Curbs in Ethiopia’s Amhara after anti-govt protests

A raft of restrictions has been imposed in three main cities in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, municipal authorities said Monday, following protests against moves to disband regional forces.

Demonstrations have taken place in several cities in Amhara since the federal government on Thursday announced plans to integrate military units unilaterally set up by some states, into the federal army or police.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday the initiative was for the sake of Ethiopia’s “unity” and warned that law enforcement measures would be taken against any “destructive” opposition.

These regional forces have sparked controversy in the past, particularly during the two-year Tigray war, with those operating in Amhara giving crucial support to the federal army but accused of serious human rights abuses.

In Amhara’s most populous city of Gondar, many people joined a demonstration on Sunday against the government plans, with protesters chanting “Abiy traitor”, “we won’t give up” and “rights for the Amhara”, according to one local resident.

It was not possible to independently confirm events as the region is restricted to journalists for what the authorities say are “security reasons”.

According to statements issued by municipal authorities in Gondar as well as Dessie and Debre Birhan, the restrictions were ordered by the “security command post” in each city, suggesting that security was now in the hands of the federal army.

These measures include an overnight ban on motorised tricycles used as public transport, while bars and nightclubs must close at 9:00 pm.

The carrying of weapons — including knives and iron bars — and the firing of bullets or firecrackers are also banned.

Strikes are forbidden and the authorities must be notified of any public meetings.


– Resentment –


Ethiopia’s constitution allows its 11 states, drawn up along linguistic and cultural lines, to operate their own regional police forces.

But over the last 15 years, some have gradually established special military units, acting outside these constitutional constraints.

The ruling Prosperity Party issued a statement on Monday describing speculation that the plans to dismantle regional forces applied only to Amhara as “completely false”.

Abebaw Tadesse, the federal army’s deputy chief of staff, on Saturday spoke out against special forces set up on “ethnic” grounds, and said “no region should have more power than another”.

The Amhara are the country’s second largest ethnic grouping and have long constituted its political and economic elite.

The November 2022 peace accord signed by the federal government and the Tigrayan authorities aroused strong resentment in the Amhara community which for decades has been locked in territorial disputes over Tigray.

Conflicts over land have also flared between the Amhara and the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

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