The northwestern Amhara region of Ethiopia has become the epicenter of intensifying conflict between the country’s military and a local ethnic militia known as Fano. The recent escalation of clashes has prompted the Ethiopian government to declare a state of emergency and block internet access. This situation has also led to Israel evacuating over 200 Ethiopian Jews and Israeli citizens from the region.
The root cause of the clashes can be traced back to tensions that have been building for months. These tensions revolve around Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s proposal to dissolve special regional forces and integrate them into the national army. This move has raised concerns among Amhara nationalists who fear that it could compromise security in their region.
Initially, Fano, the ethnic militia, had aligned with Prime Minister Abiy in his efforts to suppress rebel forces in the neighboring Tigray region. However, the situation has now reversed, with Fano battling the military to safeguard Amhara’s regional forces.
The resurgence of conflict, less than a year after the end of the Tigray war, poses a significant threat to Ethiopia’s stability. Additionally, it exacerbates the region’s challenges, considering the ongoing war in Sudan, which has driven refugees into Ethiopia.
Experts suggest that this recent outbreak of violence undermines Prime Minister Abiy’s attempts to centralize power within the federal government and curtail the influence of ethnicity-based political groups in the nation.
Although federal authorities have reported regaining control over cities and towns that were lost, concerns linger that Fano militants might launch further offensives from rural strongholds with significant support.
The ongoing clashes have disrupted daily life across the Amhara region. Businesses remain closed, and families are struggling to find food, even during the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s holy fasting days.
The international community, including the United States and several other nations, has expressed concern about the violence and urged parties to seek peaceful resolutions.
The conflict’s origins trace back to April when the government announced its plan to dissolve regional forces. This decision met resistance in the Amhara region, where locals protested, alleging that Prime Minister Abiy’s move could expand his control in the region and expose them to further threats.
Amharas, the country’s second-largest ethnic group, also voiced concerns about being excluded from peace negotiations in Tigray. They argued that the negotiated agreement failed to address the disputed lands their fighters had seized during the conflict.
Human rights organizations have accused both the Amhara regional forces and the Fano militia of committing abuses during the Tigray war.
To address the crisis, experts recommend that the Ethiopian government engage in dialogue with the concerned parties. The outcome of the ongoing conflict has the potential to impact regional stability and security. Ethiopia’s role as a key state in the region could have far-reaching consequences for neighboring countries if the situation escalates further.
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