The members of the Qemant ethnic group in Ethiopia said that their only option was to flee to Sudan. This was not the conflict they caused. This marked another bleak turn for an ever-expanding war.
“Houses were burned down, people were killed by machetes,” said refugee Emibert De Moz, who, like thousands of others, fled her village last month. “We can’t even take the bodies and bury them.”
Thousands of people have been killed since fighting broke out in the Tigray region in the northernmost part of Ethiopia in November. At that time, Prime Minister Abi Ahmed sent troops to overthrow the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, saying the move was in response to the TPLF. The attack on the barracks.
Since then, violence has attracted other groups in the fierce fighting on the land and spread from Tigray to the neighboring Amhara region of Ethiopia, home to the Amharic and ethnic minority Qemant.
The Amharic fighters supported Abi’s forces in an attempt to resolve the decades-long territorial dispute they claimed was occupied by the TPLF during the nearly three-year rule before Abi took power in 2018.
The Kermantes have long been annoyed by the cultural and economic influence of the dominant Amharic, and in recent years they have called for autonomy.
The 2017 referendum on the establishment of the Qemant Autonomous Region ended in hatred, and the resulting territorial disputes triggered increasingly frequent conflicts between the two groups.
“The government-backed Amhara fighters want us to leave our land,” said 20-year-old Emebet. “They killed us because we are a minority.”
‘Refuse to choose a side station’
But Gizachew Muluneh, spokesperson for the Amhara region, explicitly denied that members of the Qemant tribe were targeted.
The Amhara leaders said that Qemant’s pursuit of autonomy was largely instigated by the Tigray rebels, who claimed that they were fighting a proxy war by supporting the organization.
Gizachew said that those who are described as refugees are “pro-terrorist TPLF, which was created by TPLF to distract Ethiopia and Amhara.”
The United Nations estimates that about 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Amhara, where violence is deepening divisions between ethnic groups.
“The Amharic people want us to be on their side in the conflict with the Tigray people,” said refugee Balata Ghosh. “We refuse to take sides, so they fight with us.”
According to the UN humanitarian agency, in April this year, the conflict between Amharic and Qemant forced thousands to flee.
Qemant activists say their historic homes include villages on the border with Sudan.
But this has also led to accusations that Qemant has the support of Sudan, which has territorial problems with Ethiopia, mainly in areas near the Amhara region.
The relationship between Khartoum and Addis Ababa is also due to Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Egypt and Sudan worry that the Blue Nile River downstream will threaten the water they depend on.
For civilians caught in the middle like Emebet, violence gave her no choice but to leave.
Sudanese officials said she was one of the approximately 3,000 Qemant refugees who crossed the border into Sudan in recent weeks.
Mohamed Abdelkareem of the Sudanese Refugee Council said: “We look forward to more Qemantis and other races.”
According to the United Nations, Sudan has taken in more than 60,000 refugees from Ethiopia, which has put heavy pressure on a country that is already struggling with its own severe economic crisis.
Emebet found refuge in the border town of Basinga in Sudan. He squeezed into a school that was transformed into a temporary camp and is now a temporary shelter for 1,000 refugees.
There is a basic food supply, but she slept under a plastic sheet, no matter whether it was scorching heat or heavy rain, she could not shelter from the wind and rain.
“At least we are safe here,” she said.
‘Can’t go back’
Refugees say they are the victims of long-term ethnic conflicts.
“For many years, tensions have been increasing,” said Aman Farada, a 26-year-old refugee from the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. “Initially it was an inter-ethnic dispute, but now the government is fighting against us.”
Kasaw Abayi said that the Amharic people used the Tigray conflict as an “excus” to expand their control over other lands.
“They see the whole area as theirs, so they neither want us [Qemant] There are no Tigray people there,” said the 50-year-old builder.
At the beginning of the battle, Abi, the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory after his troops occupied Mekle, the capital of the Tigray region.
But in June, TPLF recaptured most of Tigray, including Merkel, and advanced east and south to the Amhara and Afar regions.
The United Nations stated that the conflict has plunged 400,000 people into a famine-like situation. The battle continues.
The Kermantian refugees said they think there is little chance of returning to Ethiopia in the short term.
“We can’t go back,” Emebert said. “How can we come back when this government is still in place?”