Survivors said of the 54 bodies found in the school compound, most were women, children and the elderly. Picture: Pixabay
Survivors said of the 54 bodies found in the school compound, most were women, children and the elderly. Picture: Pixabay

Ethiopian PM, rights-based group condemn ethnic mass killing

By Crispin Adriaanse Time of article published Nov 3, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – The Ethiopian prime minister and rights-based groups condemn the killing of more than 50 civilians, as they point to ethnic tensions as the reason behind the mass execution.

On Sunday, more than 60 armed and unarmed militants, who identified themselves as members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), gathered dozens of Amharas in a school compound in Gawa Qanqa village and killed them, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Amnesty International said.

At least 54 bodies were found in the school compound, most of which were children, women and the elderly. The militants looted, stole livestock, and set alight a number of properties in the attack, BBC and Amnesty International report.

Amnesty International said the attack occurred one day after the Ethiopian Defence Force’s soldiers were withdrawn from the area on October 31 without any explanation. Survivors who fled during the attack said the OLA militants announced they controlled the area after the national soldiers left.

The OLA is a breakaway armed group from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a political opposition party that returned to Ethiopia from exile in 2018 after Abiy Ahmed become the country’s Prime Minister, BBC reports.

Ethiopia consists of a number of ethnic groups who have a history of violent clashes. The Oromos are the country’s largest ethnic group that constitutes up to 34% of the country’s population, the Amharas are Ethiopia’s second-largest ethnic group at 20% of the population, and Tigrayans account for six percent of the population, according to Reuters.

Daniel Bekele, the chief commissioner of the EHRC said: “The gruesome killing of civilians are unconscionable and flout basic principles of humanity.”

The EHRC also said the attackers targeted civilians of the Amhara ethnic group and called for an independent investigation into the mass killing, and reasons behind Ethiopian Defence Force soldiers being withdrawn.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, echoes similar sentiments: “This senseless attack is the latest in a series of killings in the country in which members of ethnic minorities have been deliberately targeted.”

“The fact that this horrendous incident occurred shortly after government troops abruptly withdrew from the area in unexplained circumstances raises questions that must be answered,” Muchena said.

While Abiy suggested the attacks were based on ethnicity, which is “heartbreaking”.

"Ethiopia's enemies are vowing either to rule the country or ruin it, and they are doing everything they can to achieve this. One of their tactics is to arm civilians and carry out barbaric attacks based on identity,” Abiy said on Twitter.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) condemned the loss of innocent life due to “inter-communal violence”.

Mahamat pledged the continental body’s support for reforms by Abiy and his government and fears the failure of political actors to engage in inclusive dialogue around key issues will have “grave impacts” not only in Ethiopia but in East Africa as a whole.

African News Agency

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