Ethiopia’s rights watchdog on Monday 14 August 2023 voiced “grave concern” over fierce fighting that flared in the northern region of Amhara this month and denounced a wave of arrests of ethnic Amharas.
The clashes between members of the Ethiopian army and a local militia known as Fano erupted in towns and cities across Amhara after months of tensions.
State of emergency across Amhara
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government imposed a six-month state of emergency across Amhara on August 4, and several cities remain under curfew, although violence eased towards the end of last week.
The unrest revived fears about the stability of Africa’s second most populous country, seven months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year conflict in the neighbouring region of Tigray.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an independent state-affiliated organisation, said the fighting in Amhara involved the use of heavy artillery “resulting in the deaths and injuries of civilians, as well as damage to property”.
No casualty figures have been issued by the authorities, but doctors in two of the affected cities told AFP last week there had been scores of deaths and injuries among civilians.
Fighting subsided in major urban areas
The EHRC said that while heavy fighting had subsided in major urban areas since August 9, “it continues in other parts of the region and remains a major concern until a sustainable solution is in place”.
It reported that protesters who attempted to block roads were killed, prisons and police stations broke into — enabling detainees to escape — while weapons and ammunition were looted.
The EHRC said it had received complaints of human rights violations both before and after the declaration of the state of emergency, which was being debated on Monday at an extraordinary session of the Ethiopian parliament.
“In Addis Ababa city, there has been widespread arrest of civilians who are of ethnic Amhara origin as well as widespread detention of irregular migrants from Eritrea,” it said.
23 suspects had been arrested
The federal government said on Friday that 23 suspects had been arrested, with reports that detainees included an MP and a journalist.
In a joint statement on Friday, the governments of the United States, Australia, Britain, Japan and New Zealand said they were concerned about recent violence in both the Amhara and Oromia regions.
“We encourage all parties to protect civilians, respect human rights, and work together to address complex issues in a peaceful manner. The international community continues to support the goal of long-term stability for all Ethiopians.”
© Agence France-Presse