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Quest for Justice: Unraveling the Amhara Struggle in Ethiopia 

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Amhara Struggle _ Ethiopia
Image : file (SM)

By Chalachew Jemberie, PhD  

  1. Introduction: 

For over three decades, Ethiopia’s Amhara community has endured relentless persecution, with their plight often described as genocidal due to the intensity of killings, forced displacements, and human rights abuses they face (Johnson, 2022; European Times, 2021; Peebles, 2023). This overview dives into the Amhara’s historical struggles, key incidents, and the current dire challenges, underscoring the ethnic conflicts destabilizing Ethiopia.

The Amhara’s ordeal began with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) rise to power in 1991, which implemented an ethnic federalism system. Intended to celebrate diversity, this approach instead marginalized the Amhara, making them targets of violence (Atnafu, 2018; Human Rights Watch, 2007; Human Rights Watch, 2010).

The narrative then shifts to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s tenure from 2018. His leadership, initially hopeful for change, has seen the Amhara’s situation worsen, especially during the Tigray War and a subsequent genocidal phase from August 2023 onwards. Recent mass atrocities against the Amhara underscore the inadequacy of protective measures for them (Collins, 2020; Amnesty International, 2020; Human Rights Watch, 2024).

Thus, this piece scrutinizes the ongoing persecution of the Amhara, particularly the violence and ethnic cleansing experienced since August 2023. It aims to bring the Amhara’s dire circumstances to light, advocating for immediate global intervention and support.

  1.  The Era of TPLF’s Control: A Time of Division

When the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), led by Melse Zenawi, took charge, Ethiopia saw a big shift. They introduced a new way of governing, called ethnic federalism, meant to give different ethnic groups their own regions and control. But this idea, though aimed at celebrating Ethiopia’s diversity, ended up causing more harm than good, especially for the Amhara people. According to Human Rights Watch reports from 2007 and 2010, this system led to more division and attacks against the Amhara, who were often blamed for the country’s past problems.

The TPLF also changed the borders to include lands where Amharas lived, like Welkait and Raya, into the Tigray region. This led to violence and rights abuses against the Amhara, aiming to erase their identity and silence opposition. The Human Rights Watch report from 2015 highlighted that these actions were either ignored or supported by the government, causing widespread fear and rights violations among the Amhara.

Attacks targeted well-known Amhara figures to suppress any disagreement. The persecution of Dr. Asrat Woldeyes, reported by The Washington Post, shows how far the TPLF went to control dissent, making many Amharas lose their lands and hurting their way of life. Under TPLF rule, the Amharas lost a lot of their influence in Ethiopia, leaving them on the sidelines of society and politics.

After the TPLF lost power, Ethiopia entered a new but challenging phase. The emergence of the Oromo-led Prosperity Party and the start of the Tigray War revealed deep-seated ethnic conflicts, making Ethiopia’s journey toward peace and unity even more complicated.

  1. The Amhara’s Challenges under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (2018-Present)

Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018, his administration has been a period of both hope and hardship for the Amhara. Initially, Abiy’s rise hinted at a new era of reform and unity. Yet, the ensuing Tigray War significantly worsened the situation for the Amhara, leading to widespread displacement and deepening humanitarian crises. This period revealed the deep-seated ethnic rifts within the country and underscored the profound difficulties facing the Amhara community (The Guardian, 2022; The New York Times, 2022).

Abiy’s tenure has been characterized by policies that have, in many ways, intensified the Amhara’s suffering. The government’s strategy, which included attempts to reform the political landscape, has often fallen short of protecting the Amhara from targeted aggression. Additionally, the response to the resulting humanitarian crises has been critically lacking. The continuation of an ethnic federalism approach has perpetuated divisions rather than fostering unity and reconciliation, leaving the Amhara at risk of further violence and alienation (Al Jazeera, 2020; Foreign Policy, 2019; Africa News Agency, 2022).

  1.  The Ongoing Genocidal Phase (From August 2023 to the Present)

Since August 2023, the Amhara community in Ethiopia has been ensnared in a profoundly disturbing phase of violence that has been marked by mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread attacks. Observers and scholars have increasingly referred to these actions as genocidal, highlighting a critical point of international concern and the Ethiopian government’s ambiguous role in either perpetuating or failing to prevent these atrocities (Collins, 2020; Amnesty International, 2020; Human Rights Watch, 2024).

The resurgence of the Fano militia during this period, a group deeply rooted in the Amhara’s historical grievances, signals a desperate plea for protection and a shift towards self-preservation in a system perceived as antagonistic towards Amhara interests (Abebe & Moges, 2024; Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°194, 2023; London School of Economics and Political Science, 2023).

