VoxCroft's Predictive and Real-Time Insights Provide Support as Ethiopia Crisis Worsens
November 5, 2021 · 3 min read
VoxCroft Analytics has been tracking political and security developments in Ethiopia since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, providing customers with real-time information on emerging trends in the East African country. These insights continue to assist our customers to position themselves to respond to the increased security threat.
Prime Minister's Popularity Steadily Declining
Abiy's appointment in 2018 signified the end of the Tigray People's Liberation Front's (TPLF) decades-long authoritarian rule. Abiy engaged in political reform and spearheaded reconciliation with neighboring Eritrea, earning him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize and a positive global public image. From early in his tenure, however, VoxCroft observed negative public sentiment that ran counter to this narrative and suggested a growingly tense sociopolitical environment in Ethiopia.
Abiy's push for centralized power under a new, pan-Ethiopian political party — that excluded the TPLF — sparked renewed tensions with the Tigrayan leaders. These tensions were exacerbated in September 2020, when the Tigrayans conducted regional parliamentary elections in direct defiance of federal government orders to delay the vote due to COVID-19.
VoxCroft Analysts Predicted Escalation of Military Tensions
On November 4, 2020, Abiy accused the TPLF of attacking a federal army base outside of the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and ordered a military offensive against the group. Three weeks later, government forces captured Mekelle, installing an interim administration and declaring the operation a success.
In this era of public assurances of stability, VoxCroft's expert analysts predicted an increased risk of more acute ethnic and communal violence in the subsequent weeks and months, based largely on data-driven public sentiment analysis of online discourse among the Ethiopian diaspora. From March 1 to May 23, VoxCroft data demonstrated that online conversations were "heavily imbued with ethnic undertones and identity politics" and the overall net sentiment was "exceptionally critical" of Abiy's administration.
In June, the TPLF forces retook Mekelle. Since then, the fighting extended beyond Tigray into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, with the TPLF's rapid southward advance supported by the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group. Over the past week, the TPLF has claimed the capture of Dessie, Burka, and Kombolcha in the Amhara region, pushing the frontlines further south as the TPLF threatens to march on Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian government responded on November 2, declaring a six-month state of emergency, and encouraging citizens to mobilize against the TPLF. The following day, Abiy gave a speech at Addis Ababa's military headquarters, stating "we will bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make the glory of Ethiopia high again" .
Proprietary Tool Helps Humanitarian Organizations Plan Activities in Conflict Zones
Humanitarian and other organizations operating in Ethiopia rely on VoxCroft Analytics for timely, accurate, and relevant insights into the conflict, receiving real-time alerts sourced from open media platforms, and weekly reports on important regional and national trends. These services provide VoxCroft's clients with advance warning of Ethiopia's rapidly deteriorating political and security situation.
One of VoxCroft's proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) powered tools — the Arrow intelligence platform — identified several key trends leading up to the events of the past week, including a clear upward trend in the average AI-determined score of Ethiopian political and security open-source media items, as shown in the graph below. Arrow tracks social media and reporting on the security situation in Ethiopia, with each piece of chatter or reporting scored for the level of threat it describes. For example, a robbery scores lower than claims of troop movements. An increase in the average score of social media and reporting on security in Ethiopia points to a deteriorating safety and security situation in the country.
As the crisis continues to unfold, VoxCroft's unique approach to open-source intelligence (OSINT) — combining expert analysts with proprietary AI-driven technology and massive amounts of data — is a crucial tool to better assess the evolving threat to safety and operations of humanitarian organizations, NGOs, and other foreign operators in the country.
VoxCroft Analytics' real-time event and trend detection services can confidently identify real-time triggers that warrant the evacuation of aid workers and other expatriate personnel in Ethiopia and provides customers with the means to identify, assess, and mitigate operational risk based on millions of data points.
List of sources:
- Reuters. November 2021. Ethiopian leader, marking year of war, says he will bury foes 'with our blood'