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Assessment for Tigreans in Ethiopia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Tigreans in Ethiopia, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 29 April 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Ethiopia Facts
Area:    1,251,282 sq. km.
Capital:    Addis Ababa
Total Population:    55,000,000 (source: Ethiopian Embassy, Washington, D.C., 1994, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Currently, Tigreans possess special status within Ethiopian politics and society with the best official posts, military positions, and university slots allotted to those of the Tigray province. Thus, while not formally a minority at risk per se, several factors are causes for concern. First, the secession of Eritrea essentially halved the number of Ethiopian Tigreans, diluting their power base. Second, despite their religious affinity, the Amhara are not likely to sit idly by while they become a disadvantaged minority under the new administration. Third, local insurgencies, especially that of the Oromo Liberation Front in southern Ethiopia, continue to take vital resources away from central rule in Addis Ababa. While Tigreans remain an advantaged minority in Ethiopia to date, it is unclear whether the EPRDF's mix of political maneuvering and governmental heavy-handedness will last.

Analytic Summary

Although representing only one-tenth of Ethiopia's population, the Tigreans have been the dominant ethnopolitical group in Ethiopia since 1991 and the defeat of Mengistu's army (in coaltion with the Amharian Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP)) by the TPLF (led by Meles Zenawi), which later organized into the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The EPRDF has ruled Ethiopia for the last decade and gains its support mainly from Tigreans living in the northern Tigray province (GROUPCON = 3). The Tigreans are a Christian people (RELIGS1 = 3), and feel a particular threat from Ethiopia's mainly Islamic Oromo, Somali, and Afar populations. The Amhara, although culturally similar to the Tigreans due to their shared Christian beliefs, also are viewed with suspicion because of their prior political and social dominance under Selassie and Mengistu. With disproportionate governmental spending going to northern Ethiopia (and especially to the Tigray), Tigrean dominance has fueled the current unrest within Ethiopia.

As the country's dominant group, the Tigreans have not been subject of late to governmental repression (REP99-03 = 0), nor have they protested or rebelled in recent years (PROT03 and REB03 = 0). They also face no discrimination (ECDIS03 and POLDIS03 = 0). In order to consolidate its power, the EPRDF has utilized a mixture of tactics, whether it be through the formation of ethnically-based political parties willing to work with them within the system, government repression against other ethnic groups, or armed force against several militant groups seeking its removal.


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Keller, Edmond, ARemaking the Ethiopian State. in I. William Zartman ed. 1995. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

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Reuters World Service via Nexus/Lexus search

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