Human Rights Activist
Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia waged another round of war against his own people, and this time it is against the Amhara people. As a leader, it is his constitutional responsibility to protect his people from war, conflict, and lawlessness. However, Abiy’s actions suggest that he is not prioritizing peace and stability in his country, and words like peace and stability do not seem to be in his dictionary.
Since he comes into power, Ethiopia has become a place of suffering, particularly for the Amhara people. The two-year-long war has left the Tigray people devastated. Unfortunately, the toll of the Northern War has also impacted the Amhara people, who have been killed and displaced in several regions too, including Somalie, Benshanguel Gumuz, and Sidama, during Abiy’s premiership. Ethnic-based attacks, displacement, mass arrests, and harassment have been rampant in the Oromia region, Addis Ababa city, and the Amhara region itself against the people of Amhara. Tens of thousands of Amharas have been killed and millions of them have been displaced and forced to seek shelter in various places.
Despite these devastating consequences, Abiy’s government seems to have learned little from the Tigray conflict and his past failed leadership. He appears to be unsatisfied with the bloodshed that has already been caused. Abiy has now invaded the Amhara region under the pretext of disarming the Regional Special Police Force (hereinafter “SPF”). In a lengthy statement released on Sunday, he has vowed to take any measures necessary to dismantle the SPF. The deputy chief of staff of the army has also stated that the military and federal government are ready to take any measure necessary, even if it goes against public opinion, to eliminate the police force.
Why do the people oppose the action?
While the Amhara people and politicians have historically supported the dismantling of special police forces in every region, they are now opposing the federal government’s decision due to the untimely nature of the action and the perceived sinister motive behind it. The federal police force and military have repeatedly failed to protect the Amhara people from both internal and external attacks. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a terrorist group sponsored by the Oromia Prosperity Party which governs Oromia Region, controls key positions in the federal government
and Addis Ababa City administration, has carried out attacks against Amhara people in Oromia region, Addis Ababa, and even within Amhara region itself. In addition, Amhara people have been killed en masse in the Benshangul Gumuz region, invaded by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Sudanese military, and terrorized by a group called the Kimant Committee. Despite these attacks, the federal military and police forces have been unable to protect the Amhara people, who have turned to the Amhara Special Police Force for protection.
In the face of looming security threats from the TPLF, OLA, the Kimant Committee, and Benshangul Gumz militias, the Amhara people cannot trust the federal government, which is controlled by the Oromia Prosperity Party that is responsible for attacks and displacements of millions of Amharas in Oromia and Addis Ababa. Therefore, the Amhara people are opposed to the dismantling of their Special Police Force under the guise of restructuring it. They demand that the government eliminate or significantly reduce the threats posed by OLA, TPLF, the Kimant Committee, and the Benshangul Gumz militias before any restructuring takes place. Only then can they trust the federal government to provide the necessary protection and security for the Amhara people.
To the surprise of many, the national security advisor of the prime minister publicly stated that the TPLF would not disarm, despite a truce agreement made in Pretoria suggesting otherwise. The Amhara Region has fought alongside the federal government against the TPLF, and the current actions of the federal government seem to be aimed at bolstering the TPLF’s power while diminishing that of the Amhara region. This sinister strategy would leave the Amhara region vulnerable to an inevitable invasion from the TPLF and an attack from the OLA. Hence, the people are protesting the decision of restructuring or disarm or dismantle their sole defense from imminent threats.
Invading Amhara Region
As the deputy commander in chief threatened and the prime minister vowed, the federal government has sent a heavily armed military and police force to crush protesters, disarm the SPF, force the region to submit to Abiy Ahmed, and be exposed to the TPLF and OLF invasion. These forces have launched attacks in various parts of the region, killing civilians and members of the SPF. Abiy has used artillery in the Kobo town of Amhara Region, demolishing civilian
houses, burning down crops, and killing civilians and militia members. The military used drone strikes on Sunday and is now transporting additional soldiers by air. On Monday, his forces killed civilians in Merawi, Gojjam Amhara. As feared, OLA (designated as a terrorist by the parliament), which is sponsored by the Oromia Regional State, has invaded the North Shewa and Wollo areas of Amhara. To exploit this opportunity, TPLF has moved its troops (which were supposed to be disarmed and in rehabilitation centers according to the Pretoria Peace Agreement) into Amhara borders via Sudan.
