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Metekel conflict
Part of conflicts in the Horn of Africa
Benishangul-Gumuz in Ethiopia.svg
Location of Benishangul-Gumuz in Ethiopia
Date23 June 2019 – present
LocationMetekel, Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia
Status ongoing


Gumuz Liberation Front/Buadin/Armed Gumuz Militia[2][3]
Oromo Liberation Army[4]

Tigray People's Liberation Front (Alleged)[4]
Commanders and leaders

Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia Ashadli Hussein

Gumuz Millitia(Buadin)[3][5]

500+[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
unknown[citation needed] 65 killed[citation needed]
437 – 537[6][7][8][9][10]

The Metekel conflict is an armed conflict in the Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in Ethiopia that started in 2019.[4]


During the emperorship of Haile Selassie and the following Derg epoch, when Ethiopia was mostly ruled by Mengistu Haile Mariam, ethnic discrimination occurred against Afars, Tigrayans, Eritreans, Somalis and Oromos.[11] In the following period, ethnic federalism was implemented by Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) leader Meles Zenawi and discrimination against Amharas, Oromos and other ethnic groups continued during TPLF rule.[12]

Attribution and reasons[]

Views on responsibilities and root causes of the individual massacres and of the overall pattern of violence vary.

Benishangul-Gumuz is home to several different ethnicities including the Gumuz, Berta, Shinasha, Mao, Komo and Fadashi. The Gumuz have had tensions with agricultural Amhara, Oromos, Tigrayans and Agaw migrants, who in Metekel Zone constitute minority ethnic groups with some Amhara groups calling for Metekel to be incorporated into Amhara. Large scale land acquisitions by both local and foreign investors have also pushed the Gumuz off the land.[13][14] Gumuz are alleged to have formed militias such as Buadin and the Gumuz Liberation Front that have staged attacks against those seen as "settlers".[3][15][16] Local officials admitted and then apologized for orchestrating ethnic killings as a way to push back against the ruling Prosperity Party which was alleged to be planning to eliminate self rule for the country's ethnic groups.[13] The Chairman of an Amhara group called Fano, Solomon Atanaw, said in March 2020 that Fano would not disarm without Metekel zone being part of Amhara Region.[17] At a public meeting with prime minister Abiy Ahmed on 22 December, Zebid Budna of Kamashi Zone attributed the violence to an Oromo Liberation Army group "OLF/Shanne".[18]

Around this time, the federal government was waging a war with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and has often blamed the TPLF for problems around the country.[14] Ashadli Hussein, president of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, blamed the (TPLF) as holding the main responsibility[4] and stated that there were many groups associated with political parties encouraging the armed conflict. He blamed the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) as holding the main responsibility.[4]

Benishangul-Gumuz is also home to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has caused tensions with neighboring Sudan and Egypt because of the dam's effect on the Nile river downstream. Sudan recently laid claim to Guba district in the Metekel zone closest to Sudan where the GERD lies, citing the belief that Guba was gifted to Emperor Menelik II by Khalifa Abdullahi.[13] The government has blamed Egypt of meddling in Benishangul-Gumuz. The federal Ethiopian government, run by Prosperity Party (PP), attributed major responsibility for massacres to the TPLF and to the Egyptian government in relation to the GERD, with Towabeb Mehret of the PP stating, "The groups who are benefiting from this [violence] are terrorists getting orders from the TPLF".[14] Assosa University researcher Tsegaye Berhanu criticised this point of view, stating that the government "should not externalise problems and point fingers at political opposition parties. It should try to understand the real causes [of the violence] and address [them]."[14]



23 June[]

The Amhara Region coup d'état attempt took place on 22 June 2019. Early on the morning of 23 June, armed men suspected to be supportive of the leader of the attempted coup killed 37 people and wounded 18 in the Metekel Zone.[19]



Weeks of attacks on civilians took place in Metekel Zone in early September, especially in Bulan. Online social media estimated 150 deaths, which Atinkut Shitu, administrator of Metekel Zone, disputed. According to social media as summarised by Addis Standard, the targets were ethnic Amharans. Officials stated that the attacks had no ethnic motivations.[20]


12–40 people were killed over a personal dispute over a stolen firearm in Metekel zone. Amhara politicians claim it was an attack on members of the Amhara ethnic group by Gumuz militias.[15]

14 November[]

The 14 November bus attack on a passenger bus in Benishangul-Gumuz killed 34 people.[21]


In December 2020, Ashadli stated that federal and regional security forces were coordinating in "annihilating 'anti-peace forces', arresting them, and confiscating firearms".[4] Vice-president of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, Getahun Abdisa, described the region's actions in terms of a "coordinated effort between the regional government, the federal government, the regional police, anti-insurgency and security forces" of detaining members of "criminal groups".[22] On 21 December 2020, the Benishangul-Gumuz Command Post stated that it was carrying out a "door-to-door hunt" of suspected perpetrators of the violence.[18]

8 December

The command post of Metekel zone killed 23 insurgents reportedly associated with the TLPF in Dangur.[23]

15 December[]

Civilians were killed in the Dangur and Dibate woredas on 15 December. Amhara Region officials stated that the victims were Amharans killed for their ethnic identity. Benishangul-Gumuz officials disagreed with the identifying the conflict as "communal violence between various nations".[22] Addis Standard estimated on 22 December that Metekel Zone attacks had killed 24 people.[18]

22–23 December[]

On the night of 22–23 December 2020, a massacre and burning down of houses took place in Bikuji kebele in Metekel Zone.[4][24] As of 23 December 2020 (2020-12-23), the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission counted 100 deaths. Other sources state 220 were killed[24] of mostly Amharas, Oromos, and Shinashas by a suspected Gumuz militia.[14] Authorities responded by killing 42 suspects and arresting seven officials.[25][26][27]


