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Horn Of Africa Is The Most Militarized Region On Earth

The combination of external actors has made the Horn the most militarized and complex security region, housing the largest number of foreign military bases in the world. The massive presence of six foreign military bases in Djibouti, and more in Sudan, Somalia and Somaliland, underlines the strategic importance of the Horn. Dawit W. Giorgis, a visiting scholar at the African Studies Centre at Boston University.

Horn Of Africa Is The Most Militarized Region On Earth

The Horn of Africa is witnessing far-reaching changes in its external security relations. It is simultaneously experiencing an increase in the build-up of foreign military forces – on land and at sea – and a broadening of the security agendas pursued by these external actors.

The combination of these factors has made the Horn the most militarized and complex security region, housing the largest number of foreign military bases in the world. Though Egypt and Yemen are not in the Greater Horn, they are however part of the security complex of the Red Sea arena. It is known as the “choke point,” because much of the world’s commerce goes through this maritime route. At one point, when Somali pirates ruled the sea, the area was identified as the most dangerous naval zone in the world, notoriety now claimed by the Gulf of Guinea.

Those who control the Horn of Africa control a significant chunk of the world’s economies. The massive presence of six foreign military bases in Djibouti, and more in Sudan, Somalia and Somaliland, underlines the strategic importance of the Horn.

This situation would have inspired or forced the countries of the Horn to be more united and have common strategic and security policies. Each of these forces has a stake in the development of events in the Horn and an agenda that puts their interests at the forefront.However, there are notable rivalries between the countries of the Horn of Africa, which has not enabled the forging of the necessary harmony in their relationships.

Eritrea and Djibouti have not put their border conflict of 2007 behind them. However, they agreed to normalize their relationship two years ago, although Djibouti still considers Eritrea an enemy, considering a recent statement in relations to the prosecution of a pilot that allegedly tried to run away to an “enemy” territory.But a conference call between the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and East African countries on March 30, 2020, was made to forge a regional plan to combat the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Four presidents from Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti were joined by the prime ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan and the first vice-president of South Sudan. Eritrea did not participate, because its membership has not yet been regularized since it left IGAD in 2007.

This is while Kenya-Somalia relations have escalated in the last few years. It stems from the security concern related to the terror group Al-Shabaab and the maritime border dispute between the two states.

The terror group has been continuously launching attacks across the border at Kenyan military outposts and against civilians in the area.The maritime boundary dispute between Nairobi and Mogadishu further complicates the relationship between the two. Somalia instituted proceedings against Kenya before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean, on August 28, 2014. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has approved a request by Kenya to delay the public hearing of its maritime boundary case with Somalia.

The case is still pending.Taking the matter further, Kenya has started negotiating the withdrawal of its forces the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) by 2021, making Ethiopia carry the bulk of troop contributions of the five countries that will remain.

These are bad signals of souring relationships, which can contribute to the overall destabilization of the fragile region.Neither are Ethiopia and Sudan on the best of terms. The borders between the two countries are the scene of occasional fighting, with recent skirmishes having turned deadly. It is unnecessary and preventable incidents that only add to the burden of stress the two countries have on their very sensitive and fragile relationship.“It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute,” stated the International Crisis Group (ICG). “Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian troops.”Sudan is in the unique position of being a member of the Arab League, which makes it close to Egypt, but a generally close ally of Ethiopia as well. It has to play high stakes diplomacy not to be seen as siding with either.

Despite enormous pressure from Egypt and the United States, Sudan has held its ground. The bold and calculated decision manifested this in voting against other members of the Arab League on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).Sudan expressed “reservations” that the resolution does not serve its interests and might lead to confrontations between the Arab League countries and Ethiopia. This support of Sudan should not be taken for granted though. Last week, Sudan called for the United Nations Security Council`s intervention regarding Ethiopia’s plan to fill the Dam.“While acknowledging Ethiopia’s right to utilize its natural resources, Sudan has stressed the need for consultation and cooperation among the three countries to avoid the harm lower stream countries could suffer as a result of Ethiopia’s activities,” read Sudan’s memorandum to the Security Council.Concerning the GERD, Sudan highlighted the benefits and threats that could follow the construction. It acknowledged the benefits the Dam could have in helping manage periodic flooding and in raising Sudan’s capacity to generate electric power.“On the other hand, Sudan claimed that the construction of the Dam could change the flow line of the river and that it could affect Sudanese citizens negatively if the design, construction and filling works are not followed daily and closely.”This should be of great concern to Ethiopia, especially considering that a new regional organization with suspect motives – Council of Arab and African States Bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (CAASBRSGA) – has already been established on January 6, 2020. Although Egypt first initiated the idea, it was later taken over by Saudi Arabia.Its members are the coastal states of the Red Sea, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen (the internationally recognized government), Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia.

