Only 168 miles away from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office, Ataye, found in the Amhara Regional State, has experienced an ethnic-based attack that started on April 16, 2021. The warfare that has continued on the following days seems like a simulation of doomsday for Ataye.
Awraris Awgechew is an eyewitness and resident of the city who fled his home with his wife and two children to Debrebirhan. “On Friday, April 16, the perpetrators took a position to attack the residents, the region's forces [militias] have been called from the neighboring area to avert the attack,” Awraris told Addis Zeybe.
He continued sobbing, “unfortunately, the region’s forces have been unable to overcome the situation, the assailants started killing and burning the city.”
In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of Defense said, “the last three days have seen deadly armed violence in Ataye town and several other areas in the Oromo Special Zone of the Amhara region.”
The statement identified the perpetrators as anti-peace forces without referring to any particular body.
According to Awraris, the attack was not executed by random perpetrators. He said that “the perpetrators know the basics of the military; well trained and armed with heavy weapons.”
Seyoum Zelalem, another resident of the city, told Addis Zeybe that “the perpetrators especially killed innocents selecting the elderly and wealthy ones including children.”
Some reports indicated that at least 30 civilians were killed, 25 injured, and an unspecified number of families displaced due to their burnt houses.
The statement made by the Ministry of Defense stated that an unspecified number of people were killed in the armed attacks by gunmen in these areas, and a sizable property was destroyed. At the same time, many civilians fled the armed conflict.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission condemned the attacks in its short statement without declaring the number of victims.
“The ethnic-based attacks and counter-attacks against civilians in Amhara and Oromia regions, particularly in Northern Shoa and Oromia Special Zones, of recent weeks, have claimed numerous lives and should be condemned.”
Based on Addis Zeybe’s sources, the attack was well planned and organized. Prisons were also targeted.
“They attacked the correctional facilities and let the prisoners escape,” Seyoum said.
“Clashes of individuals for whatever reason from two different ethnic groups [Amhara and Oromo] and insecure access to water and pasture land in the surrounding areas sometimes led us to a friction that will be solved easily.”
He added that “but the attack that has happened now is extraordinary and immense.”
Weeks before the attack, a delegation led by President’s of Amhara and Oromia Regional States discussed security problems that had happened days before their meeting. Despite their meeting, days later, another attack occurred.
Northern Shoa Zone Head, Tadesse Geberetasidik, told Addis Zeybe that “the attack was devastating.”
According to him, “starting from 2019, the rate of conflict in the area increased significantly, but we don’t believe that the conflict is between the Amhara’s & Oromo’s.”
Tadesse added: “some forces would like to achieve their will via destabilization,” referring to OLF-Shene.
According to government officials, OLF-Shane split from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that spent years in exile, is responsible for the violence in Amhara and Oromia Regions.
Abiy told the Ethiopian parliament in March: “OLF-Shene is the enemy of Ethiopia.”
Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency in the southern part of the Amhara Region to put an end to the deadly violence.
The Ministry of Defense statement said that “the federal army in collaboration with the people was successfully working to quell violence.”
The residents of Ataye, who asked for anonymity, told Addis Zeybe that action is way better than endless talks.
“We don’t need a leap service, and they keep talking [government officials], lacking feasible action to protect the innocent civilians who are slaughtered and displaced by the perpetrators.”
Referring to one of the government's responsibilities, security, they blamed the government’s negligence.
“One of the responsibilities of the government is providing services that individuals cannot effectively provide for themselves, such as military defense and intelligence & security apparatus.”
“We would like to urge the government to execute its mandate. It is better not to talk much, the action says,” they said.
In its short statement, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission also stressed government responsibility.
“The government should deliver on its responsibility to protect people.”
The commission added: “these tragic incidents emanate from deep-rooted socio-political and institutional problems that require long-term sustainable solutions – measures that can break the cycle of gruesome violence that is taking place with impunity.”
According to Northern Shoa Zone Head, the residents should put their hand together in solving the problems.
“The two ethnic groups [the Amhara and Oromo] should come up together in providing information on those anti-peace elements.”
Meanwhile, thousands thronged the streets of Bahir Dar, Debre Markos, Wollo, and Woldiya as a sign of opposition to the targeted killings and displacements on the Amhara.
“Stop killing and displacing the Amhara’s, killing innocents and destroying cities is not a heroic act,” said protestors chanting slogans.
The Premier didn’t say anything on the matter. His last tweet on April 19 read: “rebuilding the Tigray Region requires the concerted efforts of various actors, especially those from the region. I met this morning with business owners and scholars from the Tigray Region living in Addis Ababa to discuss current issues and the situation in Tigray.” He made the statement from his office which is a five hours drive from Ataye.