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Arega becomes 6th Amhara leader in 5 years, seeks unity

The newly appointed president of Ethiopia’s Amhara regional state, Arega Kebedecalled upon “all ethnic Amharas at home and abroad, all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia” to unite in order to curb growing instability in the region.

Arega made the appeal immediately after assuming the presidency from outgoing president Dr. Yilikal Kefale during an emergency meeting of the regional council yesterday.

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The council’s decision comes amid escalating tensions caused by armed groups operating in the region. Arega becomes the sixth Amhara president in the past five years, since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed power. A member of the ruling Prosperity Party, Arega previously served as head of the region’s militia and job creation office.

The council also appointed over a dozen new officials to reshuffle regional positions, following assessments that the previous administration failed to contain rising instability.

“This is a difficult time and we urge cooperation from all corners – leaders at all levels, civil society, opposition parties, and people from all walks of life must cooperate. The federal and regional governments must provide support,” pledged Arega.

However, the new president also warned against forces trying to exploit and benefit from the instability in the region.

Arega assumed power just a couple weeks after a federal command post took control of the region, following a six-month state of emergency approved by parliament on August 4th.

The state of emergency was approved amidst escalating clashes between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and armed Fano militia in Amhara. Former president Yilikal had invited the ENDF to intervene, stating the Fano forces had grown too powerful for normal security forces to handle.

However, Yilikal’s cabinet remained divided on whether to negotiate with Fano or pursue strict military action.

Arega did not indicate how he intends to resolve the Fano issue.

Political observers question how much power the new president can truly wield while the region is under command post control.

Although the command post announced “relative peace” in Amhara this week, it gave no hint of lifting the state of emergency.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Amhara regional state convened in Addis Ababa yesterday with the National Dialogue Commission (NDC). The commission brought together Amhara elders, intellectuals, civil society organizations and more.

Commissioner Yonas Adaye (PhD) confirmed the discussions to The Reporter. Last week, Yonas stated the commission was assigned to facilitate communication with Fano armed groups. Preparations for the NDC’s nationwide dialogue had stalled due to instability in Amhara, Oromia and elsewhere.

Though sources revealed the NDC is engaging in pre-negotiation with Fano, Yonas refrained from giving details.

“The commission convened various Amhara representatives today. The NDC-organized meeting focused on resolving problems in the region, not negotiations specifically,” said Yonas Tesfa (PhD), board member of the Amhara Scholars Council.

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