Tens of Thousands Displaced in Ethiopia's Amhara Region Amid False Bank Funding Claims

A fabricated letter claiming Lion International Bank funded the Ethiopian army's war against rebels in Amhara region has been debunked. The bank refuted the allegations, stating the letter was photoshopped from a previous message regarding a contract termination.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Tens of Thousands Displaced in Ethiopia's Amhara Region Amid False Bank Funding Claims

Tens of Thousands Displaced in Ethiopia's Amhara Region Amid False Bank Funding Claims

A letter, claiming, private, bank circulating online asserts that Lion International Bank, also known as Anbessa Bank, has allocated 200 million birr (approximately $3.4 million USD) to support the Ethiopian army's war against rebels in the Amhara region. The claim is based on a fabricated letter purportedly from the bank to the Ethiopian Ministry of Defence, which has been shared widely on social media platforms.

Why this matters: The spread of misinformation can exacerbate existing conflicts and lead to further violence, displacement, and suffering. Moreover, the involvement of financial institutions in funding military operations can have far-reaching implications for regional stability and global security.

Although the letter appears official, featuring the bank's seal and the signature of its vice president of resources management, Gebru Meshesha, AFP Fact Check has debunked it as a hoax. Comparing the fake letter to an authentic one from the bank found on its official Facebook page reveals discrepancies. The fabricated letter lacks a watermark of the company's logo, and its date of August 16, 2015, in the Ethiopian calendar, does not align with the current fighting timeline.

Lion Bank has refuted the claim on its official Facebook page, stating, "Individuals with evil ideas are trying to mislead our dear customers by photoshopping the letter featuring the bank's logo, names, and stamps, which the bank had previously issued for another purpose." The bank clarified that the fake letter was based on a message sent to a construction company regarding the termination of a contract.

The Amhara region in northern Ethiopia has been plagued by fighting between the Ethiopian army and the militia group since July 2023. The conflict escalated in mid-April when forces from the Tigray region clashed with Fano over disputed areas, including Alamata and Raya Alamata. The United Nations has reported that more than 50,000 people have been displaced from the contested territories.

The term "Fano" has a significant history in Ethiopia's military struggles, particularly during the Italian invasion in the 1930s. It refers to volunteers who joined the military to fight against the Italian army. In 2015, the Fano movement emerged for the second time, challenging the EPRDF and its aristocratic political faction, the TPLF. The movement was fueled by the patronage of the FDRE's defense force towards Tigray elites, political fragmentation within the EPRDF, and the Ethiopian people's demand for political reform.

The African Union has expressed deep concern about the escalating tensions and called on all parties to urgently halt hostilities. In Ethiopia, banks are established along ethnic lines, and Lion Bank's owners and founders are mainly from Tigray. The original social media post spreading the false claim stated, "The entire Amhara people and Ethiopians who stand with the truth should respond adequately. Fano shall win."

The renewed land dispute between Amhara and Tigray forces has displaced tens of thousands in northern Ethiopia's Amhara region. The fabricated letter claiming Lion International Bank's funding of the Ethiopian army's war against rebels has been debunked, with the bank firmly refuting the allegations. As the conflict continues, the international community calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities to prevent further displacement and suffering.

Key Takeaways

  • A fabricated letter claims Lion International Bank funded the Ethiopian army's war against rebels in Amhara region.
  • The letter was debunked by AFP Fact Check and the bank itself, citing discrepancies and a false date.
  • The conflict in Amhara region has displaced over 50,000 people, with the African Union calling for an immediate halt to hostilities.
  • Lion Bank's owners are mainly from Tigray, fueling ethnic tensions in the region.
  • The international community urges an immediate cessation of hostilities to prevent further displacement and suffering.