United States expressing deep concern about targeted civilian killings in the town of Merawi in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa called for unfettered access by independent human rights monitors and an impartial investigation into the reported killings to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The statement also highlighted disturbing reports of other violations and abuses in different parts of Ethiopia, involving both government and non-state actors, and urged all sides to engage in dialogue.
The situation in Merawi and the broader context of violence in the Amhara region reflects the ongoing challenges and tensions within Ethiopia. The conflict in Tigray, land disputes, and government decisions regarding regional forces have contributed to heightened tensions in various parts of the country.
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The killings occurred on January 29, 2024, following six hours of fighting between the non-state militia, Fano, and the Ethiopian National Defense. The attacks killed 44 civilians, including 14 women, 12 men, and 18 children. About 50 others were also injured.
The reported killings in the town of Merawi in the Amhara region follow months of clashes last year between Ethiopia’s military and an ethnic Amhara “self-defence” militia known as Fano.
The fighting prompted the federal government to impose a state of emergency in August that was extended by four months by lawmakers last week.
Details about the alleged killings in Merawi are scarce but local media said dozens of civilians were killed by government forces conducting door-to-door searches for Fano supporters.
Media access to northern Ethiopia is heavily restricted by the authorities, making it impossible to verify the situation on the ground.
On Friday, the US embassy in Addis Ababa released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, from the ambassador, Ervin Massinga, saying: “The US government is deeply concerned by reports of targeted civilian killings in the town of Merawi in Amhara regional state.
“We call for unfettered access by independent human rights monitors as well as an impartial investigation to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
The statement also drew attention to “numerous disturbing reports of other violations and abuses… elsewhere in Ethiopia, reports which implicate government and non-state actors alike,” urging all sides to enter into dialogue.
Contacted by AFP, the federal government communications service declined to comment on the matter.
Ethiopia’s human rights body, which has previously sounded the alarm about abuses in Amhara, told AFP on Friday that it was “still investigating the issue”.
“At this stage of the process, we do not have additional details available for disclosure,” the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
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 regional forces fought alongside federal government troops against Tigrayan rebels, and the peace deal fuelled a sense of betrayal among the Amhara, with the two regions sharing a history of land disputes.
Tensions escalated in April last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government decided to dismantle regional forces across the country which triggered protests among Amhara nationalists who said it would weaken their 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.