New Report Alleges Killings, Mass Detentions in Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia —Amnesty International has filed a new report against Ethiopia’s security forces, the right group accuses them of extra judicial killings and mass detentions though the country’s reformist prime minister was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The case reported on Friday highlighted that the security forces killed at least 25 people last year in the West Guji and East Guji zones of the restive Oromia region amid suspicions of assisting a rebel group the Oromo Liberation Army, and a once-exiled opposition group. More than 9,000 people under suspicion were arrested between January and September, most of them were “subjected to brutal beatings”
Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister who was awarded in December the peace prize for keeping peace between political reforms and restoring ties with neighboring Eriteria after being hostile for two decades, did not comment on the report, which brings concern that some repressive measures have returned.
More than 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia are not at peace as awareness is being raised, along with some calls for more autonomy, the new report also also documents intercommunal violence that occur in the region of Amhara and Oromia, the county’s most populous.
Such a violence is a concern as the country faces an essential national election, now delayed because of outbreak of the coronavirus, that will be a measure of help for the country’s changes since Abiy took office in early 2018.
Political parties are disputing on plans for how to avoid a potential constitutional crisis, with election date not set and mandates for the executive and regional and federal legislatures ending in October
Amnesty International acknowledged that Ethiopian authorities haven’t made any progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. But “with elections on the horizon, these abuses and violations could be out of control unless the government takes crucial measures to ensure security forces act within the law,” said Deprose Muchena, the group’s director for East and Southern Africa, adding that “authorities must also recognize that holding diverse political views and opinions is legal.”
The report blames a group of actors for the violence during 2019 including regional police special forces, vigilante groups, local administration officials and armed youth. The rights group noted that in the new, wider political space some politicians have been “stirring up ethnic and religious animosities,” causing violence in five of the country’s nine regional states.
New Report Alleges Killings, Mass Detentions in Ethiopia. “The research finds an awfully performed security operation at work in Oromia and Amhara regions characterized by impunity that is difficult to believe in present-day Ethiopia,” Amnesty said. An individual who was detained before told the rights group about multiple cases of arbitrary detention and arrest of family members, including children, when security officials couldn’t find the person they seek to arrest.
In the Oromia region, the government in January 2019 released a law enforcement offensive against the Oromo Liberation Army, which had staged armed attacks in the region. The armed group broke away from the political wing of the once-exiled Oromo Liberation Front, which under Ethiopia’s reforms returned to the country to ensure a peaceful political agenda.
In Amhara region, “more than 150 people were killed in inter-communal conflict in which the security forces were involved,” the report said, nothing less than 58 ethnic Qimant, who seek more autonomy, were killed within 24 hours in January 2019. “The attacks and counter-attacks led to internal displacement of thousands of ethnic Amhara and Qimant people.”
Deputy head of the Amhara Regional Peace and Security Bureau told the rights group that more deaths could have occurred if the security forces had not been deployed and rejected the claim that security forces were involved in some of the attacks.
Amnesty said several other government offices did not respond to the report.
Two groups opposing reacted to the new report with further allegations.
“The report covers the period up to the end of 2019. However, the situation in the Oromia region specifically has gotten worse in 2020 with a substantial rise in mass imprisonments, extrajudicial killings and destruction of property in regions that were not affected previously,” said a joint statement issued by the Oromo Federalist Congress and Oromo Liberation Front.
“The report is further proof that the new administration has not parted ways with the practice of forcefully interrupting disagreement”