News Update: Amhara region requests federal gov’t to intervene amid escalating security crisis, reports of internet and flight interruptions

Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region (Picture: Bahir Dar City Communication)

Addis Abeba – In a letter addressed to prime minister Abiy Ahmed, the president of Amhara regional state, Yelikal Kefale has requested the federal government to intervene and “implement the necessary legal framework” in order to control the deteriorating security crisis in the region.

The letter urged the federal government to take “appropriate measures based on the FDRE constitution” stating that the security situation is causing major humanitarian, social and economic issues, and it is no longer possible to control the situation with regular law enforcement bodies.

The president’s call, on Thursday evening, comes in the backdrop of reports of escalating hostilities between government forces and the Fano armed group  throughout the Amhara region, according to local residents who spoke with Addis Standard. Kobo town in the North Wolo Zone, has witnessed increased gunfire this week, primarily in rural villages adjacent to the town. Residents suggest that the conflict involves local Fano members and the national defense forces.

A Kobo resident, who wished to stay anonymous due to safety concerns, revealed to Addis Standard that intense gunfire could be heard around the town since Monday, 31 July 2023. The same resident also noted considerable military activity, observing heavily armed defense forces transiting the town in vehicles.

Meanwhile, Mengesha, another resident from Addis Abeba, who had traveled to Kobo following the sudden demise of a friend, reported to Addis Standard that they were forced to take a detour via Afar due to road closures triggered by security threats. He also disclosed that the movement of three-wheeled vehicles within the town was halted by security forces.

Reuters News Agency, citing resident accounts, has reported that the conflict in the region is escalating. The agency, quoting information received from local hospital doctors, reported that a recent clash between defense forces and Fano members in Debretabor has resulted in three serious injuries and ten minor injuries. Furthermore, Reuters confirmed from diplomatic sources that the historic city of Lalibela is now under Fano control with Spain’s embassy in Ethiopia instructing any Spaniards in Lalibela not to leave their hotels or residences.

Following these escalations, reports of disruptions in flight operations to various cities in the region and internet shutdowns have also emerged. The BBC reported, referencing local residents, that the skirmishes between government forces and militants in the vicinity of Lalibela city had led to disruptions in flight schedules. An additional account from a resident who had a planned trip from Addis Abeba to Gondar, revealed a similar experience with flight cancellations, with no immediate rescheduling of the journey.

Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD), a local CSO, has confirmed that internet shutdown is happening in many parts of the Amhara region.

This was also confirmed by Christian Tadele, a member of the House of Representatives and an executive member of the National Amhara Movement, who through a message on his Facebook page, said “the administration of Abiy Ahmed … is orchestrating a massacre of civilians in the Amhara region, using heavy weapons and causing telecom shutdowns”.

On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has issued a statement via his official Facebook page concerning the escalating security problems in various areas of the Amhara region. He cautioned against any approach deviating from peaceful negotiation, warning that such strategies impede the progress towards a resolution, risk existing achievements, and further complicate the quest for long-term solutions.

Mr. Demeke also addressed  the unmet expectations and challenges brought about by recent change. He advised a thoughtful approach to these issues, recommending the pursuit of durable, peaceful resolutions.

Earlier on the same day, Yilekal Kefale (PhD), President of Amhara Regional State, has emphasized the detrimental effects of road blockades and restrictions on people’s movements, citing significant social, economic, and political repercussions, stating that the conflict is resulting in mutual destruction and causing significant human casualties.

On 01 August, 2023, Colonel Getnet Adane, Director of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Public Relations Directorate, warned to take actions against forces that it said were “disturbing the country’s peace in the name of Fano”, the non-state armed group currently engaged in militarized conflict with the army and regional forces in the Amhara regional state. AS

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