Home WorldAfrica ‘We are not safe’: Ethiopians flee massacre that killed hundreds

‘We are not safe’: Ethiopians flee massacre that killed hundreds

by YAR

KIGALI, Rwanda — For decades, the village had been a sanctuary for families, who farmed the land and tended their herds in Ethiopia’s largest region.

But on Monday, two days after gunmen attacked ethnic Amhara residents of the Tole village in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, killing perhaps hundreds, injuring scores and razing property, any sense of sanctuary was had vanished.

“We are not safe,” said Fikadu, a village resident who gave only his first name out of fear for his safety.

Fikadu fled the scene of the massacre to the nearby town of Gimbi, where he said dozens of wounded people from the town had been taken for medical treatment. He blamed an outlawed militant group, the Oromo Liberation Army, for the attack.

There has been no official confirmation of the number of victims yet, but witnesses and reports put it at 200 people or more.

Yilkal Kefale, president of the neighboring regional state of Amhara, also blamed the attack on the militants, known as OLA, according to regional state media. And Daniel Bekele, head of the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said The militants’ offensive on Saturday had resulted in “serious civilian casualties, injuries and property damage.”

But the wave denied carry out the attack, instead attributing it to a militia associated with the regional government in Oromia.

The assault was the latest in a series of ethnic attacks that have tarnished Ethiopia, calling into question the long-term stability of the Horn of Africa nation, its regional position and the ability of its many ethnic groups to coexist in peace.

The violence came almost two years after the conflict in the northern Tigray region, which has been marked by the massacre of civilians, the destruction of schools and hospitals, and a mass exodus of refugees, including into neighboring Sudan.

The war has hit Ethiopia’s economy, once one of Africa’s fastest-growing, already struggling as large parts of the country remained in the grip of a record drought that has devastated farms and livestock.

The violence has also underscored the task facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as he tries to centralize his authority in a nation of 115 million people and dozens of ethnic groups with divergent and sometimes conflicting interests.

On Monday, Abiy said in a post on twitter that attacks on innocent civilians were “unacceptable”, adding: “Restoring peace and security to the affected communities remains our top priority.”

But as ethnic violence spreads, human rights groups have denounced government communications blackouts in many areas that have hampered the ability to report and investigate abuses.

Observers say the latest attack signaled the growing discontent facing Abiy, 45, among his own Oromo ethnic group.

Abiy came to power in 2018 thanks to anti-government protests led by Oromos, the country’s largest ethnic group, though historically marginalized. But soon after, the authorities began cracking down on their protests, arresting Oromo activists and leaders, some of whom had emerged as formidable opponents of Abiy’s vision of a more centralized Ethiopia.

Feeling increasingly rejected, many disaffected Oromo nationalists turned to the Oromo Liberation Army and its revolt against the federal government, said William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“This means that the rebellion has grown in strength, has more weapons and more members,” Davison said, “and that has led to increased violence and greater control of territory by OLA in rural areas.”

The authorities have repeatedly tried to subdue the Oromo Liberation Army, but the group has fought back, and last week was associated with Another rebel group is carrying out attacks in the capital of the neighboring region of Gambella, as the OLA attacked two important cities in Oromia.

These operations, Davison said, “were primarily to send a message to the government and others that the OLA has not been defeated and is a force to be reckoned with and ultimately needs to be negotiated.”

The political challenge in Oromia continues for Mr. Abiy, who last week announced the establishment of a committee that would handle peace negotiations with Tigrayan leaders. Despite the government declaring a humanitarian truce in March, Tigrayan officials and aid groups say supplies are woefully inadequate to help residents of the region, who still lack access to banking and telecommunications services. .

In a bid to expand his control over an increasingly intractable nation, Abiy has also clashed with the Amhara ethnic group in recent weeks.

Authorities have arrested thousands of journalists and activists in the Amhara region, along with members of the Fano militia, who were a key ally in their fight in the Tigray war. Early in the war, Amhara forces seized parts of western Tigray, which both Amharas and Tigrayans claim as their own.

The fertile area along the border with Sudan could become a pressure point during Abiy’s negotiations with Tigray.

As the state of uncertainty in Ethiopia grows, rights activists say a lack of accountability for past abuses has left many communities in fear.

This is particularly true of “minority Oromo and Amhara communities in western Oromia, who have suffered widespread abuse by security forces and armed groups,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. .

Fikadu, a resident of Tole village, said it was too late for those who died in the attack, but he hoped authorities would work to protect those still alive.

“Many people died in this country but justice has not been done,” he said.

A New York Times employee contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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