The stated goals of this new organization are to improve cooperation and coordination among the members in matters related to politics, economy, culture, the environment and security. The Council is an unnecessary organization and one loaded with an Arab and Egyptian agenda. The Arab League is installing its subsidiary branch closer to home.“One of the most important issues is the one of membership. Currently, the criteria to be a member of the Council are to be a Red Sea coastal state.

This is the criterion defended by Egypt,” wrote the Middle Eastern business and financial news outlet MENAFN. “This position seeks to keep Ethiopia outside of Red Sea affairs, a position not shared by many of the members, who believe that despite its lack of access to the sea, Addis Ababa is a key player in Red Sea affairs. The reason for this absence is the litigation that Egypt and Ethiopia maintain over the construction of the Renaissance Dam in the Nile.”The stated goals of the Council include matters related to the Nile, an issue vital for Ethiopia. The strategy of Egypt and its allies is to choke Ethiopia through myriad projects. Ethiopia must vigorously fight such moves, but it does not seem that the Ethiopian government is aware of the dangers. At the same time, it flirts with the very countries that are active partners on the other side of the debate.

There has been a flurry of activities between South Sudan and Egypt as well since the crisis between Ethiopia and Egypt intensified over the GERD. Some of these activities are suspicious.

South Sudan had submitted its application in 2018, for a second time, to join the Arab League. There have also been diplomatic moves led by Egypt within the Arab League emphasizing the importance of South Sudan joining the organization, given Juba’s strategic geographical position serving as the Arab gateway to Africa.

With steadily and warmer relations with Ethiopia’s new neighbor, South Sudanese President Silva Kiir and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi have exchanged visits followed by several others at ministerial levels.Bringing South Sudan into the Arab League completes the strangulation of Ethiopia by Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Seen together with the Council on The Red Sea Coast, the threats directed at Ethiopia are real and severe.This is the result of the failure of Ethiopia`s diplomacy.

Its fractured unity and volatile internal security situation have resulted in establishing a fertile ground for Egypt and other extremist and hostile forces to recruit people and spread propaganda that will further destabilize the country.Ethiopian diplomacy suffered a big blow when the 23 Arab League members, except Sudan, supported the draft resolution prepared by Egypt.

This must have been a clear sign that there was little effort from Ethiopia’s side.“The draft agreement proposed by the United States and the World Bank is fair and serves the interests of the three countries,” affirmed The Arab League.Somalia and Djibouti, Ethiopia’s “close allies,” voted for it. Eritrea, an observer, said nothing.

Although its president, Isaias Afwerki, has come out as an elder statesman and mentor of Ethiopia`s Prime Minister, we have yet to see him as “a friend in need, a friend indeed.”This diplomatic spat is occurring in a region that should otherwise be banding together to address challenges that affect every member.

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) has warned East African countries about the outbreak of the desert locust, which has already placed around 20 million people in acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Ethiopia and the region are facing three-pronged attacks: pandemics, possible famine and regional and internal security challenges. A vital organ in such a time would have been IGAD, which until 1996 was preceded by the establishment of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought & Development (IGADD) was initiated in the mid-1980s.This was after Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda took action through the United Nations to establish an intergovernmental body for development and drought control in their region in 1983 and 1984.

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government met in Djibouti in January 1986 to sign the agreement, which officially launched IGADD with its headquarters in Djibouti. Eritrea became the seventh member after attaining its independence in 1993.

Then the focus was drought and food security.The recurring and severe droughts and other natural disasters in the decade beginning 1974 caused widespread famine, ecological degradation and economic hardship in the Eastern Africa region.

Although individual countries made substantial efforts to cope with the situation and received generous support from the international community, the magnitude and extent of the problem argued strongly for a regional approach to supplement national efforts.IGAD has never solved any political crisis. But it serves as a forum where leaders can meet and discuss their shared concerns.

However, IGAD can only be what its members want it to be. It can be an excellent tool if external agendas do not subvert it.

Members must first be committed to peaceful resolution through bilateral negotiations.

Creating other layers of organizations for the Horn will not help achieve any of the development, security and cooperation goals, but merely makes IGAD redundant. The regional body must be supported and reinforced to be a relevant organization. The spirit of cooperation needed here is one that President Isaias, Somalia’s Mohamed Farmajo Abdullahi and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) showed when they agreed on a joint plan of action for this year after the third edition of a tripartite summit in Asmara. This was in February 2020.

