TPLF, OLA-Shene, and Al-Shabab: a Tripartite Alliance

In PublicationsMay 31, 202215 Minutes

TPLF, OLA-Shene, and Al-Shabab: a Tripartite Alliance

Tolera Gudeta Gurmesa

Independent Researcher

The author of this article employed various primary and secondary data sources, as well as personal travels to substantiate their claims. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of our institution.

TPLF and OLA-Shene are widely active terrorist groups operating in Ethiopia with documented acts of terrorism in the country, and the wider region. These groups, who aim to widen their sphere of influence, wish to see a strong belt of terrorist forces, including the Al-Shabab, that can effectively strongarm governments in the region. If successful, this tactical alliance would threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Ethiopia and other Horn nations, creating a region without strong states and governments.

Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and under Article 93(1) of the constitution, the federal government postponed the 6th general and regional elections tentatively planned for August 29, 2020. As a strong coalition in Ethiopian politics and economy, TPLF was not in favor of the political reform process that started in 2018. In defiance of the federal government, TPLF held state council elections which were not received well by other regional states. TPLF, in addition, refused to handover over suspects of various crimes hiding in the Tigray. Article 50 of the Ethiopian constitution stipulates that regional states shall respect the authority of the federal government. In violation of the constitution, which gives exclusive rights to establishing and deploying national defense forces to the federal government, TPLF established an unconstitutional paramilitary force named the “Tigray Defence Forces (TDF)” in 2019. TDF operating under the auspices of the ‘Tigray Military Command’ was led by retired and deflecting generals and colonels from the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF). Given TPLFs goals and means of attaining them, the Ethiopian parliament voted to designate TPL, along with OLA-Shene as terrorist organizations.

TPLF also diverted the allocated state budget to arms procurement and mobilizations. Deifying the Ethiopian Firearm Administration and Control Proclamation No.1177/2020, TPLF Special Forces and paramilitary owned mechanized weaponry that should not be owned by regional governments. Additionally, TPLF continues to finance and support ethnic-based violence in various parts of the country. For instance, in the Benishangul Gumuz region, TPLF has been sponsoring armed group operatives, causing several inter-ethnic conflicts that eventually resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Similarly, TPLF, in collaboration with OLA-Shene, has caused the loss of hundreds of innocents, destruction of property, and displacement of hundreds of thousands in the Oromia region.

The OLA-Shene militias and operatives continue to violate human rights in Oromia Region; sexual assault and rape of girls and women, abductions, ruthlessly executing innocents; causing significant and/or full destruction, as well as looting of public and government property. Abandoning the federal government’s call for peace on several occasions, the group continues to reiterate its goal of toppling the federal government by every possible means, including armed force. OLA-Shene has formed a clandestine killing squad called Aba-Torbe, which has, in cold blood, killed thousands of officials, community leaders, alleged government supporters, and innocents in rural Oromia. Through ethnic profiling, OLA-Shene continues to commit targeted attacks, resulting in the brutal execution and displacement of thousands of people. This is an intentional act meant to not only frustrate the public but also weaken the legitimacy of the government.

Joint objectives and tactics

Although these groups have diverging ideologies and approaches, they have common characteristics and goals. It is the common goal of the three to create a conducive environment, a power vacuum, for their own ends in the region. Such a partnership allows Al-Shabab a greater vantage point into Somalia and access to establish a regional Islamic caliphate while also providing resources and opportunities for TPLF and OLAShene. By design, these groups jeopardize not only the territorial integrity of Ethiopia but also others in the region. For Al-Shabab, the goal is to see the establishment of an Islamic state structure, education, and legal system in Ethiopia and the Horn. Finding a common with Al-Shabab, in the wakening of state structures in the region, OLA-Shene and TPLF aim to pursue their secession agenda symbiotically with Al-Shabab. The destination of the OLAShene and TPLF tactical alliance is designed to
realize the secession of their respective regionsOromia and Tigray and ultimately result in the
balkanization of Ethiopia.

OLA-Shene has adopted the AlShabab modus operandi in the use of kidnapping as a tool to amass resources.

Tactically these terrorist groups have engaged in a range of cooperative arrangements, one of which is the exchange of experience and information. For instance, Al-Shabab acquired insurgency tactics from TPLF in exchange for TPLF importing guerilla experience. OLA-Shene has adopted the Al-Shabab modus operandi in the use of kidnapping as a tool to amass resources. In October of 2021 alone, OLA-Shene militias carried out attacks in 26 locations killing 192 people, wounding 44, and abducting 543 people. Of these hostages, 60 were released upon payments of 10,000 and 20,000 ETB. Another abduction case involved the mother of Gindeberet’s woreda administrator in West Showa Zone. She was released after a ransom of 100,000 ETB was paid. Foreign nationals are not exempt from kidnappings as evident by the detention of three Chinese nationals who were held hostage and released after 4 days to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Attacks by OLA-Shene have plagued civilian life with fear in Horoguduru Wollega, West Guji, East Guji, West Showa, and East Wollega zones of the Oromia region, where 34 government officials and more than 100 innocent civilians have been brutally killed. Similar accounts of TPLF brutalizing its citizen have been shared especially following the withdrawal of ENDF from the Tigray region and the declaration of unilateral ceasefire, where TPLF soldiers executed hundreds of Tigreans on charges of supporting the federal government.

Another finance source for their operation comes from looting public and government property. For example, OLA-Shene has looted 2.5 million ETB from Awash Bank, 2.2 million ETB from Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, and additional millions of Birr from both Cooperative banks of Oromia and Oromia International Bank in Oromia Region Begi town since October 8, 2021. Additionally, this group seized two excavators along with seven operators engaged in the excavation of materials for Muger cement factory in Ada’a Berga Woreda, West Shewa Zone, releasing them for 2 million ETB ransom. OLA-Shene in East Guji Zone, Sababoro Woreda, Urulu Kebele, looted 700,000 ETB from locals, seizing 28 weapons, and 20 motorcycles from government and private owners in the town of access in Gumi Eldolo Woreda. This group is also involved in the international smuggling of arms and drugs, namely to Kenya and Uganda, through territories that it influences.

Similarly, TPLF carried out a widespread campaign of killing and looting in Afar and Amhara regions, damaging public and government property including those of aid agencies. Sean Jones, Mission Director of USAID Ethiopia, told EBC18 on August 31, 2021, that TPLF militants looted several USAID depots and warehouses, and confiscated aid trucks. Corroborating the scale of the looting, UNWFP also announced on September 17, that only 38 trucks of 445 sent to Tigray since July 9, 2021, have returned. TPLF continues to obstruct the work of international humanitarian organizations by redirecting food aid away from the region’s most vulnerable.

