YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – While global attention is focused on the conflict between Hamas and Israel, Catholic bishops in Ethiopia are warning that a fresh surge of violence in the nation of 120 million in the Horn of Africa risks reopening a bloody war there too, that cost somewhere between 162,000 and 600,000 lives between 2020 and 2022.
Despite a peace treaty signed in November 2022, militia fighting is now raging in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, largely because members of the Amhara armed group, particularly Fano fighters, were not part of the negotiations that produced the deal. Those talks involved only the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), excluding all other armed groups that were also part of Ethiopia’s two-year war.
When the central government announced recently that it was going to disband all militias in the country, the Amhara guerillas, particularly the Fano, took up arms in resistance, producing the recent cry of alarm from the country’s bishops.
“Our country Ethiopia has gone through different political systems in the past years. In these political systems we can’t discuss our problems in unity, brotherhood, and solve them in a way that respects the common interest of all citizens, so we have taken war and power as our only option,” the bishops said.
“The blood of many citizens has been shed in vain,” they said.
“Many have suffered physical injury and psychological crisis. Many have been displaced; generational wealth and property have been destroyed. Because of this, sadness has knocked on every house. It is still knocking today.”
The bishops described how war has ravaged several parts of the country, noting that “the blood of the citizens that has been shed in the land of Tigray and Amhara, Afar, Oromia, Benishangul gumz, South, Somalia and Gambela and other areas has saddened us all.”
They decried the fact that “brothers have raised swords on brothers; citizens live their lives in a painful condition.”
“Many hearts are heavy with sadness,” the bishops said, noting that many Ethiopians, particularly in the northern city of Tigray, continue to grieve the loss of loved ones.
The Tigray War that lasted from November 3, 2020 to November 3, 2022 was fought primarily between forces allied to the Ethiopian federal government and Eritrea on one side, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the other.
The (TPLF, the primary political party representing Tigray, historically has played a dominant role in national politics despite Tigrayans’ status as an ethnic minority. Their rule was resented by other ethnic groups that constituted the country’s majority, and fighting ensued.
That minority rule came to an end in 2018 with the accession of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, who promised to heal the nation’s divides.
But the new Prime Minister defaulted in his promise to hold early elections, and instead announced an extension of his mandate. The Tigray people decided to hold local elections in defiance of a national order. Abiy saw this as defiance and took a hard stance, triggering the Tigray war that killed thousands.
On Saturday, October 21, the people of Tigray began three days of national mourning for those who lost their lives.
Catholic Bishops have extended their “deep condolences” to His Holiness Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, following the government’s decision to “think of our people in grief this week.”
“May the Almighty God rest their souls in heaven with the saints and the righteous,” the bishops said.
“Our Church mourns with those who grieve, and weeps with those who weep. But according to the command of the Lord, the Church’s sorrow and weeping is based on the hope that it has in Christ who has risen from the dead. Again, may God rest the souls of our dead children in heaven.”
“Our Church expresses its sorrow for the people who are dying in the war that is going on in the Amhara region. She will come before God and offer her prayer for their souls.”
They underscored the need for Ethiopia to learn from its mistakes and to discuss “with each other in love and forgiving each other to solve our problems, avoiding war and living together as brothers and sisters in love.”