11/02/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned of an attack in the Western Wollega Zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia region. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, is located about 300 miles east of Guliso, the local administrative center where the attack took place on Sunday evening local time. Local authorities reported that at least 32 individuals were killed and over 700 individuals were displaced as a result of the attack.
Elias Umeta, a local administrator, reported that OLF operatives had lured Guliso locals into the attack by asking to meet with them. Umeta was unable to attribute any clear motive for the attack. Daniel Bekele, of the government-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, reported that the attackers dragged locals from their homes and took them to a school, where they were killed. A school and some 120 houses were burned.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country and home to over 80 ethnic groups. Violent incidents, such as this most recent attack, stem from deep ethnic and political tensions that date back centuries. Several mosques and churches have been burned in recent years as these tensions flare up, demonstrating the impact that wider societal unrest can have on religious communities.
While many details have yet to emerge, initial reports suggest that the attacks were conducted by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed political entity opposed to the sitting Prosperity Party coalition led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. However, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission stated that federal security forces abruptly withdrew from the area shortly before the attack. The OLA has not acknowledged any role.
The OLA is an armed rebel group connected with the Oromo Liberation Front, a political party which pushes for political independence from the rest of Ethiopia. It was banned from the country before being invited back in 2018 by newly-appointed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Since then, the OLA has created a stronghold in Western Oromia.
It is imperative that Ahmed and his government act swiftly to aid the victims of this attack and to ensure that incidents like these do not continue. Ahmed ran on promises to bring peace and reform to Ethiopia, but ethnic and politically-motivated killings continue. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his early efforts to forge a peace agreement between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, but now he must turn his attention inward and root out the violence causing havoc among his own people.
ICC will continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Ethiopia.