Ethiopia faces new charge of atrocities in Amhara

Saturday September 16 2023

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. PHOTO | AFP


Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) are facing new allegations of atrocities in Amhara region, just a month after authorities in Addis Ababa imposed a state of emergency in the area to deal with a local rebellion.

And the Amhara Association of America (AAA), a grouping of ethnic Amhara professionals based in the US says it has sufficient proof the Forces carried out a door-to-door massacre in Majete and the surrounding area in Efrata Gidim Woreda, and North Shewa Zone, killing at least 33 people on September 3.

The organisation says in its report that ENDF—currently fighting against Amhara Fano Militia—killed the unarmed civilians and injured an additional 13 and has sought the help of the Oromo Liberation Army (Ola) fighters from the neighbouring Dawa Chefa Woreda. The organisation is based outside of Ethiopia but says it used local agent to conduct interviews.

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“The attack took place following the Fano’s unexpected attack on the ENDF stationed close to the town’s edge. Following Fano’s departure, the ENDF soldiers arrived in the town and the nearby villages with orders to execute anyone they encountered,” the report said. 

The Ethiopian government did not immediately respond to the report but has rejected previous allegations the crackdown on the rebellion was a human right violation. The operation, nonetheless, has been criticised at the UN.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had said three weeks ago that Ethiopian authorities had abused their powers in dealing with the rebellion by the local Fano group.

“We have received reports that more than 1,000 people have been arrested across Ethiopia under this law. Many of those detained were reported to be young people of Amhara ethnic origin suspected of being Fano supporters,” said the UN Human Rights Office on August 29.

“With federal forces reasserting their presence in certain towns and Fano militias reportedly retreating into rural areas, we call on all actors to stop killings, other violations and abuses. Grievances must be addressed through dialogue and political process.”

In Amhara region, following clashes between the Ethiopian military and the regional Fano militia, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on August 4.

The UN says at least 183 people have been killed in clashes since July.

The wide-ranging state of emergency allows security agents to arrest suspects without a court order, impose curfews and ban public gatherings as well as detain for longer than needed.

The Association said this week that when the attackers went door-to-door, they shot 18 of them to death in their houses. A victim only known as Yosef and his child died after being hit by a powerful artillery round fired by the ENDF.

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An unnamed ENDF General revealed that when fighting began in Antsokiya, he invited militias from Oromia for help so that government soldiers would not perish in Majete, but I have now withdrawn them.”

The report also indicates when witnesses cited the Oromo militias went door-to-door killing civilians, the general responded: “We are (Prime Minister Ahmed) Abiy’s army, if you fail to cooperate with us, severe measures will be taken. I have ordered the Oromia militias to take those killed and leave, I have apprehended the forces which followed the militias to loot and have returned the looted cattle.”

The AAA is located in North Carolina and investigates and documents human rights atrocities and repression against Amharas in Ethiopia.

Fano militias had resisted the government's decision to disband the regional security forces arguing that it threatened the identity of Amhara region. They also protested being left out of the November 2022 peace agreement between Addis Ababa and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Incidentally, militias in Amhara had supported the ENDF against TPLF in the two-year war leading to the peace deal.

The recent Majete Massacre comes only a week after Amnesty International released a report accusing Eritrean forces allied to the Ethiopian government of committing ‘war crimes’ in the Tigray region days before and after Addis Ababa signed a peace deal with rebels. It revealed extra-judicial executions of that more than 100 people by the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) in the Mariam Shewito district between October 25 and November 1, 2022.