 Detailed Accounts of the Amhara Massacres

The Finote Selam Drone Strike: A Grim Prelude

On August 13, 2023, the Ethiopian National Defense Force executed a drone strike on Finote Selam, a town within the Amhara Region’s West Gojjam Zone. This devastating attack resulted in the deaths of 30 individuals and left over 55 severely injured, marking a significant escalation in the conflict affecting the region. The attack not only caused a high casualty rate but also signaled an intensification in the use of force by governmental forces, raising alarms over the broader implications for the conflict dynamics within the Amhara Region. In the aftermath, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported receiving credible reports of the incident, which included extensive civilian casualties and substantial damage to residential areas and public infrastructure, underscoring an urgent need for military strategy reassessment to safeguard human rights and civilian lives (BBC News, 2023; Addis Insight, 2023).

Lalibela and Majete: Cultural Heritage Under Siege

September 2023 witnessed further atrocities, particularly in Lalibela, a city renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock-hewn churches. This period saw the emergence of reports detailing civilian massacres by government forces, shedding light on a pattern of violence disproportionately targeting the Amhara community. Concurrently, Majete experienced similar horrors, with government forces accused of executing targeted attacks on civilians. These events not only resulted in the tragic loss of life but also struck a profound blow to the Amhara’s cultural heritage, exacerbating a growing sense of encirclement and intensifying the humanitarian crisis within the region (The American Amhara Association, 2023; Barron’s, 2023).

The Merawi Massacre: A Brutal Campaign

Between January 29-30, 2024, the Merawi massacre unfolded, becoming one of the most harrowing episodes in the ongoing strife within the Amhara Region. The Ethiopian National Defense Force is reported to have carried out extrajudicial killings of between 50 to 100 residents, evidencing a dramatic surge in the violence meted out against the Amhara community. Eyewitness accounts and circulating video clips on social media depict scenes of indiscriminate killings, with many victims executed both in public spaces and within their homes. This brutality, particularly pronounced in Merawi’s 02 Kebele, involved acts of robbery by military officers before the killings. 

Following the massacre, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the deaths of at least 45 civilians, highlighting the gravity of the situation and the critical need for justice and accountability (Al Jazeera, 2024; Human Rights Watch, 2024; The Guardian, 2024).

These detailed accounts of each massacre underscore the severity of the crisis facing the Amhara community in Ethiopia. They illustrate not only the immediate human cost of these conflicts but also the profound impact on the cultural and societal fabric of the Amhara people, necessitating a decisive international response to ensure justice, peace, and reconciliation.

  1. Detailed Look at the Economic and Humanitarian Crisis in Amhara

Widespread Economic Damage and Job Losses

The conflict in Amhara has led to staggering economic losses across various sectors. Notably, international companies, including telecom giant Safaricom, had to scale back operations severely, affecting the rollout of vital services like the M-Pesa mobile money platform. The turmoil prompted the Ethiopian government to declare a state of emergency and shut down internet services, further straining the business environment. The region, a key player in Ethiopia’s economic landscape, has seen over $45 million in direct damages, with the local job market taking a hit—over 3,000 jobs vanished as the conflict escalated (Getachew, 2023).

Impact on Agriculture and Threats to Food Security

Agriculture, the backbone of the Amhara economy, is under severe threat due to the deliberate withholding of fertilizer supplies. This dire situation risks not just the current crop cycle but the long-term food security of the region. The price hike in essential commodities, particularly teff, which has nearly doubled in cost, is a testament to the growing food insecurity that threatens millions of lives. The economic tactics employed, targeting agricultural stability, have placed additional burdens on an already struggling population (Addis Standard, 2023; EthioNegari, 2024).

Investment Downturn and International Business Withdrawal

The investment climate in Amhara has dramatically worsened. Foreign entities, pivotal in the region’s flower export sector, have paused their activities, disrupting one of Ethiopia’s key export commodities. The conflict’s ripple effects have deterred new investments, with potential investors adopting a cautious stance given the uncertainty and instability. Initial assessments indicate that local industries have suffered approximately 2.5 billion birr in damages, with a daunting path to economic recovery and revitalization ahead (Getachew, 2023).

Reconstruction Challenges and Financial Requirements

The road to recovery for Amhara is fraught with challenges. The administration’s estimates suggest an overwhelming need for nearly half a trillion birr ($9.5 billion) to repair the war-damaged infrastructure and rejuvenate the region’s economy. Given Amhara’s significant contribution to the national GDP, this financial burden underscores the critical need for concerted efforts towards reconstruction and sustainable development (Getachew, 2023).

Extensive Economic and Social Consequences Beyond Amhara

The conflict’s impact transcends regional boundaries, affecting Ethiopia’s broader economic framework. Critical services have faced disruptions, and the overarching economic downturn in Amhara sends shockwaves through the nation’s economy. The subsequent job losses and business closures in Amhara contribute to a cycle of economic decline, challenging Ethiopia’s aspirations for stability and growth.

The ongoing conflict in the Amhara region has precipitated an acute economic and humanitarian crisis, marked by significant financial losses, agricultural disruptions, and a chilling effect on both local and international investments. The extensive damage to the region’s infrastructure and the broader implications for Ethiopia’s economy highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive response. Addressing the immediate humanitarian needs while laying the groundwork for long-term recovery and peace is paramount. The international community’s engagement and support are crucial in navigating this complex crisis and ensuring a resilient future for the Amhara region and Ethiopia at large.