Implications for Ethiopia and East Africa

Since its inception in 1974, TPLF has a clear project of secession, and it has put this project on its first manifesto in 1976. But when it established a government in which it maintained a hegemonic political and economic power, TPLF concealed its secession project in favor of economic extraction through politics. Following the premiership of H.E. Abiy Ahmed in 2018, TPLF was to lose the political and economic dominance it enjoyed for nearly three decades. The core TPLF leadership opted to retreat to the Tigray region and renewed their ambition of secession, using it to mobilize innocent Tigrayans into participating in a bloody war For the realization of the concealed secession agenda, TPLF has used OLA-Shene and other hand-picked individuals (in the name of organizations) as errand-runner. This wellthought-out project, per their claims, would erase Ethiopia from the world map, replacing it with multiple small and weak states in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, all should bear in mind, that where there is disintegrated Ethiopia there will be the disintegrated Horn of Africa.

But when it established a government in which it maintained a hegemonic political and economic power, TPLF concealed its secession project in favor of economic extraction through politics.

Al-Shabab has control in much of Central, Western, and South-Western Somalia, and used the TPLF and OLA-Shene to expand its operations to Ethiopia and Kenya. Given that Al-Shabab’s long-term plan is to establish an Islamic state in the East Africa region, the intensification of the TPLF and OLA-Shene terrorist groups poses a serious security threat. It is important to note that it exposes Horn countries, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and others, to the worst possible terrorist attacks and that it would make the region the hotbed of terrorism.

States should consider that the loss of Ethiopia as a strategic partner in the Horn of Africa, is tantamount to losing strategic and national interests in the Horn region.

In light of the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, many Western countries, institutions, and influential figures, along with the mainstream media, have unwittingly supported TPLF, primarily by placing undue pressure on the Ethiopian government. Any support provided for the TPLF is inadvertently extended to both AL-Shabab and OLA-Shene terrorist groups. States should consider that the loss of Ethiopia as a strategic partner in the Horn of Africa, is tantamount tolosing strategic and national interests in the Horn region. The United States and Europe, once considered custodians of international humanitarian law, have turned a deaf ear to individuals and groups who assist terrorist groups in the region.

According to the UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/2462/2019, those responsible for financing, planning, and supporting terrorists must be must face consequences. UN Security Council resolution S/RES/1189/1998 also stipulates that no government shall coordinate, incite, or participate in terrorist activities in another country. Similarly, the UN Security Council Resolutions S/RES/1373/2001 stipulate that all countries are criminally liable if they collect money, whether directly or indirectly, within their citizens or territorial boundaries, knowing that it is being used to aid terrorism or to commit acts of terrorism. Consistently, U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Act INA313 and INA240(c) stipulate that any U.S. citizen must comply with U.S. laws and regulations and that any member or supporter of the terrorist organization should have his or her citizenship revoked. Partners and allies of Ethiopia, countries, and organizations, should adhere to customary international law in maintaining stability in the Horn.


Food Insecurity in the Horn

In PublicationsMay 31, 20228 Minutes

Food Insecurity in the Horn

Bethlehem Mehari

Horn Review, Director
twitter: @Beth_Mehari

Climate shocks: a test of resilience

East Africa is currently facing a severe drought that threatens the food security of 13 to 15 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that 5 million children face malnourishment in the region, urging for a region-wide resiliencebuilding effort. In addition to variable rain patterns that lower agricultural productivity, resulting in crop failure, East Africa experienced dessert locust attacks which, according to FAO, are the worst seen in 25 years for both Ethiopia and Somalia, and the worst outbreak for Kenya and Uganda in 70 and 60 years respectively. Considered the most destructive migratory pest, a single square kilometer of a desert locust swarm consumes the equivalent of what 35,000 people consume in a day.

Severe, and prolonged drought is not the only climate-related disaster plaguing the region. In addition to the extreme effects of climate change, the Coronavirus pandemic has severely diminished the productivity of economies in the region, that struggle to formulate effective mitigation measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) official figures show that Eastern African countries, like the majority of Africa, have vaccinated less than a percent of their respective populations. East Africa stands to suffer the most from further infection waves given its other vulnerabilities: climate-related crises, conflict, inflation, and disruption to global supply chains.

Multiple failed attempts to bring the conflict to a decisive stop have only resulted in a spill-off of conflict into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.

The Ethiopian economy suffered immensely, particularly given that conflict erupted amid recurrent desert locust attacks in Tigray and parts of Amhara region. The harvest season was also preceded by the onset of conflict which severely disrupted agricultural productivity. After a concerted international pressure campaign on Ethiopia’s Federal Government to cease operations in Tigray for humanitarian reasons, the Federal Government succumbed to these pressures, stating that a pause in hostilities will primarily allow the resumption of agricultural activities in Tigray- Ethiopia’s most food-insecure region. Multiple failed attempts to bring the conflict to a decisive stop have only resulted in a spill-off of conflict into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions. Relatedly, Ethiopia, like others in the region, risks crippling Western sanctions that would further exacerbate food insecurity. Loss of life and destruction of public infrastructure characterized Ethiopia’s conflict in the north; figures from independent groups show the economic cost of the war to be upwards of $2.5 billion. Ethio-Telecom, the nation’s largest telecommunications provider, reports losing $74 million in half a year as a result of the conflict.

Global supply chain shocks

According to the Pan African Chamber of Commerce, the Ukraine-Russia war primarily affects the African wheat, fertilizer, oilseeds, and petroleum commodity markets (PAC/ UKR/ IMPC/2022). The report forwards that 32.5% of Africa’s wheat imports originate in Russia, and 32.3% is sourced from Ukraine. The UkraineRussia war is expected to send shockwaves, particularly in the Horn where Ethiopia and Kenya source up to 40% of their wheat imports from both Russia and Ukraine. Djibouti stands to suffer the worst given that nearly 90% of its wheat import is sourced from Russia and Ukraine. Fertilizer prices, expected to increase alongside petroleum gas price increases, are also expected to spike not only because Russia is the world’s largest exporter, but also due to related sanctions in other Eastern European states. It is worth noting that, given the extreme polarization in the international arena, African nations are likely to face economic arm-twisting by trading partners. The PACC, however, points to new opportunities for inter-Africa trade to offset the effects of a global supply chain disruption.

Regional level resiliencebuilding

African governments should endeavor to implement regional early-warning mechanisms to collaboratively prepare for climate-related disasters. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) accurately predicted drought across multiple East African countries in the first half of 2022, emphasizing the need for a swift intervention at the household level, as well as increased collaboration for better resilience against food insecurity. IGAD reports that due to a coordinated multi-agency effort, a loss of $1.3 billion in cereals to desert locusts was averted— meeting the cereal requirement of nearly 30 million people. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) also recommends an inter-agency and multistakeholder approach to mitigating drought in the region. In addition, FEWS Net warns that food insecurity in Ethiopia, the most populous country in the region, will likely prolong conflict conditions in the North and further imperil the population.

Somalia’s recently held elections, which were delayed by more than a year, show encouraging signs of political stability in the face of internal security threats and severe climate shocks.

FEWS Net reports that between October and December of 2021, the was a failure of rainfall across most of Somalia, as well as southern Ethiopia and eastern Kenya, making it the third consecutive year of below-average rainfall. As food security is directly tied to conflict, the region’s leaders must shift focus away from conflict rhetoric to that of resilience building in the face of an impending food crisis. Somalia’s recently held elections, which were delayed by more than a year, show encouraging signs of political stability in the face of internal security threats and severe climate shocks.

Neighboring Kenya is making preparations to hold general elections in August of 2022 while Ethiopia prepares for a national dialogue to address longstanding grievances of the various ethnic groups that make up the country. Ambassador Redwan Hussein, State Minister at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Spokesperson for the State of Emergency Taskforce, noted that an all-encompassing national dialogue is long-overdue to finally lay to rest issues of land, identity, and transitional justice. In addition, Ethiopia’s leaders face the daunting task of post-conflict economic reconstruction, at the minimum, in the regions that now experience relative peace. The Ethiopian government, however, is yet to propose an effective way to end the stalemate with Tigray and prevent a relapse into conflict.


Agreeing the Future: Co-Creating Ethiopia’s Destiny

In PublicationsMay 31, 202226 Minutes

Agreeing the Future: Co-Creating Ethiopia’s Destiny

Wondwossen Sintayehu

Justice Transformation Lab, Program CoordinatorPan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Executive Director
Linkdin : Wondwossen Sintayehu

Wondwossen Sintayehu is an environmental lawyer involved in several biodiversity, climate change, and chemicals laws in Ethiopia and beyond. He was instrumental in coordinating the development of Ethiopia’s Climate Change Strategy, and the recent update to it known as Ethiopia’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Wondwossen co-initiated the Destiny Ethiopia process, which implemented the Transformative Scenario Planning process creating Ethiopia’s 2040 Scenarios, and its sequel – the Multistakeholder Initiative for National Dialogue (MIND), which laid the basis for an all-inclusive national dialogue process in Ethiopia. Currently, this platform has given way to the establishment of the fully mandated National Dialogue Commission which will hopefully consider the work undertaken by the MIND. Before this, he served as a judge at the Federal First Instance Court in Ethiopia presiding over civil and criminal cases. He is currently coordinating a program known as Justice Transformation Lab, intended to initiate a multistakeholder process meant to transform the justice sector – a task implemented by the Ministry of Justice, JLRTI, Destiny Ethiopia together with The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law ( in the Netherlands. He leads the work for Natural Justice (https://naturaljustice. org/) Ethiopia segment, and is the co-founder of Eco-Justice Ethiopia

Scenario construction: the diverge-emerge-converge continuum

Participants were informed of the embedded nature of iterations during the three workshops where they were engaged in a rather confidential set-up over six months. The iterations included seismic rhythms of three phases of divergence, emergence, and convergence. The Ethiopian scenario development process drew guidance from Adam Kahane – the key facilitator – and as such defines diverging as the phase where participants raise divergent ideas and alternatives; while emerging is taking time to let ideas settle and to “talk it through”; while converging relates to collectively concluding agreed-upon points as well as on “what to do next.” The guidance urged participants to be open and to invite “ …diversity of inputs in the diverging phase; the patience to stay with the confusing and uncomfortable and creative emerging phase, and the confidence to decide and move on in the converging phase—even if not everything is settled and agreed upon” (Kahane 2012:64).

Understanding what to expect in these rhythmic iterations helped participants to overcome the early anxiety created when learning the extent of diversity in the group.

It enabled them at least to be patient to see what comes next though with the remotest expectation of a consensus in the backdrop of such an immense level of differences on polarized interest points on issues of national concern.

The history wall: understanding the current reality and conceptualizing mental models

The 2040 Ethiopian Scenarios development occurred in a highly polarized political context. Given the prevailing reality, it ambitiously aimed to map out possibilities of what could happen. It thus called for a reasonable understanding of what the current reality is. While some level of mutual understanding of the present reality is anticipated, a complete agreement on the present situation is not and may not of course be demanded since everyone has her/ his reality depending on the angle from which she/ he is looking. The steps taken to construct the current reality were through the conceptualization of what is known as mental models through a description of historical epochs seen as fundamental in creating the current reality.

It was agreed by the Scenario Team members that any understanding of Ethiopia’s current reality is hinged on the country’s history. So that informed narratives or stories about plausible futures succeed, these stories must represent a combination of analysis and imagination and be challenging, credible, and convincing to their architects and audience (Chermack et al. 2002:374). The team was then guided to look into the past through the lens of specific events, which were later clustered into patterns. The team was then led into thinking of underlying structures of which the patterns were examples. Structures where higher narratives explaining recurring patterns were then employed to draw mental models or systems which describe the attitude we currently developed and the reasons behind them.

Issue framing: power plays in defining uncertainties

Among other things, food security stands out among the seven structural uncertainties delineated by the participants to base future scenarios. However, when it was flagged out as one uncertainty, it did not garner immediate acclamation by fellow participants. It was rather met with resistance. However, its solid proponent strongly stood for its inclusion among the other uncertainties, claiming that food security is a “make or break situation” for the country’s future. Being a woman that compelled the government with the School Meals Initiative in the country and strong advocacy for it that later ended in the inclusion of the meals program within primary school policy, she insisted on telling a story that is important for determining uncertainty. The woman has this story to tell:

There was this boy at my elementary school in Bahir Dar who does not mingle with his colleagues during lunch recess. He routinely picks up his lunch box and runs to the trees. The teachers complained that the boy has antisocial behavior. I sent them back to watch where he is going and what he is doing during lunch break. A couple of days later they came back with tears in their eyes, “the boy brings empty lunch boxes.” We later searched all the lunchboxes and were dumbfounded to see that most of the lunch boxes were empty. What is political leadership that does not provide necessities to children at the age they are most in need?

The storytelling session ended leaving the ‘big’ political leader shedding tears. It was a revealing moment for most of them. During the second workshop, she brought three small children to demonstrate the disconnection between the large political narratives and the lived realities of the kids. Students were bringing empty lunch boxes to school and pretended to eat during lunch recess, and going to class on empty stomachs. The participants were deeply touched with some of them openly crying during the testimony from the kids. A senior opposition political party leader exiled for more than 40 years later commented, “I never knew I could be this emotional, I cried after many, many years.” Such an experience eases the tension and assists the creation of a “safe space” for further discussion.

It enabled them at least to be patient to see what comes next though with the remotest expectation of a consensus in the backdrop of such an immense level of differences on polarized interest points on issues of national concern.

Pivoting the issue to her agency, the scenario team member placed ‘food security as a fundamental factor determining future economic development and inclusion. In her assessment, it was a central issue that cannot be sidelined when forecasting any possible future for the country. Looking at the way she framed it, her peers could not keep the issue off the agenda during the discussion on “Uncertainties.” There were counterarguments for the proposal from those members who at best found it redundant and verbose as environmental change is already included and where food security or insecurity is established as a direct function of environmental degradation. Other counterarguments related to the uncertainty already established collectively by the group on economic inclusivity.

