Abstract Spectral analysis of 196 short-period and long-period vertical- and horizontal-component seismograms from ten earthquakes on the central and western margin of Afar is performed to determine source parameters and discuss their tectonic implications. For the earthquakes in the regions under study, the stress drop varies from 2 to 31 bar while the seismic moment varies from 2 × 10 24 to 154 × 10 24 dyn cm. In general, low stress-drop values are obtained indicating the presence of softer material (especially for central Afar) at a shallower depth. It is observed that there is an increase in stress drop with the increase in moment-magnitude which in turn is obtained from the calculated average seismic moment. Energy estimates show that the mode of energy release is different in the two regions indicating that different tectonic processes are involved in the two regions. The slip rate obtained for the Serdo area is of the order of 1.6 cm/yr and is in close agreement with the spreading rate already obtained for central Afar. Spreading rates obtained earlier and that of the present study show a low spreading rate for Afar and neighbouring regions as compared to those of the other regions of the world.