiopia have become a cover and diversion for the repression, marginalization, and genocide by attrition taking place in the country. Ethiopia’s food insecurity is by design. The US led international community ought to be concerned about the Ethiopian government’s internal and domestic policies that have contributed to the widespread displacement, pauperization and securitization of Ethiopian society. The situation in Ethiopia is a threat to peace, stability and security of the entire region.


Protracted displacement within the country has increased exacerbated by internal conflict between the Ethiopian government and insurgency groups in the Oromia and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Forced displacement is a tactic used by the regime in Ethiopia to maintain control over regions that it believes threaten its rule. The United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) says internally displaced persons are:

“…persons or groups of persons who have been forced to flee, or leave, their homes or places of habitual residence as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, and habitual violations of human rights, as well as natural or man-made disasters involving one or more of these elements, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border…”

Ethiopia has the highest absolute displacement risk, with more than 120,000 people displaced every year. Today, there are over a million people who are internally displaced in Ethiopia. IRIN in its recent report said:

“…There are 58 settlements for the internally displaced in the Somali region [Ethiopia] currently receiving government aid. But that’s only a fraction of the 222 sites containing nearly 400,000 displaced people identified in a survey by the International Organization for Migration…Forty-four percent of these camps reported no access to food, and only 31 percent had a water source within a 20-minute walk…”

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs reported the following in May 2017:

“…With more than 700,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Ethiopia produces 10.4 percent of the total IDP population in the IGAD region…The IDP population in Ethiopia is three times greater than the number of Ethiopian refugees in many other countries, and close to the total number of refugees hosted by Ethiopia. As of April 2016, there were 777,147 IDPs in Ethiopia due to a variety of causes…”

The Report also said:

“…This number does not include Development- induced Displacement (DID) and Man-made Disaster–induced Displacement (MDID). In the past 10 years, Ethiopia is estimated to have had close to 220,000 IDPs due to DID, emanating from infrastructure projects, including dams, industries and industrial parks, railways, roads, and urban renewal programmes…Thus, if we include IDPs due to DID in the figure, the number of IDPs in Ethiopia has been close to a million… Internal displacement causes people to be uprooted against their will…Ten primary displacement hotspot zones include -Afder, Siti (2 Zones of Somali), Nuer, Agnuak (2 zones of Gambella), Gurage (1 zones of SNPP), Mille (1 zones of Afar), North Showa (1 zones of Amhara), Arsi, Borena, West Hararege (3 zones of Oromia)…”

The recent headlines highlight the looming humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia. Suffice it to mention a few:

  • “…We are disturbed by the troubling reports of ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people living along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions, particularly in Hararge…”-( US State Department 17 September 2017)
  • “…Thousands of people are being displaced from the Somali region in Eastern Ethiopia…Prices of staples have skyrocketed in the town due to disruptions in freight transportation and trade… “(Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT))
  • “…Overall, some 416,807 Oromos have been displaced this year alone in fear of attacks by the Somali region’s Special Police Force…”- ( The Voice of America (VoA) 17 September 2017)
  • “…the Ethiopian government says recent clashes between ethnic Somalis and Oromos have killed hundreds and displaced thousands from their homes…”- (BBC 25 September 2017)
  • “…With more than 80 percent of the Ethiopian population dependent on agriculture and pastoralism for subsistence, the disruptions caused by the regime’s villagization program are resulting in increased food insecurity, destruction of livelihoods, and the loss of cultural heritage…” (Oakland Institute)

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID). In Ethiopia’s internally displaced camps:

“…72 per cent were under the age of 18, including around 16,000 infants under the age of four It also showed nearly 200 people suffering from chronic disease or serious medical conditions, and nearly 300 with physical or mental disabilities…There were more than 3,200 people aged 60 or over, nearly 2,500 pregnant or breast-feeding women and nearly 1,000 households headed by one person, most often a woman…”

Ethiopia’s IDPs are exposed to crimes such as rape, trafficking and in addition to personal insecurity, they are exposed to high health risks. IDPs also expose others to pandemics, communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as physical and mental health problems.

The humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia poses grave threats to national, regional, and international peace and security, health and the environment. The regime denies the existence of long-term IDPs in the country, ostensibly, to protect “Ethiopia’s image” and while the international community has acknowledged the situation of internally displaced persons in Ethiopia, this acknowledgement has been followed by little, if any, tangible action against the regime. Providing the regime diplomatic, financial, military shield and support seem to be the only response to date….


Ethiopia has one of the lowest incomes per capita. The conditions of poverty entail deterioration in health for many of Ethiopia’s inhabitants. The most common diseases that cause mortality are AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Improper sanitation and malnutrition contribute to the various communicable diseases in the country, especially in the IDP and refugee camps.