As one participating member argued, at the heart of economic inclusivity is economic development that pertains to all, and this is driven by food security or insecurity.” As stated above, the proponent could not let go of it and used all emerging opportunities to repeat andcement her arguments. During the second residential workshop, she offered to serve as a subject matter expert on the topic of food security. She used the circus tent to cast a video that narrated the history of the Ethiopian School Meals Initiative where three small children gave testimonies of the experience. It was an emotion-filled session that left most of the participants crying. The next day, food security was endorsed by the participants as one of the seven uncertainties determining Ethiopian future scenarios.

This was an explicit use of agency, entrepreneurship, and strong advocacy by a Scenario Team member to resist group rejection of an idea and make use of information towards one’s end. The rest of the participants relented fighting against an idea repeatedly forwarded and later wholeheartedly agreed to include food [in]security as an essential theme characterizing the future of Ethiopia.

Knowledge integration

Global SPI mechanisms such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have seen the need to embrace location-based knowledge. Typically, the IPBES recognizes indigenous and local knowledge as this has a central role in biodiversity conservation. Both platforms have instituted mechanisms of aggregating localized knowledge through what are known as Technical Support Units (TSUs) within the structure of the platform.

In the Ethiopian Scenario development process, organizers saw the need of bringing onboard local knowledge in influencing future scenarios. Two elders – a local elder from the remote south and a religious leader of the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia were both invited to provide their insights on sharing experiences about realizing an amicable future for all Ethiopians. The elderly from southern Ethiopia, not only articulate in the local culture but also a linguist at a university, provided an example where he and a couple of other elders from his team bowed down before outraged mob leaders and saved the destruction of an iconic, local resort center.

In the Ethiopian Scenario development process, organizers saw the need of bringing onboard local knowledge in influencing future scenarios

Having heard that the mob was coming our way, we quickly dressed in the local outfits, grabbed freshly harvested grasses in our hands, and kneeled, blocking the lane towards the resort. It would mean that the agitated mob has to kill us first before the mob sets the hotel on fire as they have done elsewhere. Rather, the infuriated mob paused, took moments with themselves, and accepted our call for mercy in a complete local fashion.

What is in a name? Labeling the scenarios and the search for meanings

Deliberate or inadvertent, naming the four draft scenarios was a strenuous effort that took lengthy deliberations among participants compared to some of the constituent processes of scenario construction. A spin-off group was assigned to the larger Scenario participants to deal with naming the scenarios. Lessons were considered from other countries that underwent similar processes such as South Africa, Colombia, and Mexico. While it assumed the names of birds in South Africa, it was the title of folklores in Colombia and children’s games in Mexico. In each case, the future scenarios were presented in four alternative destinies futures with distinct pathways. In these countries, the naming did not have a specific negative reference at sight. With a closer look, all framing and naming of the three scenarios were negative while the remainder was a positive one, where it was looked upon by spectators.

The course it took in Ethiopia was different. There were 22 volunteers to take this assignment forward who fought for days on end to arrive at the four names – Dawn, Hegemony, Divided House, and Broken Chair Scenarios. All but one are negative at sight. It looks like it is designed to lock choice on the positively framed one as an obvious course to be pursued. However, this is not how different audiences interpreted it. During the dissemination phase, media personnel stated that Ethiopia needs a “divided house scenario where all regional states are more powerful than the federal, and the latter will only have spillover/ residual competences over the country.” In another session, a workshop participant argued for the rationale of having a hegemon for a while to bind an already divided society and saw that it is “the only option to continue as a nation”.

The fact that many of the participants volunteered in the extra effort of naming the scenarios was, in itself, telling of the ownership that evolved among the members. In an interview about the process, one participant said, “which parent would give up naming his child to a stranger? At least he takes advice, reserving the autonomy to himself.” The coordinator of the Destiny Ethiopia process reiterates “there were a maximum of 12 and a minimum of 6 names suggested to designate a particular scenario. One can see the challenge of building consensus and arriving at four names from a total of around 30 or more suggestions. At first, everyone seemed to cling to its particular name suggestion and did not wish to give it up for others. However, their improved relationship and the understanding they created helped them to make a courageous determination.”

The result of the scenarios development process did not end when achieving the core product but continued with naming them – which was the ultimate expression of ownership of the collective product in the co-creation.

Key takeaways from the process

It is abundantly clear that the policy space is much more complex than what the linearity assumptions and attempts to explain. Instead, collaborative knowledge creation is lending alternative conceptualization by bringing together knowledge generators, policymakers, and end-users into the policy space. Recent experiences demonstrate how these co-creative exercises shape even inbounded, localized, political spaces such as happened in Ethiopia’s Transformative Scenario Planning course. Provision and sustenance of safe spaces for trustworthy, and inclusive engagement of participants have proven to yield beyond the technicalities of facilitation often argued for in participatory processes. Collaboration is deceptively simple (Allo 2020) but difficult to implement as it may require working with people we don’t like, trust, or even want to work with (Kahane 2012).

…collaborative knowledge creation is lending alternative conceptualization by bringing together knowledge generators, policymakers, and endusers into the policy space.

In the Ethiopian scenario’s development process, participants from opposite corners with seemingly irreconcilable differences were seen to collaborate to influence the future.

As some would note later, the process was a demonstration of “how a major national conversation can be had between people who disagree with one another when we embrace the messy realities of political life, or, … to work with people you don’t agree with or like or trust.”(Allo 2020). While collaborative spaces would require tailored designs to enable the interchange of information among the many players specific to that space, there are significant learnings to glean from this recent process.

First, participants representing diverse corners of the space in question have to be pulled toward the intended conversation. The role of the convenors is undoubtedly important to ensure that participants will be comprehensive and inclusive of all to represent the system we want to change. Diversified representation can be attained by ensuring that the convening team itself is diverse enough to create a “microcosm” of the bigger reality intended to emulate. Secondly, there is a need to create a “safe space” for participants to engage at ease where trust grows slowly and organically. This is cumulative of nurturing trust, empathy, and a persistent assurance that all voices are taken seriously.

In areas where collective action problems are prevalent, and multiple players have individual roles in effecting change, collaboration is a must. This is evident in some of the wicked environmental problems that we see today amongst which climate change is the major one. When designing the space for collaboration, the value of attracting several voices to the middle in a space free and trusted by all is a consideration to make.

From the experience of global bodies such as IPCC and IPBES, where indigenous and local knowledge is tapped and brought to the fore, it is imperative to bring on board traditionally neglected knowledge sources. Local practitioners including grassroots communities should have a say on knowledge of climate adaptation. It is also important to understandnational and global knowledge uptake routes, for aggregating knowledge from the bottom up as well as integrating mainstream knowledge with the indigenous. In this regard, while the value of organizational structures in the likes of Technical Support Units is important at the global level, the influence of local leaders in bringing local knowledge to the national is equally recognizable. In the Ethiopian scenario building process, custodians of local knowledge are directly integrated into the collective scenario generation platform where they were allowed to integrate their previous understandings and individual experiences directly into the collective policy patchwork.

