Ethiopia,Oromo region: police confirm death toll from attack reached 166

Authorities say Oromo Liberation Front (OLF -Shane) is behind the ruthless attacks in Shashemene that targeted Ethiopians from other ethnic groups.

Ethiopia _ Oromo region _ attack
Photo /File. source: Teshome Borago Twitter handle : @MTBorago. The photo is from ethnic violence in Benishangul region of Ethiopia.

July 5, 2020

A planned attack (authorities describe it that way) unleashed in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, under the guise of protest after Ethiopian Singer Hachalu Hundessa was assassinated in Addis Ababa on June 29, has claimed at least 166 lives.

Deputy Police Commissioner of Oromia Region, Girma Gelan, confirmed that 145 peaceful civilians and 11 members of the region’s special police force had been killed.

Earlier the Federal Police Commission has announced that 10 people were killed in the capital Addis Ababa (two are said to be members of the police force). One of the police was shot dead by Jawar Mohammed’s bodyguard following a scuffle over the burial place of Hachalu Hundessa. 

At least 167 other people have sustained wounds. Dozens of cases are said to be life-threatening.  Oromo regional state police also claimed that 1084 suspects are in custody.

In late October 2019, at least 86 civilians (mostly non-ethnic Oromos) were massacred in the region after Co-founder and owner of Oromia Media Network (OMN), Jawar Mohammed, wrote a statement on social media claiming that his life is under threat.

He is implicated in the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa. Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Defense Force, Gen. Adem Mohammed, remarked during a meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that the killing of Hachalu was orchestrated in a way to pose a threat on Ethiopia’s existence.

Destruction of Properties

Yohannes Wolde is one of the main investors in Shashemene. His investment is in the education sector and owns Lucy Academy which is said to have had 5000 students and 350 employees. “The school is completely burned with all the documents, service shuttle burned,” he told ESAT.

The attackers had a list of people to be attacked and their properties to be destroyed. After burning his school, including the admin building, they went for his resident which they destroyed completely too. He had to leave behind his home along with his family members and take refuge somewhere else in the town.

Ethiopian long-distance legend Haile Gebreselassie had a humble beginning in rural Arsi, part of the Oromo region of Ethiopia, and made his fortune with sheer excellence in his running career.

He has extensive investment in the Hotel and Tourism investment. Two of his hotels in Shashemene and Ziway were attacked. His hotel in Shashemene is destroyed too. Appearing on Ethiopian state media, ETV, Haile admitted that it is a loss, but he also said that it is a loss for people in the town as 98 percent of the staff was from the area.

Several other businesses are destroyed.  According to sources from Shashemene, over 80 percent of businesses (belonging to ethnic Guraghe and ethnic Amhara, among others) are destroyed too.

Attackers were armed with machete, sticks, and hand grenade too, and the city administration has confirmed that they targeted based on ethnic and religious identity.  Other sources indicate that Rastafarian communities in Shashemene were also attacked by gangs mobilized by extremists ethnic Oromo nationalists. 

Shashemene town security division head, Nadew Ambo, told Ethiopia Satellite Television (ESAT) on Sunday that Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shane) is behind the attack.  This is a city where an innocent man was crucified upside down as hundreds and thousands of crowds watched some two years ago.

Ziway, Arsi Negele, Assasa, among other towns, too have seen destruction of private properties belonging to non-ethnic Oromo communities.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had a meeting with his security authorities. After hearing reports on preliminary findings, he said that the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa was a strategy to trigger a civil war in Ethiopia which they have been preparing for a long time.

Authorities in the Oromo region of Ethiopia say a relative calm is restored in the region on Sunday.

Why Security forces in Oromo region failed to reverse the attack?

Why people who have nothing to do with Hachalu’s killing are targeted and massacred in the Oromo region of Ethiopia is the question that many Ethiopians want to get an answer for. Not that they don’t know the answers but it is a way of telling the government that it has failed to innocent protect citizens from what they call ethnic cleansing Amhara (extremist Oromo nationalist user the noun ‘neftegna’ rather)

The Oromo regional state had hundreds of thousands of special police forces. Yet, the region failed to avoid the massacre on non-ethnic Oromo communities living in the region – Amahara, Guraghe, and Wolaita, among others. Sometimes ethnic Oromos who do not subscribe to extremist Oromo nationalist ideology are targeted. Government Officials are among them. In the Wollega region, several government officials have been assassinated in the past two years.

Oromo regional State Communication Affairs Bureau head, Getachew Balcha, said they were unable to avert the destruction in Shashemene as it happened at “nighttime.” 

In an interview with Abbay Media on Sunday, he said the loss of life and destruction of property would have been worse had it not been for the work of the special forces in the region. “11 special forces are killed in action,” he said in what seems to be an effort to demonstrate that police have done what it could to control the situation. Yet, he said that they will evaluate their performance to see if there was a gap in police response and in the way security emergency was handled improperly.

Editor’s note : Image above is from ethnic violence in Benishangul region of Ethiopia about a year ago. The post is updated on July 6, 2020, 22:44 Hours Toronto Time to clarify the image.

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