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HomeEthiopian NewsEditorial Ethiopian news and viewsFANO, the Ethiopian Defense Force not enemies. Problem is Abiy Administration 

FANO, the Ethiopian Defense Force not enemies. Problem is Abiy Administration 

With proven failure to provide safey and security in Oromia and Benishangul and as the TPLF is preparing for war, Targeting FANO ( by implication people in Amhara region)  as  a security threat sounds unsound

FANO _ Defense force _ not enemies
FANO were a great ally of the Ethiopian Defense Force during the war between the TPLF and the Federal government. (photo : File/ SM0


A day after Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen called for a dialogue to resolve the demands from the Amhara region, Yilkal Kefale head of the Amhara region has reportedly written, on Thursday,  a letter to PM Abiy Ahmed asking for federal government intervention to enforce law in the Amhara region. 

The letter begs a question if viewed from the reality on the ground that the Defense Force, which is a federal institution, has been deployed to the region for several months now. Although there was no direct order from the Federal government, the defense force has been clashing with FANO in different parts of the region. Not just that. There were allegations of rights abuses in the areas where the Defense Force clashed with FANO. At least many would remember the incident regarding Debre Elias in Gojjam which could be seen as the hallmark of the practices that the defense force has been engaged in the post-rapprochement (even alliance) between Abiy Ahmed’s leadership and the TPLF leadership.   

Forget that. At least two days ago, the Defense Force issued a statement announcing that it would take measures in the Amhara region against what it called groups operating in the name of FANO. This signifies that the intervention was already there even though the Amhara regional state asked for it. 

There is also skepticism as to whether it was the regional head of state who wrote the letter. Amhara regional state media did not report on it. There was no report of an emergency meeting of Yilkal Kefale and his regional cabinet regarding the security situation in the region. The letter came at a time when members of the regional council were instructed to hold meetings in their constituencies. Seen from those situations, the authenticity of the letter is at least questionable. 

That said it is not disputable that the Amhara region has genuine security concerns – in fact questions at the level of existential threats.  During the TPLF domination of power, the region – especially people in the Wolkait and Raya were subjected to unprecedented ruthlessness in the history of the country. It would be naïve on the part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, as he hinted in the diplomatic language during the “historic tree planting”, that people would those areas would be easily cajoled or coerced to be under the TPLF again – which is one of the root causes for the deteriorating security situation in the country. 

In the Oromo region of Ethiopia, tens of thousands of innocent Amhara have been killed since Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018. The government has also admitted that the radical ethnic Oromo nationalist militant group gets clandestine support from regional and federal government authorities. The militant group was emboldened to the point that it took its war to the Amhara region – for example, Shbarobit was attacked at least nine times starting right before the TPLF launched a military attack in the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Force. Road  travel between Amhara region and Addis Ababa has already become impossible at times because of Oromia region government security forces and at times because of radical ethnic Oromo extremist gunmen. This week 63 passengers from a single passenger bus were taken hostage as they were traveling to Addis Ababa (from Bahir Dar.) 

In the North, reports that the TPLF is preparing for another round of war the omens of which are new recruitment while demobilizing less capable combatants. 

It is in this situation that the Federal government is attempting to disarm FANO forces. No question, in principle,  the monopoly of force belongs to the government. However, the killings of tens of thousands of ethnic Amhara in Oromia, Benishangul, and Amhara regions- among others- proved the incapability or lack of will of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government to protect the security of citizens – particularly ethnic Amhara. 

Although the recent activity of FANO in the Amhara region is purely an armed one, it did not bring about a direct economic, social, and security hardship to the public based on reports from local media. Unlike the case with the radical ethnic Oromo nationalist group, no single bank is robbed in the region. Emerging reports of humanitarian and security crises in the Amhara region seem to be directly related to Abiy Ahmed’s resolve to disarm FANO – partly as a preparation to give away Wolkait back to the TPLF under the guise of a “referendum.”

The ensuing humanitarian crisis is already stated by different groups and the call for peace is also heard loud and clear.  Signs of Abiy Ahmed government’s intransigence and heavy reliance on the military are demonstrated as it has now obtained a “formal request” for an apparent full-fledged war in the region. And this is the government that has been pledging “prosperity” for six years amid growing international debt. 

Coming to the solution, the Abiy Ahmed administration is a huge part of the problem given its track record in the past few years. And the Defense Force has to note the rush to launch a large-scale military operation in the Amhara region and question its desirability. Given the brute endured in the past six years ( to many it is a fresh memory of how the TPLF forces were taking control of the region repeatedly),  it should not come as a surprise if there is a lack of interest on the part of FANO to talk to government officials. How about the defense force senior officials taking the initiative to hold talks with FANO representatives? After all, FANO was a big ally of the Ethiopian Defense Force when it was battling the TPLF. There is no enmity between FANO and the Defense Force, and the latter should not be a tool for the malicious politics of Abiy Ahmed’s administration. One thing that became clear is that FANO has a popular support in the Amhara region and probably beyond. 


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