The African Union on Tuesday condemned attacks on civilians in Ethiopia and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, a day after dozens were reported killed in what the national human rights body labeled a “massacre”.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, “strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians following inter-communal violence in Ethiopia”, his office said in a statement.
Faki also called on Ethiopian politicians “to engage in an inclusive national dialogue” to cool tensions, warning that “failure to do so can have grave impacts not only in the country but the region as a whole”.
On Monday the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said at least 32 civilians were killed in a “massacre” in an area of Ethiopia’s Oromia region known as Wollega.
Two of the injured later died in hospital, bringing the official toll to 34, Oromia spokesman Getachew Balcha told AFP Tuesday.
Around ten people remained in the hospital Tuesday but no more fatalities were expected, Getachew said.
Some 200 families were displaced, but Getachew stressed that “the area is now peaceful” and those displaced were returning.
Survivors of the attack told both the EHRC and Amnesty International that the perpetrators targeted members of the Amhara ethnic group, the country’s second-largest, rounding victims up in a school before opening fire.
Amnesty put the death toll at 54 while a local resident said that at least 60 bodies had been buried after the attack.
It is the latest in a series of recent attacks targeting Amharas, ramping up pressure on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country’s first Oromo leader, to address Ethiopia’s persistent security woes.
The government blamed the weekend attack on the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group active in western and southern Ethiopia.
The Oromia regional government also accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, of collaborating with the OLA “to cause instability in our region… and our country”.
It did not provide evidence for the claim.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018 on the strength of anti-government protests.
It is locked in a bitter dispute with Abiy that analysts and diplomats warn could turn violent.
Getachew said Tuesday that “some” arrests had been made in connection with the weekend attack but could not provide details.
In Wollega, survivors continued to bury the dead. Hundreds of people were still hiding out in the surrounding forest, according to Abebaw, a local resident.
“We buried 52 bodies yesterday and eight more bodies this morning, with several more expected to be buried later in the afternoon,” Abebaw said.
He said soldiers had returned to the area to restore order “but we neither trust them nor local authorities to protect us”.