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Ethiopia declares state of emergency amid Amhara clashes

August 4, 2023

Days of clashes between security forces and a militia group in the northern region of Amhara have renewed fears of a security crisis.

A damaged building in Amhara region, Ethiopia, that is once again engulfed by fighting
Amahara authorities asked the federal government for help following clashes Image: Waghemra district Communication office

Ethiopia's government announced a state of emergency on Friday, following days of clashes between the federal security forces and local ethnic militia in the northern Amhara region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office declared the state of emergency in Amhara, the country's second-most populous region.

"It has become necessary to declare a state of emergency as a situation has emerged where it has become difficult to control this unacceptable movement under current law," it said in a statement. "The threat the activity is imposing on national security and public peace is increasing day by day." 

Friday's order gave the government powers to impose curfews, restrict movement, ban the carrying of guns and other sharp objects, ban public gatherings, and to make arrests and conduct searches without warrants.

Amhara is one of Ethiopia's 11 regions. Each region has its own police force and militia.

The cost of Ethiopia's Tigray-war on Amhara

What is happening in Amhara?

Intense fighting broke out between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the Fano militia group earlier in the week.

Both forces had fought alongside federal ones in the Tigray conflict, but now the federal government wants to centralize power.

The government said it wanted to integrate local defense forces into the police and the national army, which sparked protests in the region in April.

Protesters say the government's plans to integrate forces would leave their region vulnerable to attack from other regions.

The dismantling and integration of Amhara special forces is part of the federal government's peace deal with Tigrayan forces.

Amhara has been gripped by instability since April when federal authorities moved to disarm Amhara special forces.

The internet has been shut down in several parts of the region, the Ethiopia-based Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy said Thursday.

Elsewhere in the region, residents said protesters blocked roads, and Fano militia ambushed military units. Government officials fled several towns.

rm/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)