July 26, 2021

In Ethiopia, general mobilization of Amhara against rebels in Tigray

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Hearing bullets whistling, a crowd rushes to the side of the main road to Dabat. A pickup truck full of militiamen has just popped up in this town in the Amhara region, Ethiopia’s second largest province. “Take us with you! “, launch some young people to these fighters, celebrated like heroes and who shoot in the sky while shouting slogans.

This army of Fannos (Amhara nationalist militiamen) was hastily raised in the countryside of this region bordering Tigray. They are already thousands on the front, two hundred kilometers further north, along the hills of Addi Arkay, which mark the border between the two provinces. This is where the recent offensive of the Tigrayan rebels ended, against whom the Ethiopian federal army has been waging a war for eight months. A conflict that has fueled ethnic rivalries, particularly between Amhara and Tigrayans, around several fiercely disputed territories for decades.

The call for general mobilization was declared Monday, July 12. All men in the province with a weapon are conscripted. The Amhara National Movement (NaMA), a nationalist party, has called on the Fannos to stand ready for this military campaign, heralded no more and no less as « a matter of survival for the region ».

Elements of language and communication

For Abay Mengiste, local leader of the Prosperity Party, the ruling party in Ethiopia, everyone is concerned: “It is not a question of defending a government or a party, the whole people are on alert. “ The machine is already on the way: investors finance, civil servants donate their wages, women prepare food and militiamen go to the front. From his office in Debarq, in the north of the region, Abay Mengiste coordinates this mass enlistment. He recounts the recruitment of the militiamen on the morning of July 13, when, at dawn, the loudspeakers of the qebélés (neighborhoods) relayed the conscription message.

Read also In Ethiopia, rebel forces in Tigray launch new offensive

The manager keeps « to restore » two facts: « We initially defeated the forces of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray [FLPT] and these same forces now want to commit genocide against the Amhara people. Such a speech is now unanimous among the population of the region, a sign of a radicalization of this conflict which is also playing out in the field of communication. Residents are sometimes briefed on these language elements by officials before addressing the media.

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