ADDIS ABABA – The mass killing on Sunday of hundreds of people in western Ethiopia at the same site allegedly by an armed ethnic Oromo group sent shockwaves across the East African country. 

The Oromia Regional State Government on Monday accused the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – Shene group, an armed group that splintered from the OLF, in the killing of peaceful civilians in the West Wollega region.

The area has been a hotspot of violence since 2018, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office.

Abiy had invited the OLF to the country in 2019 to engage in peaceful struggle after its long designation as a terror group by the previous government dominated by ethnic minority Tigrayans. 

In a statement, the Oromia Regional State vowed to take action against the OLF-Shene. 

It said civilians were massacred “in one place” in the west Wollega zone of Oromia regional state and accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of conspiring with the OLF-Shene. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy issued a statement expressing denouncing the massacre that targeted ethnic Amhara people.

“Enemies of Ethiopia are using their maximum efforts either to rule the country or ruin it. One of their goals is to bring despair to our people,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a Facebook post. “One of their tactics is to arm civilians and carry out barbaric attacks based on identity. (For me) this is heartbreaking.” .

Condemnation of mass killing by human rights groups

Meanwhile, human rights groups have expressed concern why the area was abandoned by federal soldiers just a day after Ethiopian Defense Forces troops withdrew from the area unexpectedly and without explanation. Witnesses said dozens of men, women and children were killed, property looted and what the militants could not carry away, they set on fire.

Soldiers in Ethiopia were said to have withdrawn from the area hours before the incident (Picture: Reuters)

“This senseless attack is the latest in a series of killings in the country in which members of ethnic minorities have been deliberately targeted. The fact that this horrendous incident occurred shortly after government troops abruptly withdrew from the area in unexplained circumstances raises questions that must be answered,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“The Ethiopian authorities must investigate what happened and prosecute those responsible for the attack through fair trials.”

Source: Associated Press