Ethiopia arrests regional boss accused of rights abuses


Police in Ethiopia arrested the disgraced former head of the eastern Somali region on charges of human rights abuses and stoking ethnic clashes, the attorney general’s office said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, presiding over democratic reforms in the African nation of 100 million, said on Saturday rights abuses committed in the region “defied belief” and included torture, rape and killing.

The region’s administrator, Abdi Mohammed Omer, was forced to resign on August 6 after violence broke out in provincial capital Jijiga.

At least 20 people died and thousands fled as mobs looted properties owned by ethnic minorities and burned down several Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

Central authorities said unrest in the region was triggered by local officials fearing arrest on human rights abuse charges.

On Monday, Federal Police “apprehended Abdi Mohammed Omer at his home in Addis Ababa,” state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said, citing the Federal Attorney General’s Office.
“Crimes he committed include human rights abuses and stoking disputes along ethnic and religious lines,” it said, adding other officials were also sought by police.

Rights groups routinely accuse Abdi’s administration of abuses such as torture, while some witnesses claimed he ordered paramilitary raids on civilians in Oromiya province after ethnic clashes there last September.

Government fired senior regional prison officials last month over accusations of torture. Abiy on Saturday described cases in which prisoners were put into cells with lions, hyenas and leopards to force them into confessing.

The region has been plagued by violence for the last three decades, in which government fought the secessionist Ogaden National Liberation Front before the group declared a unilateral ceasefire in the wake of reforms.