Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Ethiopia

Overview: The continuing al-Shabaab threat emanating from Somalia dominated the Government of Ethiopia’s security posture and the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) 2017 counterterrorism efforts. Ethiopia also focused its counterterrorism strategy on pursuing potential threats from armed opposition groups often based in neighboring countries. The Ethiopian Federal Police (EFP) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shared information on counterterrorism matters pursuant to a memorandum of understanding. The Ethiopian government contributed to FBI cases related to al-Shabaab and other U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by providing information, evidence, and access to witnesses.

Ethiopia joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in 2017.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Ethiopia uses the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) to prosecute crimes associated with terrorist activity. Ethiopia convicted 23 individuals in 2017 for planning to conduct terrorist attacks in Ethiopia after making contact with al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida.

Ethiopia also continued to use the ATP to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting journalists, opposition figures – including members of religious groups protesting government interference in religious affairs – and other activists. The Ethiopian government released some, but arrested several others during the year. These arrests peaked under the State of Emergency the Ethiopian government imposed in October 2016 in the wake of anti-government protests and violence that resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and several hundred deaths. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Report on International Religious Freedom for further information.

In late August, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law conducted a workshop in Addis Ababa for judges handling ATP cases. Ethiopian judges are often overwhelmed with hundreds of ATP-related cases because Ethiopian prosecutors often seek to bring the highest charges for cases that they cannot resolve with plea agreements. With U.S. support, the Attorney General’s Office is working on revising Ethiopia’s Criminal Procedure Code to include plea agreements.

The ENDF, the EFP, Ethiopian intelligence, and regional special police worked to detect and deter al-Shabaab attacks in Ethiopia. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which has broad authority for intelligence, border security, and criminal investigation, is responsible for overall counterterrorism management in coordination with the ENDF and EFP. The three security organizations comprise the Ethiopian Task Force for Counterterrorism, a federal-level committee to coordinate counterterrorism efforts. The NISS facilitated some coordination with the United States to include several domestic counterterrorism cases.

Border security was a persistent concern for Ethiopia, which worked to tighten border controls with Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. Ethiopia employed the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) to conduct traveler screening and watchlisting at airports and other ports of entry.

Ethiopia is East Africa’s only last point of departure to the United States, one of only a few on the African continent. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration continued to conduct semi-annual inspections of Ethiopia’s national carrier and of Bole International Airport, including one that occurred in early December. Inspectors reported implementation of all recent enhanced security measures and that cooperation with Ethiopian aviation security officials remains strong.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Ethiopia is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In October, the FATF and the European Commission listed Ethiopia as one of 11 high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes and recommended that any financial flows from the country be subject to additional counter checks and know-your-customer rules. Ethiopia is one of eight countries named on both the FATF and European Commission lists.

Following the completion of the National Risk Assessment for money laundering and terrorism finance in early 2017, Ethiopia approved and began implementing a National Risk Mitigation Action Plan.

Ethiopian law enforcement handles low-end money laundering investigations but is ill equipped to expand to larger AML/CFT investigations. Law enforcement lacks the forensic tools, human resources, and training to focus on these types of cases. In addition, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and law enforcement did not appear to coordinate their efforts fully. The FIC processes and submits suspicious transaction reports to the police for money laundering and to the NISS for terrorist financing cases. However, there appeared to be a lack of follow-up on AML/CFT investigations.

Ethiopia has made no apparent attempt to investigate and prosecute cases on suspicious or fraudulent mobile money transactions. This is especially significant since it appears that a large number of mobile money transactions occur within the Somali region of Ethiopia, an area where the Ethiopian government has concentrated much of its counterterrorism efforts. The two mobile money platforms in Ethiopia reported growth in its revenues, especially from transactions originating in rural areas, and have expressed interest in cooperating with law enforcement on investigations under certain conditions.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Ethiopia has not yet developed a CVE strategy. In 2017, the U.S. Agency for International Development provided assistance through a local Ethiopian civil society organization to undertake research on the existing potential vulnerabilities to extremism in Ethiopia. This research was conducted in communities across eight of the nine regional states as well as in Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa, cities deemed at risk of radicalization to violence and terrorist recruitment. The findings of this research were presented and validated by Ethiopian government (federal and regional state) officials and non-government interlocutors (religious leaders) in November.

The government’s continued restrictions on funding to civil society and non-governmental organizations under the Charities and Societies Proclamation limited the activity of non-governmental organizations, including CVE programming targeting at-risk youth and engaging communities and credible leaders.

International and Regional Cooperation: There have been no significant changes since the 2016 report. The ENDF continued its participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia, which includes military forces from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, and Uganda. Ethiopia joined the UN Security Council (UNSC) as an elected member in January 2017 and served as a vice chair of the UNSC 1373 Committee on Counterterrorism. In December, Ethiopia co-sponsored UNSC Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.