News: Unable to stop bouts of violence in its midst, Amhara region’s Peace and Security Council calls for federal army intervention

The joint meeting held on October 15 involved federal and regional security officials as well as the recently appointed regional president, Temesgen Tirune, third from left.

Ephream Sileshi

Addis Abeba, 17 October/2019 – Bouts of unrest cloaked in identity questions have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property over the last five years, says a statement released by the Amhara Regional State Security Council on the 16th of October, 2019.

The statement was issued following the violence that reignited in Central and Western Gonder, the city of Gonder as well as the Qimant administration zone in recent weeks. Although the situation has subsided last week, this week saw yet another unrest in the area in what the regional state said on Monday October 14 was not related to previous unrest but related to private scuffles,  But this claim is contested by a group calling itself “Qimant Central Committee”, which accused the regional government security forces of “large scale” and “indiscriminate” attacks, including killings and displacements of the minority Qimant community in the region.

In a joint meeting held the next day on October 15 between federal security institutions, including federal police and federal army senior officials, as well as the region’s security establishment including representatives of its police and special forces, “evaluated the security situation” in central Gonder and other areas in the region, discussed “ways of coordination” between the federal and regional establishments, as well as on ways of “sustainably tackling” recurring unrest in the regional state.

Speaking to Amhara Mass Media Agency (AMMA), Agegnehu Teshager, head the region’s peace and security department, said that the central theme of the joint meeting was to “identify and apprehend” what he said was “the core” distabilizing force operating in the region, which is still “at large.”

Yesterday’s statement from the council accuses the Qimant Self Determination and Identity Committee of employing unconstitutional means to “impose its will over the [Qimant nation]” and the regional government; but it also admits that counter measures taken by the regional state security to combat these activities have resulted in damages. It further admitted that the unrest since September 26, 2019 that occurred in Central and Western Gonder, the city of Gonder and the Qimant administration areas, which, according to media reports, has claimed the lives of at least 22 people, as an indication of counter measure damages. It also said that “informally organized forces” who were engaged in “anti-peace activities” were taking advantage of the situation.

Accordingly, the statement said that a request was made by the region’s Peace and Security Council to the Federal Government, following which a directive has been issued for Federal Security Forces including the Federal Defense Forces to take “any lawful measures” and stabilize the affected areas in a short period of time.

A list of 11 decisions made by the Council were also included in the statement. These include, but not limited to, calls to parties engaged in the conflict to get back to the table and solve their differences, and to individuals and groups to handover criminals; a warning that any action that could hamper this will be met and removed by lawful means; a clemency period until the 31st of October given for individuals and groups who will participate to cease military activities and peacefully hand over weapons is also included; but the clemency excludes those the Council said were directly involved violence and killings.

With regard to the Qimant administration, the statement from the Council said that all services should resume immediately to implement administrative decisions based on previous referendum and that forces which will hamper this will not be accepted.

It is to be remembered that a referendum to determine the administrative jurisdiction of the Qimant people was held in eight Kebeles in September 2017. Seven of the eight Kebeles have voted to remain in the administrative jurisdiction of the Amhara Regional State, whereas Quaber Lomye Kebele voted to join the Qimant self-administrative zone, which was established two years prior to the referendum. The result of the September referendum was approved by the House of Federation in October 2017. Since then however, clashes have frequently visited the two communities. Activists blame “Qimant Self-Determination and Identity Committee”, which refused to accept the results of the referendum, for the clashes.

Now the Council’s latest statement extended restrictions on bearing arms unlawfully, organizing informal security forces, as well as activities by vigilante groups “in the name of law enforcement”. The council also puts the responsibility of controlling and reporting such crimes and anti-peace activities that could occur in these zones and woredas to the leadership in these areas; failing to do so would result in mass confiscation of arms by federal forces, it said.

The statement ends by assuring that all stakeholders including the national defense forces, the federal police, regional and local security forces as well as the national intelligence and security services will work together to bring about peace and stability to the region and asked the public to participate in process. AS

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