The alliance also adopted a new Joint Plan of Action for 2020.The plan focuses “on two main and intertwined objectives of consolidating peace, stability and security, as well as promoting economic and social development,” as Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea`s Information Minister, explained.“They also agreed to bolster efforts for effective regional cooperation.”On the security front, the leaders formulated a strategy to combat common threats, such as terrorism, arms and human trafficking, and drug smuggling. These efforts are leading “to some sort of Horn of Africa coalition,” even a “Cushitic Alliance,” according to the East African newspaper.Such an alliance will overlap with the mandate of IGAD.

It remains ambiguous what is in the minds of these leaders. But to an outsider, this looks like more of a problem than a solution.How can the three countries, in exclusion of Djibouti, Sudan and Kenya, forge an alliance that can bring peace to the region?Beyond the long-term ambition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to control the Horn of Africa, the immediate goal of Egypt is to secure its interest on the Nile. Many Ethiopians are expressing their anger and showing patriotism through a rhetoric of war.

War in this politically charged, highly militarized strategic region would be destructive beyond our imagination.

If anyone “wins,” it will only be at enormous cost. Even that will be a preparation for the next round of war.The case of Egypt needs wisdom and patience.

War should be the ultimate exercise to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country. Heroes are those who prevent war and not make war.

There is an attempt to resuscitate discussions between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, but tripartite talks should not be the preferred way for Ethiopia. This case is about the Nile and the rights of the Nile Basin countries. Sudan is not a reliable partner in this case for Ethiopia.

The issue is best served if brought before the Nile Basin countries and not a tripartite meeting where the odds do not favor Ethiopia.The only viable option for Ethiopia and Egypt is to bring back their case to Africa, call an emergency meeting of the heads of state of the Nile Basin countries and continue the dialogue and, if necessary, bring it to the level of the African Heads of State.

But before this can be done, the Ethiopian government has to do the legwork by approaching each of the Nile Basin countries and presenting its case and a possible solution that will serve the interests of both Egypt and Ethiopia. These discussions should be led by knowledgeable people that understand the intricacy of the problem at hand.

In the meantime, unilateral actions on both sides should be avoided as much as possible.The foundation for stability in the Horn begins with bilateral efforts to solve their differences in the face of mounting political, security and pandemic crisis. It is not patriotism not to compromise but is expressed best when the crisis between countries are solved through bilateral negotiations, including compromise.Give and take is the essence of diplomacy. But leaders need to know what to give and what to take. This requires a grasp on history and debate.

The building blocks for sustainable peace in the region begin with a capacity of each leader to discern the truth and not to mistake information as knowledge.

For the latter, leaders have people who have a sense of history and can see the big picture through the lenses of current affairs.The fact that the Horn of Africa is the most militarized region on earth is not a coincidence. Let us encourage our leaders to take stock of the situation on the area and trek carefully in this treacherous minefield: what the Horn has become.

Author Publisher: @shakiressa

More than 350,000 suffering from famine conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray, says UN

More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk, according to an analysis by UN agencies and aid groups that blamed conflict for the worst food crisis in a decade.“There is famine now in Tigray,” the UN aid chief,

Mark Lowcock, said on Thursday after the release of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.“The number of people in famine conditions … is higher than anywhere in the world, at any moment since a quarter million Somalis lost their lives in 2011,” Lowcock said.Most of the 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid. Fighting broke out in the region in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2 million from their homes in the mountainous region.Ethiopia rejects calls for ceasefire in Tigray, claiming victory is nearThe most extreme warning by the IPC – a scale used by UN agencies, regional bodies and aid groups to determine food insecurity – is phase 5, which starts with a catastrophe warning and rises to a declaration of famine in a region.

Escalating conflict could threaten Ethiopia’s economic success story

Ethiopia is teetering on the brink of civil war as fighting intensifies in the north of the country, sparking fears that its economic transformation could be stymied by protracted conflict.

Federal government forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are making advances in the semi-autonomous northern Tigray region, which is currently controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF led a coalition which ruled Ethiopia for almost three decades prior to Abiy taking office in 2018.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch called on Tigray’s regional authorities and the national government to protect civilians and property amid reports of mounting casualties.

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Abiy, who last year won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve a long-standing border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, tweeted on Sunday that the military campaign in the region to “uphold the rule of law” was “progressing well.”

