Symposium: Crisis in Tigray: A Critical Dialogue

Friday, November 12, 2021   |   9am ET - 5pm ET   |   Virtual Symposium

This symposium takes a close look at some of the impacts and the status of the Tigray War on Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa. 

This event is open ONLY to the Howard University community. Howard students, faculty, and staff should register using their official Howard-issued email addresses: or

Registration closes at 5:00pm Eastern Time on Thursday, November 11, 2021.

Recording Notice

This event will be recorded and ​may be added to YouTube at a later time. By participating in this event, you consent to video recording and its/their release, publication, exhibition, or reproduction for all purposes by Howard University's Center for African Studies (CfAS), Howard University, and its affiliates and representatives. You release CfAS and Howard University, its officers and employees, and each and all persons involved from any liability connected with the taking, recording, digitizing, or publication of video, images and audio recordings. By participating, you waive all rights you may have to any claims for payment or royalties. You also waive any right to inspect or approve any video, image or audio recording.

All attendees, panelists, and moderators are prohibited from recording this event on their devices; doing so would be a violation of copyright laws and subject to disciplinary measures as described in the Howard University Student Code of Conduct.


Since November 2020, ongoing conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia has led to a humanitarian crisis of profound consequences.  Not only has it directly touched the Howard University community, Ethiopians, people throughout the Horn, and Ethiopian-Americans, but it has also impacted many others around the world.  

This symposium takes a close look at some of the impacts and the status of the Tigray War on Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa. From an interdisciplinary perspective, we will discuss two main themes.  The first will measure the loss in the Tigray region, other areas of Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa.  What are the effects of the war on the environment and other natural resources?  How is it impacting cultural, archaeological, and heritage resources?  What are the consequences of the conflict for people, including refugees and women, and how are people of different ethnic backgrounds, classes, identities, and other members of civil society affected by the war?  We will look at the damage through different perspectives and try to measure the toll of the war.  

The second general theme explores the political trends, policies, and potential solutions to the Tigray War.  We will try to identify the causal factors of this conflict at local, regional, national, and international levels.  We will also discuss the strategies needed to encourage diplomatic solutions.  Why are people fighting in the region and what is needed to end the war?  What is the status of the conflict today and why has it expanded to other regions in the Horn?  What are the global responses, policies, and strategies being employed to push for peaceful negotiations?  Will sanctions work?  We will discuss whether different forms of international pressure or intervention will be successful in quickly seeing an end to conflict in the region.  In addition, we will frame the discussions to highlight the specific lessons learned, determinants, and consequences of this conflict.

This virtual event is intended to raise awareness and educate the Howard community as well as a broader audience about the conflict in the Horn of Africa.  We strive to present a diplomatic, yet in-depth and holistic understanding of the Tigray War, and, as an HBCU dedicated to the welfare and prosperity of the Black world, we encourage a peaceful and swift end to the conflict.

Format of the Symposium

This symposium will be a virtual event delivered through a Zoom webinar platform.  It will include a series of roundtable, panel discussions that include four to five panelists.  For 10 to 15 minutes each, participants will address a few questions that they received prior to the event.  Following initial statements, a discussion between the panelists will be facilitated by two moderators.  

Audience members will be required to register for the event.  During the discussions, audience members can submit questions through the Q&A function.

Organizing Committee Members

Dr. Flordeliz T. Bugarin, Associate Professor, Department of African Studies, Chair of the Organizing Committee

Mr. Jean Claude Abeck, Doctoral Graduate Student, Department of African Studies
Dr. Jarpa Dawuni, Director, Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership
Dr. Cyril Kenrick Hunte, Professor, Department of Economics
Dr. Marie-Claude Jipguep, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Dr. Eleanor King, Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Dr. Esther Lisanza, Assistant Professor, Department of African Studies
Dr. Jeanne Maddox Toungara, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, and former Assistant Provost for International Programs

Symposium Sponsors

Department of African Studies
Department of Sociology and Criminology
Department of Economics
Department of History

