41 killed in violence in Western Ethiopia, suspects apprehended

Alemayehu Ejigu, Commissioner of police for the Oromo region

by Engidu Woldie

ESAT News (December 24, 2018)

Police commissioner for the country’s Oromo region say 41 people, including police officers and local officials, were killed in the western part of the region in the last four months.

Commissioner Alemayehu Ejigu blamed the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) for the violence in western Ethiopia, according to local media reports.

He said 29 civilians, 10 police officers and 2 local officials were killed while 77 police officers and 40 members of the local militia were injured.

The perpetrators have also took 2,072 kalashnikovs from the police force, the commissioner said. Public and private properties have been destroyed.

Commissioner Ejigu says leaders of the OLF who agreed to pursue peaceful political struggle in a pact in Asmara, Eritrea, have not be true to their words.

“Promises have not been kept and hence the loss of lives. The government has no patience left at this time.”

Meanwhile, the Oromo regional government quoting the the National Intelligence and Security Services said 15 people have been arrested in Addis Ababa suspected of masterminding deadly attacks in western Ethiopia and other regions.

The 15 belong to “Aba Torbe,” the group responsible for the killing of local officials and civilians, the regional government said in a statement.

“Aba Torbe,” planned to kill government officials, activists and public figures in a weekly basis and hence the name “Aba Torbe,” which refers to the person that would be targeted in a given week.

The suspects were apprehended with pistols, grenades and other weapons and they had planned to carry out assassinations against officials in Addis Ababa.

Among those arrested include Gadissa negassa Chala, Merga Tefera Bulchum and Anissa Getachew. The killings were carried out mainly in Dembi Dolo, Nekempte and North Shewa.

“We have information as to who coordinate the attacks and who provides financial and material support, including weapons. Actions will be taken against these elements,” Ejigu said.

On Friday, the OLF and the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) traded accusations that the other opted to use force to resolve disputes. The ODP, the party of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, accused that OLF soldiers have killed innocent civilians, including local officials. It said OLF soldiers have kidnapped people, raped women, robbed banks, attacked police stations and took weapons from the local police. As a result, government offices were out of service and schools have been shut down.

Dawd Ibssa, chairman of the OLF accused the government of sending troops to Western Wellega, East Wellega, Selalie, Guji and Bale and attacking his soldiers. He told reporters in Addis Ababa that the fight was mainly in West Wellega. “We have instructed our soldiers to defend themselves if they come under attack,” Ibssa said at a press conference.

Leaders of the OLF and its combatants returned to Ethiopia from their base in neighboring Eritrea following a call for peaceful political struggle by the government of Abiy Ahmed, which took power in April after a political infight with in the ruling coalition of the EPRDF.

According to the peace agreement, 1300 soldiers for the OLF were disarmed and checked into a rehabilitation camp with the aim of undergoing training before they are reintegrated into civilian lives. But the ODP says the OLF had sneaked 60 armed soldiers into West Wellega.

“The OLF agreed to be part of a peaceful political process in the country. It does not need soldiers to do so,” says Dr. Alemu Sime, head of the central committee office for the ODP.

In another news, the regional anti-corruption commission says 56 government employees and supervisors have been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement of public and government resources.