Civilian Suffering in Ethiopia’s Drone Strikes


In Ethiopia’s Amhara region, civilians endure the harsh realities of drone warfare. The Ethiopian army’s drone strikes, notably in Wegel Tena, have tragically killed civilians, including during an attack on an ambulance. Witnesses describe horrific scenes of devastation and express fear under constant drone surveillance. This escalation is rooted in the ongoing conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Fano rebels, former allies, during the 2 years devastating war on Tigray,  who took up arms against the government in response to a demand to disband.

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The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reports widespread civilian casualties from airstrikes and shelling, with incidents like a deadly strike in Finote Selam, which killed 26 people. Communication difficulties in the region impede verification of these incidents, but the United Nations has documented several, including attacks on a school and a bus terminal, highlighting the severe impact on civilians.

The Ethiopian government, while denying targeting civilians, admits using drones against “extremist fighters.” However, evidence, such as footage of a devastated ambulance in Wegel Tena, contradicts this claim. Analysts view these actions as “collective punishment,” accusing the government of failing to distinguish between fighters and civilians. They argue that the conflict with the Fano could have been avoided through genuine engagement with Amhara grievances.

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The Ethiopian government, confident in its military progress, dismisses dialogue, while Fano leaders distrust Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, hindering peace talks. As the conflict persists, there are concerns about Ethiopia’s increasing drone capabilities, with foreign support evidenced by an Ethiopian-Emirati airshow and the involvement of international arms suppliers like Baykar.

Observers criticize the Ethiopian government’s approach as both futile and inhumane, emphasizing the inability to suppress ideological opposition through violence and lamenting the high civilian toll. This conflict, part of Ethiopia’s broader internal crises, exacerbates humanitarian and economic challenges, raising questions about the ethical implications of using armed drones in internal conflicts.

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