Climate scenario projections such as being coordinated through the IPCC need to result in a process for ownership. Ownership emanates from an improved relationship. It propels collective action. This has been demonstrated around the culmination of Ethiopia’s Transformative Scenario Planning process. While the process presented a tough challenge for the coordinators and the participants, it ended up creating a strong sense of ownership of the result. This was later demonstrated in the epic image of holding hands while declaring the future Ethiopia wants in an event on the 3rd December 2019, where the participants held hands and narrated the process they went through together, the possible futures for Ethiopians, and their desired scenario which they collectively agreed to pursue. Understandably, there are differences in thinking the same process as global or local climate policy processes. However, the need to create a sense of ownership is one vital element in co-creative platforms by infusing small steps such as processes for naming scenarios.


Allo, A. (2020, January 08). Opinion: Writing Ethiopia’s future: Reflections on Destiny Ethiopia’s Transformative Scenario Planning Process. Addis Standard. https:// destiny-ethiopiastransformative-scenario-planning-process/.
Accessed 20 January 2020.

Chermack, T. J., & Lynham, S. A. (2002). Definitions and outcome variables of scenario planning. Human Resource Development Review, 1(3), 366-383.

Kahane, A. (2012). Transformative scenario planning: Working together to change the future. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


shares his experience of the design process behind the multi-stakeholder dialogue that projects four possible outcomes twenty years into the future. The first part of the article is an exploration of the process and literature that served as the knowledge base for the co-creative space known as the Destiny Ethiopia Initiative. It details the election process of the participants, explains how safe spaces were fostered due to the clandestine nature of the experience, and outlines the literature/research used to inform the process

As a result, a coalition of 50 prominent thinkers and relevant voices, despite their divergent perspectives, collaborated to address Ethiopia’s deep-rooted challenges through dialogue to produce a shared vision of a desirable future. This interactive process birthed the four scenarios Dawn, Divided House, Broken Chair, and Hegemony, one of which was endorsed as the favorable future.


Challenges and prospects for the Ethiopian economy

In PublicationsMay 31, 20229 Minutes

Challenges and prospects for the Ethiopian economy

an interview with Mr. Kebour Ghenna

Assistant Professor of Policy Studies Ethiopian Civil Service University

Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Executive Director

LinkedIn : Kebour Ghenna

Horn Review sat for an interview with Mr. Kebour Ghenna, a renowned economist and entrepreneur who founded and currently serves as the executive director of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Having served as president of both Addis Ababa city and the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ghenna has a unique perspective on the country’s economic standing. With an established background in the development sector, Mr. Genna served in leadership positions in the Ethiopian Red Cross, UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank Institute, and the International Development Research Centre. Moreover, Mr. Ghenna has a diverse business portfolio with investments in print media, agri-business, and consulting.

In this interview, Mr. Ghenna speaks about inflation, the benefits of the economic integration of East Africa as well as the role AfCTA can play to facilitate regional cooperation.

Horn Review:

Dr. Mukerrem, thank you for taking the time to speak to Horn Review on the topic of
political transitions and national dialogues as it relates to Sudan.

To set the context, could you speak to Sudan’s promising political transition in 2019, particularly as it relates to the various interest and identity groups therein?

figures. In the absence of figures, it is very difficult to say if the rising cost of living will trigger an upheaval in the city or not. The current inflation rate is around 20 percent, plus; this is quite a high number when you analyze it at the household level. Looking at the [CPI] basket of goods provided, some products show an increase and others show a decrease. At this stage, we can say that, yes, it has been challenging for the government to manage inflation, but not at a stage where there are fears of societal upheaval in the country, or in Addis Ababa. Yes, there is inflation but it is, in my view, manageable.

I am not certain whether additional measures are required at this stage as the ones in place seem to be stabilizing the economy.

Horn Review:

Does this include the prices of petroleum, fertilizer, and other consumer goods that we primarily import?

However, the AfCFTA becomes important as it frames the rules of trade, sets the guidelines for the movement of people, determines quotas, and sets standards, especially in the case of nontariff barriers. The AfCFTA intends to abolish tariffs and come to a consensus on removing different kinds of quotas and restrictions. Additionally, who becomes the arbiter or mediator should a conflict arise? And if there is a new invention, how does this invention not be copied elsewhere in Africa? These are the technical deliberations that require negotiations and discussions to get to an agreement.

Our work is to understand and prepare businesses to be part of this Intra-Africa trade. This discussion is between governments, this is clear. On the part of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), we help businesses understand and prepare to join this intra-Africa trade.

Horn Review:

Following up, the comprehensive nature of the AfCFTA makes it such that nations would have to extensively adopt domestic regulations. Do African nations risk delaying the trade regime until they modernize their laws?

These two processes should go hand in hand. One of the purposes of signing up for AfCFTA is to modernize your internal systems. Once countries sign intraregional or international trade agreements, as in the case of Ethiopia, the ministry of trade or other authorities must work to align the internal trade legislation with those of the neighboring countries, African countries, or even the World Trade Organization (WTO). Both the AfCFTA and WTO have guidelines that countries must follow to participate in a beneficiary system. Interestingly, these guidelines help accelerate the rate of modernization of internal systems to be better integrated into the global system.

In the case of Ethiopia, PPP projects can be successful with the government at the municipality level.

Horn Review:

How can the Ethiopian government, and African governments in general, encourage, and facilitate remittance from their global diasporas?

I think we should start with better equipping our population, not only to curb illegal immigration but also to produce a highly-skilled diaspora. If one considered the Ethiopian diaspora in the Middle East, they are largely low-wage employees. Comparatively, there is a higher proportion of Kenyans occupying mid-level and managerial positions. This issue is quite closely related to our education system as much as it is our immigration policies.

Remittances make up a large part of our economy. Hence, states should make it easier for people, at home, to access financial systems and services. We already see incentive systems like lotteries and contests to promote financial literacy in neighboring Somalia, this grows remittance resulting in economic growth.

Horn Review:

What are the merits of public-private partnerships (PPP) for the Ethiopian economy? Is there room for improvement?

In private-public partnerships, we have two large and powerful entities; a government and a business giant. Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is an excellent example of such a partnership. Technically you want to attract PPP for larger projects, and in so doing, governments endeavor for bigger projects. The federal government is interested in large partners because it is too big for small projects and partners. In the case of Ethiopia, PPP projects can be successful with the government at the municipality level. There is, however, always a risk of the joint project being overrun by a private entity. Giant companies and conglomerates, like Total, can strongarm even governments.

Horn Review:

International investors often consider risk and security premiums when considering investing in developing countries. How do international investors circumvent the high cost, and risk, of investing that has been your observation?

