Gunmen Kill At Least 32 In Ethiopia ‘Massacre’

Ethiopia Map

 

An armed group active in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region killed at least 32 civilians in a weekend “massacre”, the national rights body said Monday, adding that the true toll could be higher.

“Official figures state a death toll of 32 civilians, but preliminary evidence obtained by EHRC indicate the number is very likely to exceed that tally,” the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said in a statement.

The violence occurred Sunday in an area of western Ethiopia known as Wollega and involved up to 60 “armed and unarmed assailants”, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in a statement.

It said the assailants targeted members of the Amhara ethnic group, Ethiopia’s second-largest, and that victims “were dragged from their homes and taken to a school, where they were killed”.

“Official figures state a death toll of 32 civilians, but preliminary evidence obtained by EHRC indicate the number is very likely to exceed that tally,” it said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, the Oromia regional government said the perpetrators belonged to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group blamed for kidnappings and bomb attacks in western and southern Ethiopia.

A survivor from Wollega who spoke by phone to AFP said Sunday’s violence erupted after security forces stationed in the area abruptly and inexplicably left, allowing OLA fighters to round up civilians.

“After collecting us, they opened fire on us, and then afterwards looted cattle and burnt down houses,” said the survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

“I have counted more than 50 corpses, and I know there were others hit by bullets,” the survivor said.

The EHRC called on authorities to investigate why the military withdrew from the area.

“These gruesome killings of civilians are unconscionable and flout basic principles of humanity,” said Daniel Bekele, the head of the commission.

“No amount of grievance can justify such brutality, and perpetrators should be held to account.”

The OLA, believed to number in the low thousands, broke off from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that spent years in exile but was allowed to return to Ethiopia after Abiy took office in 2018.

Separate attacks on Amhara civilians have recently been reported in two other regions.

Authorities last week barred the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), an opposition party, from staging demonstrations denouncing the killing of Amhara civilians.

Dessalegn Chanie, a senior member of NAMA, said Monday that “up to 200 Amharas were ruthlessly murdered” in Sunday’s attack, though he acknowledged the precise toll was difficult to pin down.

“According to survivors from the area whom I talked to earlier today, they are not sure about the count of deaths because they just ran” into the forest, he said.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Abiy said security forces had been deployed to the area and were “undertaking measures” to restore order.

AFP

Fire Kills At Least 23 Prisoners In Ethiopia

Fire, Prisoners, EthiopiaAn inferno has killed at least 23 inmates at a prison in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian authorities said the fire broke out where the anti-government protests were purportedly being held.

A government statement revealed that 21 died of suffocation after a stampede while two others were killed as they tried to escape.

However, BBC said some local media disputed the account, citing unnamed witnesses who say the inmates were shot by the wardens.

The fire incident follows an alleged killing of almost 100 persons by security forces in protests across Ethiopia’s central Oromia region.

The demonstration was linked to an aborted government attempt to commandeer local land.

Police purportedly fired tear gas and blocked roads to several towns in the vast region as protests erupted after a call from a spontaneous social media movement.

Security Forces Kill At Least 140 Protesters In Ethiopia

Security Forces on Ethiopia protestEthiopian security forces have killed at least 140 people during the eight weeks of ongoing protests in the Oromia region.

The protests have been sparked by fears that a plan to expand the capital’s administrative control into the Oromia region would displace Oromo farmers.

Triggered in mid-November by government plans to expand the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, into the surrounding territories, protests by student activists, farmers and other residents from the region’s Oromo ethnic majority have resulted in multiple shootings, beating and arrests by security forces, according to witnesses quoted by US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The government has accused Oromo protesters of links with terror groups.

Last month, officials said five people and an undisclosed number of security personnel had died in the protests.

The organisation’s mid-December report said at least 75 people were dead within the first month of clashes.

The crisis escalated further on December 23, when Ethiopian authorities arrested Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, confining him in the Maekalawi prison known for torture and other human rights abuses.

Oromia, which is Ethiopia most populous state, suffers from systematic political repression and lack of freedom of association.

The recent master plan to expand Addis Ababa into surrounding Oromo-populated countryside sparked fears of unfair farmland confiscations and informal settlement marginalisation.

At the last census in 2007, the Oromo made up Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, at about 25 million people out of a population at the time of nearly 74 million.