On Wednesday, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrated the Epiphany, also known as Timkat. Crowds congregated in Gondar, Ethiopia’s Amhara region, the former center of the regal empire. However, many people in the conflict-torn region were not in the mood to celebrate this year. Thousands of people traveled to Gondar for the Timkat religious festival. If the feast day of Jesus’ baptism is usually a joyful occasion, many people were not in the mood this year. The celebrations were marred by indications of the war’s toll: Gondar’s hospitals were brimming with injured soldiers, and families mourned the loss of loved ones.
Despite the difficulties, Gondar resident Gebre Ayana attended the festivities. “He explained, “This Timkat is really, very dear to me.” We had reason to be sad, but now I can thank the army and other combatants for allowing us to celebrate. “ Soldiers may be found practically everywhere in Gondar. Many people have died in the Amhara region, which borders Tigray. Soldiers of the Amhara ethnic group suffer a high price in the battle because they are the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s main supporters in the struggle against Tigrayan forces.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the former ruling party of the northernmost Tigray region, has waged war on federal authorities in Africa’s second-most populous country. Thousands have died as a result of the violence, which has left 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid and has shattered Ethiopian society. For bereaved families, 14 months after the conflict began, the sorrow and trauma are still present.
While fighting ethnic Tigrayan insurgents, Arega Tekeba, a militia soldier, lost his father, an ethnic Amhara militiaman. “I’ll never forget how brothers were created to fight one another. The saddest thing of all is fighting against your brother, “he confesses.” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pardoned opposition politicians and former TPFL officials in early January. The announcement occurred just one day after Abiy’s Christmas speech, in which he appealed for national reconciliation. However, Ethiopians such as Demoz Kassie Mekonnen, a senior leader in the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) opposition party, are critical of the decision: “He wonders aloud if anyone has the courage to deal with ISIS.” Is there anyone willing to deal with Al-Qaeda? Is there anyone willing to talk to Boko Haram? For us, the TPLF is akin to these terrorist organizations. “
On Wednesday, UN General Secretary António Guterres mentioned a “demonstrable endeavor to build peace” in Ethiopia. Following a chat with Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, the Secretary made the statement. “Efforts are being made by the government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) to advance towards a resolution of the deadly conflict,” the Nigerian ambassador informed António Guterres.