On the war front

Ethiopia’s Amhara: ‘War has no use at all, but to free my family […] the only option is to join the front line.’

By Fred Harter

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Posted on December 17, 2021 16:09

Sitting opposite a bomb-damaged building with shattered windows, three friends in their mid-20s were sharing lunch at a small café in Nefas Machew, a town in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region, one afternoon this December. They had just completed several weeks of training after signing up as militia to fight the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group. The next day, they were due head to the front and into battle for the first time.

Their training was basic, mostly consisting of physical exercise drills. None had been in combat before and they were still waiting to be given guns. They did not expect to receive any pay. Yet all three were eager to join the fight. “It will be over very soon,” said Ashenafi Assefa, who usually works as a barber. “All we need to do is bury them.”

The Amhara Region, Ethiopia’s second biggest, has been the scene of fighting since late June, when the TPLF recaptured much of Tigray from federal forces and then pushed into neighbouring areas. In November, after making several unsuccessful attempts to cut the vital road linking Djibouti to Addis Ababa, the Tigray rebels launched a stunning surge south through Amhara, which brought them within 200km of the capital. But an equally dramatic government counterattack has repelled this push, rolling back the rebel gains.

Total war

The Amhara

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