Ethiopia: Fresh Violence in Central Gonder Raises Questions About Further Escalation in the Area

Addis Standard has learned that the US government issued a security alert to its citizens in Ethiopia following 'reports of gunfire, roadblocks and the destruction of property' in and around the city of Gondar in Amhara region. This follows recent reports of unrest and severe firefights coming out of the area.

The areas at the center of this latest round of unrest are Chilga woreda in Central Gonder zone where questions of identity by the Qimant people led by the Qimant Identity Committees have been at the center of its relationship with the regional government and starting from just a few days ago the city of Gonder and its environs.

Reports of fighting between the Amhara region's special police force and armed farmers in Central Gonder zone started surfacing in mid-September with news of heavy gun fights that, reportedly, claimed the lives of several people, mostly farmers. In addition, an Associated Press reporter quoted a member of the Qimant community who said that there were youth wearing a uniform bearing the title 'Fanno' and insisting they should be able to arrest members of the Qimant Identity Committee. This development has been described as the immediate factor in starting the deadly bouts of violence in the last few weeks.

The commissioner of the regional police force, Ato. Abere Adamu, said that while some of the unrest around Chilga woreda can be attributed to the frustration of the families of those hurt in the conflicts, the firefights in and around Gonder are the result of terrorists wanting to sabotage the Mesqel celebrations, which are hugely popular among tourists. Several officials of the regional government have blamed 'powers that want to destabilize the region' for the unrest.

One of them, the head of the Peace and Security Bureau Ato. Agegnehu Teshager, said that the identity question of the Qimant people raised by the committees was properly answered, adding that concerns about disputed areas has been raised by the committees as well. He also doubled down on these 'powers that want to destabilize the region' as being behind the unrest by financing, training and arming the perpetrators.

In a statement published on October 2, 2019, the ruling party in the region, ADP, said that there was no renewed conflict between the people of Amhara and Qimant, but that this was a new tactic by 'bankrupt political gamblers' aimed at destroying Ethiopia by weakening the Amhara. In addition to the financing and training of the perpetrators, the statement declared media operations established for the very purpose of destabilizing the Amhara people as among the tactics used in the campaign to weaken the Amhara people's unity. It also urged the federal government to take action against these actors and the extremist media they are utilizing.

The question of who these 'bankrupt political gamblers' that 'want to destabilize the region' were became clearer in a conversation Ato. Abere Adamu had with VoA Amharic. The commissioner claimed that TPLF, the ruling party in neighboring Tigray region, was the one training and arming the perpetrators. This claim was strongly rejected by Ato. Getachew Reda, a TPLF central committee member. He said that it was a baseless accusation used by some members of the Amhara regional government security apparatus when their attempt to attack and kill helpless women and children backfired due to the strength of the victims' side. Ato. Getachew added that the accusers know they don't have a shred of evidence to back their accusations against TPLF.

On the other hand a facebook page titled 'Kemant Democratic Party' has released a statement on the conflict from an eponymous political party. According to that statement, the Amhara region's special police force started its latest round of operations in Chilga woreda and its environs in early September. It claims that searches aimed at identifying members of the Qimant Identity Committees were conducted by threat of imprisonment. The statement goes on to list different instances of killings by the special police force that happened until just a few days ago. Addis Standard cannot verify the story and/or statement released on this facebook page.

Please see this article for more background on the story.

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