Well the basic requirement for any investor, of course, is a return on investment. There are however instances where investors will come in the middle of wars because their companies do mining for example. If we’re talking about a country like Ethiopia, with limited natural resources, the investor would likely opt to operate in an environment that is somewhat safe and predictable, because the business is contingent upon conditions of peace, security, and prosperity. In resource-rich nations, we observe businesses operating in insecure conditions as there is a resource to extract and run away with. In that sense the issue of peace-making is primordial.


African resilience, beauty, and sorrow: a lecture on the great African paradox

In PublicationsMay 31, 202213 Minutes

African resilience, beauty, and sorrow: a lecture on the great African paradox

Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar

Author and Professor

Having lectured at various prestigious institutions, the likes of which include Harvard University, London School of African and Oriental Studies, London School of Economics, Wellesley College, and Cornell University, Ahmed I. Samatar was the founding Dean of Macalester’s Institute for Global Citizenship. There, he was a James Wallace Professor of International Studies and chair of the department. In his lengthy career, which included a bid for the Somali presidency, Samatar has published over forty articles and authored/coauthored/edited 5 books. He is also the founder
and editor in chief of Bildhaan, an International Journal of Somali Studies established in 2001 to accelerate public engagement in political discourse. His scholastic interests continue to focus on the state of Somalia, its leadership, and the relationship between globalization and religion.

The following is a summary of a lecture derived from Power and Development, a class he taught at Macalester College, that addresses the contradiction between the potential of Africa and the parallel pitfalls hindering development- what he considers to be the dialectic of development.

For me, the three words that capture the essence of Africa are strength and resilience in the face of long-term challenges, beauty in diversity and cultural expressions, and sorrow relating to the lack of safety and security. Contemporary African leaders and scholars need to invest in narrowing the gap between African resilience and beauty, as well as its sorrows.

Resilience and vitality of the population

Geologically, Africa is the oldest landmass where humans first learned to tame the environment. Constituting 54 countries, and with a little under2.4 billion people, Africa is the second-largest continent contributing 2.7 trillion dollars to the global economy. The three largest GDP nations on the continent are Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa accounting for 480, 363, and 320 billion dollars respectively. *[1] In terms of population density, Nigeria leads Africa with a population amounting to 210 million followed by Ethiopia with nearly 117 million people. More than 60% of the continent’s land is arable, though the quality of the soil is not as productive as the soil found in temperate regions. Africa is also immensely resource-rich housing 90% of the world’s chromium and platinum and 40% of the gold. With 70% of the continental population under 35 years of age, it has the fastest-growing population with more demands made for democracy from its emerging middle class. Accordingly, the management of civil life is improving as signs indicate better quality of governance. And of course, the cultural diversity of the continent is extraordinary

The continent’s sorrows

Africa has issues with governance. Though there has been some improvement, there are limited ethical and competent leaders. Thus, pervasive corruption is a signature tune of many African societies. Weak rule of law, regimes incapable of creating constitutional integrity, and weak political participation, though there are anomalies, result in shallow and fragile democracies with limited transparency and brittle institutions leading to a fractured state.

This instability is compounded by the effects of global warming on the already vulnerable high temperature and water-stressed communities. *[2] Traffic congestion and air pollution, have also changed the composition of cities. And
though the number of young people has potential for economic expansion, it can also be explosive if unemployment rates go unchecked.

…to a whole system of administration and leadership with no analytical skills. The way to combat this liability is through a healthy and educated youth population. Brain drain is another prominent issue.

For example, Somalia has 70% youth unemployment. The rate of unemployment combined with the lack of good quality education leads to a whole system of administration and leadership with no analytical skills. The way to combat this liability is through a healthy and educated youth population. Brain drain is another prominent issue. Foreign remittance does not compensate for the brain drain from Africa as many of our doctors and nurses peruse better lives elsewhere. Poor or obsolete infrastructure drains economies. Just looking at electrical infrastructure, there is a 2-3% GDP loss because certain growing industries don’t have consistent access to electricity, not to mention the 600 million Africans that do not have access to electricity. Similarly, the lack of oil refinery infrastructure in Nigeria has resulted in losses of around 8 billion dollars a year despite

Nigeria being the 6th largest producer of crude oil. Health, a key indicator of the quality of life, is not widely accessible. The COVID 19 pandemic exposed many of the issues with health care in Africa as even in the case of COVID 19, a global pandemic, only 16% of Africans have received a single dose of the vaccine. Moreover, 30% of Africans reside 30 minutes away from safe drinking water. Furthermore, the long-standing struggle against external domination of imperial and sub-imperial influences has played a critical role in political and economic matters. This is greatly emphasized by the African Union’s incapacity to build coalitions amongst member states.

Power is who gets what when, and how. I want to add a modification: who gets what, when, how, and who
gets left out. The capacity to get others to do something they don’t want to do is power.

With these pitfalls facing Africa, how do we close the gap between the assets and the challenges?
By understanding modernization and transformation – without destroying history or cultures. To do this, we have to educate the civil population to cut across cultural taboos, update public health care, industrialize per the environmental and economic needs of the 21st century, innovate and produce firstly for local consumption and bolster the industries designed for exporting goods.

The concept of Politics

Politics, inalienable from the human experience, has two faces or two dimensions for me. One face looks to enhance the dignity and well-being of people. The other face has to do with managing the deep and persistent conflict amongst members of societies. Plato tells us politics is about the harmonization of conflict – with its core politics being about justice. Thus, if politics is a tool used to restrain injustice within society, the state is necessary to build a just community and protect against threats and misery. The goals of politics are to ensure peace and security, create wealth, and facilitate freedom and justice for both individuals and society. So even if politics is fixed, it’s not static and can adapt to the growing needs of societies.

Aristotle similarly expresses that politics is the collective strive to bring virtue amongst citizens, in effect asking citizens to be actively engaged in politics to be happy and virtuous. In our modern world, this concept is actualized by the happiness index (Gross National Happiness index) developed by the King of Bhutan in the 1970s.

Power and Development

According to Harold Lasswell, Power is who gets what when, and how. I want to add a modification: who gets what, when, how, and who gets left out. The capacity to get others to do something they don’t want to do is power. There are four classical means of power; physical/military, economic*[3], administration and bureaucratic management, and cultural. What’s fascinating about cultural power, the power associated with ideas, information, and belief systems, is that itfosters the desire of others to be like you – in other words, sticky power. An example of this is Turkey’s 40 years of attempts to join the EU to no avail.

Power is who gets what when, and how. I want to add a modification: who gets what, when, how, and who gets left out. The capacity to get others to do something they don’t want to do is power.

The concept of development illustrates the engagement of the historical, present, and future of states as it relates to power and politics. Development can be a cruel and perpetual process but if successful can be massively beneficial. Amartya Sen, an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics claims that development is the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people little choice and opportunity to exercise their agency. An African scholar has described development as the expansion of choice articulated by the individual and collective. My definition is that development (a perpetual project) can massively transform economic, political, ecological, and cultural life, with all coordinated at the same time with emphasis placed on different components based on urgency.

