Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers has declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region due to escalating clashes between regional forces and the military. The decision was made in response to urgent pleas from authorities, as the violence has surpassed the capacity of regular law enforcement to control it. However, the declaration still requires approval from Parliament.
The Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second most populous, has been experiencing instability since April, triggered by the federal government’s move to disarm Amhara’s security forces after the conclusion of a devastating two-year war in the neighboring Tigray region. In addition to this, authorities had attempted to dismantle the informal Amhara militia, known as Fano, in the previous year.
In recent days, reports have emerged of intensified fighting throughout the Amhara region, with militia members launching attacks on army units and protesters obstructing roadways. The situation has also impacted travel, with flights to two prominent tourist destinations, Lalibela and Gondar, being suspended. Moreover, internet access in the region has been affected.
A state of emergency declaration is likely to lead to restrictions on movement and an increase in the authorities’ powers of detention. This measure is taken to restore order and address the security challenges currently faced by the Amhara region.
How It All Started
During the two-year civil war against the Tigray region that concluded in November, the Amhara militia served as an ally of the Ethiopian army. However, the relationship between them has deteriorated, leading to clashes in the Amhara region.
Residents reported that on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ethiopia’s military engaged in conflict with fighters from the Fano militia in the Amhara region. The skirmishes, part of a simmering feud, resulted in more than a dozen injuries, as stated by a doctor.
Fano, characterized by its part-time nature and lack of a formal command structure, had previously supported federal troops during the Tigray war. The current tensions stem from some in the region feeling that the national government has not adequately addressed Amhara’s security concerns.
The clashes near Debre Tabor led to several injuries, with the fighting continuing on the outskirts of town. The situation prompted the closure of the road into Debre Tabor. Additional fighting occurred outside the town of Kobo earlier, but the situation was reported to be calmer on Wednesday.
The feud escalated when the military launched an operation to remove Fano fighters from Kobo and other areas, resulting in the Fano militiamen seizing the holy town of Lalibela, home to a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Spanish embassy in Ethiopia issued a warning for Spaniards in Lalibela to remain in their hotels or residences due to the volatile situation.
The ENDF spokesperson, Colonel Getnet Adane, announced that the military would take action against Fano for disturbing the country’s peace, citing incidents where Fano fighters opened fire on ENDF soldiers.
Fano had previously participated in violent protests across Amhara in April after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s order to integrate security forces from all 11 regions into the police or national army. Protesters believed this was an attempt to weaken the Amhara region, a claim denied by the federal government.