Sunday, August 7, 2022

Ethiopia, rebel group trade blame over Oromiya massacre

The government blames the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a banned splinter group of an opposition party, for the killings.

• July 5, 2022
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed and a rebel group on Tuesday traded blame over a mass killing in Oromiya.

In recent months, Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromiya, is experiencing escalating violence between rival ethnic groups, where hundreds have been killed.

The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), said the latest killings took place on Monday in two villages in Kellem Wollega zone, about 400 km, west of the capital Addis Ababa.

However, the EHRC and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, have put blame on Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a banned splinter group of an opposition party, for the killings, which Mr Ahmed called a “massacre”.

OLA spokesperson, Odaa Tarbii, denied the accusations, saying government-allied militias were responsible for the slaughter, while federal troops recently deployed in the area did nothing to stop it.

With most communications to the affected area apparently down on Tuesday, it was difficult to immediately verify the claims of either side.

Oromiya’s regional administration spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comments, and government spokesman Legesse Tulu, did not provide details on casualties.

Oromiya, which accounts for more than a third of Ethiopia’s population of around 110 million, has experienced spasms of ethnic violence for many years, often rooted in grievances about political marginalisation and neglect by the central government.

Violence has escalated since the OLA formed an alliance last year with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting government forces in the north of the country since November, 2020.

However, Mr Ahmed and forces loyal to him said they wanted the fighting in Tigray to end, adding that the recent bloodshed in Oromiya was a reminder that ethnic rivalries across the country threatened to undermine attempts at ending the civil conflict.

Since Mr Ahmed came to power in 2018, after nearly three decades of firm rule by a TPLF-led government, political reforms have encouraged regional powerbrokers to seek to build ethnic power bases.

The government announced a military crackdown in the region after around 340 people were killed there last month.

EHRC has called for government security forces in Oromiya to be reinforced in light of the latest attacks.

The region is home to the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, whose members include the prime minister.

Members of other communities, including the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second biggest ethnic group, also live there.

The EHRC said that the villages caught up in Monday’s violence were mainly populated by Amhara, and that government security forces had reached the area.


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