Ethiopia: Thousands protest after deadly ethnic violence

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Ethiopian capital to express their anger after a weekend of deadly ethnically-motivated violence.

At least 23 people were killed in a weekend of unrest targeting minorities in the ethnic Oromo heartland on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, police said on Monday. 

About 200 people were arrested in connection with the violence, which broke out as leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a formerly-banned rebel group, returned home from Eritrea after being invited back by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

On Monday, protesters blocked roads and shut businesses as they waved flags and jogged through neighbourhoods across Addis Ababa to denounce the weekend killings in the Burayu suburb.

Some demonstrators criticised Abiy for the first time since he took office in April and started ushering in a number of reforms.

“We demand justice,” some of the rally-goers chanted as they passed by the office on Abiy, who is the first Oromo to hold the office of prime minister..

“Mobs of ethnic Oromo youth then marched here in Ashwa Meda and attacked our homes and looted businesses chanting ‘leave our land’,” Hassan Ibrahim, a trader told Reuters news agency.

“By night time, there were several dead bodies along roads.”

The Ethiopian government has denounced the violence.

“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed strongly condemns the killings and acts of violence against innocent citizens,” Fitsum Arega, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said in a tweet.

Thousands of Ethiopians hailed the return of the once-banned Oromo group on Saturday [AFP]

The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group who make up about a third of the population, have long complained of being marginalised during decades of authoritarian rule by governments led by politicians from other smaller ethnic groups.

In recent years, the Oromo have been angered by what they see as encroachment on their land.

Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned in February following violent anti-government protests that had swept the Oromo heartland for two years.

Since taking power, Abiy has pursued a reconciliation strategy, steering the state away from a hardline security policy in place for decades.

But Abiy’s reforms have yet to halt ethnic violence.

Clashes between Oromos and ethnic Gedeos in the south caused nearly a million people to flee their homes soon after he took power.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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