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Ten dead as ethnic violence flares in Ethiopia

Saturday June 30, 2018

Ten people have been killed in ethnic clashes in western Ethiopia, state media said on Thursday, as aid agencies warned of widening inter-communal conflicts in Africa’s second most-populous country.

Fighting in and around the city of Assosa, in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, claimed 10 lives before subsiding, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

A doctor in Assosa told AFP that 56 people were treated on Wednesday with injuries ranging from head wounds to gunshots, and that the city remained tense on Thursday.

“Shops are closed, offices are not working, people are standing along the street. Things are not as usual,” the doctor said on condition of anonymity.

The clashes appeared to be between the Berta people, who are indigenous to Benishangul-Gumuz, and the country’s largest ethnicity, the Oromo, who dominate in the nearby Oromia region, the doctor said, adding that the cause of the violence was unclear.

Separately, new United Nations figures indicated more than two million people have now fled their homes in different parts of Ethiopia as a result of flaring violence between communities.

Ethiopia is divided into ethnically demarcated federal regions intended to give the country’s many peoples a degree of self-rule.

But conflicts along these regions’ borders have become increasingly destructive.

Last year, nearly 1.1 million were displaced by fighting along the Oromia and Somali regions’ border in the country’s southeast.

On Wednesday, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said weeks of violence between Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region had forced at least another 978 000 people out of their homes.

“There are fears that the situation will continue to deteriorate and that the number of displaced might increase,” OCHA said in a statement.

The news followed last Saturday’s grenade attack during a public speech by new prime minister Abiy Ahmed in the capital that killed two people and injured more than 150.

Since taking office in April, Abiy, the first prime minister in modern Ethiopia from the Oromo ethnicity, has announced an aggressive reform agenda including liberalising parts of the economy and pursuing rapprochement with longtime foe Eritrea.

On Thursday, Fana reported Abiy had appointed a committee “to investigate conspiracies being committed to deter ongoing reforms,” including the grenade attack and cellphone and power outages that occurred on the same day.


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