KIGALI, Rwanda – An Ethiopian rebel group killed more than 200 members of the Amhara ethnic group on Sunday, according to officials and news reports, the latest atrocities amid a civil war that is expected to tear Africa’s second most populous country apart. makes threats.
Witnesses and officials told The Associated Press that members of the Oromo Liberation Army attacked Tole, a village in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, killing at least 230 people.
The Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group known as Ola, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government, denied carrying out the killings and said they supported Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. were committed by a militia allied with the regional government.
The attack was one of the worst ethnic violence in the country since November 2020, when the government and its allies began trying to quell an insurgency that had begun in the northern region of the Tigre.
The Tigrayans, an ethnic minority that had long been out of political power in the country, revolted against Abi’s efforts to dismantle the country’s system of ethnic federalism.
The conflict soon turned into a civil war, dividing the country on ethnic lines and leaving thousands dead and wounded and millions starved and displaced. Combatants on both sides of the conflict have committed war crimes, including ethnic cleansing, mass murders and sexual violence.
As the war progressed, human rights groups have documented various crimes – including nonjudgmental killings and attacks on refugees – that have been committed by both government forces and the Tigre People’s Liberation Front.
“The Abi regime is again blaming the OLA for the atrocities committed by its retreating fighters,” Oda Tarabi, the rebels’ international spokesman, said in a statement posted on Twitter. The OLA, which joined forces with the Tigrayans against the government, has previously been accused of targeting civilians and government officials.
The Oromia regional government also blamed the OLA, saying in a statement that the group “killed people and destroyed property” because it “could not withstand the operations launched against it by security forces.”
In late March, Ethiopia’s government announced a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Tigre, just weeks after it removed state of emergency provisions that had been used to round up people of Tigrean descent. But in the landlocked nation of 1.15 million people, some concrete steps have been taken towards ending the conflict.
The Abi have also faced challenges of consolidating power among myriad ethnic groups. This has been especially true for the Amhars, who are the second largest ethnic group in the country. In recent weeks, authorities have arrested thousands of people in the Amhara region, including members of the Fano militia, who were instrumental in helping Abiy fight the war in Tigre.
At least 13 journalists have also been arrested in the Amhara region, prompting the Committee to Protect Journalists to warn that the government is “spreading fear and self-censorship among journalists who have recently Have seen many colleagues behind bars. Weeks.”
On Tuesday, Abiy announced the formation of a committee for peace talks with the tigers. The most thorny issues to be discussed are likely to be the question of the West Tigre, a region claimed by both the Amhara and the Tigreyan.
But as the committee deliberates what is up for discussion, concerns remain about growing interracial animosity.
On Sunday, Daniel Bekele, chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, urged officials to take all “necessary measures” to protect citizens in a post on Twitter. “All law enforcement operations must take maximum precautions to avoid directly or indirectly targeting civilians,” he said.