The ramifications of decades of authoritarianism and massive human rights abuses are still deeply felt in Ethiopia. Political forces continue to fuel violent conflicts, while the people’s demands for justice, freedom, and a more equitable distribution of power remain unaddressed. ICTJ works closely with civil society organizations, helping them to engage with relevant institutions, promote victim-centered strategies, and contribute to Ethiopia’s transitional justice process.

Image of a man walking

A man carries a traditional Ethiopian Maresha plow through a camp for internally displaced persons in Konso, in southern Ethiopia, in 2022. (Ethiopian Human Rights Commission)


Background: Fostering Inclusive Governance Amid Violence

After decades of repressive regimes and three years of deadly protests in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed introduced sweeping reforms in 2018, raising hopes for a more just and free society, one in which power is more equally distributed among the country’s many ethnic groups. Worryingly, the failure of political parties to reach an inclusive agreement on the way forward has triggered intercommunal violence and conflicts across Ethiopia that have left thousands of people dead and millions displaced. The conflict in the northern region of Tigray between the Federal Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (the leading political party in the former ruling coalition), which erupted on November 4, 2020, has pushed the country deeper into turmoil.

Ethiopia is home to more than 80 ethnic groups that speak roughly 70 languages. Competing visions of ethnic federalism and pan-Ethiopianism have heightened inter-ethnic tensions. As a result, fundamental issues concerning the centralization of power in the capital and socioeconomic and cultural marginalization remain unaddressed.

A credible and participatory transitional justice process that addresses the country’s legacy of gross human rights violations is critical for establishing a durable peace. On December 29, 2021, Parliament approved a bill creating the National Dialogue Commission, with a mandate to foster a “broad-based inclusive public dialogue that engenders national consensus.” Accordingly, the commission must design and implement an inclusive and credible process that engages with and incorporates input from a wide rage key stakeholders, including victims, civil society groups, and political actors about the country’s past, present, and future.

ICTJ's Role 

Civil society organizations (CSOs) have a central role to play in addressing historical injustices and root causes of instability in Ethiopia. In partnership with the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations, ICTJ is implementing a two-year program aimed at strengthening the capacity of CSOs to contribute meaningfully to the transitional justice process in Ethiopia.

As part of the program, ICTJ is conducting trainings and workshops with CSO representatives to improve their understanding of transitional justice concepts and processes. ICTJ provides comparative experiences and lessons learned from other relevant contexts as well as technical assistance on how to operate in a fluid political environment.

CSO representatives, in turn, will learn effective strategies for working with victims, identifying the issues that affect them, and advocating with and for them. As a result, CSOs will be better equipped to act as constructive partners for the National Dialogue Commission, helping it to fulfill its mandate and coordinate broad consultations with Ethiopia’s many constituencies.

ICTJ will also engage with relevant institutions and build bridges between them and CSOs. In doing so, ICTJ aims to bring together diverse stakeholders in an inclusive conversation where they are encouraged to share their perspectives, all the while ensuring that gender, ethnic, political, and socioeconomic concerns are taken into consideration.