At least 80 people were killed on Tuesday when unidentified gunmen stormed through a village in western Ethiopia, in the latest of a series of ethnically-driven massacres in the area, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and witnesses said Wednesday.
The massacre in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, along the border with Sudan, is the latest challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's regime, who took power in 2018 and pledged to unite Ethiopia but has struggled to stave off a growing wave of curb ethnic violence.
The attacks further threaten the stability of Africa & # 39; s second most populous country at a time when Mr Abiy is already embroiled in an escalating conflict in the northern Tigray region, where he launched a major military force on November 4. launched an operation he said was intended. capture rebellious local leaders.
Analysts say the Tigray campaign is Mr. Abiy & # 39; s ability to stop clashes such as the recent one in Benishangul-Gumuz has hindered him as it has forced him to divert soldiers from all over Ethiopia to Tigray. As a result, ethnic clashes that have been growing for months have only gotten worse.
In the latest episode, witnesses said men of the Gumuz ethnic group, armed with rifles and swords, stormed into the village of Daletti early Tuesday. Photos of the aftermath of the attack, provided by local activists, showed bloodied bodies of women and children lying on the ground, many with gruesome wounds. They said many of the victims were ethnic Amharas and Agaws, who are a minority in that region.
“A group of Gumuz men came to our village shouting 'leave our country',” Sebsibie Ibrahim, 36, a shop owner in the Metekel district, said over the phone. “They fired their guns and used swords to attack everyone. traps they encountered – women, children, the elderly. "
In the chaos that followed, houses were set on fire and an old man beheaded outside his home, Mr. Sebsibie said. & # 39; Blood was pouring from his neck, & # 39; he said.
On December 22, Mr. Abiy took a break from the campaign in Tigray to visit Benishangul-Gumuz and calm tensions in the area. But a day later armed men attacked a village, killing at least 100 people, according to human rights organizations.
Aaron Maasho, a spokesman for the government-funded Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, who reported the killings on Wednesday, urged Mr. Abiy urges to deploy additional security forces to keep peace in the troubled region.
"For the umpteenth time, we are calling on federal and regional authorities to scale up security in Metekel," he said, referring to the Benishangul-Gumuz district where the murders took place.
Mr. Abiy's decision to open up Ethiopian politics after coming to power in 2018, release political prisoners and allow exiles to return has been widely praised. But it also created dormant ethnic tensions.
Benishangul-Gumuz, for example, is home to five major ethnic groups, mainly of the Berta and Gumuz peoples. But the region is also home to the Amharas, Oromos, Tigrayans and Agaws minorities – a source of escalating tensions.
Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy, did not respond to questions about the violence.
Dessalegn Chanie, an Amhara opposition politician, said there had been signs in recent days that armed men from the Oromo and Gumuz ethnic groups were preparing an attack, especially in areas where federal security was low.
“These attacks were premeditated and highly prepared,” he said.
Although Mr Abiy announced victory in Tigray last month, United Nations officials say the fight continues.
On Wednesday, Ethiopia said the military had murdered three high-ranking members of the former Tigray ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, including Seyoum Mesfin, a former Ethiopian foreign minister.