“By advancing rule of law and holding accountable those that have been looting, destabilizing Ethiopia, we will lay the foundation for lasting peace & harmony,” Abiy said.

Economic implications

The prospect of a bloody and protracted conflict could dent Abiy’s recent push to transform the country’s economy.

Africa’s second-most populous nation has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world so far this century, consistently posting double-digit percentage annual growth in GDP (gross domestic product). However, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the IMF has slashed Ethiopia’s 2020 growth forecast to 1.9% from 6.2% — and this was before the unfolding events in Tigray.

Risk consultancy EXX Africa has highlighted that the government’s Tigrayan offensive and its “perceived authoritarianism” was jeopardizing the country’s relations with key economic partners.

“Growing domestic and international criticism of the government’s crackdown on political opponents, journalists, activists, and business leaders is attracting the attention of some of Ethiopia’s key partners, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is assisting the country in its response to the coronavirus and slowing economy,” EXX Africa Executive Director Robert Besseling said in a report last week.

“Foreign investors seeking to participate in Ethiopia’s privatization and liberalization drive will also be cautious of such human rights abuses and unilateral state actions, such as the suspension of internet service and closure of media networks.”GP 201117 Amhara militia Tigray EthiopiaAmhara militia men, in combat alongside federal and regional forces against the northern region of Tigray, receive training in the outskirts of the village of Addis Zemen, north of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on November 10, 2020.EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images

In addition, a growing focus from investors on ESG — or environmental, social and corporate governance — could mean additional overseas investment courted by the government remains on the sidelines, as reports of civilian casualties emerge from a region in which outside access and communication is mostly blocked.

“Human rights abuses will deter ESG-conscious investors at a time when Abiy is looking to attract foreign investment to drive his Homegrown Economic Reform agenda which aims to transform Ethiopia from an agrarian to an industrialized economy by 2030,” said Verisk Maplecroft Senior Africa Analyst Ed Hobey-Hamsher in a comment last week.

“The conflict will prove an expensive distraction from government efforts to address systemic poverty and food insecurity, exacerbated this year by the disruption that travel restrictions imposed in the wake of Covid-19 has had on agricultural production and markets.”

Conflicting narratives

Both sides have sought to assert the moral high ground under international scrutiny since the government began military operations on Nov. 4, in what Abiy said was a response to an attack on a federal military base by the TPLF.

Reuters reported on Monday, citing military and diplomatic sources, that government forces had dropped bombs on the Tigrayan capital Mekelle.

It comes after Amnesty International said last week that “scores, likely hundreds” of civilians had been killed in the western part of Tigray, likely by TPLF personnel following defeat to government forces.

Each side has denied responsibility for various air and ground attacks, and accused the other of trying to destabilize the country.PREMIUM: Ethiopia Eritrea 180718 EUEritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki (second right) is received by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (third right) as he arrives at Bole International airport in Addis Ababa on July 14, 2018.Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

Communications have been interrupted in the region since Nov. 4 as Abiy declared a six-month state of emergency, and access is blocked by road and air, making reports difficult to verify by international agencies. However, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) now estimates that more than 25,000 displaced Ethiopians have arrived in neighboring Sudan.

“Tight restrictions on access for aid agencies and communications mean that millions of people in Tigray affected by the fighting may be at grave risk,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Ceasefire promising?

Abiy has appeared to suggest in tweets that a swift resolution to the conflict could be possible. However, his resistance to ceasefire calls from the UN and various international powers have raised fears of a protracted conflict with a knock-on effect for the region.

“At this stage the prospect of a negotiated settlement or ceasefire does not appear promising, and the reported atrocities being committed in Tigray will only intensify the conflict – so will moves by the federal government to establish a parallel government for Tigray to replace the current TPLF-led administration,” said Louw Nel, political analyst at NKC African Economics.

“Concerns over neighboring Eritrea being drawn into the conflict are not unfounded; however, the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea have been projecting an image of solidarity and commitment to the peace agreement concluded in 2018.”

Egypt to withdraw from latest Nile dam talks for consultations

6395874_303Egypt fears the $4bn project could lead to water shortages upstream, while Sudan is concerned about dam’s safety.

05 Aug 2020 GMT+3
Egypt has decided to withdraw from the latest round of tripartite negotiations over Ethiopia’s multibillion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile for internal consultations after Addis Ababa proposed a new draft of filling guidelines.
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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being built about 15km (nine miles) from the Ethiopian border with Sudan on the Blue Nile, has become a major sticking point between the three countries.
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Egypt fears the $4bn project could lead to water shortages upstream, while Sudan said it is concerned about the dam’s safety.

