Overview: The Government of Ethiopia continued to partner with the United States government on counterterrorism issues in 2021, though in a diminished capacity owing to emerging domestic security threats. Al-Shabaab and ISIS terrorist threats emanating from Somalia remain a high priority for the National Intelligence and Security Service.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Ethiopia in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: 2021 saw an increase in the number of allegations and charging decisions against domestic defendants cited under the Government of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2019, only to be quickly withdrawn, especially during a nationwide State of Emergency (SOE) that began in November 2021 and continued into 2022. In some cases, the courts ruled against the Government of Ethiopia, dismissing criminal complaints altogether or granting outright bail to defendants.
In May the Government of Ethiopia officially designated the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) as terrorist organizations, a designation not shared by the U.S. government or the UN. On November 2, Ethiopia proclaimed a nationwide SOE that gave the armed forces and law enforcement organizations expanded search, seizure, and arrest powers in cases involving known or suspected terrorist supporters. The SOE reportedly led to the arrest and detention of tens of thousands of Ethiopian citizens, in many cases simply because of their Tigrayan ethnicity or affiliation with Tigrayan persons.
The Government of Ethiopia’s CT capacity decreased in 2021, as resources were reassigned to counter growing threats from the OLA and the TPLF. However, the government continued to deploy CT units along Ethiopia’s borders with Kenya and Somalia. Ethiopian aviation security made improvements to passenger and cargo security in 2021; however, lack of an effective access control system remains a vulnerability. The insertion of biometric controlled access has enhanced terminal security, even though the airport system is not yet fully installed.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Ethiopia is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, and Ethiopia’s FIU, the Ethiopian Financial Intelligence Centre, is a member of the Egmont Group.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Ethiopia’s CVE strategy focuses on eliminating factors that help al-Shabaab recruitment, including on reducing poverty and ethnic strife and on local mediation and conflict mitigation strategies to defuse ethnic and religious tensions.
International and Regional Cooperation: Owing to allegations of a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed by Ethiopian government forces in the context of the conflict in northern Ethiopia, the United States has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on security assistance to the country.
Ethiopia has been one of the largest troop- and police-contributing countries in UN and AU peacekeeping, though its contributions are declining. In Somalia, a significant portion of the 4,000 Ethiopian troops present under a bilateral agreement with the Federal Government of Somalia were recalled to Ethiopia to reinforce units engaged in the conflict in northern Ethiopia.
As a result of the ongoing dispute with Sudan over the contested al-Fashaga border area, the UN agreed to replace roughly 3,200 Ethiopian Peacekeepers assigned to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei.
About 1,500 Ethiopian Peacekeepers are deployed in support of the UN Mission in South Sudan, and some 3,800 Ethiopian Peacekeepers are deployed to Somalia in support of the AU peacekeeping mission. Ethiopia also participates in the IGAD and its CT programs and trainings, including the IGAD Security Sector Program, which builds regional capacity to mitigate, detect, and deter terrorist activity.