- Conflict is brewing in Ethiopia’s Amhara region after the government decided to create a centralized national army.
- The Amhara armed forces are unwilling to join the national security forces because they fear that their position of control in the area will be weakened.
- Regionalism has destabilized and complicated Ethiopian politics for decades now, and the success of the TPLF in Tigray has inspired other ethnic-based organizations for self-determination.
Large-scale protests and gun violence have enveloped areas of Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-largest region, after a decision by the federal government to create a strong, centralized army. In response to this development, Amhara residents in numerous towns have protested, and some of the local security forces have exchanged gunfire with the federal forces after refusing to disarm.
Two Catholic Relief Services (CRS) employees were shot and killed last week while traveling close to Kobo town. The same day, a midwife and a driver were injured when shots were fired at one of the Ethiopian Red Cross’ ambulances by unknown armed forces in Amhara’s Central Gondar region.
Regionalism and sectarianism
Sectarianism and regionalism have destabilized and complicated Ethiopian politics for decades. Although the Abiy administration was able to appease many in the Tigray region, it continues to encounter significant difficulties in other regions.
The relative success of the TPLF in Tigray inspired other ethnic-based organizations to seek self-determination in other regions. An example is Amhara, where the regional forces are resisting integration into the national police and security forces.
Amhara troops are unwilling to join the national police and security forces for a number of reasons. Firstly, joining their soldiers with the national army will undoubtedly weaken their position of control in the area. Smaller political parties like the ODP also have slim chances of taking over national politics.
Secondly, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) were supported in Tigray by the Amhara regional forces. As a result, hostilities between the TPLF and Amhara grew more intense. The Amhara regional forces saw fighting alongside the ENDF as crucial since it allowed them to lessen the danger of the TPLF.
The Tigrayans have long been accused of invading Amhara territory. Ahmad Vall, a researcher from Addis Abeba, claims that Amhara’s refusal to join the centralized force “makes common sense.” What happens if the TPLF rises once more, seizes power, and decides to make amends with Amhara?
According to their prior experiences, it is likely that the ENDF will forsake them and leave them on their own, he continues. The government would therefore have a very tough time persuading the Amhara to give up their guns and cooperate with the national police and other security agencies.
Political and security issues
The Amhara regional force was always going to provide Prime Minister Abiy with a political and security problem. Naturally, there were expectations after giving their lives fighting alongside ENDF in Tigray, including anticipation of rewards of some kind. Instead, there is hopelessness, and the Amhara regional forces believe that the federal administration has betrayed them.
The ENDF is still recovering from the conflict in Tigray; thus, the government cannot currently afford to initiate another war. But recent statements made by the leaders of the Amhara regional forces raise the possibility of a future clash. To placate the local Amhara forces, the administration might be compelled to make a concession.
Offering Amhara regional forces jobs inside the ENDF and integrating them into the national government structures are two examples of what this can entail. It will be exceedingly challenging for the government to expect Amhara regional troops to become regular members of the police and security apparatus, especially in light of the violence in Tigray.
The security future of Ethiopia
Each leader faces unique social and political challenges; Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, most definitely does. The prime minister inherited a highly divided country that has been stabilized by years of coalition politics.
However, coalition politics have also had drawbacks in Ethiopia. Deep polarization in society is a result of coalition politics. The dominance of the TPLF within the alliance contributed to Ethiopia’s current political difficulties. Senior members of the TPLF, who fought against federal government forces in the Tigray region for years, have been accused of corruption and of representing Tigrayans’ interests in politics while the EPRDF was in power.