January 27, 2023

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Oromia protests

Protests intensify in the Oromia region of Ethiopia

Protests in the Oromia region of Ethiopia are intensifying. For the last 2 days, in western, central, southern and eastern parts of Oromia, people have been taking to the streets against killings of ethnic Oromos in western Oromia.

Wellega zone in western Oromia has long been destabilized due to Amhara-Oromo tensions. Oromia region is Oromo-majority region. But large number of ethnic Amhara live in Oromia-Amhara border areas. For years, the ethnic Amhara have been accusing Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Oromia regional government of being behind attacks on them. OLA and regional government accuse ethnic Amhara militias from neighboring Amhara region of infiltrating into Oromia to create instability.

On weekend, hundreds of people were killed in Anger Guten, Kiramu, Gidda Ayanna and other towns and woredas in western Oromia. The places are situated on Oromia-Amhara border mostly. Reportedly, ethnic Amhara Fano militia entered the Oromia region and it led to start of fighting between Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group operating in the Oromia region for decades, and Amhara Fano militia fighters.

According to some local sources, Oromia regional police supported OLA in the fighting against Amhara militias. Lately Amhara militias have been trying to arm ethnic Amhara civilians living in western Oromia. Hundreds were killed in 2-day long fighting. Deceased include fighters from both sides and large number of Oromo civilians.

Ethiopian National Defense units were mobilized to the areas of conflict from Nekemte city. Though situation is largely peaceful now but after weekend’s killings, protests erupted in the Oromia region.

Oromia protests

University and school students have been protesting in Oromia since Sunday accusing Oromia regional government, Ethiopian federal government and Amhara Fano militias of being involved in the death of hundreds of Oromo civilians in western Oromia.

Large protests were held by students at Ambo university, Adama university, Haromaya university and Rift Valley university. School students in Addis Ababa, Bale, Nekemte and Arsi took to the streets. At Adama Science and Technology university, students clashed with security officials leading to unknown number of students injured.

Surprisingly, Oromia regional government and Ethiopian federal government have stayed largely silent about the civilian killings in western Oromia. Opposition political parties and groups are trying to exploit the situation to start a major anti government student and street movement in the Oromia region.

It was Qeerroo, Oromo youth protest movement, which in 2018 forced EPRDF out of power in Ethiopia. EPRDF, led by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), ruled Ethiopia from 1991 till early 2018. But after massive street demonstrations, EPRDF Prime Minister quit in 2018 and Abiy Ahmed was chosen as the interim Prime Minister to steer the country through transition towards true democracy.