Three Ethiopian students were killed and 34 injured after a fight on a campus escalated into deadly ethnic clashes in the west of the Horn of Africa country, the government said on Wednesday.
The unrest broke out on Tuesday after a fight at Assoa University erupted into wider violence between groups of students, Minister of Science and Higher Education Hirut Woldemariam said, quoted by Fana Broadcasting Corporate, which is close to the state.
While Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has received international praise for his reformist agenda, a wave of intercommunal violence — mostly over land issues — has marred the first few months of his rule.
The minister did not give details about how the three students died or say to which ethnic groups they belonged. But activists on social media said fighting was between students from the country’s two main ethnic groups, Oromo and Amhara.
“The unrest degenerated into deadly clashes because of the interference of forces intent on causing chaos,” the minister said without giving any further details.
She said scores of people suspected of being involved in the clashes were arrested and university officials, local elders and student organisations were trying to ease tensions.
Ethiopia’s higher education institutions have been a centre of dissent since the 1960s and helped overthrow the last Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974. Universities are often the site of ethnic, political and religious clashes.
Last month, at least 44 people were killed in fighting between rival ethnic groups in western Ethiopia when youths armed with rocks and knives forced thousands of people to flee their homes until security forces were deployed to calm the area.