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Country Reports

Ethiopia Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

All trips to this large, impoverished East African country (population 99 million), should be planned with care, particularly given its location in a volatile region (surrounded by Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Kenya).

STATE OF EMERGENCY

The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on October 9, 2016 following the clashes which took place in the regions of Oromo and Amhara earlier in the year. The state of emergency has been extended until July 2017. Individuals traveling within Ethiopia are advised to adhere to instructions issued by local governments; large gatherings and crowds should be avoided.   

A large number of western embassies advise against travel to around one third of the country.

REGIONS TO AVOID

Travel to all of the country's border regions (shared with Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea) is highly inadvisable on account of the presence of rebel groups in the area, especially in the Afar Triangle, and Dallol and Erta Ale, situated close to the Eritrean border (on account of the high tensions in the country which remain susceptible to erupt in armed conflict).

Travel in the eastern part of the country (from Dire Daoua, Somali region - Ogaden) is inadvisable due to insecurity brought about by the presence of rebel movements. Foreigners are not permitted access to the region unless they are issued a permit by Ethiopian authorities.

The western region of Gambela has experienced a significant increase in crime and frequently witnesses armed clashes. Travel to this region is also inadvisable.

An increased level of vigilance should be exercised in the regions of Oromo and Amhara as well as in the capital Addis Ababa where significant protests frequently take place.

SECURITY

There is a high level of insecurity in the Somali region in the east of the country (Ogaden) due to the activities of the rebel separatist group Front national de libération de l'Ogaden (FNLO) and regular contacts are reported with the Ethiopian army. The FNLO is classified as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government. Foreign citizens have already been affected by the violence; multiple attacks having been committed on humanitarian workers.

The proximity of the Somali border also increases the risk of incursions by the jihadist militant group Al-Shabaab. 

The risk of armed clashes is significant along the entirety of the Eritrean border. Despite hostilities between the two countries ending in 2000, the border dispute remains unresolved. The border, which spans 1000 km (600 mi), remains under constant surveillance by the military; isolated clashes are frequently observed. A renewal of tensions occurred in June 2016. Landmines have been reported in the desert regions of Danakil, Erta Ale, and Mount Dallol and several attacks have been perpetrated against foreigners. Furthermore, tensions within the Afar community or between the Afar and the Ethiopian authorities are often reported. Travel in the Danakils region requires prior authorization by local police and by the army which, if provided, will be accompanied by an army escort. Individuals traveling in the area must also inform authorities of their travel itinerary.

There are significant tensions in the Gambella region in the west, in the border area with South Sudan on account of the recurring ethnic conflict between Ethiopians and settlers from South Sudan. Clashes took place in April 2016 in which 17 people were killed. Cross border attacks are often deadly (e.g. April 2016 in Jikawo: 208 civilians killed). 

TERRORISM

The terrorist threat remains high throughout the country especially in the border zone with Somalia due in part to Ethiopia's participation in the African Union's military operation targeting the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in neighboring Somalia. Two suicide attacks were thwarted in Addis Ababa in early June 2014 and September 2014. In the fall of 2014, the United States government alerted its citizens to the heightened risk of attacks targeting Ethiopian and Western interests in the capital, urging Americans to be particularly vigilant.

Foreign nationals should exercise vigilance; French citizens in particular could be subjected to reprisals for their participation in the international military coalition against the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). All travelers should avoid crowded spaces, public demonstrations, religious sites, bus terminals. The use of municipal buses, mini-buses, and taxis is not recommended. Travelers are also encouraged to frequent secured hotels, restaurants, and bars.

CRIME

Crime rates, while relatively low throughout the country, are rising, particularly in the capital; attackers may be armed. Foreign nationals may be targeted on account of their wealth and may fall victim to bag snatching, carjackings, burglaries, and armed assaults, among other crimes. Cases of aggression in the affluent Bole neighborhood (south-east of the capital) have recently been reported.

In order to limit exposure to risk, it is advisable to maintain a low profile and not display signs of wealth. It is also advisable to avoid walking at night in dimly lit or isolated areas. When traveling by car, it is advisable drive with the windows wound up, doors locked, and to park in secure locations.

To avoid escalation in the event of an attack, do not offer resistance.

KIDNAPPING

There is a significant risk of kidnapping in Ethiopia. Several attempted kidnappings of foreign tourists have been reported in the desert region of Danakil.

The risk is particularly high in the Somali zone of the country, close to the border with Somalia where the risk of abduction remains high due to the presence of groups such as Al-Shabaab.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Due to the troubled political situation and the relatively weak authority of the state, foreigners are at risk of being attacked within the country. Furthermore, strikes and public demonstrations are common and have been known to turn violent.

