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An open call by African intellectuals for urgent action on Ethiopia

Deeply concerned by the conflict and deteriorating human security situation in Ethiopia, a number of African intellectuals have called for dialogue and mediation.



We write this letter as concerned African intellectuals on the continent and in the Diaspora. Many of us have dedicated our professional lives to understanding the causes and potential solutions to intra-and inter-African conflicts. We are appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia – so tragically illustrative of the continued lack of uptake of the abundant commentary produced by African intellectuals on how to resolve African conflicts.

We are deeply disturbed by the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia – which some refer to as a regionalised internal conflict, given Eritrea’s role within it. We note with dismay that protagonists to the conflict no longer include just the Tigray Defence Force (TDF) and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) together with the special forces from Amhara, but now also include the Oromo Liberation Army on one side, and, on the other side, special forces from several other regions, as well as numerous conscripts. We note too, the advance of the TDF into Amhara and Afar regions, which, despite the TDF’s claims to be seeking to enable humanitarian and other supply access chains, is contributing to the expansion of the conflict across Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is of continental significance, not only for its record of successful resistance to European imperial expansionism, but also for its being the home of the African Union (AU), our inter-governmental institution whose lack of effective engagement on the situation in Ethiopia we also find deplorable. The AU, its member states – particularly Ethiopia’s neighbouring states – must not allow Ethiopia to dictate the terms of their engagement in seeking resolution to this conflict.

We condemn the fact that the conflict is affecting ever-increasing numbers of civilians – the deaths, the sexual violence, the refugee outflows, the documented hunger and unmet medical and psychosocial needs, the reports of widespread and targeted illegal detentions (especially because of ethnicity), the enforced disappearances and torture in captivity. We also condemn the destruction of hard-earned physical and metaphysical infrastructure across Tigray, as well as other regions of Ethiopia, including institutions of higher learning, houses of worship and cultural heritage. Ethiopia and its peoples have suffered enough. Ethiopia cannot afford any further destruction.


All Ethiopians must recognise that a political rather than military solution is what is now called for, regardless of the claims and counterclaims, legitimate and otherwise, as to how Ethiopia has come to this place. Retributive justice, including the seizure and counter-seizures of contested land, and the detention of family members of recently outlawed political groups heightens tensions, leading to generational cycles of violence.

Ethiopia is on the precipice; we must take action. We therefore call on:

  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to respond positively to the repeated calls for political dialogue, including with the affected and implicated groups in the Amhara and Oromia regions;
  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to make positive use, in such dialogue, of the numerous African intellectuals who have put forward their views on pathways out of conflict;
  • Neighbouring countries to exercise maximum pressure on the Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to – under the framework of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the AU – submit to external mediation of this conflict;
  • The IGAD and the AU to proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict – including providing all possible political support to the soon to be announced AU Special Envoy for the Horn;
  • The rest of the international community to continue to support such IGAD and AU action with the carrots and sticks needed to get the protagonists and all other stakeholders to the table, keep them there and determine a political solution leading to more broad-based national dialogue on the future of the Ethiopian state.

We urge all Ethiopian leaders and civic groups to demonstrate the magnanimity and vision needed to reconstruct a country that has suffered far too long already. We call on any negotiated political settlement to include a process of public accountability for mass atrocities committed across Ethiopia. The history of the African state attests to the efficacy of an alternate path committed to truth, peace, justice and reconciliation.


