Overview: Ethiopia’s political reform process continued in 2019 under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, facilitating even greater counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. The continuing threat of al-Shabaab (AS) and ISIS emanating from Somalia is the Government of Ethiopia’s (GOE’s) core terrorism concern and the focal point of its security apparatus and the Ethiopia National Defense Force’s (ENDF) CT efforts. In 2019, the GOE increased its collaboration with the United States on regional security issues and participated in trainings. The GOE has provided the United States information, evidence, and access to witnesses who have contributed to FBI cases related to AS and other U.S.-designated terrorist organizations.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no confirmed terrorist incidents in Ethiopia in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The GOE uses its 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) to prosecute crimes associated with terrorist activity. A Legal and Justice Affairs Advisory Council under the attorney general amended the ATP in 2019 in line with the broader opening of political space in the country. The amended proclamation was submitted to and approved by Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers (COM) and as of 2019 is awaiting final approval by the House of Representatives. Several Ethiopians arrested in relation to the June assassinations were charged under the 2009 ATP.
The Attorney General’s office is working on revising Ethiopia’s Criminal Procedure Code to allow for more efficient CT prosecutions while still respecting rule-of-law standards; the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa worked with the GOE to include cooperation arrangements with relevant international partners, including the United States, on criminal matters in its revised Code. As of 2019, the revised Code is with the COM for review prior to submission to the House of Representatives for approval.
The ENDF, the Ethiopian Federal Police (EFP), Ethiopian intelligence, and regional special police worked to block AS attacks in Ethiopia. The Ministry of Peace, which oversees the EFP and intelligence services, increased its public messaging, peace-building activities, and coordination role to combat the influence of AS and other groups. The National Intelligence and Security Service continued to reorganize and reform to focus on collecting intelligence to detect and disrupt terrorism in support of EFP and attorney general efforts to conduct law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.
Border security was a persistent concern for the GOE, and the government worked to tighten border controls with Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. Ethiopia employed PISCES to conduct traveler screening and watch listing at airports and other points of entry. The GOE, in October, signed a memorandum of cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to implement the Automated Targeting System-Global, which complements PISCES and will allow the GOE to collect, use, and analyze API/PNR data.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to conduct semi-annual inspections of Ethiopia’s national carrier and annual assessments of Bole International Airport. TSA partnered with security officials at Bole to provide aviation security assistance on two occasions in 2019. The next assessment at Bole was scheduled for March 2020. The relationship with Ethiopian aviation security officials is positive. Ethiopia and the U.S. government concluded an arrangement to share terrorist identities to enhance immigration and border controls.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Ethiopia is a member of ESAAMLG, and Ethiopia’s FIU, the Ethiopian Financial Intelligence Centre, is a member of the Egmont Group. In October 2019, Ethiopia demonstrated progress in addressing strategic deficiencies in its AML/CFT system and was removed from FATF’s compliance process.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Peace is the GOE’s lead on CVE, a priority for Prime Minister Abiy’s government given the threat from AS. The GOE’s strategy focuses on reducing poverty and ethnic strife to eliminate factors that the GOE assesses enable AS recruitment. The GOE remains engaged in local mediation and conflict mitigation strategies to defuse ethnic and religious tensions, especially in the Oromia, Afar, and Somali regions. The GOE monitored “extremist” activities, particularly among the large Muslim youth population and given the significant economic migration of Ethiopians to the Middle East. Some economic migrants return to Ethiopia radicalized.
International and Regional Cooperation: The GOE has attempted to improve its CT cooperation with Kenya and the Federal Government of Somalia to combat threats. Ethiopian officials remain more willing since Abiy’s selection to cooperate with the U.S. government against AS.
The GOE participated in African Union (AU)-led CT efforts as part of AU Mission in Somalia forces. At the AU, Ethiopia participated in CT-related efforts. Ethiopia 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. In multilateral efforts against terrorism, the GOE generally supports international directives that seek to stem terrorism. IGAD, recognizing that terrorism is a transnational issue, continued to encourage the cross-border dissemination of information concerning terrorist activity.