What is the most important entity that embodies these concepts in a way that generates energy out of them and uses them to close the gap between potential and pitfalls?

It is the state. The greater the positive capacity of the state the greater the potential of the society to make changes. Particularly in developing societies like Ethiopia, the nature and quality of the state are greatly significant. Thus if the state is not a positive practitioner of politics and power, it undermines civil life. The difference between Asia and Africa is exemplified through the development of South Korea and Ghana. Both nations started on an even playing field in terms of quality of life. What differed in the past sixty years is the government’s commitment to providing quality education and restructuring the state to become an engine for economic growth.

[1] South Africa has the most sophisticated economy due to its early industrialization. The University of Cape Town was even the location of the first heart and kidney transplant surgeries on the when te
[2] Samatar predicts the greatest battles in the Middle East and North Africa will be over water and other issues spurred on by scarce resources.
[3] The key to this power is not providing money but rather withholding money or closing access to the means of acquiring money


Editor’s Note :

In PublicationsMay 31, 20222 Minutes

Editor’s Note :

Editor’s Note :

Dear readers,

Horn Review is proud to present this 7th edition of its monthly publication. This edition primarily focuses on the various security and resiliency issues facing the region. With intractable identity-based conflict in Ethiopia, government freefall in Sudan, and tentative elections in Kenya, Horn States are yet to sound the alarm of an impending food shortage. The governance problems in the region further exacerbate the effects of drought and food shortage. There is no doubt that the political interests and decisionmaking of regional leaders, going forward, comes with high humanitarian costs.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Professor Ahmed Samatar for the impassioned lecture on a crucial issue of his scholarship: development and policy-making in the Horn. As a leading authority in Horn states’ political and developmental trajectories, Professor Samatar juxtaposes the promise and potential that Africa offers with the current, sobering, reality of poverty and conflict. I would also like to thank
the Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) Department of Addis Ababa University for the initiative in hosting such engaging discussions on campus.

I would also like to thank Kibour Ghenna, President of the Pan-African Chamber of
Commerce, for taking the time to sit with Horn Review to discuss the economic challenges Ethiopia currently faces amidst a global pandemic, a costly internal conflict, as well as shocks to the global supply chains that further
exacerbate the public’s woes. Mr. Kibur also remarked on the prospects of better economic

performance with forward-looking investment initiatives and continental regimes that would revolutionize inter-African-cooperation, as well as enhance the ease of doing business at home.

Lastly, I would like to thank Wondwossen Sentayehu for the elaborate discussion on the
design of Destiny Ethiopia’s multi-stakeholder scenario building process. As a founding member of the Initiative, Wondwossen shares an intimate account of the widely successful process, from design to result, particularly at a time when the nation plans to engage in a national dialogue.


TPLF, OLA-Shene, and Al-Shabab: a Tripartite Alliance

In PublicationsMay 3, 202216 Minutes

TPLF, OLA-Shene, and Al-Shabab: a Tripartite Alliance

Tolera Gudeta Gurmesa

Independent Researcher

Dislcaimer :
The author of this article employed various primary and secondary data sources, as well as personal travels to substantiate their claims. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of our institution.

Ethiopia’s conflict in the North proved an opportune moment for inauspicious groups existing in enmity to convene against the common goal of a weakened, if not decentralized, Ethiopia. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA-Shene), an insurgent organization recognized by the Ethiopian government as a terrorist group, brokered the alliance between Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) and Al-Shabab. This collaboration gives Al- Shabab an entryway to Ethiopian domestic affairs while facilitating TPLF’s agenda of destruction. This article attempts to contextualize the conflict in Ethiopia’s Northern Region, details the parties, as well as elucidates their relationship vis-a-vis each other. It expands on and details the expansion of OLA-Shene and Al-Shabab’s bilateral arrangement to include TPLF, introducing a dangerous security risk across the Horn Region.

Before the launch of an offensive attack on Ethiopia’s Northern military command, the TPLF leadership made extensive preparations for the establishment of an autonomous government of Tigray intending to form a breakaway state. The TPLF, which had previously formed a secret alliance with the OLA-Shene terrorist group, fostered a triple alliance with the Al-Shabab terrorist group under the auspices of the OLA-Shene group and continued its activities to destabilize Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.

Origin of the conflict

The popular protests, along with other push factors, brought a doomsday to the TPLF-led EPRDF government which was forced to reform itself and facilitate the premiership of Abiy Ahmed. Following the sweeping national reforms in a move to liberalize the nation’s institutions, the political and military leaderships of the TPLF chose to take a systemic retreat to Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region.

The former-acting president of the Tigray region, Dr. Debresion G/Michael, requested ethnic-Tigray parliament members to declare the independent government of Tigray. To control and mitigate the Coronavirus pandemic, the federal government opted to postpone the nation’s upcoming elections. In defiance of this decision, the TPLF leadership held an unconstitutional regional election on September 9, 2020.

Moreover, the post-reform TPL preoccupied with training its regional Special Forces and paramilitary; to regain its past political and economic hegemony, as well as reclaim the disproportionate federal influence it long held. Then, when TPLF was sure that its war preparation was done, it launched an unwary offensive attack in the late hours of November 3rd, 2020, and massacred hundreds of military commanders and members of the army; as well as took thousands of military personnel into custody and as hostages. This incident sparked the worst security crisis in the nation’s recent history. In an interview with the rebel group’s TV channel DW (Dimtse Woyane), Sekuture Getachew, a member of the TPLF central command described their offensive as a preemptive “lightning strike” move. According to his analysis, “TPLF has victoriously completed,” the first phase of a defense that resulted in the death of countless servicemen.

The federal government succumbed to pressure from the international community to provide access and facilitate humanitarian assistance. At the requests of the interim government of Tigray, the federal government declares a unilateral ceasefire; withdrawing all troops from the Tigray region by June 24th, 2021. TPLF, however, took advantage of retreating federal forces in its widespread looting and killing rampage throughout Amhara region, and later, Afar region. Subsequent Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reports have since published the details and extent of TPLF’s destructions in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. TPLF has committed widespread human rights and international humanitarian law violations in these two regions.

The reports show that starting from July 2020, Tigray Special Forces and its allied militias have committed unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial killing of civilians, rape of women and young girls, as well as intentional damage to public infrastructure. The report also revealed that TPLF fighters also fired artillery into urban areas, dug fortifications, and fired heavy weapons from civilian homes. TPLF also used places of worship as weapons depots and camps. Additionally, on August 5th, 2021, TPLF fighters committed an attack, killing hundreds of internally displaced persons, including a large number of children who took shelter in health facilities and schools in Afar region, Gulina woreda, Galikoma kebele-4. TPLFs path of destruction is aided by sympathetic organizations, both at home and abroad. TPLF has formed a tactical alliance with armed groups at home such as OLA-Shene, Kimani rebel groups, Agaw, Gambella, and Afa rebel groups (surrogates/proxies). It has also established a tactical alliance with the internationally recognized terrorist group, Al-Shabab.

