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Mass Killings in the Amhara Region: A Call for Peace Amid Human Rights Abuses

“I asked my sister to dress in black to express our grief but she came with a machine gun to defend.”

Ethiopia Amhara region
Author provided the picture

Isael Ze Etiel    

The federal government, under the Prosperity Party, is conducting unprecedented mass detentions and ethnic profiling of ethnic Amhara people. For months now, hundreds of thousands of Amharas are in concentration camps across Ethiopia.

According to an Al Jazeera report on February 13, 2024, Ethiopia’s federal 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) stated on February 06, 2024, that it had confirmed the identity of at least 45 civilians who were extrajudicially killed by government security forces for allegedly supporting the ethnic Amhara armed group Fano. The report estimated that the number of victims is even higher. The killings in the Amhara town of Merawi follow months of clashes last year between Ethiopia’s military and Fano, a self-defense organization with no publicly known command structure that draws volunteers from the local population.

The fighting prompted the federal government to impose a state of emergency in August, which politicians extended by four months in February 2024. There has also been a rise in deadly drone activity in the region. Government-conducted airstrikes and shelling in various areas resulted in civilian casualties and damage to residential areas and public spaces that were documented by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. For instance, in Bahir Dar, the regional state capital, civilians have been killed on the streets or outside their homes, and some individuals have been specifically targeted for searches, beatings, and killings. Similarly, drone strikes by government forces have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians in different parts of Amhara regional state towns, villages, and cities.

In mid-February 2024, different countries expressed their concern about targeting civilians. The United States said it was deeply concerned by reports of targeted civilian killings in Merawi and called for an independent investigation. Since the coming of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, being Amhara means a ‘death sentence’ everywhere, especially in Oromia regional states where millions have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and thousands of Amharas have been saluted and massacred.

The state of emergency declared in the Amhara region, along with the regional government’s call for federal government military intervention, has further exacerbated insecurity. This has resulted in mass arrests, extrajudicial killings, internet blockages, and disruptions to basic services becoming the norm.

The recent mass killing in the Amhara region of Ethiopia by the national defense force has sent shockwaves throughout the country and the international community.

A mass killing took place in the town of Merawi, resulting in dozens of deaths and numerous injuries when the Federal Defense Force in Merawi town committed mass killings by moving from house to house during searches. Eyewitnesses mentioned that many dead bodies were seen across the road, killed by the National Defense Force.

These killings occurred days before the House of Peoples Representatives extended the six-month state of emergency declared in August 2023 due to escalating conflict in the region. Neither federal nor regional governments have issued statements on the incident. A secretly recorded speech of an Amhara regional state official revealed his attempt to deny the incident and blame the victims.

After civilians were attacked by government forces, many children, women, elders, and youth died, creating a sense of self-defense and victimization. According to some informants who lost two family members, “I asked my sister to dress in black to express our grief but she came with a machine gun to defend.” Targeting civilians has aggravated civilians to join Amhara Fano militant groups.

As a result of the military measures by the federal government, there are significant implications for peace and stability.1. Ethnic Tensions: The mass killing in Amhara has exacerbated existing ethnic tensions in Ethiopia, particularly in the Amhara region. The attack has deepened divisions between different ethnic groups and threatens to further destabilize the country.

2. Security Concerns: The incident raises questions about the ability of the national defense force and the government to ensure the safety and security of all citizens. The lack of protection for civilians in this case highlights a broader issue of insecurity and violence in the region.

3. Reconciliation Efforts: The mass killing underscores the urgent need for reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts in Ethiopia. The government must work towards addressing the root causes of violence and conflict, as well as promoting dialogue and understanding among different communities.

4. International Response: The international community has condemned the mass killing in Amhara and called for accountability for those responsible. The incident has drawn attention to human rights violations in Ethiopia and may lead to increased pressure on the government to address these issues.

In conclusion, the situation in Ethiopia, particularly in the Amhara region, is dire and marked by widespread human rights abuses, including mass detentions, extrajudicial killings, and ethnic profiling of ethnic Amhara people. The mass killing in the Amhara region by the national defense force has significant implications for peace and stability in Ethiopia. The federal government’s actions have led to a cycle of violence and retaliation, with civilians bearing the brunt of the conflict. The international community has expressed concern over the targeting of civilians and called for independent investigations into the atrocities. The escalating violence and loss of innocent lives underscore the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ethiopia to prevent further bloodshed and suffering.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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