June 23, 2024

Ethiopia accuses Amhara militia of attempting government overthrow amid ongoing clashes

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A senior Ethiopian official has accused militiamen in the Amhara region of plotting to overthrow both the regional and federal governments. The accusation comes after days of intense fighting, prompting the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The clashes between Fano militiamen and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) have continued over the weekend, with residents in Gondar, Amhara’s second-largest city, reporting heavy weapons fire that lasted until Monday morning.

This conflict marks Ethiopia’s most serious security crisis since the two-year civil war in the neighboring Tigray region concluded in November. Temesgen Tiruneh, director-general of Ethiopia’s national intelligence service, who has been assigned to oversee the state of emergency enforcement, acknowledged that militia fighters had seized control of some towns and districts.

Temesgen stated, “This robbery force is operating with the goal and intention of overthrowing the regional government by force and then advancing to the federal system.” His comments were broadcasted by state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting.

The declaration of a state of emergency grants the security services significant powers, including the ability to impose curfews, restrict movement, ban the carrying of firearms and sharp objects, prohibit public gatherings, and conduct arrests and searches without warrants.

Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu confirmed that arrests of individuals linked to the unrest had already begun. Fano, initially an ally of ENDF during the Tigray War, is a part-time militia drawing volunteers from the local population. However, their relationship soured, partly due to federal authorities’ recent attempts to weaken regional paramilitary groups. Activists argue that this has left Amhara vulnerable to attacks from neighboring regions.

Tensions escalated in April with violent protests erupting across Amhara after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the disbandment of security forces from Ethiopia’s 11 regions and their integration into the police or national army. Protesters accused the government of undermining Amhara’s security, a claim the government refuted, stating that the move aimed to ensure national unity.

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