Center for African Studies
Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership
Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center

African Students’ Association
African Studies Graduate Students Association
Ethiopian Eritrean Student Association
Organization of Graduate Sociologists

Special Acknowledgements and Thank You's


Provost Anthony Wutoh

Dr. Jeanne Maddox Toungara, Professor Emerita, Department of History, and 
former Assistant Provost for International Programs

Dr. Mohamed Camara, Chair of the Department of African Studies


Ms. Ania Ueno, Media Specialist, Center for African Studies

Student Moderators:

Mr. Jean Claude Abeck, Ph.D. Student, Department of African Studies
Ms. Zirra Banu, Ph.D. Student, Department of African Studies
Ms. Dana McCalla, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Ms. Tess Starman, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology and Criminology

Participant Bios

Alula Tesfay Asfha is a researcher in cultural heritage, architecture, and urbanism. He actively follows the urban dynamics and cultural heritage damage in the Tigray war and plans for post-conflict recovery. He earned BSc. in Architecture and Urban Planning (2010) and MSc. in Urban Planning and development (2015) from Mekelle University. He received his Ph.D. in World Cultural Heritage Studies (2021) from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. He currently works at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and Mekelle University, Ethiopia.
Bantayehu Shiferaw Chanie is African Presidential Scholar at the African Studies Center, University of Michigan and PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia. His research focuses on peace, security, and development. He also looks at human rights, ethnicity, democratization, state formation, and foreign policy and international relations.
DeLargy, Pamela
DeLargy, Pamela is Professor of Practice, School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University where she also oversees ASU’s refugee education programs. She is a public health and migration specialist who has worked for three decades in global humanitarian response, with special attention to the needs of women and adolescents in emergency situations, HIV and conflict, and sexual violence in war. She has lived and worked for many years in Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia and is a specialist on the Horn of Africa, where she has done research on refugee policies, famine, conflict, and health.
Emnet Negash Gebremeskel is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Climate and Society at Mekelle University in Ethiopia, where he has worked since 2017. Since 2020, he has also been a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography at Ghent University in Belgium. His main research interests include climate, hydrology, and the epicenter of farming systems. His research focuses on modeling topoclimate in the tropical mountains, including a case in Ethiopia that involves studying the effects on rainfall distribution, vegetation, and hydrology. Emnet has also served in the Tigray Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development between 2012 and 2017. Currently, he is actively engaged in monitoring the humanitarian catastrophes in Tigray and co-authoring several publications including “Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation”.
Gebissa, Ezekiel
Ezekiel Gebissa is Professor of History at Kettering University. He has a Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University. He is the author of several books, peer-reviewed articles, reports, and book chapters on Ethiopia’s cash crop agriculture, religious experiences, and indigenous knowledge systems. He is recognized as a leading public intellectual and commentator on Ethiopian politics. His political commentaries regularly appear in national and international magazines.
Feven Girmay is Assistant Director of Graduate Programs in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a higher education researcher. Her research focuses on academic affairs and student development. She is also a representative from Omna Tigray, a global nonprofit organization focused on education advocacy on the war in Tigray and its impact on the Tigrayan people.
Ficquet, Eloi
Ficquet, Éloi is Assistant Professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris, France. He is an anthropologist and historian, working on religion, ethnicity, and power in modern and contemporary societies of Ethiopia. He was the director of the French Center for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE) in Addis Ababa (2009-2012) and the chairman of the 18th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (Dire Dawa, 2012). He is the chief-editor of the international quarterly journal Cahiers d'études africaines. Among recent works, he co-edited with Wolbert Smidt, The Life and Times of Lïj Iyasu of Ethiopia (LIT, 2014), and with Gérard Prunier, Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia (Hurst, 2015). He has also been the co-leader of the French-German research project "Ethiomap" for the study of historical maps of Ethiopia (see Since 2016, he has been involved as scientific expert in the Ethio-French cooperation program for the restoration and public opening of the National Palace (former Jubilee Palace) in Addis Ababa.
Gervers, Michael is Professor in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. He focuses on medieval history, art history and archaeology, and textile history and ethnography. He has established an online database of over 65,000 photographs of Ethiopian art and culture (Mazgaba Seelat) and teaches a course on the cultural history of Ethiopia. He has carried out field work in Ethiopia over the past 40 years, specializing in the country’s medieval architecture, manuscripts, and historical textiles, and has published widely in these fields. He is currently co-editing a comprehensive study of the Zagwe church of Yemrehanna Krestos, near Lalibäla. His greatest concern at the moment is the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Tigray region.
Abrha Abay, Hagos
