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News: Army Chief proclaims end of regional special forces “as of today”

Field Marshall Berhanu Jula. Photo: ENA

Addis Abeba– Field Marshall Berhanu Jula, Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, announced the end security organizational structure for regional special forces, “as of today”, state media reported.

Field Marshall Berhanu proclaimed this at a review session of the regional special forces reorganization process into federal and regional security institutions attended by by members of defense generals, federal police and regional officials.

“From today there is no organization and structure called regional special force”, state media quoted him as saying.

Accordingly, the work of transporting regional special forces to their assigned places and putting them into training based on their choices of reintegration will start.

Ethiopia’s security structure will therefore consists of the national defense, federal police and regional police, and that that there will be no force that accepts missions or duties from a chain of command under regional special forces, the report further said.

The Field Marshal, who attended the forum, added that with the reorganization of the regional special forces, “a strong national security institution will be built” and that Ethiopia will be able to quickly come out of the security crisis it is in.

He said that the illegitimacy of the organization of regional special forces, the perception of each other as a threat between the regions and the tendency of solving problems by force necessitated the reorganization to change the security structure of regional forces.

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Protests erupted in the Amhara region following announcement by the federal government on 06 April that “practical activities” have been started to dissolve the controversial regional state special forces and “reorganize” them into regular regional and federal police as well as the national army. 

Clashes broke out between government security forces and civilians protesting the decision as well as between members of the regional special forces and the national army in some cities the following days.

On Monday, 10 April, residents in Kobo town in the North Wollo zone of Amhara region told Addis Standard that the sound of heavy artillery was heard in the town on Sunday night. Reuters news agency reported that members of the Amhara special forces had fired their weapons into the sky all night in defiance of the decision following massive protests on Sunday in the city of Gondar which later imposed restrictions on movements and carrying firearms.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated on Sunday that the reorganization of the regional special forces will be implemented at any cost, expressing his firm stance, despite the fact that protests are currently being held in many cities of the Amhara region in opposition to the federal government’s decision.

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Yelikal Kefale (PhD), president of Amhara Regional State also announced that the decision was made with the support of the federal and regional administrations and will be carried out across all regions; “There was no explicit decision to disarm and disband the special forces in the Amhara region.”

On 07 April the Amhara regional state government, following a statement issued to reorganize regional Special Forces, called on members of the regional special forces “to return to their respective camps or assigned workplaces and remain calm” while the ongoing “reorganization” works of regional special forces continues to take place.

The statement was issued following reports of discontent among the Amhara region special forces after the plan to reorganize regional special forces into regular police and the national army was unveiled. 

The statement assured that the Amhara regional state government “will not implement any decision that violates the rights and interests of the people of the region” and urged the people of the region to “stay away” from the campaign of “false allegations” which is “practically disturbing our people and and our special forces members.”

On the same day, General Abebaw Tadesse, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), said that the decision was neither “to disarm”, nor “to dismantle” them; however “to reorganize” and “to reform” the forces as a “matter of the constitution”, noting that the work has been in the making for the last four years. 
The cities and towns in the Amhara region that have witnessed days of protests and clashes have seen a return to relative calm and stability since three days. AS

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