Escalating tensions ignite state of emergency in Ethiopia

Addis-Ababa (Caasimada Online) – Ethiopia‘s federal government declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to rising tensions and increasing violent clashes between the national army and local fighters in the Amhara region.

The statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office indicated that the move was necessary as it had become challenging to manage the “unacceptable movement” under current law.

However, the extent of this state of emergency, whether nationwide or confined to the embattled northern region of Amhara, remained unclear in the statement.

The road to unrest

The roots of this conflict trace back to April when the Ethiopian federal government declared it was disbanding regional forces, including those in Amhara.

The populous region’s nationalists perceived this move as a weakening tactic against them.

Subsequently, local authorities in Amhara sought federal government intervention, stating that the security situation was becoming “difficult to control,” leading to widespread social and economic disruption.

“Most recently, Lalibela Airport has been taken over by Fano militias,” revealed a report from the UK’s Foreign Office, warning against travel to certain parts of Amhara due to increased violence.

A resident from Lalibela, choosing to remain anonymous, confirmed this situation to AFP, indicating continued clashes around the town’s outskirts.

The escalating tension has significantly impacted travel and tourism in the area. Foreign governments have issued travel warnings, and Ethiopian Airlines, the national carrier, has canceled flights.

Following suit, the Spanish Embassy in Addis Ababa advised its nationals against traveling to the unstable region.

The unrest has also drawn the concern of high-ranking officials, such as Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

Expressing his worries over the security problems in various areas of the Amhara region, he said on Facebook, “We are at a historical time where we should be mindful of the fact ‘If you don’t have peace, you will lose everything.'”

The ongoing conflict

Tensions between Amhara’s regional forces and the national army have surged, particularly after a peace deal was established in November 2022 to end a two-year war against rebels from the neighboring Tigray region.

The Amhara “special forces” and Fano militia group still control Western Tigray, a fertile land claimed by both Tigray and Amhara.

Furthermore, Ethiopian army spokesman Getnet Adane stated in a press conference that the recent violence was primarily due to fighters claiming affiliation with the Fano group.

This ongoing unrest and the subsequent state of emergency underscore the complexity of Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic landscape and the pressing need for sustainable solutions to the tensions escalating therein.