Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 1-Violence during Ethiopian protests was ethnically tinged, say eyewitnesses


UPDATE 1-Violence during Ethiopian protests was ethnically tinged, say eyewitnesses
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Much of the fighting seen during protests in Ethiopia this week was ethnically tinged, eyewitnesses said on Saturday, describing attacks by young men from the Oromo ethnic group against people from other ethnic groups.

There were clashes in several cities in Oromiya, Ethiopia's most populous province, underscoring the specter of ethnic violence that the United Nations says has already internally displaced more than 2 million people. After activist Jawar Mohammed said police had ringed his home in Addis Ababa and tried to withdraw his government security detail, his supporters quickly took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday to protest against his treatment.

Crowds of young men from his Oromo ethnic group quickly turned their anger against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, also an Oromo, saying that he had betrayed them by mistreating Jawar. Abiy won the Nobel peace prize this month for making peace with Ethiopia's longtime foe Eritrea. Jawar had spearheaded protests that propelled Abiy to power last year.

But the young men also lashed out against people from other ethnic groups, three eyewitnesses said. Oromiya's top police official said: "There was a hidden agenda to divert the whole protest into an ethnic and religious conflict.

"There were attempts to burn churches and mosques," Oromiya regional police commissioner Kefyalew Tefera told Reuters. Tefera had said late on Friday that 67 people had been killed in the region in two days of protests.

The majority of the deaths came from fighting between civilians, he said. Police have arrested 150 people in the Oromiya region so far in connection with the violence. Sixty-eight people were arrested on suspicion of robbing and attempting to burn a mosque and an orthodox church in the city of Adama in Oromiya, the city's mayor said in an interview on a state-run broadcaster. He said the suspects took advantage of peaceful protests to spark ethnic and religious conflict.

A 69-year-old man in Dodola, a town about 300 km (185 miles) south of the capital in the Oromiya region, said he saw young men carrying sticks and metal rods in a part of town where people from the Amharic ethnic group are known to live, attacking and setting fire to houses. He said the young men shouted "Qeerroo can do this....and that" in the Amharic language as they rampaged through his neighborhood.

Supporters of Jawar call themselves "Qeerroo", an Oromo term meaning "bachelor" adopted by politically active young men. He said he also heard them speaking the Oromo language.

The man said the group took to the streets suddenly on Wednesday morning when people were on their way to work. "I saw the corpses of seven people who were killed by the youths," he said. "They all were beaten to death using sticks, metal rods and machetes. I managed to save my life by hiding here and there."

The Dodola hospital has treated 56 people since the violence began, nearly 35 of them appear to have been beaten with sticks and machetes, the rest with gunshot wounds, an official there said. Priest Firesebhat Getachew, head of an Orthodox church in Dodola, said eight people killed this week had been buried at his church and 3,000 more were sheltering inside its compound.

"The attackers targeted Orthodox Christians," he said by phone, adding that the victims were from the Oromo, Amhara, and Sidama ethnic groups. "The area is dominated by Muslims, and they don't want us and the church there." The violence along ethnic and religious lines is one of the biggest challenges yet for Abiy in Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous nation.

As the country approaches elections in 2020, the sweeping political freedoms he has overseen have empowered ethnic strongmen building powerbases by challenging the government. "This was just the trigger," Fisseha Tekle, Ethiopia researcher at Amnesty International, said of the protests that led to violence. "There was something brewing under the surface. If the government doesn't tackle the basic problem among the communities, this may erupt again."

In Alem Gena on the outskirts of the capital, a woman watched from inside the gate to her home as young men speaking Oromo destroyed signs written in Amharic. "A young man standing on the side of the road asked them why they were doing this. Then they started to attack him with a stick," she said. Reuters could not verify in all circumstances who was responsible for starting the violence. (Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Hugh Lawson and Christina Fincher)

Also Read: 67 people killed in protests in Ethiopia's Oromiya region -police

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION/BLOG/INTERVIEW

JNU Administration's 100-meter challenge before JNUSU

For the first time in its history, Jawaharlal Nehru University JNU Administration is seeking permanent deployment of local police to keep protesting students at 100 meters away from the Administrative Block. It would be interesting to see h...

Sentiment Analysis of Twitter users during COP25: Governments losing trust on Climate Action

Sentiment analysis of Twitter users during COP25 in Madrid, being held from December 2-13, shows widespread fear on climate change due to global warming but almost no trust on governments in meeting the emission targets. In the analysis the...

These innovators are making humanitarian response more efficient

These alarming trends prompt a call for the world to not only address the ongoing crisis but also to adopt innovative approaches to fulfill the growing humanitarian needs in such emergencies. ...

Hyderabad Encounter: A sentiment analysis of public mood on day of encounter

Sentiment analysis of twitter users revealed that they showered salutes on Hyderabad police for eliminating alleged gang rapists of the veterinary doctor but only a few believe in cops version of successive events leading to encounter....

Videos

Latest News

Police targets of both love and anger at Hong Kong rallies

Several thousand people, some making heart signs with their hands, turned out in Hong Kong on Sunday in an unusual display of support for the police force, even as riot officers clashed elsewhere with protesters and pepper-sprayed a crowd. ...

Inked at the uprising: Iraq's teenage tattoo artist

At 16, Maram is as old as the political system she and fellow Iraqi youth are railing against. But the spunky teen has her own way of protesting inking tattoos. In the blue-tinged light inside a tarp tent, the petite teenager carefully move...

Maharashtra: Opposition parties to boycott tea party on eve of Winter Session of Assembly

The opposition BJP and its allies will boycott the customary tea party organised by the Maha Vikash Aghadi government on the eve of the Winter Session of the Maharashtra legislature on Sunday evening. Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis ...

Anti-Citizenship Act protest: Entry, exit gates of four metro stations in South Delhi closed

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation DMRC closed the entry and exit gates of the Sukhdev Vihar Metro station on Sunday evening in view of the violent protest in southeast Delhi against the amended Citizenship Act.As advised by Delhi Police, ent...

Give Feedback