Addis Ababa (AFP/APP): Humanitarian charity Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said two of its staff were shot dead at the weekend in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia, which has witnessed anti-government protests in recent days.
The deaths occurred on Sunday, when demonstrations were held in several Amhara cities against government plans to dismantle regional forces.
“Chuol Tongyik, a security manager, and Amare Kindeya, a driver, were shot and killed in a CRS vehicle in the Amhara region as they were returning to Addis Ababa from an assignment,” the US charity said in a statement dated Monday, adding that further details were unknown.
“The depth of our shock and sorrow is difficult to measure and we are saddened over this senseless violence,” said Zemede Zewdie, the CRS country representative in Ethiopia.
“CRS reiterates our commitment to continue working in support of the people in Ethiopia,” Zemede said.
The charity’s website said it has worked in Ethiopia for nearly 60 years.
On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was “concerned about recent attacks on ambulances and healthcare staff evacuating patients suffering from life-threatening medical conditions in Amhara region”.
“Health workers, ambulances & hospitals are not a target & must be respected and protected at all times,” the ICRC said on Twitter.
- Protests and clashes –
Restrictions on movement and other curbs were imposed in three cities in Amhara on Monday following the protests over moves to integrate regional military forces into the federal army or regional police.
In Bahir Dar, the region’s administrative capital, a resident told AFP on Tuesday that “demonstrators blocked the road with burning tires and stones” and that some gunfire could be heard.
Habtamu, a resident of the town of Kobo, who only gave one name, told AFP on Tuesday that Amhara special forces and Fano, a regional self-defence militia, had “exchanged fire” with the army on Sunday but that calm had since returned.
It was not possible to independently confirm the situation on the ground in Amhara, as the region is restricted to journalists for what the authorities say are security reasons.
Amhara’s security forces were essential allies to the federal army during the two-year war in the neighbouring Tigray region, which ended with a peace agreement in November.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday that the initiative to dismantle the regional forces was for the sake of Ethiopia’s “unity” and warned that law enforcement measures would be taken against any “destructive” opposition.
The move to disarm Amhara’s special forces was described as “completely irresponsible” and a risk to regional security by the National Movement of Amhara, a local opposition group.
Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, with 120 million people, is composed of more than 80 ethnic groups.
Many of the country’s regions, which are drawn along cultural and linguistic lines, boast their own security forces that seek to defend their interests.