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Understanding Conflicts in Ethiopia: 2015-2021

The  Federalism, Diversity Management and Rule of Law Studies at the Policy Studies Institute(PSI) conducted an internal validation workshop entitled “Understanding Conflicts in Ethiopia from 2015-2021” on January 26, 2024 in the premises of the PSI main meeting  hall.

 

In an effort to understand and address the complex conflicts that have plagued Ethiopia in recent years, a team of researchers  have come together to shed light on this pressing issue. Led by Dr. Tilahun Teferra from PSI, the team includes scholars such as Dr. Desalegn Amsalu, Dr. Abyiot Teklu and Dr. Zemelak Ayitenew from Addis Ababa University and Dr. Melaku Abera from Ethiopian Civil Service University. Their combined expertise and commitment have led to a comprehensive analysis of the conflicts in Ethiopia from 2015 to 2021.

         Dr. Tilahun Teferra, Policy Studies Institute

During the opening of the internal validation workshop, H.E. Prof. Beyene Petros, Director General of PSI, said that the research topic is a very sensitive endeavor and invites many interpretations.

Prof. Beyene said Ethiopia, a country known for its rich history and diverse cultural heritage, has been plagued by escalating conflicts in recent years. He said that the conflicts persist despite the new government's efforts of peace and reform.

During the internal validation workshop, Prof. Beyene expressed his hopes for the study to provide a comprehensive understanding of the conflict situation in Ethiopia from 2015 to 2021. He emphasized the importance of examining the trends, causes, consequences, and responses to these conflicts in order to shed light on their complexities.

               Dr. Desalegn Amsalu, Addis Ababa University

The presenter of the research findings, Dr. Desalegn Amsalu, said that despite hopes for peace and progress following the change of leadership in 2018, the country has seen a rise in violence and unrest. In this study, he said they analyzed the conflicts in Ethiopia from 2015 to 2021 and shed light on the causes, trends and consequences that have shaped the country's landscape.

Dr. Desalegn Amsalu added that the period between 2015 and 2021 is characterized by a significant increase in internal conflicts across Ethiopia. According to their findings, conflicts have been consistently reported every year, with numbers fluctuating but generally increasing. In particular, 2018 and 2020 saw a surge in conflicts, indicating a worrying trend that requires attention and understanding.

Dr. Desalegn Amsalu pointed out that the geographical spread of conflicts in Ethiopia presents a mixed picture. While there has been an increase in conflicts in some hotspots, the geographical spread has decreased in other areas. This suggests that certain areas faced localized conflicts that were confined to specific regions, while others faced conflicts that spread beyond their borders. Factors such as ethnic and religious diversity, resource control and demographic characteristics were found to play a role in the localization of conflicts.

Ethnic or religious diversity, resource control and identity struggles were identified as key factors contributing to the localization of conflict in Ethiopia. Inefficient management of diversity, especially in regions such as Metekel, Somali and Harar, has led to tensions and conflicts. Moreover, conflicts fueled by disputes over resources, such as in Tepi Town and Gambella, underscore the complicated dynamics at play. It is clear that conflicts arise from a combination of different population groups and the availability of valuable resources.

Political transitions, including new party formations, political reforms and elections, have been identified as important contextual factors contributing to conflict in Ethiopia. The last elections in 2021, for example, saw an increase in hostilities between different ethnic populations. Religious and cultural events such as the Epiphany and Meskel festivals have also been identified as triggers for conflict in different regions. It is crucial to recognize the wide range of contextual factors that include historical, political, economic, social and cultural dynamics that influence the occurrence of conflicts in Ethiopia.

Dr. Desalegn  stated that conflicts in Ethiopia have different triggers. Private disputes, non-state armed groups, government forces abusing civilians and resistance to state actors have been identified as direct causes of conflict. These causes can lead to smaller disputes escalating into larger conflicts, resulting in violence and unrest. Underlying causes have also been identified, with the federal system based on ethnic politics contributing most to the conflicts. Ethnic politics, resource conflicts and religious tensions were highlighted as important underlying factors. Understanding these causes is crucial for developing effective strategies to manage and mitigate conflicts in Ethiopia.

The conflicts that have plagued Ethiopia from 2015 to 2021 have posed significant challenges to the country's stability and progress. By examining the causes, trends and consequences of these conflicts, we gain valuable insights into the complex dynamics at play. It is imperative that policy makers, community leaders and stakeholders work together towards sustainable peace, effective diversity management and the promotion of the rule of law. Only through a comprehensive understanding of the conflicts can Ethiopia pave the way to a better and more peaceful future for all its citizens.

During the internal validation workshop, participants actively engaged with the research findings and raised several thought-provoking questions. The participants' queries provided valuable insights and stimulated meaningful discussions among the researchers. The research team would like to thank all workshop participants for their active participation and for their valuable suggestions and questions that further enriched the research.

The questions raised during the workshop covered a wide range of topics, including the methodology used, the interpretation of the data and the implications of the research findings. Participants showed great interest in understanding the factors that contribute to the localization of conflict, the role of political transitions in conflict dynamics, and the possible strategies for conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Ethiopia.

The researchers appreciated the active participation of the participants and recognized the importance of such engagement in refining the research. The issues raised during the workshop emphasized not only the importance of addressing the conflicts in Ethiopia, but also the need for continuous dialog and collaboration among stakeholders to find sustainable solutions.

The research team has taken note of the questions and suggestions made by the workshop participants. They will carefully consider these suggestions as they continue to refine and finalize the research findings. The researchers are committed to ensuring that the research findings reflect the diverse perspectives and concerns of all stakeholders involved.

In the final remarks of the internal validation workshop, Prof. Beyene emphasized the importance of acknowledging the diversity within Ethiopia and warned against generalizing the conflicts in the different regions. He emphasized the need for the research team to present the findings in a nuanced and context-specific manner, as each conflict has its own dynamics and underlying causes.

Prof. Beyene's emphasis on avoiding generalizations is in line with the research team's effort to capture the complexity of Ethiopian conflicts. Given the diverse ethnic, religious and cultural settings in the country, the research team recognizes the importance of contextualizing the findings to reflect the specific conditions and complexity of each region.

The research team acknowledges Prof. Beyene for his valuable contribution and is keen to carefully incorporate his suggestions into the final analysis. They are aware that a comprehensive understanding of the conflicts in Ethiopia requires a nuanced approach that respects and takes into account the diversity and complexity of the country's regions.

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