Addis Abeba – General Abebaw Tadesse, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), said last night that the move to dissolve regional special forces was neither “to disarm”, nor “to dismantle” them; however “to reorganize” and “to reform” the forces was a “matter of the constitution” whose works has been in the making for the last four years.
The General appeared on major sate and ruling party owned broadcasters last night to defend the federal government’s decision to take “practical activities” in what it said was to dissolve members of the controversial regional special forces from all regional states and reenlist them into either the national defense forces, federal police or regional police forces “according to their choices.”
The move however triggered a backlash especially in the Amhara regional state, where reports indicate that protesters who took to the streets in various cities and towns blockaded the movements of federal defense forces on Friday. Other reports also indicate that some members of the region’s special forces were leaving camps in protest.
The Amhara regional state government has issued a statement last night calling on members of the 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.
“We have to be careful here. First, disarmament, to whom is [the special forces] disarming? Second, who told [the special forces] to disarm? Where did that come from?”, General Abebaw posed questions, adding that what is “in fact” taking place is to bring the special forces into “a constitutional order” and rearm them with “different weapons.”
“We did not say we will dismantle them; no one said ‘disarm’ them.”
The implementation of the reorganization of the special forces is being done “equally” in all regions, he said. “We will not make one region to have power and another region powerless. This is unthinkable in Ethiopia,” Gen. Abebaw further said.
However, the General criticized what he said was the presence of the special forces that are organized under “ethnic identity lines” and such forces were “able to challenge the power” of the defense forces. “A challenging force was created” he said adding that “it’s been three to four years since the public started to speak against it.”
Part of the reform was therefore to reorganize these forces into a centralized national defense forces that would protect the “safety and security” of Ethiopians regardless of their identities and that of the “constitutional order.”
“There is only one security force that regional states can maintain, which is the regular police force. No other [uniform] is allowed. The law does not allow it,” General Abebaw said.AS
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