Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a humanitarian cease-fire five weeks ago, but it is already beginning to fray. In the northern region of Amhara, fighting had subsided. But, last week, it erupted again.
VOA spoke to witnesses who got caught up in the fighting when militants from the Fano militia group, on the border of the Oromia zone, in Amhara, allegedly opened fire on civilians close to the town of Shewa Robit.
Wendowessen Mamo says he was 3 kilometers away when the conflict erupted.
“Molale, the epicenter of the conflict, is almost burned to the ground like Ataye town was, where three such ethnic-based conflicts happened in the space of a year,” he added.
The hills of Amhara have been the scene of fighting between federal government forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and militia groups for months.
Most people who spoke to VOA said they want to see peace now – among them Demeku Ali Abdu, who says her son was taken and killed after TPLF troops occupied her house last year.
“When I confirmed my child’s death, I felt so alone,” she said, as she started to cry. “I felt bereft for my future. And also, I thought about his two children growing up without a father. I hate to live without him.”
Ahmed Mohammed Seid, part of a local militia who fought to push the TPLF out of his hometown, hopes the fighting will soon end for good.
Seid said he hopes conflict will never return to his home. He believes that all parties involved in the conflict have learned lessons, and “I hope every person strives for the prevalence of peace.”
However, a spokesperson for the local government said the presence of the TPLF in Amhara has emboldened other militant groups.
Jemal Hassen, Oromo special zone government spokesperson, said, “Both TPLF and Oromo separatists have a common goal or target. Their marriage seems to have become more concrete as they have common agendas of dismantling the state apparatus and retaking control of politics.”
The special zone is an enclave of ethnic Oromos surrounded by the Amhara region.
In January, Abiy announced a national dialogue with the aim of bringing peace to the country. But the initiative has been criticized for failing to include many of the factions engaged in conflict, including the TPLF.
Ethiopian analyst Kiram Tadesse said, “There was optimism from all parties involved. Divergence has also started to emerge among these opposing parties, especially among those that are not included, and its credibility has been questioned.”
Given the renewed fighting in this area of Amhara, residents’ hopes for peace might not be realized.