Chalachew Jemberie is Professional Data Scientist and Adjunct Professor at University of Maryland (UMBC).  He can be reached at : chalachewtem@gmail.com 

Notes :

– Abebe, A. K., & Moges, Z. (2024). “Ethiopia’s Amhara Conflict Could Spark Civil War.” Foreign Policy. Retrieved from [https://foreignpolicy.com/] (https://foreignpolicy.com/)

– Addis Insight. (2023). “More than 30 Civilians Killed in Drone Attack in Finote Selam.” Retrieved from [https://addisinsight.com/more-than-30-civilians-killed-in-drone-attack-in-finote-selam/](https://addisinsight.com/more-than-30-civilians-killed-in-drone-attack-in-finote-selam/)

– Addis Standard. (2023). “Farmers in Amhara region face setback as fertilizer distribution disruptions compound amidst reignited conflict.” Retrieved from
[https://addisstandard.com/news-farmers-in-amhara-region-face-setback-as-fertilizer-distribution-disruptions-compound-amidst-reignited-conflict/](https://addisstandard.com/news-farmers-in-amhara-region-face-setback-as-fertilizer-distribution-disruptions-compound-amidst-reignited-conflict/)

– Africa News Agency. (2022). “Ethiopia Wollega massacre: Death count surpasses 1500.” Retrieved from [https://www.africanewsagency.com/](https://www.africanewsagency.com/)

– “Ethiopia: In the Shadow of the Elections, Amharas are Massacred in Silence.” (2021, June 21). *European Times*. Retrieved from [https://europeantimes.news/](https://europeantimes.news/)

– “Ethiopia: more than 200 Amhara people killed in attack blamed on rebels.” (2022). The Guardian. Retrieved from [https://www.theguardian.com/](https://www.theguardian.com/)

– EthioNegari. (2024). “The war in Amhara costs Ethiopia 15 Billion Birr.” Retrieved from [https://ethionegari.com/2024/03/07/the-war-in-amhara-costs-ethiopia-15-billion-birr/](https://ethionegari.com/2024/03/07/the-war-in-amhara-costs-ethiopia-15-billion-birr/)

– Human Rights Watch. (2007, December 3). “UN: Atrocities Fuel Worsening Crisis in Horn of Africa.” Retrieved from [https://www.hrw.org/](https://www.hrw.org/)

– Human Rights Watch. (2010, March 24). “One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia.” Retrieved from [https://www.hrw.org/](https://www.hrw.org/)

– Human Rights Watch. (2024, April 1). “Ethiopia: Justice Needed for Deadly October Violence.” Retrieved from [https://www.hrw.org/](https://www.hrw.org/)

– Johnson, R. (2022, October 5). “Amharas, The Occulted Ongoing Genocide in Ethiopia.” European Times News. Retrieved from [https://europeantimes.news/](https://europeantimes.news/)

– London School of Economics and Political Science. (2023). A conflict between the Amhara Fano and the government is the latest challenge to Ethiopia. Retrieved from [https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/](https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/)

– Peebles, G. (2023, April 22). “Ethiopia: Amhara People, Betrayed Persecuted And Ignored – OpEd.” Retrieved from [https://eurasiareview.com/](https://eurasiareview.com/)

– The American Amhara Association. (2023). “The September 3, 2023, Majete Massacre of Amhara Civilians by Abiy Regime Forces.”

– The Guardian. (2024). “Dozens of civilians killed by Ethiopian state troops in Amhara region, say reports.” Retrieved from [https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/feb/12/dozens-of-civilians-killed-by-ethiopian-state-troops-in-amhara-region-say-reports](https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/feb/12/dozens-of-civilians-killed-by-ethiopian-state-troops-in-amhara-region-say-reports)

– The New York Times. (2022). “Over 200 Feared Dead in Ethiopia Massacre.” Retrieved from [https://www.nytimes.com/](https://www.nytimes.com/)

– Wikipedia. “Finote Selam drone strike.” Retrieved from [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finote_Selam_drone_strike](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finote_Selam_drone_strike)

– Woldeyes, Y. G. (2023, September 6). “Ethiopia’s Amhara People Are Being Portrayed as the Enemy: The Dangerous History of Ethnic Politics.” *The Conversation*. Retrieved from [https://theconversation.com/](https://theconversation.com/)

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1 COMMENT

  1. For the pervasive and large-scale massacre of Muslims and defenseless civilians in the Amhara region, Abiy Ahmed needs to be held accountable.

    Given all the horrors and tragedies he has perpetrated on his fellow citizens, Ethiopians of all racial and religious backgrounds, Abiy Ahmed is a demented guy who ought to resign and be sent to the ICC. He is no longer capable of leading the nation, and he has been suffering from a mental illness for a long time without receiving the care he needs.
    ———-The murderous Abiy Ahmed, a deranged man, must resign now.————————-

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