The Trilateral alliance of TPLF, OLA-Shane, and Al-Shabab

For decades, the relationship between TPLF, OLA-Shene, and Al-Shabab, has largely been hostile and antagonistic vis-à-vis one another. Though their history, particularly during the TPLF’s tenure at the head of government, was characterized by enmity these three entities have now forged a seemingly temporary tactical alliance against a common adversary, the federal government of Ethiopia. The pre-established bilateral alliance between OLA-Shene and Al-Shabab has now expanded into a trilateral alliance, with OLA-Shene brokering between TPLF and Al-Shabab. For these groups, the federal government, as well as a strong central government in Ethiopia, is an undesirable outcome. To this end, their collective aim is to synergistically work to undermine the national cohesion and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian state.

A Tactical Alliance: OLA-Shane and TPLF

These designated terrorist groups have established a tactical alliance following the sweeping political reforms in the country intending to forcibly overthrow the government.

Though TPLF continued to dispute the government’s accusation that they are working in collaboration to wreak havoc in all corners of the country, Kumsa Diriba (commander of OLA-Shene) announced in an interview with Associated Press, that the two groups have reached an agreement, as proposed by TPLF. The government of Ethiopia has indicated that the declaration of the alliance between these two terrorist groups was neither new nor surprising.

In line with their mission, these terrorist groups began to carry out coordinated attacks in various parts of the country.

Adhering to the strategy of TPLF’s Commander-in-Chief, General Tadese Worede, OLA-Shene combatants were seen fighting alongside TPLF during the TPLF’s incursion into other regions, particularly in and around Bati and Kemise towns. Their alliance, as it stands, is not only to topple down the federal government but is also seen by the TPLF as a promising avenue for its eventual return to power.

According to TPLF’s calculations, an OLA-Shene coalition at the head of government will pave the way for the eventual succession and subsequent recognition of an independent Tigray. To bring this project to fruition, TPLF gathered seven accompanying agents to sign a superficial agreement in Washington DC. During the ceremony, live broadcasted by Reuters, the handpicked agents vowed to fight alongside TPLF to forcibly topple down the Ethiopian government by any possible means including military warfare.

A Tactical Alliance: OLA-Shane and Al-Shabab

Since 2017, Al-Shabab has been working to establish a viable, strong, and clandestine network aiming to exploit the chaotic political transition and discontents within the Oromo youth in parts of the Oromia region. Meanwhile, OLA-Shene’s operational capability has attracted senior members of Al-Shabab and Ex-Al-itihad members of ethnic Oromo descent to carry out mass recruitment throughout the region. This has led to further technical meetings on the enhancement of common operational understandings between both sides.

In Aug 2021 Al-Shabab’s head of external operation Sheikh Yousuf Aliugas, Ahmed Immam, Shiekh Abdurrahman Ma’alin Sonfur, and Shiekh Ado Dahir commenced a meeting with their OLA-Shene counterparts, namely Liban Jaldessa, Gurracha Jarso, Robba Guyo, Dalecha Yatani, Abdikarim Oumer, Issaqo Halkano as well as Abduba Wario, and discussed the repeated failure of collaboration on recruitment, training and operational alliance besides the mutually planned operation to disrupt the last national election of Ethiopia. Intelligence sources have revealed that since the war broke out in Ethiopia, the relationship between Al-Shabab and OLA-Shene has grown steadily: particularly with Al-Shabab’s arms support for its OLA-Shene counterpart. Intelligence reports have also confirmed that newly recruited OLA-Shene members are taking explosives, weaponry, and intelligence training in Al-Shabab’s facilities in central Somalia.

Additionally, Al-Shabab has facilitated OLA-Shene militants’ exit passage via Northern Kenya, Moyale. Since the 30th of August 2021, about 60 Al-Shabab fighters were deployed around Ethiopian border areas where OLA-Shene militias use as bases. Al-Shabab has left 20 of the 100 OLA-Shene trainees it had been training since the 23rd of August 2021 and 80 of them have been trying to enter Kenya since the 17th of October 2021 via El-Wak to join the group in Marsabit county. These OLA Shene fighters entered Kenya on late night of 19th October 2021, under the leadership of Wariyo Boru12 and Keche Hola Boru13, and by mid-level Al Shabab leaders, including Beshir Mohammed14 and Sheikh Usman Bilow.

This indicates that OLA-Shene is an Al-Shabab affiliate terrorist group whose members have acquired direct support and training from higher Al-Shabab leaders. To reciprocate for the technical and financial often acquired from AL-Shabab, OLA-Shene members advocate for the inculcation of the ideologies of Al-Shabab via social media and other available means. OLA-Shene also gives a cover and facilitates Al-Shabab cells operating in different parts of Oromia, including West Hararge Hirna; East Harge Chelenko; Bale Zone: Ginir, Goba, Malayu, Dolomana, Haro, Dumal, Dolo and Baradimtu; Jima Zone: Shabe Woreda; Borena Zone Moyale; Guji Zone Negelle Borena; West Arsi Zone Shashamane. This is an indication that Al-Shabab is trying to replicate its Muslim-extremism project in Ethiopia and the greater Horn region using OLA-Shene as its Trojan Horse.

The Tactical Alliance between TPLF and Al-Shabab

There is a clear and mutual interest between TPLF and Al-Shabab particularly in experience sharing. Al-Shabab had the interest to gain insurgency experience from TPLF; conversely, TPLF sought knowledge in launching terrorist attacks and other insurgency tactics from Al-Shabab. OLA-Shene has played a paramount role in middling and brokering the two groups. Having fled the central government and retreated to Tigray, TPLF operatives in Sudan initiated contact with Abdullahi Nadir (Clan-Dir) in early October 2020 in Sudan, soon after the group was pushed deeper into central Tigray.

Nadir was a close associate and aide of the former notorious Al-Shabab Amir Ahmed Godene. Abdulahi Nadir later facilitated a meeting between TPLF’s operatives and Al-Shabab members who were in South Sudan under a business pretext. Nadir also managed to contact mid-level Al-Shabab operatives in Kenya to convene a meeting on how to defeat a common enemy. In early August 2021, a meeting commenced in Nairobi (East Leigh area) between three TPLF operatives as well as Al-Shabab mid-level leaders, namely Shiekh Abdi salam Kabaja’el15 and Salad Dere16. According to our primary sources, both parties have agreed to collaborate on technical matters such as sharing guerilla skills, weapons, and facilitation of one another’s operation (if deemed possible) rather than establishing a strategic partnership. Since the two parties adhere to diverging ideological backing. After the Nairobi meeting, consecutive contacts were made between the two sides in Puntland where TPLF elements proposed to provide 15 mortar weapons to target Ethiopian Units of AMISOM troops stationed around Hudur, Baidoa, and Qansahdere areas of South West State. Intelligence sources proved that Al-Shabab has used those 60 mm and 82 mm mortar shells on ENDF units in Somalia.

Part two of the this article will be published in a subsequent edition.