At least 1,000 Arrested Since Beginning of Ethiopia’s State of Emergency

Since the state of emergency in Ethiopia was initially declared two weeks ago, at least 1,000 people have been arrested so far, according to reports.

As expected, most of the arrested individuals are ethnic Tigrayans who are accused of being sympathetic toward the Tigrayan rebel forces.

Tigrayans are currently fighting the federal government in Addis Abada.

The actual number of arrests could be much higher than what is being officially reported.

Potentially thousands arrested

Earlier this month the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency in response to an apparent gain in momentum within the rebel forces.

The declaration, which came after about a year of conflict, gave the military sweeping powers to search and detain almost anyone with even the slightest suspicion of  rebel sympathies.

Naturally, the arrests have mostly targeted members of the Tigrayan ethnicity who live within government held territory.

Some of these people likely support their rebelling countrymen but it is equally likely that many of these people have simply had the misfortune of being suspected on ethnic grounds.

Even United Nations employees have been arrested by the government as part of what appears to be a very extensive operation against Tigrayans in the capital.

The emergency declaration is to last for six months and also gives the government the ability to search houses without warrants and forcibly conscript citizens into the military.

Ethnic animosity

Both sides in the conflict have been credibly accused of very widespread atrocities. Civilians have been targeted with war crimes on a large scale by both rebel and government forces.

The ethnic animosity which is central to the conflict likely plays a role in this but it also appears to have some element of intentionality as a means of intimidating potentially hostile civilian populations.

The government may not know that any of the people it has arrested are rebel spies or sympathizers but if there are any of these enemy agents in the capital then these arrests will send the desired message.

Arrested individuals are reportedly being held in very unpleasant conditions but that is nothing unusual for Ethiopians in general at the moment.

Millions of people in the country face starvation due to a famine which has been exacerbated by the fighting, in addition to dangers from the fighting.

Both sides in the conflict so far appear to be more competent in targeting civilians than they are in fighting against enemy military forces.

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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