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NewsUnrest prompts emergency powers in Amhara region

Unrest prompts emergency powers in Amhara region

Clashes in the region puts the constitution at risk, says Gov’t

The Ethiopian federal government has declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region after clashes between armed groups and government forces intensified, threatening the country’s constitutional order.

Security forces have been given sweeping new powers after a state of emergency was declared this week for the restive Amhara region. The conflict is threatening the constitutional order, prompting the federal government to impose a state of emergency on Friday.

The clashes between government forces and rebel groups rocked numerous towns in the populous northern region, the second-largest in the country.

The Council of Ministers issued the decree on August 4, 2023, a day after Amhara region President Yilkal Kefale (PhD) called for federal intervention. The Council quickly sprang into action – declaring the state of emergency the very next day.

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Yilkal had initially urged negotiations with the armed groups, but changed course on Thursday – pleading for federal intervention, describing the instability as “severe.”

‘The instability in the region has become severe and cannot be controlled by conditional law enforcement system. Hence, we request the federal government to intervene and take the necessary measures,’ reads the statement issued by the regional state government on August 3, 2023.

While federal forces have typically only intervened at the request of regional authorities, Ethiopian troops were already operating in the region when officials made their official plea.

The 22-member Council declared the state of emergency while the House of Peoples’ Representatives is in recess. Under Article 93 of Ethiopia’s constitution, the government has two options – table the state of emergency for approval within 48 hours of Parliament convening, or within 15 days if Parliament remains in recess.

The emergency powers allow security forces to conduct searches without warrants, ban public gatherings and impose curfews – measures already being implemented in Amhara. The Addis Ababa City Administration has also already taken measures banning three-wheel vehicles (Bajaj) and motorbikes, until next week.

Several opposition parties objected the government’s move, calling for peace talks to resolve the conflict. They warned that “forceful actions” risked making the situation worse.

Five parties including Ethiopian Unity Party (EUP), Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), and Enat Party, called for national emergency peace-talk. The parties made their calls to President Sahlework Zewde, the PM, House speaker Tagesse Chafo, and Supreme Court president Tewodros Mihret.

The parties stressed the need for the incumbent to be ready for negotiations in a neutral country.

‘Peace-talk in a neutral country is the only viable way out for the ruling party, as well as the safety of the country,” the Parties letter reads.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission also urged the government to implement the state of emergency legally and impartially while respecting rights that “cannot be restricted under any circumstances.”

The Commission says the Amhara conflict had escalated since last month, displacing civilians, cutting off services and internet access, and endangering refugees.

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