Dehai News Tigray-Amhara Violence Threatens Fragile Peace

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Wednesday, 15 May 2024


Armed conflict has returned to the northern Ethiopian town of Alamata with the most serious fighting since the end of the Tigray war in 2022.

The town and surrounding woreda, or district, are within one of two territories disputed by the Tigray and Amhara regions — contested lands that have been a tinderbox of ethnic discontent for decades.

More than 50,000 people, primarily Amhara, have been forced to flee their homes in the Alamata woreda, as Tigrayan and Amhara militants clashed sporadically in February, March and April.

“The humanitarian situation is dire, with thousands of women and children in need of humanitarian support to survive,” the United Nations said on April 22.

The renewed fighting stems from the implementation of the fragile Pretoria Agreement, which ended the two-year war but left the issue of the disputed land unresolved.

Amhara militias fought alongside the federal army against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) during the war and took control of the contested territories, which are designated in the federal constitution as the Western Zone and the Southern Zone of the Tigray region.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans fled the two territories as Amhara fighters set up their own governing bodies and committed what two international human rights groups described as an ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans.

During the leadup to peace talks, the TPLF stated that the return of the disputed territories to Tigrayan control was a “nonnegotiable” prerequisite.

“Much remains unresolved, including the dispute between Tigray and Amhara over western and southern territories, known to Amhara as Welkait and Raya,” the Crisis Group think tank wrote in a November 2023 brief.

“The knot of intertwined grievances in Ethiopia will be difficult to disentangle.”

From 1991 to 2018, the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s federal government. The Amhara people assert that after the TPLF came to power it violently displaced thousands of Amhara in annexing Welkait and Raya into the Western and Southern Zones of the Tigray region, respectively.

Conversely, Tigrayans believe their ethnicity was the majority in the two disputed territories, which justified their annexations.

The vice president of Tigray’s interim administration, Lt. Gen. Tadesse Werede, said on May 1 that Tigrayan officials reached an agreement with the federal government on plans to return hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans displaced by the war.

The plan calls for the Southern Region to be restored to Tigrayan administrative control by May 30 and the Western Region to be restored by June 30, he said.

“It was agreed that a detailed plan on who should be disarmed, which administrations should be dismantled and how the displaced persons should be returned would be implemented under the supervision of the African Union Monitoring and Verification Group,” Tadesse said, according to Ethiopian TV and radio network Dimtsi Weyane.

“There is nothing in the developments so far that invites conflict.”

Beyene Alamaw, an Amhara representative in the Gondar area, vehemently disagreed. Despite being allies during the Tigray war, Amhara fighters have battled federal forces across the Amhara region since last July in a struggle for self-governance.

“They are beating a war drum,” he told an online media briefing on May 2. “We won’t tolerate anyone who would try to impose force and invade.”

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