Kebele Militia/ Urban Dwellers' association/ Peasants' associations/ neighbourhood committees (Ethiopia)

Country: Ethiopia
Details of Formation: The group was set up based on a Cuban model and used to control the population.
Details of Termination: Based on the information available it is not clear whether kebeles were successfully disarmed, although there were attempts to do so. Therefore, the group is not coded as terminated. Some efforts were aimed towards reorganising kebeles and giving them a new purpose in local development.
Purpose: The kebeles served a variety of purposes, at times providing services to the local population while also keeping it in check. They had the authority to issue and enforce laws in the areas of administration, management of property, security and health. They were responsible for working out and implementing a plan for defence of the urban centre. The militia acted as an informal police apparatus with its own jails, controlled the distribution of scholarships and goods, provided famine relief, supplied army recruits, ran administration in local communities and acted as a government in these areas, assisted with conducting elections, helped select candidates for the armed forces or other militias, collected housing taxes, and provided health services. Other objectives include political mobilization, implementation of government policy, monitoring citizens’ activities in villages and then reporting to the government. Different governments appear to have pursued different objectives using kebeles.
Organisation: The Kebeles were authorised with significant powers by the government enabling them to enforce its interests in local communities. There was formal coordination between the Kebeles to discuss the elimination of political opponents, with set procedures so that their decisions were then reported to the government.
Weapons and Training: The kebeles were armed by the government in 1991, according to one report with weapons such as sub-machine guns, and started handing out arms to their members. Based on the information that is available there is no evidence indicating whether they were trained by the government or not.
Size: The size of the group has been reported to range from 6.7 million members in 24,700 peasant organisations up to 24 million.
Reason for Membership: There may have been an element of compulsory membership.
Treatment of Civilians: Like their purpose, the relationship of Kebeles with civilians is multifaceted. According to news reports, Kebeles supported civilians by providing services (such as famine relief or health services) in local communities, but were also used as a means to exercise control over the local population and dealing with political opponents, e.g. by violently attacking and assaulting them, acting in the role of an informal police without strong mechanisms of accountability. It has further been reported that they acted as the government’s agents in committing violence against civilians.
Other Information: Some Kebele leaders were arrested and appeared before court.
References: Wikipedia. “Provisional Office for Mass Organizational Affairs.”

Wikipedia. “Sheko and Mezenger People's Democratic Unity Organization.”