Saturday, April 20, 2024

Resolving differences peacefully

The extension in early February of the six-month State of Emergency declared in the Amhara region in early August 2023 by a further four months has not made any difference in improving the security situation in Ethiopia’s second largest region. In fact the past week saw an uptick in violence in which federal and regional security forces clashed against the Fano, an irregular force active in the region that is composed of volunteer militiamen from the local populace. The Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and the Amhara regional state forces say they conducted house-to-house searches in several urban areas where fighting was reported and claimed they have killed and captured numerous Fano militia members. Attacks on civilians, including government officials, also continued to spike with a senior municipal official and police commander assassinated in two separate incidents by unidentified gunmen said to be affiliated with the Fano. Given the absence of reliable figures, it is difficult to have an accurate picture of the extent of the destruction wrought by the ongoing violence. However, thousands are known to have died with tens of thousands forced to flee their homes. Transportation services have also been severely disrupted across the region.

Tensions between the federal government and the Fano came to a boil in April 2023 after the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) decided to dissolve all regional special forces. A significant number of  Amhara Special Forces, who had fought alongside the ENDF during the two-year civil war that pitted the federal government against the forces of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), refused  to disband and joined  the Fano with their weapons. They alleged that the dissolution was particularly intended to disarm the Amhara people with a view to render them incapable of repelling potential attacks by Tigray militants or other elements hostile to them. Major clashes then broke out across Amhara in early August 2023, plunging the region into a state of war. After fighting spread to important cities, which the dissidents briefly took over, federal forces succeeded in driving them out. But the various Fano militias have regrouped in the countryside and launched new attacks on towns. Even if federal forces have managed to fend off these assaults, they have been unable to root them out on account of the fact that the rebels have adopted a guerilla tactic and enjoy public backing. Since then the fighting has continued in fits and starts in different parts of Amhara, with no resolution in sight.

As past experience shows the suspension of fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution during a state of emergency gives rise to egregious rights violations. True, there are circumstances where the government has no choice but to carry out its responsibility to maintain public security, law and order through measures that free it from the limitations it is bound by under the constitution and other laws.  All the same, this does not absolve it of the duty to adhere to the principles of necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination in accordance with its legal obligations under the constitution and the slate of international human rights and humanitarian treaties it has ratified. As such it owes the solemn obligation of assuring protection to innocent citizens lest they become victims of abuse of power at the hands of law enforcement and security personnel as they implement the state of emergency.

Sadly, the cycle of violence that has gripped not only the Amhara region but most other regional states of Ethiopia as well has engendered a grave humanitarian crisis, underscoring the need to afford civilians protection. Akin to any armed conflict it is civilians, namely women and children, who disproportionately bear the brunt of conflicts. They are subjected to indiscriminate killings, physical and psychological trauma, and widespread displacement. The lack of protection has exacerbated their vulnerability, leaving them at risk of human rights abuses, including violence, sexual assault, and recruitment into armed groups. As such it’s of vital importance to give priority to their safety during at times they are at their most vulnerable. The breakdown of law and order brought instigated by the widespread conflicts has proved to be a fertile ground for the flouting of fundamental rights and freedoms, resulting in the denial of access to such essential services as healthcare, education, and food supplies. It’s therefore imperative to safeguard civilians’ basic rights and preserving their dignity as they get caught up in the crossfire.

Ethiopia finds itself in the throes of a political crisis it has seldom faced before. Though instituting a state of emergency may be a viable option in the near-term in terms of preventing another vicious civil war in the Amhara region, it cannot bring about the sustainable solution which helps address the underlying causes behind the legitimate grievances that have inflamed the conflict in the region. Ethiopians must take to heart the lessons from the horrendous consequences of the recent civil war in northern Ethiopia to avert a repeat of the horrors it visited on them. It needs to be clear to everyone that a military victory by either side is not guaranteed to stabilize the Amhara region or for that matter the entire nation. This is why it’s high time to begin posthaste a genuinely inclusive process geared towards seeking a lasting solution to the complex political and security challenges besetting the region and beyond. We should be under no disillusion that failure to peacefully resolve differences is bound to exact a heavy toll that Ethiopia and its people will find it extremely difficult to recover from.

Latest

Preventing weaponization of hate speech legislation

Ever since the use of social media became ubiquitous...

High-flown policy doc sets start date for transitional justice, calls for new courts

The transitional justice policy ratified by the Council of...

Controversial clergyman at heart of foiled USD 6 million fraud attempt on AU premises

AU officials say organization hesitant to keep forex in...

Kurmuk Mining’s gold ambitions on hold as Benishangul officials air doubts over “legitimacy”

Kurmuk Gold Mining Plc says its operations in the...

Newsletter

- Advertisment -

Don't miss

High-flown policy doc sets start date for transitional justice, calls for new courts

The transitional justice policy ratified by the Council of...

Mogadishu objections to Somaliland deal a “hiccup”: senior Foreign Affairs advisor

Ethiopia remains steadfast in its commitment to the Memorandum...

Tigray Genocide Inquiry Commission Receives Federal Recognition

The Tigray Genocide Inquiry Commission says it has begun...

State shipping monopoly awaits gov’t decision on ETB 1.7 billion owed by former MetEC

Executives of the Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise...

IMF wary of “elevated” prospect of violence in Ethiopia

The Fund forecasts 6.2 percent 2024 growth rate for...
- Advertisment -

Preventing weaponization of hate speech legislation

Ever since the use of social media became ubiquitous the way human beings consume information has been utterly transformed. Prior to the advent of...

Striking balance between liberalization, protecting domestic investors

The directive issued in March by the Ethiopian Investment Board — chaired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) — that opens up the export,...

Forsaking the self-congratulatory mindset

At the risk of sounding clichéd the adage “old habits die hard” fits to a tee the actions and attitudes of the ruling Prosperity...