Bridging the Divide in Ethiopia’s North

Tigray and Amhara, Ethiopia’s two powerful northern regions, are locked in a dangerous standoff. The tensions over Amhara claims to land administered by Tigray sparked proxy violence in 2018 and could do so again given the lack of appetite for compromise. The dispute came into focus in 1991, when Tigrayan rebels seized national power as the heart of a multi-ethnic coalition and, as the Amhara see it, also annexed historical Amhara land to their own region. It remains a flashpoint under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose ascent was presaged by Amhara protests over the territories and Tigrayan political domination. Federal authorities should convene political, academic and religious leaders from both regions to start healing the rift. Addis Ababa should offer concessions to politically isolated Tigray to come to the table. Both Tigray and Amhara factions should concede ground by dropping hardline stances on the dispute. The regions should instead strike a deal whereby Tigray grants political representation and language rights to native Amharic-speaking communities in the disputed areas. Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is undergoing a volatile transition that began in 2015 with widespread anti-government unrest. The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, drove the protests with their complaints of political and economic marginalisation, but the Amhara, the second largest, also participated, airing similar grievances.