Ethiopia’s Amhara state arrests civilians after deadly clashes with army

The Amhara regional state in Ethiopia says a number of civilians have been arrested for their role in deadly violence that killed over 20 people in the state through last week.

The state-run FBC and privately owned Addis Standard news portals said the party governing the region, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), disclosed the measure after a central committee meeting.

The region, the second largest in the country, is located in the north and was riled by anti-government sentiments in three town – Woldiya, Kobo and most recently in Mersa. The Woldiya incident sparked off what is seen as solidarity protests in Kobo and Mersa.

Even though the exact number of arrest is not known, political watchers are wondering why no security forces have been arrested over their use of undue force on unarmed civilians.

According to the United Nations, security forces deployed during the Epiphany celebrations in the region used gunfire to prevent young people from chanting anti-government slogans during the celebrations. Their action led to more protests and the burning of private and public properties.

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The official casualty figures for Woldiya was put at seven whiles in Kodo activists mentioned three. The Addis Standard said: “at least eleven people possibly more were killed in the town of Mersa.”

Gedu Andargachew, leader of ANDM and president of the Amhara region in a televised address last Thursday admitted the death of civilians and property damages both in Weldiya and Kobo.

He blamed it on the regional state’s failure to deliver on its mandates, which according to him had led to “piles of grievances.” “This is ANDM’s problem,” he said referring to the party governing the region.

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“The result of this conflict is loss of lives, property damages and hindrance on civilians from pursuing a peaceful life.” He promised that the party will work closely with religious leaders, elders and rank and file administrative members if the region to “restore peace.”

Amhara along with Oromia region were the main centers of anti-government protest that shook the country in 2015 and through the better part of 2016.

To quell the violent protests, Addis Ababa imposed a nationwide state-of-emergency in October 2016. The measure was lifted in August 2017. Parts of the country have been rocked by deadly protests since the measure was lifted.

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