Thousands flee Ethiopian ethnic violence


More than 70,000 people fled ethnically-charged violence in western Ethiopia, officials said – part of an eruption of unrest piling pressure on reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Residents in Benishangul-Gumuz region said violence erupted on Friday after four local officials were killed during a visit to neighbouring Oromiya.

Ethnic Oromos living in Benishangul-Gumuz were attacked by other groups and many fled into Oromiya, said residents, who asked not to be named.

Oromiya region administration said the number of people who fled their homes had “passed beyond 70,000”.

Abiy – the diverse country’s first Oromo leader – came to office in April and turned politics on its head by making peace with long-term foe Eritrea, freeing prisoners and promising a string of sweeping economic and political reforms.

He also promised to ease ethnic tensions and steer the state away from a hard-line security policy in place for decades.

Commentators say his easing of restrictions may have led to flare-ups of violence over long-standing rivalries between ethnic groups.

Nearly amillion people have been forced from homes in southern Ethiopia since clashes started there in April, according to UN agencies.