Following reports of the mass killing of civilians in Kelem Wollega Zone in Oromia on July 4, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stressed that “the continued insecurity in the area and what appears to be the ethnically targeted killing of residents must be put to a stop immediately”.

This killing in Kelem is reported 18 days after the gruesome mass killing of residents at Tole Kebele of Gimbi Woreda of West Wollega Zone happened on June 18. 

The Commission called for an urgent reinforcement of government security forces in order to prevent further civilian deaths.

According to EHRC’s statement, it has spoken with survivors who have fled the area and local sources in an effort to understand the situation. 

“Sources indicate that the perpetrators are members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA- also known as Shane) and that the killings started in the early hours of July 4, 2022. EHRC has also learned that the populations of both Mender 20 and Mender 21 are known to be primarily of Amhara ethnic origin.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was the first to report the incident on his social media pages. “The Shane group that had been escaping the heavy strike from our security forces is harming citizens while retreating. Citizens in Kelem Wollega Zone of Oromia region were massacred,” he said. He vowed to demolish the group. 

Survivors of the attack whom BBC Amharic talked to said many people are brutally massacred in the attack and that the majority are infants, women, and elder people while the youth are abducted by the militants. The eyewitnesses confirmed that the perpetrator of the killing is Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)/Shane and about 150-160 people are killed. 

OLA (Shane) denied the allegation saying that the killing is conducted by the government militia and called for independent investigations. “Both local & international entities have to demand independent investigations and hold Abiy and co accountable for their cruelty,” said Odaa Tarbii, OLA International Spokesperson, in a tweet

Since the news of the mass killings in Gimbi, several protests and voices of public dissent have been emerging. Students of Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, and Debremarkos universities held demonstrations denouncing the killings and questioning the government’s accountability. Social media campaigns aiming at condemning the massacre and the government’s negligence have also been trending. The sensational pop star Teddy Afro also released a critical single that bashed the government for its disregard and ethnic politics. 

Opposition political parties for their part repeatedly shared their concerns and urged the government to execute its basic responsibility of protecting its citizens. 

Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, a major opposition party, rebuked the government in a statement today saying that “the government that revoked its responsibility of defending its citizens is equally held accountable as the wicked group that suddenly attacks the people”. 

“We are disheartened that our countrymen who are condemned to lead a life filled with unceasing suffering, unsettled soul, dark agony, and unease couldn’t have a protector, and faced a human beast again today.”

According to the government’s figures, 338 people are killed in the Gimbi attack while the Amhara Association of America documented in a report that it identified the names and identities of 455 dead people and the total number of victims would reach around 600. 

The OLA/Shane is designated “terrorist” by the parliament and the group has been in an armed engagement with the government since PM Abiy Ahmed came to power.

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