The security situation in Ethiopia has degraded since November 2015. Previously unseen levels of violence have been reported in the country perpetrated in large part by the Oromo community, the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Oromo were protesting against a government-led project to expand the capital city Addis Ababa to neighboring Oromo cities, threatening to separate Oromo territory in two. This protest movement is part of a wider struggle by the Oromo community against systemic political and economic exclusion and discrimination, in a country dominated by the northern Tigrayan ethnic group. In July 2016, opposition to the government expanded to the Amhara region, where the ethnic community is also one of the most significant in the country. Community tensions have surfaced over ownership of the Wolqayt district in the Tigray region, which certain members of the Amhara community claim to be theirs. In October 2016, several public buildings as well as foreign businesses with purported links to the government have been targeted by attacks.  Tourist complexes, factories, and foreign farms have been set alight. Demonstrators have also targeted foreign citizens (one American citizen has been killed).

In an attempt to contain these protest movements, a state of emergency has been implemented since October 9, 2016, and protests have been banned across the country. Social media blocks on Facebook or twitter can be bypassed through virtual private networks (VPNs).

On a separate note, as the French Foreign Office advised against traveling in areas close to mosques in Addis Ababa, especially on Friday (the day of prayer), due to the tensions which persist between the between the Ethiopian government and certain Muslim groups.

It is advisable to remain informed at all times of the situation in the country and to avoid all large gatherings.

TRANSPORTATION

The transportation infrastructure in the country is largely obsolete, insufficient, and degraded. During the rainy season (June to September), a number of roads are not navigable. The danger on highways is worsened by a general lack of adherence to traffic laws, the poor condition of many of the vehicles, and the lack of health facilities. The absence of street lighting and traffic lights makes traveling at night inadvisable. Instigators of traffic accidents are liable to face a fine or prison sentence. Following an accident, one should remain at the site and call the police. In cases of injury to a third party, one is expected to take the victim directly to hospital. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality rate in Ethiopia is one of the highest in the world.

Outside of major cities, travel by road should be undertaken by day in an all-terrain vehicle (4x4), with a driver and preferably in convoy. One should also travel supplied with extra water and fuel. It is advisable to ensure that your vehicle is equipped with replacement parts (spare tire, cables, etc.) as well as telecommunications devices. Individuals should always carry a means of identification (e.g. passport and visa). During travel in the capital, it is advisable to communicate travel arrangements to a trusted confidant.     

Intercity travel via road can prove perilous. Official and unofficial roadblocks are frequent. Furthermore it is recommended to remain vigilant when traveling in isolated regions; cases of armed theft, carjacking, and the presence of bandits have been reported across the country.   

Public transport should be avoided. Taxis may be used provided that they have been ordered via telephone prior to being taken; taxis should not be hailed in the street. There is a railroad between Dire Daouna and Djibouti that has recently been constructed, however it is not advisable to use the rail system. 

The safest means of transport within the country is plane. Ethiopian Airlines provides flights connecting all major cities.

NATURAL RISKS

The country is affected by extreme climates; both the rainy season which frequently causes flooding, and periods of drought have devastating consequences. Some 7.7 million people are struggling with famine in Ethiopia amid a severe and deadly drought.

Furthermore, Ethiopia is situated in a seismic zone.

HEALTH

Given the large number of risks present in Ethiopia, it is imperative that travelers take out an insurance policy covering medical costs abroad as well as medical evacuation prior to their departure.  

The principal health risks are those transmitted by mosquito bites. Yellow fever is endemic in the country, although an effective vaccine exists for the disease. Individuals entering Ethiopia from a country in which the risk of the disease is present, and those having spent more than 12 hours in an airport in an infected country are required to be vaccinated against the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vaccinations for all those traveling to the country, with the exception of those traveling only to Afar and Somali. It is recommended that all travelers protect themselves against mosquito bites.

The water in Ethiopia is not potable. Diarrhea and other gastric illnesses are common: drink only bottled water or decontaminated water and wash your hands prior to eating.

In order to avoid bacterial infection, it is recommended to avoid drinking, bathing, or washing clothes in stagnant water. It is also strongly advisable to avoid walking barefoot.

It is also advised to take all necessary precautions to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS.

Vaccinations against measles and meningitis are strongly advised, as a large number of cases have been recorded in the country. The risk posed by meningitis is particularly high in Ethiopia especially in the dry season: from October to May. The majority of the cases occur in the western half of the country.  

LEGAL

It is illegal to carry firearms in Ethiopia.

Homosexuality is illegal in the country.

It is recommended to ask for a receipt, which should be kept on you, when buying souvenirs. Customs officials have been known to confiscate objects. Individuals must acquire official authorization to take Ethiopian antiques out of the country. The principal antique dealers in Addis Ababa offer tourists help to obtain the required authorization.

The ivory trade is prohibited by law.

Journalists traveling to Ethiopia must obtain prior accreditation from the Ethiopian government.

Climate

The west and east of the country experience persistently high temperatures during the summer months. Only the central plateau has a more temperate climate (mild temperatures during the day, cool at night). The rainy season begins in mid-June and lasts until mid-September. Lighter rain is common in March and April.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +251 Police: 1 110 055 Ambulance: 1 613 622

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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