Citizens living in the Qellem Wollega zone of Oromia state have been massacred,’ Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed says, vowing to ‘eradicate’ Oromo Liberation Army

ETHIOPIAN Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accused Oromo fighters, who last year allied with Tigray rebels, of carrying out a new ‘massacre’ of civilians in a restive area in the far west of the country and vowed to wipe out the group.

Abiy said on Monday the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which is designated a terrorist organisation by Addis Ababa, was ‘inflicting damage’ on people as its fighters fled an offensive by security forces in western Oromia.

‘Citizens living in the Qellem Wollega zone of Oromia state have been massacred,’ he said on Twitter, without giving details.

‘We will pursue this terrorist group to the end and eradicate it,’ he added.

It was not possible to verify the information as access to western Oromia is restricted, and the area concerned was under a communications blackout.

The US-based Amhara Association of America (AAA) said on Twitter it was ‘gravely concerned over reports of yet another massacre against Amharas’ in the Oromia region.

It said in a message to the AFP news agency that the attack targeted members of the ethnic Amhara group in Mender 20 (Village 20) in the Hawa Gelan district of Qellem Wollega.

‘One of our investigators did talk to three eyewitnesses… hiding in a forest nearby,’ the AAA said, adding that the attack began at 6:00 am [local time] and was still going on when he spoke to the witnesses around noon.

It said the telecommunications network in the zone had been disconnected since around 1:00 pm [local time].

Hundreds massacred?

‘Nobody came to our rescue,’ a survivor was quoted as telling the Amhara Media Corporation, a state-run regional outlet.

‘They (the attackers) have left and bodies are now being picked up, so far 300 (bodies) have been collected. But it’s still early, there are many others whose whereabouts we don’t know.’

Ethiopia’s armed forces have for years been fighting a rebellion by the OLA in Oromia, the largest and most populous region in the country.

In June, several hundred people, mostly Amhara, were massacred by gunmen in the village of Tole in West Wollega, an area adjacent to Qellem Wollega, according to witnesses.

Local authorities said the OLA was responsible, but the rebels denied any role in the killings and blamed a pro-government militia.

No official toll has been published, but Abiy spokesperson Billene Seyoum told reporters on June 30 that 338 victims had been identified so far.

This figure is however disputed by the NGO, Genocide Prevention in Ethiopia (GPE), which claims the death toll from the ‘Wollega massacre has surpassed 1,500 with as many as 12 members of the same family wiped out by militants of the Oromo Liberation Front.’

The GPE is calling for a humanitarian corridor to allow the safe transit of nearly 70,000 Amhara men, women and children of mostly vulnerable groups.

‘Persistent cycle of violence’

UN rights chief Michele Bachelet called on the Ethiopian authorities to conduct ‘prompt, impartial and thorough’ investigations into the Tole attack.

Also in June, the OLA attacked the Gambella regional capital –– the first such strike on a major city by the rebels.

The US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said on Monday it had documented serious abuses in Oromia, including in the west where an ‘abusive’ government campaign against the OLA had trapped civilians in the crossfire.

It said the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia was overshadowing a ‘persistent cycle of violence’ against civilians by security forces and armed groups in Oromia.

The OLA last year allied with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has been fighting government forces in the north since November 2020.

African Brifeeing

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