Army reform shakes up Ethiopia’s powerful regional special forces

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The Ethiopian General Staff assures that its regional integration proposal does not imply the disarmament or dissolution of these operations


The General Staff of the Ethiopian Army has initiated a round of contacts with the heads of the country’s regional special forces to appease the spirits before the proposal of integration into the country’s federal Army, in what the local authorities consider a violation of their regional powers.

The most notorious case is that of the state of Amhara, one of the epicenters of the recent war in the neighboring state of Tigray, whose forces fought side by side with the Ethiopian federal army against the rebels of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (the TPLF). Part of these Amhara forces have refused to collaborate in what they consider to be a covert disarmament process.

In response, the deputy chief of the Ethiopian General Staff, General Abebaw Tadesse, has assured that the decision is not aimed at “disarming” or “dismantling” the country’s regional special forces, but that it is a process of “reorganization ” and a mere structural question that was planned years ago and obeys the “constitutional order”.

At the bottom of this issue lies the fear, recognized by the general himself, that these regional forces could become a threat to the Army given that they are configured “around ethnic identities” that, in the worst case, could end up degenerating these troops into militias opposed to the federal government.

“A rather dangerous force has been created. It took us three or four years to start talking about this issue openly,” the general said.

Thus, the military has explained that the final intention is for the members of these special forces to rejoin the federal Army or the Police “as they like”, as he has made known in a round of interviews with the Ethiopian media carried out throughout last Friday and collected by the ‘Addis Standard’.

These appearances took place after the streets of the Amhara capital, Bahir Dar, became the scene of popular demonstrations this Friday, while some members of the state’s special forces left their posts in protest.

In fact, the regional government of Amhara State issued a statement last night asking these troops to “return to their respective camps or assigned workplaces and remain calm” while the ongoing “reorganization” work continues.

To clinch his proposal, the general has assured that the reorganization of the special forces is being done “equally” in all regions. “We are not going to break the balance of power between the regions of the country. In Ethiopia, such an option is unthinkable,” he assured.

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Written by Editor TLN

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