Ethiopia to Charge Suspects Over Mass Graves in East

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopian authorities will charge at least 46 people suspected of being involved in the deaths of hundreds of people in the gas-rich east of the country.

The prosecutions follow a probe into atrocities in Ethiopia’s Somali state. The region’s president, Mustafa Omer, has vowed to reform a regime whose brutality and methods he’s compared to the mafia. Mustafa’s predecessor, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, whom he replaced in August, is facing trial over his alleged involvement in human-rights abuses.

The remains of least 300 people have been discovered in mass graves at four separate locations in the state, Zenabu Tunu, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Friday on state broadcaster ETV. Charges including murder and rape will be laid against the suspects on Monday, though only six of them have been arrested so far, he said in a separate phone interview, without identifying them.

The mandate of the government investigation initially focused on crimes that occurred in August as Abdi was deposed by the federal army, but has since been broadened as other crimes have been discovered, Zenabu said.

“Looking at an ongoing political dispute in the regional ruling party, who will be named among the 40 who haven’t yet been arrested will be highly interesting,” said Musa Adem, an independent analyst based in the regional capital, Jijiga.

Clandestine Members

Mustafa on Jan. 23 fired five members of his cabinet during an emergency meeting. The regional administration cited efforts to clear out clandestine members of the political network of ex-president Abdi, according to a statement published on its Facebook page.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front, a formerly outlawed opposition movement that returned to Somali regional state last year, called for the regional ruling party “to resolve any difference internally in an amicable and transparent manner.”

Abdi served as the Somali region’s security chief for a year before becoming president in 2008; he was deposed by federal military forces in August. Ethiopia’s government has said natural gas reserves in Somali could generate $7 billion of revenue a year.

Mustafa has alleged his predecessor used the Liyu Police, a special force, as his personal enforcers and said violence linked to the group’s activities may have led to thousands of deaths over the past decade.

Mustafa said he would comment later, while the Somali state ruling party’s chairman, Ahmed Shide, whom Premier Abiy Ahmed appointed last year as his finance minister, didn’t respond to requests to be interviewed.

Abiy met Mustafa and Ahmed on Saturday, with the Ethiopian premier “providing direction on strengthening the development of the Somali region,” the ruling party-funded Fana Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing the Prime Minister’s Office. No further details were provided.

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