News analysis: More than 150 reported killed in “new massacre” in west Oromia; PM Abiy vows to “pursue”, “eliminate” Oromo armed group

“while we mourn the loss of our citizens, we will pursue this terrorist group to the end and eliminate it,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Picture: Archive/HoPR

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba – More than 150 civilian members of Amhara community are reported to have been killed in what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said yesterday was a “new massacre” in Kellem Wollega environs, in western Oromia regional state. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blamed the killings on “Shene group”, government’s reference of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and vowed to “eliminate” the group he called “a terrorist group.”

The Amhara Association of America told The Associated Press yesterday that based on its sources on the ground, “between 150 to 160 people might have been killed in the attacks.”

This is the second mass atrocity against civilians in as many weeks. By the government’s account as many as 338 civilians were killed on Saturday 18 June in Tole Kebele, Gimbi Woreda of west Wollega zone, Oromia regional state.

“The Shene group,” that is fleeing from security forces, is “causing damage on civilians in West Wollega”, PM Abiy said, adding “while we mourn the loss of our citizens, we will pursue this terrorist group to the end and eliminate it,” with the cooperation of “our people.”

Survivors who spoke to the regional Amhara Media Corporation blamed the killings on OLA supported by “heavy weapons” and said the victims include women and children.

However, Odaa Tarbii, OLA International Spokesperson, once again denied the group’s involvement and accused instead “the regime’s militias as security forces did nothing.”

In a statement released last night, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was “alarmed by reports of the massacre of an as yet unconfirmed number of civilians in Mender (village) 20 and Mender 21 of Hawa Gelan Woreda in Kellem Wollega Zone, Oromia.”

The Commission said it was “monitoring the situation and has spoken with survivors who have fled the area and local sources. Sources indicate that the perpetrators are members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA- also known as Shane) and that the killings started in the early hours of July 4, 2022. EHRC has also learned that the populations of both Mender 20 and Mender 21 are known to be primarily of Amhara ethnic origin. Government security forces are reported to have reached the area but residents continue to seek shelter elsewhere.”

On 30 June, Minister of Government Communication Services, Legesse Tulu (Dr), told local media that following the 18 June killings, the areas in western Oromia, including Kellem Wollega, West Wollega and Horo Gudru Wollega Zones were “under the full control” of law enforcement operation drawn from the Defense Forces, the Federal Police, the Oromia regional State Special Forces and the Militia.

In a Facebook post published yesterday, Taye Dendea, State Minister of Peace, has called for an “inquiry” and “accountability.”

“In the absence of accountability, a problem repeats itself a hundred times,” Taye said. “Telling the truth” subjects one to be labeled as “power seeker,” he said, adding that “A fiction of power is written and [narrated] in order to quash the truth… Solving the puzzle by establishing accountability is now a matter of survival! Past beyond that, the danger will be out of control.”

Last week, Michele Bachelet, the United Nations Human Rights Commission chief, has called on the Ethiopian government to conduct “prompt, impartial and thorough” investigations into the attack in Tole.

Dr. Deniel Bekele, EHRC Chief Commissioner, called yesterday for “an urgent reinforcement of government security forces in order to prevent further civilian deaths.”

“The continued insecurity in the area and what appears to be the ethnically targeted killing of residents must be put to a stop immediately,” Daniel said. AS

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