12 January[]

Between 5:00 and 7:00 on the morning of 12 January in Daletti in the Metekel Zone, 82 civilians were killed and 22 injured in an attack, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).[28]

26 February[]

On 26 February, "government security forces" killed 26 unarmed civilians in Dibate.[29]


An unidentified armed group took over the county of Sedal Woreda in the Kamashi Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in April 2021.[30]

Peace process[]

On 22 December 2020, Abiy Ahmed held talks with Metekel Zone residents, Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil, army Chief of Staff Birhanu Jula Gelalcha, Ashadli Hussein, and other officials.[18]

In December 2020, Ashadli stated that the Ministry of Peace would coordinate the creation of a reconciliation committee consisting of people from the Benishangul-Gumuz and Amhara Regions.[4]

By late February 2021, several peace forums had been held in Gilgil Beles, the capital of Metekel Zone. The federal government started creating a "multi-ethnic self-defence militia", which had 9000 members as of February 2021. Tsegaye Berhanu, a researcher at Assosa University was critical of the creation of the militia, stating, "Arming unarmed groups is like encouraging revenge, and puts the area into an endless conflict trap."[14]


Massacres of civilians[]

Mass killings of civilians in Metekel Zone started on 23 June 2019, the day following the Amhara Region coup d'état attempt,[19] and continued in September,[20] October,[15] November,[21] and December 2020,[4][22][24] and in January[28] and February 2021.[29]

Displaced people[]

More than a hundred thousand people were displaced by the conflict as of February 2021[14] and 7,000 have fled to neighboring Sudan.[13]

See also[]

  • Benishangul-Gumuz Region
    • Metekel massacre
  • Oromia Region
    • Gawa Qanqa massacre
  • Tigray War
    • Humera massacre
    • Mai Kadra massacre
  • Amhara Region
    • Amhara Region coup d'état attempt


  2. 2.0 2.1 "All Is Not Quiet on Ethiopia's Western Front". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Benishangul: At least 60 civilians mostly women, children killed". 12 January 2021. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Mekonnen, Siyanne; Fasil, Mahlet (2020-12-23). "News Alert: Eyewitnesses say more than 90 killed in fresh attack in Bulen Wereda, Benishangul Gumuz; region cautions civilians to join safe villages". 
  5. "More than 30 killed in militia attacks in western Ethiopia". 
  6. "Benishangul-Gumuz: Attackers kill dozens in western Ethiopia". 23 December 2020. 
  7. "Analysis: Weeks long attacks on civilians leave several dead, injured in Metekel zone, Benishangul Gumuz region". 16 September 2020. 
  8. "News: PM Abiy meets Metekel residents to discuss security; meeting comes a day after door-to-door 'hunt' launched to control "criminal groups" behind attacks on civilians". 22 December 2020. 
  9. Reuters Staff (25 December 2020). "Death toll from attack in western Ethiopia reaches 222, Red Cross says". 
  10. "Over 80 civilians killed in latest west Ethiopia attack". 
  11. Riddle, Chase E. (2016-09-02). "Ethnic Ethiopians: A Case Study of Discrimination Occurrence in Ethiopia". Retrieved 2021-01-16. 
  12. Selassie, Alemante G. (2003). "Ethnic Federalism: Its Promise and Pitfalls for Africa". William & Mary Law School. pp. 51. Retrieved 2021-01-16. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Etefa, Tsega (16 March 2021). "What’s causing the violence in western Ethiopia". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 Gerth-Niculescu, Maria (2021-02-23). "Anger, fear run deep after months of ethnic violence in western Ethiopia – 'They killed people using knives, arrows, and guns.'". 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "12 killed in latest attack in western Ethiopia" (in en-US). 
  16. "More than 100 killed in latest ethnic massacre in Ethiopia". 2020-12-23. 
  17. "Fano Will Not Lay Down Arms If Demands Are Not Met: Chairman". 2020-03-28. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Mekonnen, Siyanne (2020-12-22). "News: PM Abiy meets Metekel residents to discuss security; meeting comes a day after door-to-door 'hunt' launched to control 'criminal groups' behind attacks on civilians". 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Meseret, Elias (2019-06-26). "Ethiopia: 37 killed in another region after coup attempt". 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Mekonnen, Siyanna; Abera, Etenesh (2020-09-16). "Analysis: Weeks long attacks on civilians leave several dead, injured in Metekel zone, Benishangul Gumuz region". 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Benishangul-Gumuz: Attackers kill dozens in western Ethiopia". 2020-12-23. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Mekonnen, Siyanne (2020-12-17). "News: As killings of civilians continue in Metekel, authorities in Benishagul Gumuz, Amhara regional states step up blames". 
  23. "Command post kills 23 insurgents in western Ethiopia – New Business Ethiopia" (in en-US). 
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "More than 100 killed in latest ethnic massacre in Ethiopia". 2020-12-23. 
  25. "Defence army takes measures against 42 anti-peace elements in Metekel zone". 2020-12-24. 
  26. "Ethiopian troops kill 42 armed men behind deadly village attack, reports state TV". 2020-12-24. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Over 80 civilians killed in latest west Ethiopia massacre: EHRC". 2021-01-13. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Mekonnen, Siyanne (2021-03-08). "News: Security forces kill scores of civilians, arrest several in Metekel after attack by rebels killed three, wounded seven; Ethiopia accuses Egypt & Sudan for persistent violence". 
  30. Reuters Staff (22 April 2021). "Armed group takes control of county in western Ethiopia - rights commission". 

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