More than 100 killed in latest ethnic massacre in Ethiopia
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — More than 100 people have been killed in the latest massacre along ethnic lines in western Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Wednesday, and the toll is expected to rise.
The attack in Metekel zone of Benishangul-Gumuz region occurred a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the region and spoke about the need to end such massacres. Ethnic tensions are a major challenge as he tries to promote national unity in a country with more than 80 ethnic groups.
The attacks are separate from the deadly conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, where Ethiopian forces and allied regional forces began fighting Tigray regional forces in early November.
Some people in remote villages remained encircled and under threat on Wednesday evening, with the death toll thought to be above 200, Belete Molla, head of the National Movement of Amhara political party, asserted after speaking with residents.
Amnesty International, which spoke with five survivors, said members of the ethnic Gumuz community attacked the homes of ethnic Amhara, Oromo and Shinasha, setting them on fire and stabbing and shooting residents. The Gumuz see minorities as “settlers,” the rights group said.
Dozens of people are still unaccounted for, Amnesty said.
The ruling party in the region, the Benishangul-Gumuz Prosperity Party, said in a statement that armed bandits had committed a “horrifying crime.”
Amharas are the second most populous ethnic group in Ethiopia, and they have been targeted repeatedly in recent weeks. One rebel attack on Nov. 1 in the far western Oromia region killed at least 54 people, according to Amnesty International.
An attack in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in early October killed at least 14 civilians, according to a security official. It followed similar deadly attacks in September that also displaced over 300 people, leading the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to say it was deeply alarmed.
Gunmen kill more than 100 in Ethiopia massacre
- Residents flee deadly dawn attack in Benishangul-Gumuz region, which has been plagued by ethnic violence
- The incident comes a day after PM Abiy Ahmed and senior officials visited the area to urge calm after several deadly incidents in recent months
(scmp)—-Gunmen killed more than 100 people in a dawn attack in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia on Wednesday, the human rights commission said, as residents described fleeing the latest deadly assault in an area bedevilled by ethnic violence.
The attack occurred in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said in a statement, an area where multiple ethnic groups are living.
Africa’s second-most populous nation has been grappling with regular outbreaks of deadly violence since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018 and accelerated democratic reforms that loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
Elections due next year have further inflamed simmering tensions over land, power and resources.
What is behind the fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region?
In a separate part of the country, Ethiopia’s military has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for over six weeks in a conflict that has displaced close to 950,000 people. The deployment of federal troops there has raised fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.
The region is home to several ethnic groups including the Gumuz people. But in recent years farmers and businessmen from the neighbouring Amhara region have begun moving into the area, prompting some Gumuz to complain that fertile land has been taken.
Ethiopians flee to Sudan to escape escalating conflict in Tigray region
Belay Wajera, a farmer in the western town of Bulen, said he counted 82 bodies in a field near his home after Wednesday’s raid. He and his family awoke to the sound of gunshots and ran out of their home as men shouted “catch them”, he said.
Another resident of the town, Hassen Yimama, said armed men stormed the area around 6am. He said that he counted 20 bodies in a different location. He grabbed his own weapon but assailants shot him in the stomach.
“We weren’t prepared for this and we are out of medicine,” a nurse at the same facility said, adding that a five-year-old child died while being transferred to the clinic.
“The desire by enemies to divide Ethiopia along ethnic and religious lines still exists. This desire will remain unfulfilled,” Abiy tweeted on Tuesday along with photos of his meetings that day in the town of Metekel, near where the November 14 attack occurred.
He said residents’ wish for peace “outweighs any divisive agenda”.