By Henok Abebe (Human Rights Advocate)
In the midst of the global focus on conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, a lesser-known but equally harrowing crisis has been unfolding in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. Abiy Ahmed’s military intervention has not only ignited a war on the Amhara people but has also raised serious concerns about human rights abuses and war crimes committed by various branches of the Ethiopian army.
The Unseen Atrocities
Reports from the ground suggest that the Amhara people are witnessing a disturbing pattern of violence and injustice. UNESCO-registered historical sites (Rock-Hewan Church of Lalibela and the Castle of Fasiledes ), once symbols of cultural, historical, and religious heritages, have become targets of destruction. Civilians are being killed in drone strikes, and as reported by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, there is widespread sexual violence, as well as the intentional burning of harvests and looting of civilian property committed by the Ethiopian National Defense Force; the very institution established to protect Ethiopians.
In my hometown, the grim reality of the conflict is deeply personal. Five individuals have been executed while traveling by Bajaj, a mode of transportation commonly used in the region. Tragically, my aunt’s husband fell victim to military execution. The violence extends beyond targeted individuals to impact farmers, shepherds, and city dwellers alike, with heavy artillery unleashed by the military disrupting daily life.
The military presence in my hometown has cast a dark shadow over the community’s day-to-day activities. Religious ceremonies, market days, harvesting activities, and business operations have all come to a standstill, disrupted by the ominous presence of armed forces. The people, gripped by a constant fear, live under the looming threat of arbitrary arrest, harassment, and the killing of civilians by the military.
This dire situation is not unique to my hometown; it is a stark reality that many Amhara cities and villages face. The widespread disruption and violence have created an atmosphere of uncertainty, where basic activities that once defined community life are now overshadowed by the pervasive fear of military actions.
Internet Shutdown and Media Blackout
The plight of the Amhara people is exacerbated by an internet shutdown, preventing them from sharing their stories and seeking help from the international community. The blackout has created a shroud of secrecy, allowing the military’s actions to go unchecked and unreported. As the world’s attention is diverted towards more publicized conflicts, the suffering of the Amhara people remains hidden in the shadows.
Mass Arrests Beyond Amhara
The repression extends beyond the Amhara region, with mass arrests sweeping through Oromia, Addis Ababa, and other areas. Among those detained are members of parliament, former officials, businessmen, medical professionals, journalists, and human rights activists. The arrests suggest a broader crackdown on dissent and a suppression of voices advocating for justice and accountability.
The military operations, spearheaded by Oromo leaders such as Birhanu Jula and Abiy Ahmed, along with prominent figures like Addis Ababa’s Mayor Adanech Ababaie and Oromia Region’s Shimelis Abdisa, have formed an unsettling alliance that has inflicted widespread terror on the Amhara people over the past few months. This alliance, often described as an “evil axis,” has been responsible for a campaign of ethnic cleansing that has forcibly displaced Amhara individuals from various areas in Ethiopia.
The atrocities have escalated, reaching even the home villages of the Amhara people in Addis Ababa and the Amhara Region. Unfortunately, there seems to be no safe haven for the Amhara community, as extremists continue to carry out killings, ethnically cleanse, displace, ethnically profile, and detain individuals in concentration camps in Oromia Region and Addis Ababa. Notably, the orchestrators of these actions are Adanech Ababaie and Shimelis Abdisa, both prominent figures in Oromia, while the military, under the command of Abiy Ahmed as the commander-in-chief and Birhanu Jula as the chief of staff, relentlessly carries out operations across the Amhara region, affecting both urban and rural areas alike.
Despite mounting evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses, the international community has largely overlooked the crisis in the Amhara region. The attention given to conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza has cast a shadow over the suffering of the Amhara people, leaving them stranded without the support and intervention they desperately need.
Even as the international community turns its attention to East Africa, the focus seems to remain fixated on Sudan, a nation grappling with internal conflict fueled by two warring generals driven by ego, power, and wealth. Unfortunately, amidst this regional spotlight, the plight of the Amhara people in Ethiopia has been largely forgotten.
Countries providing aid and loans to Ethiopia, along with international organizations such as the UN and the African Union, appear to have turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Amhara people. Some leaders, like Mohammed Bin Zayed, the President of the United Arab Emirates, are not only overlooking the crisis but are also actively supporting Abiy Ahmed, reinforcing his capabilities to inflict suffering on civilians. Notably, drones supplied by Turkey and the UAE have become primary instruments in indiscriminate attacks, causing significant harm to innocent lives.
For instance, in a blatant violation of international humanitarian law, Abiy’s forces recently targeted an ambulance in Wogel Tena Town using drones, resulting in the tragic deaths of the driver and medical professionals. These drones, supplied by Turkey and the UAE, have been employed to carry out deadly strikes on civilians, terrorizing communities attending church ceremonies and visiting marketplaces.
This disturbing reality emphasizes the urgent need for the international community to shift its gaze toward the suffering of the Amhara people. The continued supply of weaponry and support by leaders like Bin Alzahad only exacerbates the human rights violations and undermines efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region. It is imperative for global leaders and organizations to prioritize the protection of civilians, uphold international law, and work towards ending the violence that has inflicted immense hardship on the Amhara people.
Call for Action
It is crucial for the international community to refocus its attention on the escalating crisis in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The atrocities committed against the Amhara people demand immediate investigation and accountability. The world cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the suffering of this community, as the consequences of inaction may be far-reaching and long-lasting.
As the global community grapples with the urgency of conflicts in various parts of the world, it is imperative to remember that no crisis should be overlooked. The war on the Amhara people requires urgent attention, intervention, and advocacy for justice. Only through collective action and solidarity can we hope to bring an end to the silent suffering that has been overshadowed by more widely publicized conflicts.
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