Hagos Abrha Abay is a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures at the University of Hamburg in Germany, where he works on his project, “Non-codex Manuscripts of Tigray: Archiving and Usage.” He has been teaching linguistics and related courses in Mekelle University in Ethiopia for more than 10 years. He received his PhD in Gǝʿǝz Philology (focusing on a critical edition of hagiographic manuscript tradition) from Addis Ababa University in 2014. In 2017, he was appointed the Deputy Executive Chief Officer of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization by the Ethiopian Prime Minister. Six months later, he returned to Mekelle University to pursue his academic interests. He also coordinated projects involving the digitization of manuscripts in some of the Tigray monasteries. He founded St. Yared Center for Ethiopian Philology and Manuscript Studies (SYCEPMS) in Mekelle University and was Director of the center until 2019.
Haile Rufael, Adiam is currently pursuing her Master’s in social justice and human rights at Arizona State University. She is an Eritrean feminist who co-founded Women for Change in Eritrea. She graduated with a degree in political science from the University of California, Riverside and is a human rights activist, grassroots organizer, and advocate with a regional focus on the Greater Horn of Africa. She has devoted over ten years to empowering, educating, and engaging communities on human rights issues plaguing the Horn of Africa and raising awareness of the plight of African refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.
Harrower, Michael is Associate Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is an archaeologist whose research concentrates on long-term histories of civilizations in Africa and Arabia. His research has concentrated on the spatial, political, and ideological dynamics of water, and most recently focuses on ancient trade. His research in Oman and Ethiopia included a study of long-term water histories using archaeological surveys and satellite imagery analysis. In Ethiopia, his investigations have concentrated on pre- through late-Aksumite (1,000 BC to 700 AD) settlement patterns, and excavations of the newly discovered ancient town of Beta Samati.
Hunte, Cyril Kenrick
Hunte, Cyril Kenrick is Professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University. His work focuses on economic development, rural financial markets, and Diaspora engagements, in addition to microenterprise investments in manufacturing, agribusiness, mining, forestry, and fishing. From August 2016 to December 2020 (on leave from Howard), Professor Hunte was the Ambassador/High Commissioner from the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to the Republic of South Africa, with concurrent accreditations as non-resident High Commissioner to the Republic of Namibia, Zambia, The Gambia, and Ambassador to Zimbabwe; and with confirmed appointments as High Commissioner to the Republic of Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Iyob, Ruth is Professor in the Department of Political Science and Research Fellow in the Center for International Studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She specializes in the study of nationalism, conflict resolution, postcolonial citizenship and remittance economies of the regions straddling the African Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa. She conducts research on governance, democratization, gendered citizenship, and the international relations of the states of the Horn of Africa. She is engaged in developing more nuanced understanding of identity politics and Africa-centered policy issues.
Keller, Edmond J. is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science, and former Director of the UCLA Globalization Research Center-Africa and of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at the University of California-Los Angeles. Keller specializes in comparative politics with an emphasis on Africa and has been involved in research in Africa for almost forty years. He has been a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the Africa Institute in Pretoria, South Africa. Also, he has consulted widely on issues relating to African Development and public policy, and, more recently, on the process of political transitions in Africa, and on African regional security issues. His books include Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People’s Republic (1988), and Identity, Citizenship and Political Conflict in Africa (2014).
Nyssen, Jan is Professor of Physical Geography in the Department of Geography at Ghent University, Belgium. He has investigated the role of human and natural processes in land degradation in the Ethiopian highlands. His research focuses on the changes in the humans-environment system with a look at slope processes, hydrogeomorphology, land degradation, and soil conservation. Further, he has studied how the high density of soil and water conservation structures led to land resilience in the Ethiopian highlands. He has observed farming patterns, the amount of food available to rural households, and the overall living standards in Tigray.
Redeker-Hepner, Tricia is Associate Professor of Anthropology, in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, at Arizona State University. She is a political and legal anthropologist who has conducted research in the Horn of Africa and with refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea and Ethiopia. She focuses on migration and displacement, transnationalism, human rights, transitional justice, militarism, and conflict and peace.
Smidt, Wolbert G.C. is a senior researcher in ethnohistory at the Seminar of Middle Eastern Studies of Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, and Professor in Ethnohistory (adjunct) at the Department of Anthropology of Mekelle University (MU), member of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), board member of the Society for the Promotion of Museums in Ethiopia (SPME) and cooperates with the Ministry of Culture and Sports; he has carried out field research on cultures of conflict management and resolution, historical traditions, and the ethnohistory of self-organization of societies in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Oromiyaa and SNNP.
Sulas, Federica is Senior Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. She is an archaeologist with expertise in geoarchaeology and landscape historical ecology, researching resource practices, water management and urban landscapes in sub-Saharan Africa.


