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News: Protests erupt across Oromia after latest violence in East Wollega, OLF calls on Oromos to “defend” themselves

Civilians who are displaced from Kiremu and Gida Ayana districts in East Wollega. Photo: Gida Ayana Communication affairs office

Addis Abeba – Protests erupted in many towns and cities, including schools and university compounds, in different places across Oromia following the weekend violence in East Wollega zone of Oromia regional state, in western Ethiopia.

The attacks on 25 and 29 of November in Kiremu and Gida Ayana districts of East Wollega Zone, which authorities of the local government and fleeing residents attributed to “Fano Militia” from the neighboring Amhara region has left dozens dead and thousands displaced.

Dozens of civilians, including Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda, Kiremu District Court judge, were killed and more than 350, 000 people of the entire Kiremu district were displaced in the two days attacks on 25 and 29.

Over the weekend, several contested accounts of intensified clashes involving federal government and regional security forces on the one hand and armed groups of the Fano militia and members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on the other were reported with unknown numbers of civilian causalities and mass displacement.

The extent of the causalities from the weekend violence, the exact nature of the violence and who it involved is hard to come by as regional state governments of both Oromia and Amhara regions, as well as the federal government remained silent about the reported violence.

But the killings caused outrage as activists and netizens from the Oromo and Amhara national groups took to social media to express their frustrations. On Monday, students in several high schools and universities located in towns and cities across the Oromia region held protests chanting messages denouncing the repeated attacks on civilians in Wollega zone.

On Monday, a video footage showing two decapitated heads put on pikes and paraded by members of “Fano militia” was widely shared on social media. The two decapitated heads allegedly belonging to members of the OLA fighters, caused further outrage and criticisms. The protests continued on Tuesday .

A teacher at Waqoo Gutu school here in Addis Abeba told Addis Standard that this morning the students protested the “indiscriminate attack against the Oromo people by Fano Militia and government drones”. The students went home after they protested and the regular teaching and learning schedule didn’t take place, the teacher said.

Addis Standard also confirmed that students staged a protest at Adama Science and Technology University on Tuesday morning shortly before it was dispersed by police.

A student from Kotebe Metropolitan University in Addis Abeba, told Addis Standard that they couldn’t protest but they came dressed in black and boycotted eating to show their grievances. 

Oromo students at Mizan Tepi University also staged a protest but it was dispersed by security forces. Protests were also reportedly held in high schools and universities in Nekemte, in East Wollega, in Ambo West Oromia, and Bale, south east Oromia, among other places.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the opposition party, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), condemned “the irresponsible and barbaric killings of innocent civilians by the PP-led Ethiopian government,” and has called upon the Oromo people to “defend” themselves. “Students in high schools and universities, teachers at all levels, peasants in rural areas, and the Qeerroo should defend themselves,” the statement reads. The party also accused the government of training and arming the “Fanno militants”.

Both the Oromia regional government and the federal government has not commented on the attacks in East Wollega and the subsequent protests going on in different parts of the region until the publishing of this news and Addis Standard’s attempts to obtain comments from Oromia region and federal government communication officials were unsuccessful. AS

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