A state of emergency has been declared in the Amhara region of Ethiopia by the Ethiopia’s council of ministers, after the region’s leader said he was no longer able to contain a surge in violence between a local ethnic militia and the army.
The office of the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, announced the emergency on Friday, saying that attacks by “armed extremist groups” posed an increasing threat to public security and were causing significant economic damage.
Violence flared across Amhara over a disputed plan to absorb regional security forces into the national army, as last year the authorities had tried to stamp out the Amhara militia, called the Fano.
Report says the Fano and the regional security forces played leading roles in the two-year-long civil war with the neighbouring Tigray region and are popular among the Amhara, but are seen by the government as a threat to the constitutional order.
This week protesters put up roadblocks while Fano militiamen clashed with military units and took control of some towns, paralysing Ethiopia’s second-most populous region and resulting in an unknown number of casualties.
Flights have been cancelled to Gondar and Lalibela, two tourist hotspots, as the UK and the US issued travel warnings advising their nationals in Amhara to shelter in place and not to travel there.
Government officials have fled and internet cut off in several Amhara towns, while live ammunition has been used to disperse protesters and artillery deployed in civilian areas in the town of Kobo.
On Thursday, the Amhara regional president sent a letter to the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, saying the unrest is “causing serious economic, social and humanitarian damage” and asking for help.
The letter followed an earlier appeal by the Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, who on Wednesday said “it is crucial for us to seek a peaceful resolution for dialogue”. His remarks were a rare example of a senior official directly addressing the unrest amid silence from state media outlets and government social media accounts.
Ethiopia last declared a state of emergency in November 2021, at the height of the Tigray conflict.
The conflict ended with a ceasefire signed in November 2022, but instability has flared in other places including, Ethiopia’s biggest and most populous region, Oromia, where another band of insurgents has been fighting the government since 2018.
Source: The Guardian
Photo Credit: Arab News