Ethiopia says hundreds killed in ethnic violence

The Ethiopian government has revised the death toll rising from the ethnic clashes that hit the eastern part of the country.

Information Minister, Negeri Lencho, on Monday said hundreds of people were killed on both sides of the feud adding that the exact figure was yet to be ascertained.

“We can say that hundreds of members of the Oromo ethnic group were killed and there were also deaths on the Somali side. We do not know exactly how many died,” Lencho who is government spokesman said.

A week ago, a senior regional official confirmed that clashes along the border of Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions displaced around 50,000 people killing at least 50 others.

The Federal government have since taken over security in the restive region and ordered a probe into rights abuses that may have occured. Addis Ababa has also moved to help ease the humanitarian crisis arising from the displacement.

The area has been plagued by sporadic clashes for decades. A referendum held in 2004 to determine the status of disputed settlements failed to ease tensions. Another cause of the tensions is said pinned on issues around resource control due to the agricultural leaning of both regions.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn weeks back told a meeting of religious and social leaders to play an active part in ensuring a return to peace between the predominantly farming Oromos and Somali pastoralists.

Widening anti-government sentiments in 2015 and 2016 in Oromia – and to a lesser extent other regions – killed 669 people, according to a parliament-mandated investigation. It led to a 10-month state of emergency lifted in August 2017.

The respective regional governments blame each other for the clashes. Some officials in Oromia said it was sparked by the killing of a local district head and raids by a paramilitary force from the Somali region.

Officials from the Somali region denied those claims. They also gave their own account of deaths resulting from the clashes. The clashes are likely to fuel further fears about security in Ethiopia, the region’s biggest economy and a staunch Western ally.

Isha Ku Hay Allgalgaduud Media

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