At least 320 people were killed by gunmen in Ethiopia’s western Oromiya region on Saturday. Survivors characterised the slaughter as one of Ethiopia’s most bloody in recent years, according to testimony released on Sunday.
There was no proof that the attack was linked to a crisis in Tigray’s northern region that began in November 2020 and has killed hundreds of people and displaced millions.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had earlier on Monday condemned “horrific crimes” in Oromiya without providing any details. “Attacks on innocent residents and destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular soldiers are inexcusable,” he tweeted.
Oromiya, home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, as well as members of other ethnic groups, has been plagued by insecurity for years, owing to dissatisfaction with political marginalisation and neglect by the central government. Abiy Ahmed is an Oromo and Ethiopia’s first prime minister, but some Oromos believe he has abandoned the community’s interests.
According to two residents who described the incident on Saturday, the victims were ethnic Amharas, a minority group in the region.
There was no evidence that the attack was linked to a conflict in Tigray’s northern province that began in November 2020 and has resulted in hundreds of deaths and the displacement of millions of people.
The incident occurred in the western region of Oromia, in the Gimbi area of the western Wollega zone. According to one resident, 260 people were killed, while another said 320 were killed. Residents were concerned for their safety and refused to reveal their identities.
On Sunday, a witness stated that the local Amhara population wished to be relocated “before another round of mass executions,” and that ethnic Amharas who had been resettled in the area for about 30 years were being “slaughtered like chickens.”
In a statement, the regional government of Oromia blamed the Oromo Liberation Army, saying the rebels attacked “after being unable to repel [federal] security forces’ operations.”
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is a banned splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a previously banned opposition organisation that returned from exile after Abiy’s election victory in 2018. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting the federal government in Ethiopia’s northern region, joined forces with the group last year. There was no evidence that the TPLF was involved in Saturday’s attack in Gimbi.
A new government offensive has forced the OLA to flee areas where it had previously wielded significant power in recent months. The massacre follows a series of counterattacks launched by the group last week.