  1. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor of French and Philosophy, Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
  2. Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University
  3. Elleni Centime Zeleke, Assistant Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University
  4. Godwin Murunga, Executive Secretary, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
  5. Boubacar Boris Diop, Award winning author of Murambi, The Book of Bones and many other novels, essays and journalistic works
  6. Achille Mbembe, Research Professor in History and Politics, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand
  7. Jimi O Adesina, Professor and Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa
  8. Ato Sekyi-Otu, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought, York University
  9. Felwine Sarr, Anne-Marie Bryan Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies, Duke University
  10. Imraan Coovadia, Writer, essayist and novelist, Director of the creative writing programme, University of Cape Town
  11. Koulsy Lamko, Chadian playwright, poet, novelist and university lecturer
  12. Willy Mutunga, Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Kenya
  13. Maina Kiai, Former Chair, Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  14. Rashida Manjoo, Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, Former UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women
  15. Siba N Grovogui, Professor of international relations theory and law, Africana Studies and Research Centre, Cornell University
  16. Nadia Nurhussein, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  17. Martha Kuwee Kumsa, Professor of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University
  18. Mekonnen Firew Ayano, Associate Professor, SUNY Buffalo Law School
  19. Dagmawi Woubshet, Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
  20. Awet T Weldemichael, Professor and Queen’s National Scholar, Queen’s University
  21. Abadir Ibrahim, Ethiopian Human Rights Activist and Lawyer
  22. Michael Woldemariam, Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Director of the African Studies Center, Boston University
  23. Safia Aidid, Arts and Science Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Toronto
  24. Abdoulaye Bathily, Professor of History, University Cheikh Anta Diop
  25. David Ndii, Kenyan Economist
  26. Siphokazi Magadla, Senior Lecturer in Political and International Studies, Rhodes University
  27. Fred Hendricks, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University
  28. Pablo Idahosa, Professor of African Studies and International Development Studies, York University
  29. Ibrahim Abdullah, Department of History and African Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone
  30. Seye Abimbola, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Sydney
  31. Makau Mutua, SUNY Distinguished Professor, SUNY Buffalo Law School
  32. Salim Vally, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Director, Centre for Education Rights and Transformation
  33. Muthoni Wanyeki, Kenya Political Scientist
  34. Dominic Brown, Activist and Economic Justice Programme Manager, Alternative Information and Documentation Centre
  35. Michael Neocosmos, Emeritus Professor in Humanities, Rhodes University
  36. Zubairu Wai, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Department of Global Development Studies, University of Toronto
  37. Alden Young, Assistant Professor, African American Studies, University of California
  38. Benjamin Talton, Professor of History, Department of History, Temple University
  39. G Ugo Nwokeji, Associate Professor of African History and African Diaspora Studies, Department of African-American Studies, University of California
  40. Lionel Zevounou, Associate Professor of Public Law, University of Paris Nanterre
  41. Amy Niang, Professeur associé, L’Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique
  42. Sean Jacobs, Associate Professor of International Affairs, Julien J Studley Graduate Programmes in International Affairs, The New School, Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country
  43. Abosede George, Associate Professor of African History, Barnard College
  44. Dr Abdourahmane Seck, Senior Lecturer, Université Gaston Berger
  45. Nimi Hoffmann, Lecturer, Centre for International Education, University of Sussex, Research Associate, Centre for International Teacher Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  46. Maria Paula Meneses, Vice-Presidente, Conselho Científico do CES, Centro de Estudos Sociais, Universidade de Coimbra
  47. Ibrahima Drame, Director of Education, Henry George School of Social Science
  48. Cesaltina Abreu, Co-Director, Laboratory of Social Sciences and Humanities, Angolan Catholic University
  49. Lina Benabdallah, Assistant Professor of Politics,Wake Forest University
  50. Oumar Ba, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Department of Government, Cornell University
  51. Samar Al-Bulushi, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California
  52. Nisrin Elamin, Assistant Professor of International Studies, Bryn Mawr College
  53. Marie-Jolie Rwigema, Incoming Assistant Professor, Applied Human Sciences, Concordia University
  54. Eddie Cottle, Postdoctoral Fellow, Society, Work and Politics Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
  55. Amira Ahmed, School of Humanities and Social Science, American University of Cairo, Convenors’ Forum of The C19 People’s Coalition
  56. Ibrahim Abdullah, Department of History and African Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone
  57. Jok Madut Jok, Professor of Anthropology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

We stand in solidarity with all Ethiopian intellectuals in-country who want to speak out against the war but feel unable to do so due to fear of retaliation.