Ethiopia extends state of emergency in AmharaFri, 02 Feb 2024 14:03:41 GMT

Ethiopian lawmakers on Friday extended a state of emergency in the restive northern region of Amhara, where fierce fighting had erupted last year.Ethiopia’s second most populous region was wracked for months in 2023 by clashes between the Ethiopian military and an ethnic Amhara “self-defence” militia known as Fano.The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed imposed a six-month state of emergency in August.A resolution to extend the measure was approved by a majority in the House of People’s Representatives on Friday, with only two votes opposed and three abstentions, the assembly said in a statement on its Facebook page.Parliament did not specify how long the state of emergency would now last, but according to the constitution it cannot be extended for more than four months at a time.Abiy’s Prosperity Party has more than 95 percent of the seats in the assembly, Ethiopia’s lower house of parliament.The head of Ethiopia’s human rights body, which has previously raised the alarm about abuses in Amhara, said he was “gravely concerned about extension of emergency powers and implications on human rights”.Daniel Bekele, chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), urged the government to “consider (the) necessity, legality and proportionality of” the state of emergency measures.”Dialogue is the key!” he said on X, formerly Twitter.The Amhara violence reignited concerns about the stability of Ethiopia months after a peace agreement was signed in November 2022 to end a two-year conflict in the neighbouring region of Tigray.Amhara was caught up in the war, with its regional forces fighting alongside federal government troops against Tigrayan rebels.The Fano, and other Amharas, felt betrayed by the deal with the dissident leaders of Tigray, longtime foes of Amhara nationalists who claim parts of Ethiopia’s northernmost region as their ancestral lands.- Rights violations -Tensions were further ignited in April last year when Abiy’s government decided to dismantle regional forces across the country which triggered protests among Amhara nationalists who said it would weaken their region.But the state of emergency has so far failed to quell the Fano rebellion, which saw the militia briefly seize control of key areas, including Ethiopia’s former imperial capital Gondar and the holy city of Lalibela, a UNESCO world heritage site.There is no official death toll from the Amhara fighting and it is impossible to verify the situation on the ground as media access to northern Ethiopia is heavily restricted by the authorities.The state of emergency is in force¬†throughout Amhara but can also be used against anyone in Ethiopia suspected of involvement in the violence in the region.In September, the EHRC accused federal government forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings in Amhara, and mass arbitrary detentions in the region and elsewhere.