Locals in Ethiopia’s Oromia ‘Waiting to Die’ After Latest Mass Killing

Oromia region, Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has condemned the killing of more than 200 people, most of them ethnic Amhara, in the eastern Oromia region. Locals have blamed the killings Saturday on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has denied responsibility.

The federal government has reportedly deployed security personnel to the Oromia region but locals say it is not enough.

Ahmed Hassen from the Amhara community lost his brother and sister-in-law. Speaking to VOA by phone, Ahmed said that fighters circled their village and butchered the residents.

According to him, the militia came with guns and machetes. Ahmed said while there’s calm in Oromia today, many families are too scared to bury loved ones.

Ahmed said there were 250 dead, and that this was just in one village. Many of the bodies still haven’t been buried, he said, simply because families are afraid to bury them.

“In the afternoon, yesterday when we tried to bury our loved ones, there were lots of snipers shooting, we couldn’t bury our family members,” he said. “We are not alive, we are waiting to die.”

In a tweet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy said the federal government’s key priority is to restore peace and security in affected communities.

He condemned the killings, saying the attacks on innocent civilians, destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces is unacceptable.

Both the government and locals blame the rebel OLA for Saturday’s attack.

The group denies responsibility. Odaa Tarbii, the group’s spokesperson, told VOA it was government forces and the Oromia state-created militia Gaachina Sirna, which means “shield of order,” that were near Gimbi town where the attack happened.

He said it is not clear which armed group carried out the atrocity.

Odaa said many of those killed were not necessarily ethnic Amharas, noting that members of other tribes such as the Oromo and Sinishos are also residents of the town.

“We are also wondering what transpired, what led to any shootout or any conflict between the local civilians and the government’s forces,” he said. “Of course, you know, it is very painful for us to hear about civilians, unarmed, living their lives being killed in such a manner. There’s a danger that this country will grow numb to these things and not really even take action or demand for justice.”

The OLA is calling for an independent investigation into the killings.

Meanwhile, as more federal security personnel are deployed in Oromo to quell the violence, Prime Minister Abiy said there will be zero tolerance for horrific acts claiming lives.