The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that political rallies or demonstrations may occur without significant notice throughout Ethiopia, particularly in the lead up to Ethiopian national elections in May 2015. Such rallies and demonstrations may be organized by any party or group and can occur in any open space throughout the country. In Addis Ababa, applications for permits to conduct rallies are often requested for Meskel Square or Bel Air Field. Please remember that even public rallies or demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should, therefore, stay alert and avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens of the on-going threat of terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. U.S. citizens are reminded and encouraged to maintain heightened personal security awareness. Be especially vigilant in areas that are potential targets for attacks, particularly areas where U.S. and western citizens congregate, including restaurants, hotels, bars, places of worship, supermarkets, and shopping malls. Al-Shabaab may have plans for a potential attack targeting Westerners and the Ethiopian government, particularly in Jijiga and Dolo Odo in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, and Addis Ababa. Attacks may occur without warning.
Due to serious safety and security concerns, U.S. government personnel and their families are presently restricted from traveling to the following areas except as permitted on a case-by-case basis:
Ethiopian/Kenyan Border (Southern Ethiopia): In southern Ethiopia along the Kenyan border, banditry and incidents involving ethnic conflicts are common. Security around the town of Moyale is unpredictable, and clashes between Ethiopian forces and the Oromia Liberation Front (OLF) have been reported.
Ethiopia/Eritrea Border (Northern Ethiopia): Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement in December 2000 that ended their border war. However, the border remains disputed. The border area is a militarized zone where there is the possibility of armed conflict between Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. U.S. government personnel are restricted from travel north of the Shire (Inda Silassie)-Axum-Adigrat road in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Personnel are further restricted from travel north of the road from Dessie through Semera to the Galafi border crossing with Djibouti, including the Danakil Depression and the Erta Ale volcano. In January 2012, a group of foreign tourists were attacked near the Erta Ale volcano in the Afar region near the Eritrean border, approximately 100 miles southeast of Adigrat in the Danakil Depression. The attack resulted in five deaths, three wounded, and four people kidnapped. The victims were European and Ethiopian citizens. The two Europeans who were kidnapped were subsequently released. On February 15, 2012, Ethiopia, which blamed Eritrea for the attack, retaliated by striking military camps in Eritrea where the attackers were allegedly trained. This episode illustrates the continuing volatility of the border area.
Somali Region (Eastern Ethiopia): Travel to Ethiopia's Somali regional state is restricted for U.S. government employees, although essential travel to the region is permitted on a case-by-case basis. Since the mid-1990's, members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have conducted attacks on civilian targets in parts of the Somali regional state, particularly in predominantly Ogadeni zones. Expatriates have been killed in these attacks. In 2010, the Government of Ethiopia initiated peace talks with the ONLF, which are ongoing. Despite these talks, incidents of violence continue to occur. Throughout 2013, skirmishes between the ONLF and regional government security forces took place. Some of these incidents involved local civilians. Al-Shabaab maintains a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting a risk of cross-border attacks targeting foreigners.
Gambella Region (Western Ethiopia): Sporadic inter-ethnic clashes are a concern throughout the Gambella region of western Ethiopia. While the security situation in the town of Gambella is generally calm, it remains unpredictable throughout the rest of the region. Intensified conflict between Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) has significantly increased refugee flows into Western Ethiopia. Travel to the border areas in the Beneshangul-Gumuz Region (Asosa) is restricted to major towns north of the area where the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is being constructed due to political sensitivity.