Ethiopia’s “pro-poor growth strategy” of the last decade and a half has exacerbated poverty in the country. Its economic development has “failed to narrow the rural urban divide and promote inclusive growth and development”[1].

In March 2017, the world watched in horror as news of a massive landslide at a dump site in Addis Abeba, the Ethiopian capital, where the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU) are headquartered, claimed the olives of over 115 people as they rummaged for food. Many of the victims were squatters who scavenged for a living in the 30-hectare (74-acre) dump.

There is wide disparity in the access to education and healthcare across the country, with the remote pastoralist regions of the Somali and Afar regions lagging. Wide margin of the population is excluded from the fruits of the so called “double digit growth”, and while there have been reports about Ethiopia’s few new millionaires, majority of the Ethiopian people remain desperately poor. The infamous “land grabs” in the country have perpetuated “cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and marginalized the country’s most vulnerable citizens”, says the Oakland Institute. Deprived of their customary livelihoods, Ethiopia’s pastoralists have been systematically pauperized.

As with the previous Derg regime, the controversial “villagization program” in Ethiopia has contributed to the displacement and subsequent pauperization of Ethiopians in the Oromia and Somali regions of Ethiopia. The Oakland Institute says in Ethiopia’s “villagization” program:

“…local, often pastoral, populations are being forcibly removed from their lands and resettled in ways that neglect their traditional ways of life and livelihoods. These forced evictions have been accompanied by gross human rights abuses, including the rape, killing, torture, and arbitrary detention of local populations…”

While the western media, the World Bank and IMF tout Ethiopia’s development strategies and finance its controversial “villagization” program, the Oakland Institute says:

“….As part of the villagization program, more than 1.5 million residents of Ethiopia (225,000 people in Gambella) have begun or will begin relocating away from their ancestral lands. Contrary to wide reporting, the Ethiopian government has stated that the relocation is voluntary and necessary to centralize infrastructure. While centralizing infrastructure sounds like a worthy ideal in principal…”

The deteriorating human security conditions in Ethiopia affect the most vulnerable of Ethiopian society-the children. According to the 2017 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), in Ethiopia:

“…More than half of the population are also destitute…more than 90% of children are MPI poor…The region with the highest deprivation in nutrition is Affar in Ethiopia…”

According to USAID:

“…Household food insecurity, hunger and undernutrition remain critical issues; the poor nutritional status of women and children has been a consistent problem in Ethiopia. Undernutrition is an underlying cause of 53 percent of infant and child deaths. Rates of stunting and underweight have decreased over the past decade but remain high with 44 percent of children under five stunted and 29 percent underweight. Lack of dietary diversity and micronutrient-dense food consumption, and problematic child feeding practices contribute to the high rates of child undernutrition. Only half of infants are exclusively breastfed and introduced complementary foods at the appropriate time, and only 4 percent of young children are receiving a minimal acceptable diet. One quarter of women of reproductive age are undernourished, leaving their children predisposed to low birth weight, short stature, lower resistance to infections, and higher risk of disease and death…Children in rural areas are more likely to be stunted (46 percent) than those in urban areas (36 percent), and great regional variations persist, with Amhara (52 percent), Tigray (51 percent), Affar (50 percent), and Benishangul-Gumuz (49 percent) more severely affected, while Addis Ababa (22 percent) and Gambela (27 percent) have the lowest rates…”

Displacement brings dislocation, breaking up of families, and little or no access to land to grow and feed themselves. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its 22 September 2017 report said:

“…In Ethiopia, an estimated 375,000 children may become severely acutely malnourished (SAM) by the end of 2017, while some 3.6 million moderately acutely malnourished (MAM) children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) require supplementary feeding… In Ethiopia, a 27 per cent increase in the number of Acute Watery Diarrhoea [Cholera] cases was reported nationwide during the last week in August, mainly due to spikes in new cases reported in Amhara and Tigray regions and a resurgence of the outbreak in Afar region…”

The Ethiopian regime’s domestic and military policies in the Somali and Oromo regions, as with all nationalities it perceived as a threat to its survival, contributed to institutionalizing famine and dependency and the pauperization of the Afar, Amhara, Gambela, Oromia and Somali peoples of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s chronic poverty, and further pauperization of its population, remains a major threat to peace and security threat in the Horn of Africa.


War on terror discourse has resulted in securitization of every aspect of Ethiopian society and the regime has declared war on any individuals and organizations that it deemed fit by simply labeling them “terrorist’. In 2009, the Ethiopian government passed anti-terror legislation, with definitions of terrorist activity that are broad and ambiguous. The legislation is used to clampdown on political dissent, including political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy that are deemed supportive of armed opposition activity. Opposition groups and members of the media have been labeled terrorists-allowing the frightened Ethiopian regime to use brute force to squelch the nationwide protests.

