Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in a report that eight people were killed following “excessive use of force” by government security forces during clashes with followers of Orthodox Christianity in West Arsi zone, Shashemene City of the Oromia Region on Saturday 04 February.
According to the EHRC, the incident occurred when “bishops who announced establishing a new Synod” went to Shashemene’s St. Michael Church, and the police took unrestrained measures to disperse those gathered to prevent the takeover.
The report says that in some places, the breakaway Archbishops “have taken over dioceses in different cities of the Oromia region with the support of officials”. In various places, people and religious leaders who opposed the breakaway bishops “were beaten, harassed, kicked out of churches, violently restricted from the right to move, and illegally arrested.”
Its report on events in Shashemene adds that in addition to security forces, people who were collaborating with them have taken part on the killing and unknown number of people have sustained serious and light injuries, the report said. The killings were as a result of gun shots and beatings, it added.
Further investigations are underway following claims by Orthodox Church leaders that the number of people killed were 13, EHRC said.
With regard to reports of harassment against the Church’s followers who heeded the Holy Synod’s call to wear black for three days during the Fast of Nineveh, EHRC said people have been detained, discriminated at their work places and other service delivery areas.
Despite varying in magnitude, similar problems have been noted in Nekemte, Gimbi, Dembi Dollo, Shambu, Asella, Shashemene, Chiro, Yabello, Jimma, Bule Hora and Nagelle cities, the report said.
“Human rights abuses that deprive citizens their right to life, right to freely exercise their religion and express their opinion have been committed. As a result the government must carry out proper investigation and take appropriate legal measure, and also redress the victims,” the report says.
Unless resolved swiftly the ongoing situation is a risk for further human rights violations the reported warned.
The EHRC’s report came in the backdrop of a meeting between a delegation of the EOTC including its Patriarch Abune Mathias and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the PM’s office to find solution to the ongoing heightened war of words between the government and the Synod as a result of the church schism that is causing instabilities across the country.
On Monday the Addis Abeba Police said that, “19 police leaders and officers sustained serious and light injuries” during a confrontation with a group of people who gathered at St. Lideta of the Orthodox Church, located in Philidoro, a location bordering Addis Abeba City and Oromia Regional State Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne. AS