The Amhara region pointing fingers at TPLF for arming militias that have attacked villages in North Gondar.
The Amhara region Police Commissioner- TPLF arming militias
Attacks kill 22 in Ethiopia’s Amhara region – party official
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Clashes between regional special forces and a minority ethnic group have killed at least 20 people in the past five days in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara, a local political official said on Thursday.
The clashes are another headache for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose political and economic reforms in what was once one of Africa’s most repressive nations have also emboldened powerful strongmen building ethnic powerbases.
The Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second-most populous province, has been a flashpoint for tensions following violence that killed dozens of people, including the region’s president, in June. The federal government described that violence as a coup led by a rogue state militia leader.
The latest clashes erupted last Friday, when armed men killed 10 people when they ambushed a minibus travelling to the city of Gondar in northern Amhara, Desalegn Chane, president of the new National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) party, told Reuters by phone.
The next day, 12 soldiers were killed when two convoys transporting the Amhara region special forces were also attacked, he said.
Chane linked the violence to the Kimant Committee, a group of locally elected leaders campaigning for self-determination for the Kimant people, an ethnic sub-group in The Amhara region.
“On Friday a minibus travelling from Metema to Gondar was ambushed by the Kimant Committee. Everyone was killed, we are talking about 10 civilian casualties,” he said. He did not provide any evidence linking the committee to the attacks.
Fekadu Mamo, the chairman of the committee, disputed the accusations, saying individual members of the community were fighting back in self-defence after being targeted by the militias.
A resident of Gondar, who asked not to be identified to prevent reprisals, said he had seen the bodies of 17 militia members and that hotels believed to belong to the Kimant Committee had been destroyed.
The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa issued a security alert on Thursday, saying it had received reports of gunfire, roadblocks and destruction of property in the city of Gondar and the wider Amhara region.
“U.S. government personnel have deferred all travel to the region due to the unrest and violence,” it said in a statement.
Ethnic violence has spiked since Abiy took power in 2018. He unbanned political parties, and released political prisoners, but saw a resurgence of violence fuelled by local powerbrokers demanding more power and resources for their own groups.
Ethiopia’s federal constitution allows ethnic groups to demand referendums on establishing their own states, which gives them greater control over security forces and revenues.
TPLF denies involvement in The Amhara region violence
Getachew Reda, a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on Wednesday reinforced his support for the cause of Kimant people for self-administration after rejecting claims by the Amhara region officials that TPLF orchestrated violence this week. “The Kimant identity issue should be given a political solution, the regional and the federal government should act to solve it as such, Getachew told VOA Amharic.
“The question was long raised by the Kimant people. It has been said over and over again that the issue needs a response. Any sane person should consider this,” he said. TPLF has a moral obligation to support the cause of Kimant people for self-administration, Getachew added.
The Amhara region Police Commissioner Abera Adamu pointed fingers at TPLF for arming militias that have attacked villages in North Gondar this week. Dozens of people including policemen have been killed and several others wounded in an attack in Chilga town by groups armed with heavy artilleries and snipers and claiming to represent the Kimant identity question, the Police Commissioner said. Among the victims were six bus passengers from the Amhara ethnic group who were killed after singled out from the rest of the passengers, it was said.
“Any claim that TPLF had anything to do with the violence is inaccurate,” Getachew said. “Even the police commissioner knows that,” he added. “But when the Amhara security forces are pushed back after attempting to attack women and children, they always come up with such an excuse,” Getachew declared.
The US Embassy in Ethiopia on Wednesday warned American citizens to avoid the city of Gondar and its surrounding areas in the Amhara Region, citing reports of gunfire, roadblocks and the destruction of property.
The Kimant are a small ethnic group, roughly around 200,000, who most of them speak Amharic language. They live along an axis stretching from Ayikel in Chilga woreda to Kirkar north to Lake Tana in the woredas of Lay Armachohi, Qwara, Dembiya, Metemma, and Wogera. Though they complain of discrimination on the grounds of religious practices in the past, they have similar cultural and linguistic affinity with the Amhara.
The TPLF that has dominated the Ethiopian political scene for the past 27 years is often accused of using the fluid identity questions of Kimant and Agew against the Amhara region as aninstrument for proxy war.