Protests, ethnic violence rock Ethiopia’s Oromia

Oromo protest

Nearly 70 people have been killed in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region following a week of unrest and ethnic violence. The eruption began after¬†Jawar Mohammed,¬†director of the Oromia¬†Media Network and prominent advocate for the Oromo people, posted on social media Oct. 23 that security forces had surrounded his house, implying an imminent attempt on his life. Supporters surrounded his house and police retreated, but violence quickly spread, and the army has now been deployed to put down the protests.

Illegal sales of traditional Oromo lands, particularly to facilitate urban expansion on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, have long been a grievance of the Oromo people. But anger has been unleashed on ethnic minorities in Oromia.  In Sebeta, a town within the Oromia Special Zone surrounding the capital, eight members of Gamo people were killed, reportedly by a mob of Oromo youth. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as well as Muslims have also apparently been targeted, with both churches and mosques attacked. The Oromo militant youth movement Qeerroo is said to be behind many of the attacks.

The violence comes less than a month after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the war with Eritrea, and he has been assailed for his silence on the crisis. Protesters are now demanding his resignation. (Garowe Online, AfricaNews, Geeska Africa, Addis Standard, Satenaw News, OkayAfrica, New African, Borkena, Ezega News, Reuters, FT)

Photo of gathering outside Jawar Mohammed’s home via Twitter