Paramilitary forces active in Ethiopia

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At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions.

Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromiya provinces last September, displacing nearly a million people, though violence subsided by April.

On Monday, Oromiya regional administration spokesman Negeri Lencho said heavily armed members of a paramilitary force from the Somali region carried out cross-border attacks in Oromiya’s East Hararghe district.
“We still do not know why Liyu forces raided the on Saturday and Sunday,” he said, referring to the paramilitary soldiers. “But we know all the victims were ethnic Oromos. At least 40 were killed in the attacks.”

A week earlier, mobs looted properties owned by ethnic minorities in the Somali region capital Jijiga. Central government said the unrest was stoked by regional officials who fell out with central authorities trying to address rights abuses in the region.

The spokesman said government was illegally forcing officials to resign and Liyu forces took part in the attacks under their orders.

The forces are seen as loyal to the region’s leader Abdi Mohammed Omer, who resigned.

Authorities in the Somali region were not immediately available for comment.

Ethnic violence has spread in the diverse country of 100 million people, where anti-government protests broke out in Oromiya region over land rights in 2015. Hundreds were killed by security forces over a two-year period.

The violence is the biggest domestic challenge facing reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April.

In a separate incident, a stampede among thousands who attended a visit by a prominent political activist in Shashemene killed three people on Sunday, officials from the Oromiya regional government said.

The event was held to mark the return to Ethiopia of Jawar Mohammed, an activist in exile in the United States but played a key role in mobilising Oromo youth through social media.



Amid the chaos, another person was beaten to death by a mob after rumours circulated he had a bomb, residents said. “Police did not take action while all that took place,” the witness told Reuters. “It is an example of the lawlessness taking root in the country.”