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Ethiopia’s  Defense Chief says “We knew the force in Amhara was preparing before the Tigray war” 

Berhanu Jula _ Defense Chief _ Ethiopian News _ Fano
Defense Chief of Staff, FM Berhanu Jula during an interview with EBC (photo : screenshot from the video)

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In a two hours long interview with Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporate (EBC), Defense Chief of Staff Field Marshal Berhanu Jula discussed at length the fighting Defense Force has been fighting in the Amhara,  Tigray and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.

It was the situation in the Amhara region that he discussed at length and the Defense Chief seems to be standing on the ground that there was no reason whatsoever for taking up arms in the Amhara region and fighting against the government. He said ” we knew the force the Amhara region was preparing well before the Tigray war. It was even arming itself during the Tigray war. we knew what the group intended to to.” 

In what appears to be a response to the expected question why the government did not act, he stated that it was ignored on the grounds that it was better, for the government, “to be reactive rather than proactive.”   And then he swung to elaborate what he seems to think is  comparative advantage of it from political trajectory : “when you act  proactively, people will have a judgment against you and we do not want that to happen,” he said. 

The Defense Chief did not want to call the armed group that is battling against government forces as Fano. He rather described it  – as is the case with other senior government officials- as an extremist “force operating under the cover of Fano.”  It was widely reported that the same group that the defense chief is describing that way did support the Defense Force during the two years bloody war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Federal government.  Now the defense chief has a new narrative even about the war time. He says the force was arming itself even during “the Tigray war.” 

He even blamed Fano ( or the Amhara extremist force as he called it) for the demobilization of special forces in the Amhara region. When it was decided for “the special force to be a police force, they demobilized it through propaganda and hassle.”  He added “they [‘extremist forces’ confused the special force with false hope, and collected its firearm. Firearms have been collected since the time of the Tigray war.” The intention was, he said, first to remove the regional government and then build up force  to go against the Federal government. 

Another claim the defense chief made – that could be controversial- is that the circumstance under which the military operation in the Amhara region started is the same as the Tigray region. He claimed that the Defense Force was attacked in the same manner. The regiments deployed in different locations were attacked, he said. 

The war in the Amhara region started about eight months ago when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government decided to disarm fano forces and a state of emergency was declared in August 2023. Initially the government stated that the “military operation would be completed within a few weeks – something that turned out to be a mirage. 

Fano forces say the motive of their armed struggle is to reverse an existential threat that Amhara is facing. Tens of thousands of ethnic Amhara were massacred in the Oromo and Benishangul Gumuz regions of Ethiopia. 

During a recent discussion with “representatives from Amhara region,” the Ethiopian Prime Minister expressed interest that he wants to make peace with the group. He said he would go to the extent of paying “Indemnity” “if there is something he has wronged.” 

The Defense Chief made claims that the core “Amhara extremist force” is eliminated and that the group using newly trained forces. However, information from local news sources suggest that the Fano force is growing and that an active war is taking place in most parts of the region. 

Since last month, the Federal government has attempted several political engagements in what appears to be a move to isolate Fano forces from popular support in the region. It remains to be seen if the government will succeed in that. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Why the attack is concentrated on this patriot only? There are other generals below him who are leading the skirmishes both in Amhara and Oromia regions. This is textbook prejudice. This man has been fighting these savage bigots roaming his region of origin tooth and nail for almost 5 years now. They will carve him out in the most barbaric ways if they ever lay their hands on him. There are hundreds of commanders in the battlefields and at the command centers who are Amharas fighting those wreaking havoc in Amhara region. Those who wrote this article should know them by name but none of them were mentioned here. The same one sided criminalization goes all the way to the top. I am not giving the leader on the top a free ride. I had made my position very clear. In my book, I am holding both sides of the conflict in Tigray proportionately responsible for the death and destruction in that region. But Debre was not alone. PM Abiy was not alone. They were others around them who can be held responsible. In the current stupid conflict in Amhara and Oromia regions there are thousands of Oromos fighting Oromos in Oromia and thousands of Amharas fighting Amharas in Amhara region. That is the fact on the ground. But it saddens me to my core to see the narratives on this and other websites has been heavily/exclusively on-sided. It is just disheartening.

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