Armed clashes in Ethiopia’s Amhara region this week left several people dead, including two Catholic Relief Services aid workers. Gun battles and mass protests broke out in a number of Amhara towns over the government’s decision to absorb regional special forces into the police or national army. Some units of the security forces in Amhara—Ethiopia’s second largest region—refused to disarm and resisted the federal military. Businesses closed and aid workers suspended operations.
Amhara’s security forces and allied militia played a key role in the government’s two-year war in northern Tigray. A peace deal signed in November 2022 was heavily criticized in Amhara, as relations soured with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, with some believing Tigrayan forces had not fully disarmed. The two neighboring regions have long been rivals. Ethiopia’s constitution allows federal member states to provide for their own security. But some regional forces in an ethnically splintered Ethiopia resemble small armies. Abiy said that dismantling them is necessary for the sake of national unity, and vowed that integration would be carried out by force if necessary.
From The New Humanitarian, April 14