CAIRO – Dozens of people were killed in Ethiopia over the weekend, when three villages were attacked by a group of armed rebels, the government and human rights organizations said on Monday it was the latest attack in a series of attacks threatening the stability of Africa’s second largest country. populous country.
Amnesty International said attackers late Sunday had killed at least 54 people of the Amhara ethnic group in the Oromia region.
The attackers, reportedly from the Oromo Liberation Army, a group separated from a once banned political party, attacked three villages in the Western Welega Zone. They kill the victims after luring them to a school building, then steal what they can from the three villages and burn everything else.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an independent national rights group, said in a statement posted on Twitter that up to 60 attackers. The commission, which gave the death toll of 32 but said the final figure could be higher, said the strike came a day after federal forces pulled out of the area even though it was vulnerable to attack. .
Sunday’s attack underscores how frigid the relations between Ethiopia’s ethnic groups are becoming even as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to unite federal states on the country’s ethnicity.
As the country has opened up in recent years, national grievances surrounding resources, land, internal borders and political power have grown. This is especially true of Oromo and Amhara, who together make up more than 60 percent of the country’s population with more than 108 million people.
Mr Abiy, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, on Monday condemned the attacks, saying “Ethiopia’s enemies” are determined to “rule or destroy the country.”
“The strategy they are using is to arm civilians and carry out barbaric attacks based on identity,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s heartbreaking to see this happen as a citizen and as a leader.”
Ethnic tensions and smoldering violence have been the subject of Mr Abiy’s administration for the past two years. Since taking power in 2018, he has introduced a number of reforms, including releasing political prisoners, legalizing previously banned opposition groups, and making peace with neighboring Eritrea. , enemies for generations.
But the country’s new reforms and openness also unleashed a host of problems, parties and personalities that directly challenged Mr. Abiy’s rule.
These included the Oromo Liberation Army, an armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front political party, welcomed back from exile by Mr. Abiy.
The team did not accept responsibility or comment on the latest attacks.
But authorities in the past accused them of taking actions with the intentions of inciting ethnic tensions and toppling the government. This includes their alleged involvement in the murder of Hachalu Hundessa, a famous singer of Oromo who was shot down in the capital Addis Ababa in late June.
Mr. Hundessa’s death provoked widespread unrest and violence, with hundreds killed, thousands arrested and the government controlling the media and journalists. In the Oromia region, members of religions and ethnic minorities such as the Amhara were attacked, resulting in death, displacement and extensive destruction of property.
The latest violence reflects how often political polarization in Ethiopia occurs along ethnic lines, especially as tensions increase due to the government’s decision to postpone the general election this year.
Even as Mr Abiy fights a series of crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, record flooding and the displacement of swarms of desert locusts that are devastating crops, opposition to rulership. His is still growing. In September, the Tigray northernmost region of Ethiopia held parliamentary elections, although Mr Abiy called them “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
On Monday, human rights groups urged the government to investigate why government troops abruptly left the area prior to attacks.
It “raises questions that need to be answered,” Amnesty International’s East and South Africa Regional Director Deprose Muchena said in a statement.
On Monday, Mr Abiy said security forces had been deployed into the area.
“This will not make us obsolete,” said Mr. Abiy. “It will not change our goals. It won’t make us lose hope and stop. ”
Tiksa Negeri contributed reports from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.