« During the day, we observe, at night, we act »: in Ethiopia, the militiamen finish « cleaning » the ground

Eight armed militiamen watch from a hill the entrance of Shewa Robit, a town of 30,000 inhabitants located in the Amhara region, in the north of Ethiopia. Sandals on their feet and old-fashioned rifles in their hands, all took part in the counter-offensive that pushed the rebels of the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) further north in early December. It is now a question of ensuring the monitoring and  » cleaning «  of the district.

« During the day, we observe, at night, we act », sums up Seifu Yazew, a former soldier in the Ethiopian federal army converted into militia chief to Shewa Robit, his tape (traditional scarf) around the shoulders. “During its withdrawal, the junta [nom donné aux hommes des TDF] left behind some fighters and we must eliminate them ”, he explains to justify these “Cleaning operations”.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers « They killed them just like that »: residents of Teraf, Ethiopia, mourn their dead

Very popular among the population, Seifu Yazew and his hundred men consider themselves selfless vigilantes. Most are farmers. Others are local administrators or retired military personnel. All were hastily mobilized by the government in the face of the threat posed by the Tigrayan rebels in the summer. « We do this for free for the safety of the inhabitants », assure Lakew Teshome, 40 year old fighter.

Seifu Yazew, local leader of the Amhara militia, in his office in Shewa Robit, Ethiopia, December 9, 2021.
Members of the Amhara militia descend a hill near the village of Wanza, Ethiopia, December 9, 2021.

The conflict in northern Ethiopia dangerously turned into a militia war, when in July the TDF regained control of most of Tigray province and pursued their enemies in neighboring Afar regions. and Amhara. Taken aback by the rout of the federal army, the government had no other choice but to enlist civilians. They are in addition to the militiamen already organized, such as the Amhara Fano nationalist fighters, accused since the beginning of the conflict of numerous abuses against the Tigrayans and the Qemant.

On July 25, the Amhara region called « All young men, militiamen and civilians, possessing a personal or registered weapon, to join the fight against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray [TPLF] ». The civil servants of the province were also pushed to go up to the front, under penalty of suspension of their wages.

Irregular fighters

In August, the administrator of the North Wollo zone, Seid Mohammed, estimated that 2.7 million people had received more or less extensive militia training in the Amhara region, which has more than 25 million people. inhabitants. “In each neighborhood, residents take part in basic training, especially young people. Both those who have a weapon and those who do not ”, he explains.

You have 52.6% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée.