The Amhara Region in general has experienced little of the violence that has been occurring across the rest of the country. While the Region contains similar elements in terms of conflicting political dynamics including rising ethno-nationalism and violent territorial agenda, Amhara ethno-nationalists have been placated due to recent events that have placed them in a position of favor in the national spectrum. Specifically, Amhara ethno-nationalist party agendas currently fall in line with the national efforts at removing the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF); and forces from the Amhara Region have gained control over historically-contested lands inhabited by ethnic Amhara in Western and Southern Tigray Zones, Tigray Region.
Like other regions in the country, the Amhara Region has its own Special Forces or “Liyu Hayl”, made up of ethnically-exclusive combatants that are loyal to the regional government. With ranks swelled during the 2018-2019 period in anticipation of conflict with Tigray forces, the Amhara Special Forces have recently gained real battle experience during clashes with the TPLF in Western Tigray and have become a powerful military force in the country. Often fighting alongside the Amhara Special Forces are Amhara ethnic militias, known as “Fano”, a legitimate militia which operate at the Kebele level and who form the lowest rung of the Ethiopian security ladder.
Although the Amhara Special Forces and Kebele “Fano” militias are regional forces, they are active in at least two conflicts outside of the Amhara Region. In addition to their activities in Western Tigray, Amhara Special Forces and Fano are actively fighting Sudanese Armed Forces along the border in an area known as Al Fashaga. After Sudanese Forces displaced Amhara farmers from the contested area, Amhara Kebele militias and Special Forces responded, attacking Sudanese Forces and driving an intense border conflict (Sudan Tribune, 24 December 2020; Watson, 2021). See the Al Fashaga border dispute profile for more information.
These militias’ existence and power is political dynamite for the Abiy-led federal government as their agendas are not necessarily tied with those of the national government. Attempts by the federal government at removing Amhara forces from Western Tigray, for example, will likely be met with resistance, and Amhara Special Force’s activity in Sudan threatens to extend outwards into more formalized warfare. Conflict in the Region will occur if a balanced alignment is not maintained between the Federal Government (espoused in the Prosperity-Party vehicle) and Amhara nationalist parties – namely the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA).
Areas in the Amhara Region inhabited by ethnic minorities have rebelled in alarm at rising Amhara nationalism, and clashes have occurred. Deep-rooted conflict occurs frequently in the Oromo Special Zone of Amhara Region, where Oromo ethno-nationalists clash with Amhara State Forces (for more, see the Kemise conflict profile). ACLED has also recorded a series of clashes between regional troops with Agew-Qemant ethnic militias in 2018. Banditry and smuggling in border areas with Sudan are common occurrences.
ACLED researchers are paying specific attention to rifts that have been exposed between the Amhara and Oromo Prosperity Party branches. If widened and continued, these contests for the direction and dominance of the Prosperity Party could throw the delicate balance between the two regions into a wild spiral with consequent violence that could even affect the capital.
- On 1 March 2021, the Sudanese army carried out a military attack against the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces to control Barkhat (Bahram Abdelmoneim, 2 March 2021).
- From 19-22 March 2021, unknown number of civilians have been killed and injured in Ataye, North Shewa Zone, and Kemise, Oromo Special Zone of Amhara Region as a result an armed clashes between the Amhara Liyu Police and OLF-Shane (Addis standard, 22 March 2021; BBC, 24 March 2021).
- On 16 April 2021, well-organized gunmen — believed to be a combination of militants from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane and local Oromo militias — clashed with Amhara Special Forces and federal troops in Ataye and the surrounding towns of Shewa Robit, Karakore, Mekoya (Antsokiya), Ephrata Gidim, and Majete. The exact number of fatalities from the clashes is unknown (VOA, 16 April 2021; Amhara Media Corporation, 17 April 2021; Reporter, 18 April 2021).
- On 26 April 2021, suspected TPLF-associated militias launched an attack against Amhara Special Forces in Nirak town in Wag Hamra Zone killing 11 people, including civilians (Waghimra Communication, 27 April 2021; DW Amharic, 27 April 2021).
- On 30 April 2021, Sudanese armed forces reportedly fired heavy weapons into a farm located 70km from the Ethiopian side of the border in the area of Mendoka, west Gondar (DW Amharic, 30 April 2021).