Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region, the country’s second-largest region, following several days of clashes between the military and local Fano militiamen, Reuters reports.
This conflict has quickly escalated and is now the most serious security crisis Ethiopia has faced since the end of a two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region. The regional government of Amhara sought additional assistance from federal authorities to restore order, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency.
In a statement issued by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office, it was stated that the declaration of a state of emergency was necessary because the regular legal system was unable to control the escalating violence. This declaration gives the government the authority to ban public gatherings, carry out arrests without warrants, and impose curfews. These measures are aimed at restoring peace and stability to the region.
The Fano militia, which consists of part-time volunteers from the local population, had previously been an important ally of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) during the conflict in Tigray. However, the relationship between the two factions has deteriorated, partly due to the federal government’s attempts to weaken regional paramilitary groups. Some activists argue that this has left the Amhara region vulnerable to attacks from neighboring regions.
Reports from residents of Gondar, the second-largest city in Amhara, indicate intense fighting near the university. According to witnesses, the ENDF initially gained control of the university but was eventually pushed back by the Fano militia. The Fano fighters were able to prevent the ENDF from advancing further into the city center.
The declaration of a state of emergency is a significant step taken by the Ethiopian government to address the escalating violence in the Amhara region. The ban on public gatherings, the ability to make arrests without warrants, and the imposition of curfews are measures aimed at restoring stability and preventing further loss of life. However, it is crucial for the government to strike a balance between restoring security and respecting the rights of citizens.
The situation in the Amhara region highlights the complexities of Ethiopia’s internal conflicts and the challenges faced by the government in maintaining peace and stability. Efforts must be made to address the underlying causes of these conflicts and find long-term solutions. Building trust and promoting dialogue between different factions and regions is essential to prevent further escalations in violence.
According to a local official, the military has withdrawn from the university without providing a reason. Meanwhile, a member of Fano, speaking anonymously, claimed that militiamen were attempting to surround Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara. The source also mentioned that they had taken control of Merawi, a town located 30 km south of Bahir Dar. However, Reuters was unable to verify these assertions independently as an ENDF spokesperson did not respond for comment.
In response to the escalating situation in Amhara, both the United States and Canada have advised their citizens in the region to stay indoors. Furthermore, residents reported that mobile internet services remained unavailable, and Ethiopian Airlines had canceled flights to three out of its four airports in Amhara.
This recent unrest can be traced back to April when violent protests erupted across Amhara following Prime Minister Abiy’s decision to integrate security forces from all 11 regions into the police or national army. Protesters claimed this move was aimed at weakening Amhara while the government maintained its objective was ensuring national unity.
Since assuming office in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sought to consolidate power in Ethiopia’s decentralized system with 11 autonomous regions. The conflict in Tigray emerged from tensions between regional and federal authorities as well as longstanding grievances between ethnic groups. Countless lives have been lost and millions displaced before a ceasefire agreement was reached.