Ethiopian PM vows to dismantle all paramilitary forces in country

AFP , Thursday 6 Jul 2023

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday vowed to dismantle all paramilitary forces in the country, saying the rise of these illegal groups posed "a significant risk" to national unity.

File Photo- Ethiopia s prime minister Abiy Ahmed at the PM s office in the capital, Addis Ababa. AFP


In April, the government began a surprise operation to disarm and dismantle the myriad state-based "special forces" units that exist outside the national army and the law in Africa's second-most populous country.

The push to integrate paramilitary fighters into the national army or state police has provoked strong resistance and violent demonstrations in Amhara, with Addis Ababa accused of trying to weaken the region.

"The disbanding of these special forces is based on a demand from parliament and the public interest," Abiy told the lower house of parliament.

"They pose a significant risk to national unity. We have seen that in Sudan."

Sudan has been in chaos since mid-April, when fighting erupted between a powerful paramilitary force and the national army.

"There will be no armed military other than defence and police and other regular security forces (in Ethiopia). We will continue this operation until we ensure this," Abiy said.

"It is not selectively targeted Amhara as claimed. It focuses on all regions."

Ethiopia is split into states drawn along linguistic and ethnic lines and the constitution affords these regions some autonomy, including their own institutions and a regional police force.

In recent years, however, some states have slowly raised their own armed forces under regional control, which have been quietly tolerated though operating outside the law.

The special forces in Amhara, backed by a local militia, proved a crucial ally to the national army during the two-year war against the Tigray region's rebellious leadership and their fighters.

A peace deal ended the conflict in November but the agreement was not welcomed by many in the Amhara community, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, and once its economic and political elite.

Disputes over territory have for years pitted the Amhara against Tigray's ruling elites, who long dominated Ethiopia's federal government until Abiy came to power in 2018.

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