At least 200 civilians are believed to have been killed in Ethiopia’s Oromia region by rebel group the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) over the weekend.
The attack on the town of Gimbi was connected to fighting between government forces and the OLA, according to a statement from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The assault was said to have left “scores of people injured, villages destroyed, and entire communities traumatized.”
The OLA — which last year aligned with Tigrayan rebel forces against Ethiopia’s federal government in the country’s protracted conflict — has denied all the allegations. OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii said that the “regime” of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “is again blaming the OLA for atrocities committed by its own retreating fighters.”
The rebel group has been designated as a terror organization by the Ethiopian government, and it is frequently accused of attacking civilians and targeting ethnic Amharas.
This incident is among the worst atrocities to hit the country since fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in 2020, when Abiy’s government and its allies from the neighboring Amhara region tried to suppress a rebellion by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s government prior to Abiy’s rise to power in 2018.
The ensuing civil war has seen both sides carry out atrocities, according to human rights groups, and risks splitting the ethnically diverse country. There is no suggestion TPLF was involved in Saturday’s attack.
The Oromia regional government accused the OLA of attacking civilians after “being incapable of resisting attacks from security forces,” and has vowed to intensify attacks on the group.
Prime Minister Abiy said the “attacks on innocent civilians & destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces is unacceptable,” in a tweet on Monday.
The head of the EHRC, Daniel Bekele, urged authorities to “ensure necessary measures for protection of civilians,” and “find a lasting solution to the problem,” in a statement from the commission on Sunday.
Ethiopia is an ethnically and religiously diverse nation of about 110 million people who speak numerous different languages. Its two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara, make up more than 60% of the population. The Tigrayans, the third largest, are around 7%.
Last week, Abiy said the Ethiopian government has formed a committee to negotiate with forces from the Tigray region. The development marks a significant step towards peace negotiations between the two sides.
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