9:00 am – 9:15 am EST Opening Remarks
9:15 am – 9:20 am EST Provost Anthony Wutoh
9:20 am – 9:30 am EST Dr. Jeanne Maddox Toungara
9:30 am – 11:00 am EST

Panel I: Farming, Ecology, Heritage and People

  • Alula Tesfay Asfha
  • Emnet Negash Gebremeskel
  • Ficquet, Éloi  
  • Nyssen, Jan

Moderators: Tess Starman, Cyril Kenrick Hunte, Flordeliz T. Bugarin 

11:00 am – 12:30 pm EST

Panel II: Archaeology, Cultural Sites, and Material Culture

  • Gervers, Michael
  • Hagos Abrha Abay         
  • Harrower, Michael
  • Smidt, Wolbert
  • Sulas, Federica

Moderators: Dana McCalla, Eleanor King, Flordeliz T. Bugarin

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm EST Lunch Break
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm EST

Panel III: Women and Refugees

  • DeLargy, Pamela
  • Feven Girmay    
  • Haile Rufael, Adiam
  • Redeker-Hepner, Tricia

Moderators: Zirra Banu, Marie-Claude Jipguep, Esther Lisanza

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST

Panel IV: Politics, Economics, and Conflict Resolution

  • Bantayehu Shiferaw Chanie
  • Ezekiel Gebissa 
  • Hunte, Cyril Kenrick
  • Iyob, Ruth
  • Keller, Edmond

Moderators: Jean Claude Abeck, Jarpa Dawuni, Jeanne Maddox Toungara

4:30 pm – 4:40 pm EST Dr. Mohamed Camara
4:40 pm – 5:00 pm EST Closing Remarks


The US Response to the Crisis in Ethiopia

November 8, 2021

Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations
at a UN Security Council Briefing on Ethiopia and the Situation in Tigray New York, New York

The United States Government's response to the conflict in Ethiopia was addressed in a hearing before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on June 29, 2021, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC and virtually via Cisco WebEx.

You may view the hearing here:

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks who was elected in 1998 to represent the 5th District of the State of New York is Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is the first black Member of Congress to be appointed to this position.  Congressman Meeks is a graduate of the Howard University Law School.  His opening and closing remarks show great concern for the humanitarian needs of people suffering under the strain of war. (

Witnesses testifying before the Committee included:

The Honorable Robert F. Godec
Acting Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of African Affairs
U.S. Department of State



Ms. Sarah Charles
Assistant to the Administrator
United States Agency for International Development


UPDATE: Press release for Ms. Charles’ visit to Ethiopia October 20-23, 2021

USAID Mission in Ethiopia