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News: US Intelligence Community report warns 'unresolved territorial issues could lead to a resumption of conflict' in Ethiopia

Members of the Amhra region Police patrol inside Western Tigray (Photo: Archive/Screenshot)

Addis Abeba – The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community released on 11 March warned that despite the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed in November 2022 between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigrayans that ended a two-year war, the “unresolved territorial issues could lead to a resumption of conflict.”

The threat assessment report was released in the same day when the first strategic review on the implementation of the CoHA took place at the AU premises in Addis Abeba to “undertake strategic reflection and support critical aspects of the Ethiopian Peace Process, such as humanitarian support, DDR, rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

At the conclusion of the day-long meeting, the African Union said that the two parties agreed “to hold multifaceted consultations to advance peace, security, and stability in the Tigray region” and “to consult regularly.”

However, AU’s statement failed to state if there were progresses made to narrow the widening differences between the federal government and the Tigray interim administration due mainly to unmet CoHA obligations. These include the unresolved status of western and parts of southern Tigray that are still occupied by Amhara regional forces affiliated with the government, the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from northeastern parts of Tigray, and the delay in IDP returns.

“While the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in November 2022 between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigrayans ended a two-year war, unresolved territorial issues could lead to a resumption of conflict,” the annual threat assessment report said.

Last week, the Minister of Defense, Abraham Belay, revealed government plans that “federal forces will retain control over these areas to facilitate the repatriation process and to enable residents to conduct local elections upon their return.”

Previously, the federal government has outlined a proposal to “hold a referendum” to resolve the status of the occupied western and parts of southern Tigray region; but Tigray’s interim administration highlighted the importance of adhering to the constitutional process as delineated in the Pretoria CoHA. Furthermore, Tigrayan authorities reject plans for referendum after “a substantial influx of settlers has transpired” especially in western Tigray, and accused federal institutions of being “actively involved in demographic modifications.”

“The feasibility of conducting a referendum is unattainable,” Getachew Reda, Tigray Interim Administration President, said.

In addition to its warning on return of conflict, the 2024 threat assessment report, which highlighted other global trends including in the neighboring Sudan, further cautioned that Ethiopia “is undergoing multiple, simultaneous internal conflicts, heightening interethnic tension and the risk of atrocities against civilians.”

The report zoomed in and cited the ongoing conflict in the Amhara Regional State, which started in April 2023, and involves militarized hostilities between government forces and the Fano armed group in the Amhara region that “persisted throughout the year.”

In February, Ethiopian lawmakers extended a state of emergency in the Amhara region by four more months as the region continues to grapple with a widespread militarized conflict that led to the killing of countless civilians and destruction of vital infrastructure.

The State of Emergency was first declared in 03 August 2023 following a series of instability in the regional state that began with mass protests in several major cities against the federal government’s decision to reorganize regional special forces into regular police and the national army.

The protests have quickly deteriorated to widespread clashes and instability and the subsequent assassination on 27 April of the Head of the ruling Prosperity Party in the region, Girma Yeshitila.

On 28 April, the Ethiopian Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force announced that it started “taking decisive measures” against “extremist forces” that it accused of “trying to take control of regional state power by destroying the constitutional order in the Amhara regional state.”

The Amhara regional state has since remained the epicenter of the latest militarized conflict involving government forces armed groups that swept large parts of the regional state. AS

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