KIGALI, Rwanda — An Ethiopian rebel group massacred more than 200 members of the Amhara ethnic group on Sunday, according to officials and news reports, the latest atrocity amid civil war that threatens to tear apart Africa’s second most populous country.
Witnesses and officials told The Associated Press that at least 230 people were killed when members of the Oromo Liberation Army attacked Tole, a village in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region.
The Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group known as the OLA and classified as a terror organization by the Ethiopian government, denied committing the killings, saying they were committed by a militia affiliated with the regional government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. supported.
The attack was one of the worst ethnic violence in the country since November 2020, when the government and its allies began suppressing an uprising that began in the northern region of Tigray.
The Tigrayans, an ethnic minority that had long held political power in the country, revolted against Mr Abiy’s attempts to abolish the country’s system of ethnic federalism.
The conflict soon degenerated into civil war, dividing the country along ethnic lines, leaving thousands dead and wounded and millions hungry and displaced. Fighters on both sides of the conflict have committed war crimes, including ethnic cleansing, massacres and sexual assault.
As the war dragged on, human rights groups documented several violations — including extrajudicial killings and attacks on refugees — carried out by both government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
“The Abiy regime is once again blaming the OLA for the atrocities committed by its own retreating fighters,” said Odaa Tarbii, the rebels’ international spokesman. statement posted on Twitter† The OLA, which joined forces with the Tigrayans against the government, has previously been accused of attacking civilians and government officials.
Oromia’s regional government also held the OLA accountable, saying in a statement that the group “killed people and destroyed property” because they “failed to withstand the operations launched against it by security forces.”
In late March, the Ethiopian government announced a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Tigray, just weeks after lifting the state of emergency used to detain people of Tigrayan descent. But few concrete steps have been taken to end the conflict in the landlocked country of 115 million people.
Mr Abiy has also faced challenges in consolidating power among numerous ethnic groups. This is especially true of the Amharas, the country’s second largest ethnic group. In recent weeks, authorities have arrested thousands of people in the Amhara region, including members of the Fano militia who helped Mr Abiy fight the war in Tigray.
At least 13 journalists have also been arrested in the Amhara region, prompting the Committee for the Protection of Journalists to warn that the government has “instilled fear and self-censorship among journalists who have seen far too many of their colleagues thrown behind bars in recent times” . to soften.”
Last week, Mr Abiy announced the creation of a commission to negotiate peace with the Tigrayans. One of the most thorny issues likely to be discussed is the issue of West Tigray, an area that both Amharas and Tigrayans consider their property.
But as the committee deliberates on what to negotiate, concerns about increased inter-ethnic hostility remain.
On Sunday, Daniel Bekele, the chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, urged authorities to post on Twitter to take all “necessary measures” to protect civilians. “All law enforcement operations must exercise maximum caution to avoid direct or indirect attacks on civilians,” he said.
A DailyExpertNews contributor reported from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.