The security situation in Amhara region is changing fast as civilians in various cities of the region staged protests against the government’s decision to dissolve the controversial regional state special forces and “reorganize” them into regular regional and federal police as well as the national army.
Clashes break out in several cities
Clashes broke out between government security forces and civilians as well as between members of the regional special forces and the national army in some cities according to residents. Residents in Kobo town in the North Wollo zone of Amhara region reported hearing the sound of artillery in the town on Sunday night. Reuters news agency reported that members of the Amhara special forces had fired their weapons into the sky all night in defiance of the decision following massive protests on Sunday in the city of Gondar.
Opposition speaks out against use of heavy weapons
In a statement issued on Sunday, the opposition National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) claimed that the use of heavy weapons was observed in Raya Kobo and urged that it should stop right away.
Protests held in at least seven major cities
According to Reuters, protests were held in at least seven major cities of the region including the capital Bahir Dar, Gondar, Dessie, Woldia, etc. Many city entrances and exits were blocked in addition to the demonstrations.
City restrictions imposed
Following the massive protests in Gondar, the security command post office of the city imposed 12 different restrictions including a ban on bars and nightclubs which prohibited serving customers after 9: 00 PM local time. It also prohibited three-wheel vehicles commonly called Bajaj from providing transportation services in the city from 2:00 PM to 6:00 AM local time. Other restrictions include carrying firearms outside of authorized government security forces, including silent instruments with sharp edges such as knives and spears. Obstructing the law enforcement mission of security forces by covering up for suspects, concealing, and giving false information is another prohibition announced by the command office.
Government remains firm on decision
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) stated yesterday that the reorganization of the regional special forces will be implemented at any cost, expressing his firm stance, despite the fact that protests are currently being held in many cities of the Amhara region in opposition to the federal government’s decision. Yelikal Kefale (PhD), president of Amhara Regional State also announced that the decision was made with the support of the federal and regional administrations and will be carried out across all regions; “There was no explicit decision to disarm and disband the special forces in the Amhara region.”
Calls for decision to be reversed
Following the announcement of the decision last week, two political parties, NaMA and Balderas, announced that they would stand against it. The statement released by NaMA urged the ruling party to immediately reverse the decision and consult with the government and people of the Amhara region. The party noted that the sudden and inadequate security guarantee would make the region’s at-risk areas vulnerable to direct attack. It also encouraged the decision to be changed in a way that guarantees the region’s as well as the nation’s long-term peace.
Balderas for True Democracy, in its statement, asserted that the action is unacceptable given the timing and the current situation in the region despite the fact that dissolving local special forces into a centralized defensive army is recommended. “Balderas strongly encourages the Amhara regional administration to uphold its duty and reject the implementation of the decision to disarm the Amhara special forces that puts the Amhara people in danger,” reads the statement