Ethiopia’s Mixed Signals – allAfrica.com

International re-engagement and new peace talks point in a positive direction, but multiple indicators point to fragility and risk.

As the world watches Sudan’s unraveling with horror, progress in neighboring Ethiopia can make the country seem like a relatively bright spot on a troubled map. The war in Tigray is over, the peace there is holding, and the government recently commenced new talks with the Oromo Liberation Army. The state has pivoted away from rhetoric demonizing its longtime development partners and toward messages embracing re-engagement and getting the country’s economic trajectory back on track–a practical choice given the country’s debt crisis, recent years’ massive military spending, and the resulting staggering reconstruction needs.

All of this positive momentum is welcome. Not long ago the world was confronted with the possibility of state collapse in Ethiopia. Now, observers are reminded that a prosperous and peaceful Ethiopia would be a boon to the region and ultimately a formidable force for elevating African priorities globally. But there are other, less encouraging developments unfolding that indicate just how much fragility lurks below the surface.

In Tigray itself, the war may be over, but the suffering is not. Credible reports indicate that the peace agreement has not stopped forced displacements in contested areas of the region. The presence of Eritrean forces, and Amhara militia, persists. Despite desperate need, the World Food Program suspended aid deliveries to Tigray in the wake of allegations that substantial theft has diverted food from reaching the hungry.

Setting Tigray aside, humanitarian access is difficult, or currently impossible, in large swathes of the country. Citizens are restricted from accessing social media. Journalists continue to be subject to arbitrary arrest and harassment. These centralized efforts to assert control can be counterproductive, fueling more suspicion and resentment. They certainly do not comport with the confidence Ethiopia’s leaders aim to project.