Ethiopian Region Demands Probe Into Killings Near Sudan Border

(Bloomberg) -- International investigators should probe the killings of more than 200 people in Ethiopia amid a territorial dispute near the Sudanese border, a regional official said.

The violence occurred on Friday in Agew Awi Zone in Amhara state, according to Adigo Amsaya, the deputy president of neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz state.

“Those responsible for this massacre have to be held accountable,” Adigo said by phone from the regional capital, Assosa. No arrests over the killings perpetrated by armed ethnic Amhara youth have been made so far, he said.

Ethiopia is a complex multi-ethnic federation with more than 80 ethno-linguistic groups. Ethnicity-based conflicts have erupted since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed office over a year ago and initiated ruling party-mandated political and economic reforms.

The conflict began April 26 in Benishangul-Gumuz’s Metekel Zone near the border with Sudan following a disagreement over cash between laborers, and flared into ethnic Gumuz killing Amhara there, according to Amhara state’s communications officer, Asemahaghn Aseres. About 45 people have been arrested, according to Adigo.

Tit-for-Tat

An opposition coalition of which the Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement is a member accused the opposition National Movement for Amhara, also known as NaMA, of training, radicalizing, and arming Amhara youth whom they said are increasingly targeting Benishangul-Gumuz civilians. Christian Tadele, a NaMA executive committee member, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Ethnic nationalists have been seeking to dismantle territorial boundaries set by the ruling coalition in 1992, including a series of Amhara nationalist territorial claims near Sudan’s border with Ethiopia. Amhara state “has not, and will not have any intention of annexing Metekel,” Asemahaghn said.

“This appears to be another major escalation of tit-for-tat violence, partly driven by aggressive ethno-nationalist sentiment,” said William Davison, a senior analyst for Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group. “The federal government should publicly provide information on what occurred as soon as possible.”

Officials from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Peace arrived Monday to begin investigations, Adigo said. The minister, Peace Muferiat Kamel, didn’t immediately respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.