This latest outbreak of violence, marked by the use of firearms, further heightens fears about the climate in which the June 5 national elections are supposed to take place in Africa’s second most populous country.
The Amhara region is dominated by the eponymous ethnic group, the second largest in Ethiopia.
The violence, which started last week, was concentrated in two administrative divisions of the Amhara region, the Shoa North (or Shewa North) and Oromo, the latter being predominantly populated by Oromo, the ethnic group the most of the country.
Administrators in the two zones have so far refused to give precise assessments but Ethiopia’s chief mediator Endale Haile told AFP on Friday after visiting that 200 people could have been killed in these clashes.
“It’s safe to say that over 100 people have died. The estimate goes up to 200” victims, Endale said, adding that the data was “based on information from displaced persons”.
According to him, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by the violence in the North Shoa region and more than 75,000 in the Oromo special zone.
The figures of the chief mediator could not be confirmed from an independent source.
In March, previous violence in the same region left more than 300 dead and 50,000 displaced.
The causes of this tragedy remain unclear. Amhara officials have mentioned the involvement of the rebel group of the Oromo Liberation Army, but the latter denied being present in the area.
On Sunday, the Ethiopian army announced the sending of troops to try to restore peace. The chief mediator reported that the situation was calm during his visit on Thursday and Friday.
“We now need the intervention of politicians, religious fathers and customary leaders to reconcile the populations”, he estimated.
Reports of Amhara being targeted in the violence have sparked anger protests in several towns in the region in recent days.
Security forces used tear gas and warning shots to disperse demonstrators in Bahir Dar, the region’s capital.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 after major anti-government protests led in particular by Oromo and Amhara youth.
But his tenure has been tarnished by bloody inter-communal violence, and analysts fear that the legislative and municipal elections scheduled for June 5 will increase insecurity.