255,000 displaced due to ethnic violence in Ethiopia

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ADDIS ABABA. — The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Wednesday about 255,000 people have been displaced by ethnic violence in western Ethiopia.

In a press statement, UNOCHA said ethnic violence along the common borders of Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regional states since September has displaced about 255,000 people.

UNOCHA further said it urgently needs US$25.5 million to address urgent life-saving needs of people displaced by ethnic violence in western Ethiopia.

The ethnic violence was triggered in September after the killings of four high-ranking Benishangul Gumuz regional state officials in neighbouring Oromia regional state.

The officials were reportedly heading back home after attending an inter-regional security meeting between Oromia and Benishangul regional states.

The border areas of Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia regional states have in recent years witnessed deadly unrest involving various ethnic groups residing in the border areas. The dispute is reportedly over access to land and state resources.

Ethiopia follows an ethnic federalism model, which has been credited with giving self-governance rights to more than 80 ethnic groups that make up the country’s estimated 105 million people.

However, critics claim that the ethnic federalism model magnifies ethnic diversity at the expense of national unity, leading to occasional ethnic tension and clashes.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s parliament on Tuesday approved the creation of a reconciliation commission as the government seeks to end ethnic violence, state-affiliated Fana radio said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won international praise for his reformist agenda since coming to power in April, including allowing the return of exiled opposition figures.

But his mandate has been marked by ethnic violence, mainly between the Oromo community and other minority groups in several parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

“The objective of the Commission is to maintain peace, justice, national unity and consensus and also reconciliation among Ethiopian peoples,” Fana reported on its website.

It said the commission would also identify the reasons for disputes and violations of human rights.

Tesfaye Daba, president of the parliamentary commission for peace and foreign affairs, told Fana the commission will investigate abuses and make proposals to the parliament on how to make amends.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 2.4 million people have been displaced inside Ethiopia by intercommunal violence.

Around one million people were forced from their homes after violent clashes between Oromo people and the Gedeo ethnic minority in the south after Abiy came to power this year.

Ethnic clashes have overshadowed Abiy’s reforms, which include the planned privatisation of public companies, the release of jailed dissidents and journalists and a peace accord with neighbouring Eritrea.

Rights groups have for years accused Ethiopian security forces of abuses, mainly against suspected members of rebel groups opposed to the EPRDF ruling party. – Xinhua/AFP

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