New report alleges killings, mass detentions in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AP) — A new report by the rights group Amnesty International accuses Ethiopia’s security forces of extrajudicial killings and mass detentions even as the country’s reformist Prime Minister was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The report issued yesterday said security forces killed at least 25 people in 2019 in the East Guji and West Guji zones of the restive Oromia region amid suspicions of supporting a rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army, and a once-exiled opposition group. And at least 10,000 people under suspicion were detained between January and September, with most “subjected to brutal beatings”.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the peace prize last December for sweeping political reforms and restoring ties with neighbouring Eritrea after two decades of hostilities, did not comment on the report, which comes amid concerns that some repressive measures have returned.

Tensions among some of Ethiopia’s more than 80 ethnic groups have risen, along with some calls for more autonomy, and the new report also documents some of the intercommunal violence in the Oromia and Amhara regions, the country’s most populous.

Such violence is a concern as the country faces a crucial national election, now delayed because of COVID-19, that will be a measure of support for the country’s changes.

With no election date set and mandates for the executive and regional and federal legislatures ending in October, political parties are disagreeing on strategies for how to avoid a potential constitutional crisis.

Amnesty acknowledged that Ethiopian authorities have made notable progress in changing the country’s bleak human rights record. But “with elections on the horizon, these violations and abuses could escalate out of control unless the government takes urgent measures to ensure security forces act within the law,” said group’s Director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena, adding that “authorities must also recognise that holding diverse political views and opinions is legal.”