News: Oromia region strongly refutes reports implicating gov't forces in Bate Urgessa's killing

The late politician Bate Urgessa (Photo:Screenshot/Prime Media)

Addis Abeba – The Oromia regional government in a statement released late Wednesday condemned the killing of Bate Urgessa, a prominent Oromo political figure, and said “ongoing propaganda to make the government responsible is not acceptable in any way.”

The statement conveyed that Bate, political officer of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was killed by “unidentified assailants” in Meki town, adding that “whoever committed it, the act is totally unacceptable”.

The statement further accused “some political entities” of trying to exploit the opportunity to make up for their “political losses” by making the government responsible for the killing.

The government said it will announce to the public details of the killing of Bate Urgessa following the legal investigation process, and strongly cautioned against spreading unsubstantiated claims. “It is impossible to attribute to anyone the responsibility for the killing until security forces investigate and announce it to the public,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, the armed group, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in a statement released on Wednesday evening, said Bate was “taken from his room by security forces during mid-night hours and executed point-blank.” It further accused government security forces of “preventing the recovery of his body, and later inhibiting the conduct of further autopsy.”

Addis Standard reported that Bate was shot dead on Tuesday night and his body was found dumped by the road early on Wednesday, in his home town Meki, East shoa zone of the Oromia region.

A family member told Addis Standard that Bate was taken out of his hotel room around midnight on Tuesday by a group of people who “looked like government security forces”, and his body was found dumped by the road the next morning.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) earlier on Wednesday called for prompt, impartial and full investigation into the killing by both the Oromia region and federal authorities to hold perpetrators to account.

The Opposition Oromo Liberation front (OLF) has condemned what it called a “brutal murder” of its political officer Bate Urgessa saying that it learned of the killing “with agony and grave sadness”, describing the late politician as “eloquent, selfless, and brave Oromo soul”.

The statement failed short of naming perpetrators, but said the party is conducting further investigations into the killing. “We appeal to all human rights organizations and peace-loving people to undertake an immediate neutral and impartial investigation,” it added.

An outspoken politician, Bate Urgessa was recently released from prison on 100,000 birr bail after he was detained for two weeks accused of “conspiring with two armed groups, the OLA-Shene and the Fano militia, to incite unrest in the capital”. He was apprehended by security forces alongside French journalist Antoine Galindo while conducting an interview at the Skylight hotel in Addis Abeba on 22 February 2024.

Previously, he spent years in and out of detentions on several occasions. During one of his latest imprisonments he had encountered a serious health issue while in police custody leading to his release.

Bate spoke of a harrowing experience during his detention in several informal detention centers in towns like Mojo, near his hometown, Awash Melkasa, Gelan, Sebeta and Burayu, all in Oromia region. AS

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