Merara Gudina, the leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) was arrested for participating in a European Parliament forum which included members of other Ethiopian opposition groups. The Ethiopian Embassy provided this explanation:

“…Despite his awareness of these provisions, Dr. Merera Gudina allegedly met and discussed with the leader of a group listed as terrorist in Brussels from 7-9 November 2016. Hence, the arrest of Dr Merera Gudina is not related with the meeting in the European Parliament but the alleged discussion with the leader of a terrorist group. If this meeting is confirmed by the investigation, this would have to be considered as a clear and deliberate violation of the state of emergency…”

The regime that partnered with other Ethiopian liberation movements to get to the helm, has now decided to outlaw all liberation movements in the country, including those that fought alongside the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF)- the ruling party. In 2010, the rubber stamp Ethiopian Parliament labeled three domestic opposition groups – the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ginbot 7 – as “terrorists” alongside international groups like Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabbab. While none are listed in the Terrorism Tracking and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) or on any other international list, TPLF is:

“…The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is a political party in Tigray, Ethiopia that has been listed as a perpetrator in the Global Terrorism Database, based on ten incidents occurring between 1976 and 1990…”

DMLEK and RSADO, groups financed and harbored by regime in Ethiopia, responsible for several attacks against Eritrea, are also listed in the Global Terrorism Database. The TPLF regime continues to terrorize its own people and neighboring states with its aggressive wars of expansion, invasion and occupation. Greater Tigray.

The Amhara, Ogadeni, Oromo and Somali in Ethiopia and their vanguard organizations have been presented as an “existential problem” to its handlers, allowing it free reign to take extraordinary actions, including declaring a state of emergency and unleashing the military against its own people. The frightened regime sees enemies everywhere, especially in its own people, and has managed to construct those it considers its enemies as being “broader international threats”. Targets of its domestic “counterinsurgency” programs, using the Global War on Terror (GWT) as pretext…to justify “hunting them down” -even in neighboring states.

Tobias Hagman of the Rift Valley Institute says:

“…Security has been used to justify a range of political and military tactics, almost to the point where the rule of law and due process no longer exist. Instead, there is despotic and personalized rule, and a new set of security-driven patron–client relationships…The securitization of regional politics did not only lead to greater violence; it also had a substantial impact on the region’s political elites…”

The “Global War on Terror” has enabled the regime to securitize Ethiopian society. Presenting developments in Ethiopia within a narrative of security and by labeling peaceful demonstrators/protesters as “anti-peace elements”, “terrorists” etc. the regime justifies its brutal actions.

The TPLF regime established the Special Forces “Liyu Police” as a counter-insurgency force against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). It has been accused of instigating the latest Oromia-Somali region conflict, in which hundreds were killed and many more displaced. Thousands of Ethiopians languish in detention centers accused of security-related offences.

Graham Peebles in his article, “State terrorism in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region” writes:

“…A willing ally in the “war on terror”, Ethiopia is a strategically convenient base from which the US launches it’s deadly Reaper Drones over Yemen and Somalia, carrying out “targeted assassinations” against perceived threats to “national security” and the American way of life. In exchange, perhaps, irresponsible benefactors – Britain, America and the European Union – turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the human rights abuses being perpetrated throughout the country by the highly repressive dictatorship enthroned in Addis Ababa…There is indeed terrorism raging throughout large parts of the Ogaden and elsewhere in the country. It is state terrorism perpetrated by a brutal regime that is guilty of widespread criminality, much of which constitutes crimes against humanity…”

Time and again, the US response has been to “call on the Ethiopian government” to conduct an investigation of itself. As predicted, each time, the investigations absolved the government of any wrong doing.

After over 400 people were massacred in the Gambela genocide, the then US Ambassador to Ethiopia Aurelia Brazeal in an IRIN report stated:

“…we have released a statement on our position on Gambella, which is to support the government’s stated intentions to have an investigation to get to the root causes and also to investigate those people who took part in the violence and take them into the legal process here and [so that they can] be tried for being participants in the violence…”

The US Embassy in Ethiopia released this statement on the recent Oromia-Somali issue:

“…We urge the Ethiopian government to conduct a transparent investigation into all allegations of violence and to hold those responsible accountable. At the same time, on the local level, communities must be encouraged and given space to seek peaceful resolutions to the underlying conflicts…”

Asking the TPLF regime to investigate itself is like asking Hitler to head the investigations on the Jewish Holocaust, or Bin Laden to investigate terrorism…

Some things never change…

The situation in Ethiopia is a threat to the peace, stability and security of the entire Horn region and it behooves the US led international community to heed the calls of the suffering Ethiopian people and stop supporting the “genocide by attrition” taking place in Ethiopia …
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[1] Inclusive Growth and Development Issues in Eastern and Southern Africa, Musahara, Herman (2016)