More than 50,000 Displaced by Clashes in Northern Ethiopia: UN

More than 50,000 Displaced by Clashes in Northern Ethiopia: UN

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Over 50,000 people have been displaced by clashes in a disputed area in northern Ethiopia, the UN said, as the international community expressed concern about the violence involving fighters from rival regions.

"The humanitarian situation is dire, with thousands of women and children in need of broad humanitarian support to survive," the UN said late Monday, citing local authorities in the disputed area, which is claimed by Tigray and neighboring Amhara.

The United Nations noted the number of people displaced by the armed clashes in Alamata Town and Raya Alamata, Zata and Ofla since the weekend has passed 50,000.

Amhara forces occupied Raya Alamata in southern Tigray during a two-year war between Ethiopia's government and regional Tigrayan authorities.

Under a peace deal between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and Tigrayan authorities, Amhara forces -- which backed federal troops during the conflict -- were due to withdraw from Raya Alamata after the agreement was signed in Pretoria in November 2022.

Neither the federal government nor Tigrayan authorities responded to AFP requests for information and the identity of the fighters involved remains unclear. It is impossible to verify the situation on the ground independently as media access to northern Ethiopia is heavily restricted.

Reports of the fighting have sparked alarm among the international community, with the embassies of several nations including the United States, Japan, Britain and France on Saturday calling for dialogue and urging the "de-escalation and protection of civilians".

The Amhara regional administration last week accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front party, which controls Tigray, of "invading" Raya Alamata and other areas "which have identity questions".

"The Amhara region administration asks TPLF and its supporters to... fully adhere to the Pretoria agreement and hence to swiftly vacate from the areas it currently controls," it said in a statement issued last Wednesday.

"If this doesn't happen the Amhara region administration will be forced... to protect our people from attack and save the country from destruction."

Getachew Reda, a senior TPLF member who heads the Tigray regional administration, said on X last week that the recent developments were "the work of diehard enemies of the Pretoria agreement trying to take advantage of real or perceived differences to derail" the peace deal.

During the war, Amhara forces occupied and still retain control of western Tigray, a disputed region that is claimed by both regions.

The 2022 peace deal signed in Pretoria does not mention the region, but Abiy said at the time that the issue could be resolved through constitutional means, including a possible referendum.

"At this point, the Tigrayan side has little room for manoeuvre," said Benedikt Kamski, an Addis Ababa-based expert on Ethiopian politics, from the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute in Freiburg, Germany.

"The federal government seems unwilling to fully implement the Pretoria agreement in a timely manner... (and is) hesitant or rather totally opposed to return all disputed territories under Amhara administration," he told AFP.

Amhara, Ethiopia's second most populous region, has been wracked by clashes since April 2023, when the federal government's decision to dismantle regional forces across the country triggered clashes.

Amhara nationalists, who already felt betrayed by the Tigray peace deal, said the move would weaken their region.

Last August, as fighting raged between an Amhara militia and federal troops, Abiy's government imposed a state of emergency in the region, that remains in force.

A mosaic of more than 80 ethno-linguistic communities, Ethiopia has endured multiple conflicts over identity and territorial claims in recent years.

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