Ethiopia: 20 dead in Gondar riots disputing ethnic Boundaries
Local media sources from the northern Ethiopian province of Gondar say 20 people have died, including eight officers, in the ongoing border dispute between Tigray and Amhara regions. The violence began when the federal government, taking the side of Tigray, decided to arrest Amhara elders and committee members of the” Welkait-Tegede” towns awarded to Tigray, but claimed by the Gondar people of Amhara. Armed locals defended the committee members and shot at least two federal officers. About a dozen civilians and armed locals have since been killed by police.
Over a thousand armed Amhara peasants from around Gondar have allegedly joined the protesters who have burned state and federal buildings and vehicles, including the Tigray affiliated popular Selam Bus company.
According to Diaspora based Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed, the United Nations has “restricted all UN travel to Gondar city until further notice.”
Historically, the Welkait area used to be under the Gondar province before it was given to Tigray state in 1991 when the current EPRDF government came to power. Both Amharas and Tigrayans lived peacefully in Gondar province before, but after 1991, analysts say the ethnic-federalism system imposed ethnic ownership of lands that were settled by diverse people for millennia, which triggered the current dispute.
Ethiopian political analyst Teshome Borago said the federal government has sent hundreds of troops to stop the recent protests. Mr. Borago said this conflict at Amhara-Tigray border as well as the Konso border clashes and the Oromia-Addisababa border disputes prove that the ethnic-federalism system is destabilizing the country.
“Every big and small tribe and subtribe will now want to rule their own piece of land, whose borders was never demarcated before,” warned Mr. Borago.
“The Amhara is the easiest of all tribes to gain entrance into. Any Ethiopian can become Amhara overnight using language. So There are many mixed and former Tigray officials posing as Amhara to control the Amhara state government,” Mr Borago said. “The people know this scheme so they are taking matters into their own hands,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports say there is some negotiations and peace talks happening between Gondar citizens and the regional government since Wednesday.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said thousands of Ethiopian Jews are stuck in Gondar but they are safe inside a “secure and guarded building.”