The Amhara Special Force and the Amhara people have no intention to engage in war with the national military. They have peacefully expressed their opposition to the decision to dismantle the SPF while the country’s security situation is deteriorating instead of improving. However, the government has turned a deaf ear to the peaceful pleas of the people who are pouring onto the streets chanting peaceful slogans.
The Legality of the Special Police Force and the Illegality of Sending Federal Forces Into the Amhara Region
Despite the federal government’s claim that the SPF is unconstitutional, one of the powers granted to regional states in Article 52/2/g of the federal Constitution is the ability to establish and administer a state police force. As a result, regions are authorized to have community police, anti-protest police, prison guard/police, and special force police. Therefore, the federal government’s assertion that regional SPFs are illegal is unfounded.
Regional SPFs are established and administered by regional governments, which possess their own legislative, executive, and judicial authorities. The authority to dismantle or disarm these police units is only vested in the entity that established them, which means that the federal government lacks the power to do so.
Regional states are autonomous and sovereign entities that have powers that the Federal Government is obliged to respect, as per Article 50/8 of the constitution. As a principle, the federal government has no power to intervene in the affairs of regional states, including sending military and federal police forces.
However, there are exceptions to this principle. The federal government can intervene when the House of Federation orders federal intervention of any state that endangers the constitutional order, as per Article 62/9 of the constitution. Additionally, a state may request the deployment of federal forces when it is unable to control a deteriorating security situation, as per Article 51/4 of the Constitution. The third exception is when there is a gross human rights violation that a state is unable or unwilling to control.
Despite a clear constitutional dispensation, Abiy Ahmed deployed his forces in the Amhara Region without the order of the House of Federation or a request from the highest executive organ of the region, the State Council, to deploy federal forces to address the instability. Therefore, this intervention is a clear violation of the federal constitution, and the Proclamation No 359/2003 that is promulgated to implement the constitutional mandates of the federal government regarding intervention into states.
Ethnic Profiling and Arresting en masse
Abiy’s invasion of the Amhara region has been preceded and followed by ethnic profiling and the mass arrest of Amharas. Before and after the invasion, intellectuals, aid workers, media personnel, journalists, activists, ex-military, and para-military personnel who are ethnic Amharas have been arrested without reasonable suspicion, and most of them have not appeared before a court of law as per the constitution.
The Oromia Prosperity Party-led government wants terror to reign in the country so that it can commit crimes without dissenting voices. As a result, they have kidnapped, harassed, and arrested various persons who have vociferously criticized the illegal activities of the Oromia Region in and around Addis Ababa, such as the demolition of houses and the displacement of thousands of people, the blocking of roads en route to Addis Ababa, and the harboring of the terrorist group Oromo Liberation Army.
Despite some media outlets reporting on the protests in the Amhara region, the international community – including the USA, European Union, African Union, human rights authorities and groups, and international media outlets – have not given enough emphasis to the war waged against the Amhara people.
The international community should urge Abiy Ahmed to withdraw the invading army from the Amhara region and engage in discussions with the Amhara people. Furthermore, the community should strongly condemn the ethnic profiling and mass arrest of Amharas across Oromia and Addis Ababa and urge the government to release those who have been illegally kidnapped and thrown into jail.
Abiy Ahmed lacks the ability and willingness to stabilize Ethiopia and create an inclusive political environment that can address the nation’s longstanding problems. He creates various committees and commissions, such as the National Reconciliation Commission, but he does not allow them to function properly. Some are now defunct, and the National Reconciliation Commission is becoming obsolete because Abiy Ahmed, Adanech Ababie, and Shimelis Abdisa unilaterally decide many of the issues it should handle. Abiy Ahmed should give peace a chance, let the National Reconciliation Committee function properly, and withdraw his federal forces from the Amhara region to begin consultations with the people about the situation. The transitional justice process initiated in relation to the Tigray War should be broadened to encompass a national transitional justice feature that genuinely transitions to democracy. Rather than seeking Oromo and Oromia Prosperity Party dominance, Abiy needs to create an inclusive political environment based on overarching principles of equality, freedom, fraternity, the rule of law, justice, and democracy. It is crucial for donors and lenders to use their leverage to urge Abiy to take the country in the right direction and not toward another civil war.
Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com
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