FILE PHOTO: Mourners carry the coffin of Amhara president Mekonnen and two other officials during their funeral in the town of Bahir Dar
One of our followers asked us to check up on reports of ongoing ethnic violence in Ethiopia, so let’s dive right into it. 

Ethiopia has had a rough time of it in the past few weeks. 

There was a failed coup over the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of June, which left four top officials dead. 

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been in and out of neighbouring Sudan trying to broker a peace deal between the military government and civilian opposition, but came out fighting on Sunday, June 23rd, saying the failed coup was not the result of ethnic violence. 

Let me put Ethiopia’s recent history into perspective for you… Abiy Ahmed came into power in 2018, and has implemented sweeping changes and reforms that resulted in Ethiopia becoming one of the fastest-growing economies on the African continent.

But, not everyone likes what Ahmed is trying to do. Ethiopia is made up of nine states based on ethnic territoriality, and before Ahmed came to power, these rival states had been competing and disputing, along ethnic lines, over resources, land, permissions and power.

There were years of protests against Ahmed’s predecessor who stepped down in the wake of these anti-government demonstrations. He had failed to deal with ethnic tensions in the regions. When Ahmed became prime minister, he lifted bans on some separatist groups, released thousands of political prisoners and prosecuted government and security officials guilty of past abuses. 

This sat well with many groups who had felt victimised in the past, but others felt the time was right to flex their muscles. 

Ethnic militia groups are not uncommon in Ethiopia, with each of the nine regions controlling their own revenue and security forces. But, ethnic groups that once had strong representation in government are now feeling sidelined, and personally upset by the changes Ahmed is trying to bring, are now trying to build up their power bases, actively recruiting militia members. They’re reigniting old regional border disputes, often with violent outcomes.

This has only served to ignite tensions between rival ethnic groups, and the ensuing violence has forced some 2.4 million people from their homes, according to the United Nations. 

Ethnic militia groups carry out revenge attacks, vigilante attacks and political killings as the struggle for more land and influence continues. Human Rights Watch has reported there have been killings in the Harari, Somali, Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.

These fresh tensions which have led to violence which has often resulted in deaths are just a reignition of existing stresses which were only put on hold when Abiy Ahmed became prime minister. 

He preached patience, tolerance, widespread reform, and in many respects has lived up to his promises. Ahmed is widely known as a man of peace, but the ethnic leaders are getting impatient, and want to gain more power. Ahmed has brokered peace with neighbouring Eritrea, and is still in peace talks in Sudan. But, he may need to focus inward and look at his own country which appears to be on the brink of civil war, especially as the failed coup at the weekend suggests.

Ahmed will have to rely on his government to continue preaching, and practising, unity in order to pull Ethiopia’s squabbling states together and avoid all-out war.

We’ll keep a close eye on this developing story here at ANAplus.

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