News: Deadly clash in South Tigray Zone as Amhara, Tigray regions accuse each other of provocation

Amhara region police forces paroling parts of Southern Tigray in March 2023 (Photo: Archive)

Addis Abeba – Earlier this week, violent confrontations occurred in Raya Alamata, situated in the South Tigray Zone currently under the control of Amhara forces. Accusations have been exchanged by both parties regarding the provocation, further escalating tensions in the vicinity.

In a statement released earlier today, the Amhara regional administration vehemently criticized the recent reaction of the Tigray interim administration concerning the purported incorporation of specific regions in Amhara’s “educational maps and curricula.”

The Amhara administration characterized this response as “aggressive,” suggesting it entailed ‘threats and a pretext for violence.”

This statement comes after the Tigray interim administration expressed concerns over the Amhara regional government’s alleged attempts to “incorporate Tigray lands into its educational curriculum and maps,” claiming them as its own.

The interim administration labeled these actions as “irresponsible” and accused the Amhara region of a systematic effort to “dismantle Tigray.” It cautioned the Amhara regional administration was making “historical mistakes” and will responsible for “the consequences”, while calling on the region to make “immediate correction” of these actions.

However, the Amhara regional administration’s statement countered that areas that it refers to as “Wolkait and Raya” have longstanding “questions of identity and self-governance.”

The statement alleged that the former Tigray regional government of the area responded to such demands through “arrest, persecution, and violence against residents, elders, identity rights coordinators, and administrators” rather than proper legal procedures.

It also asserted that prior to the signing of the Pretoria accord between the federal government and the TPLF, the Amhara region, in alignment with its other zones, had been delivering public services, such as education, to the local populace in the area.

The Amhara regional administration urged the Tigray interim authorities to “refrain from activities that are a source of permanent crisis for the country” and instead focus discussions on “the needs of the people” rather than “the usual game of politics” over maps.

In an interview with Addis Standard, Hailu Abera, the head of Alamata town, conveyed that, “Tigray forces initiated an assault in Raya Alamata, particularly in a locale identified as Cheguara, on Monday night. Subsequently, they expanded into other regions and kebeles, actions that starkly contravene the stipulations set forth in the Pretoria peace agreement.”

In response to the allegations, Redae Halefom, the head of communication for the Tigray interim administration, refuted claims of aggression by the TPLF and affirmed that the conflict stemmed from the Amhara forces encroaching upon Tigray’s territory.

“The Amhara region lacks both legal and moral grounds to assert claims over Tigray’s territory,” emphasized Redae, highlighting the administration’s commitment to resolving disputes through peaceful means in accordance with constitutional and peace agreement frameworks.

Additionally, Redae accused the Amhara regional administration of undermining the Pretoria peace agreement and engaging in actions that provoke instability in the region.

“This incident is not an isolated one,” asserted Redae. “The Amhara region has a history of provoking Tigray.”

Redae further emphasized the necessity for federal government intervention to cease such activities.

The recent strife in South Tigray is not an unprecedented occurrence.

As indicated in a recent report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit organization headquartered in the United States, clashes between Amhara and Tigray forces in the area commenced in mid-February 2024.

According to the report, confrontations between Tigray and Amhara forces began on 14 February, 2024, spanning the Chercher, Raya Bala, and Raya Alamata districts.

Subsequently, on 15 February, clashes erupted in the vicinity of Alamata and Korem towns before the intervention of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF).

The conflict persisted on 17 February in Korem town and Ofla district, until once more it was quelled by ENDF intervention, as detailed in the report.

Additionally, skirmishes briefly resurfaced on 21 February, 2024, in the Zatta district until ENDF units intervened to halt the clashes.

Although the clashes were brief and resulted in no reported fatalities, the report highlighted that the resurgence of conflict represents a notable development and poses a threat to the peace established under the Pretoria agreement.

The latest tensions are intensifying despite a warning in the 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community released on 11 March warned that that despite the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed in November 2022 between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigrayans that ended a two-year war, the “unresolved territorial issues could lead to a resumption of conflict.”

The threat assessment was issued two weeks after a new plan announced by the Minister of Defense, Abraham Belay, outlining the government’s strategies to address the status of western Tigray.

However, the federal government has not commented on the latest exchange of the statements and the rising tension between the two regional states. AS

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