/ 17 February 2024

Ethiopian forces killed ‘at least 45 civilians’

Dc's Ethiopian Community Demonstrates Outside State Dept. Urging Action To Quell The Fighting Between Government And Fano Forces
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: Members of the Washington DC Ethiopian community demonstrate outside of the U.S. State Department to protest attacks by the Ethiopian government on ethnic Amharas and the Amhara region in Ethiopia on August 10, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

Ethiopia’s government security forces killed at least 45 civilians in a massacre in Amhara state in late January, the independent state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said this week.

The commission confirmed “the identity of at least 45 civilians who were extrajudicially killed by government security forces” in the town of Merawi for allegedly supporting an ethnic Amhara militia known as Fano. “However, it can be assumed that the number of victims is even higher,” it noted. 

At least 15 other people, including women, were killed during a door-to-door search by government forces in a different part of Amhara earlier in the month, the EHRC said.

The killings in Merawi followed months of clashes last year between Ethiopia’s military and Fano and prompted the United States last week to call for an investigation. According to the commission, security forces also arrested an unknown number of people in Merawi on suspicion of being members of Fano.

The federal government in Addis Ababa was asked for comment but did not respond.

Fano members fought alongside government forces during the two-year war in the neighbouring region of Tigray but fell out after Addis Ababa signed a peace deal with Tigrayan rebel authorities in 2022.

After fighting broke out in Amhara last year, the federal government imposed a state of emergency in August that lawmakers extended by four months in February.

In a statement posted on X (Twitter), EHRC head Daniel Bekele said the commission “reiterates the call to end extrajudicial killings, ensure accountability and demonstrate commitment for peaceful dialogue by all”.

Media access to northern Ethiopia is restricted by the authorities, making it impossible to verify the situation on the ground. But the US last week said it was deeply concerned by reports of “targeted civilian killings” in Merawi.

In its statement, the US also drew attention to “numerous disturbing reports of other violations and abuses … elsewhere in Ethiopia, reports which implicate government and non-state actors alike”, urging all sides to enter into talks.

The Amhara violence reignited concerns about the stability of Ethiopia months after the November 2022 Tigray agreement. The peace deal fuelled a sense of betrayal among the Amhara.

Tensions escalated in April last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government decided to dismantle regional forces, which triggered protests among Amhara nationalists who said it would weaken their state.

In September, the commission accused federal government forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings in Amhara, and mass arbitrary detentions in the region and elsewhere. — AFP