The Egyptian water ministry, in a statement on Tuesday, said Ethiopia put forward a draft proposal that lacked regulations on the operation of the dam or any legal obligations.
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Addis Ababa’s draft also lacked a legal mechanism for settling disputes, according to the Egyptian ministry.

“Egypt and Sudan demanded meetings be suspended for internal consultations on the Ethiopian proposal, which contravenes what was agreed upon during the African Union summit,” it said.

The Blue Nile is a tributary of the Nile river, from which Egypt’s 100 million people get 90 percent of their fresh water.

Ethiopia dam dispute: Concerns in Sudan’s Blue Nile state (2:55)
Sudan’s safety concerns
Meanwhile, Sudan’s irrigation ministry said the latest Ethiopian position presented in talks on Tuesday raised new fears over the track the negotiations had been on.

Khartoum also threatened to withdraw from the talks, saying Ethiopia insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.

Sudan’s water and irrigation minister, Yasser Abbas, said he received a letter from his Ethiopian counterpart who proposed “the deal under discussion be limited to filling up the dam and any deal concerning its management be linked to the question of sharing Blue Nile waters”.

Egypt and Sudan invoke a “historic right” over the river guaranteed by treaties concluded in 1929 and 1959.

But Ethiopia uses a treaty signed in 2010 by six riverside countries and boycotted by Egypt and Sudan authorising irrigation projects and dams on the river.

“This new Ethiopian position threatens the negotiations under the aegis of the African Union, and Sudan will not participate in negotiations which include the subject of sharing Blue Nile waters,” Abbas said.

“Sudan will not allow the lives of 20 million citizens who live along the Blue Nile to be tied to an agreement on sharing the water of this river.”

The call came after a meeting of technical and legal committees from the three countries aimed at pushing for a deal on the filling and operation of the GERD.

The meeting was also attended by observers from the United States and the European Union as well as experts from the Africa

Pain or pleasure? When you get ready to marry her, 1st you have to beat her Hamar tribe

maxresdefault (3)Located among the bush covered hills on the eastern side of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, the Hamar tribe have unique culture and customs, one of them being a cattle-jumping ceremony where the beatings of the women take place.

The ceremony starts with all the female relatives performing a dance, during which they offer themselves as subjects to be whipped by men who have recently been initiated.

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4.-Hamar-AThe beatings go on until their backs turn bloody. During the beatings, women are not allowed to scream. They do not also flee the ceremony but rather beg the men to beat them over and over again.

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The male initiation rite

The women accept these beatings to show their love and support of the initiate, and their scars give them a right to demand his help in time of need.

The man must subsequently leap across 15 cows in order to be allowed to marry and once that is achieved a celebration is held to end the ceremony.

Beatings are not just ceremonial

Women in the Hamar tribe are subject to beatings even after the ceremony at any time the man pleases unless they give birth to at least two children.

The rules of the tribe also say that men do not need to explain why they are beating the women as they can do so as and when they feel is right.

This has created deep scars at the backs of the women which they proudly show off as beautiful.

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Hamar tribe — Depositphotos

In spite of these, women in the Hamar tribe are expected to be strong like the men and are supposed to do all household chores, take care of the children and sow crops as well as keep the cattle.

Hamar men can also marry more than one woman, but the women who are not first wives are treated more like slaves as they do a majority of the work

 

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Shakir Essa

Digital media creator

Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF will demand a referendum on self-determination for Somali region

ONLF will demand a referendum on self-determination for Somali region

Afrika-times According to a news report by Bloomberg published today the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF will demand a referendum on self-determination for Somali region. Bloomberg quoted ONLF foreign secretary Ahmed Yassin Abdi as saying

We want to achieve self-determination recognized by international law under the current Ethiopian constitution,” Ahmed Yassin Abdi, the ONLF’s foreign secretary, said by phone from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “We want our people to have a right to decide.” He said his group has no preconditions for the talks. The region’s new president expressed support for greater autonomy.

The Somali regional state has been in a great turmoil since the federal government illegally removed the president of the state from power and arrested him. There was no due process for removing the president and other other high state officials. Sure there has been trouble in the region in connection with border issues with other states, but not worst than what happened in the regional state of Amhara when they uprooted thousands of Tigrai origin civilians from their houses and business and many lost their lives killed by armed thugs.

Here is the url for the Bloomberg article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-16/rebels-in-gas-rich-east-ethiopia-to-seek-self-determination-vote