ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – At least 58 people were killed during ethnic violence at the weekend on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, an Amnesty International researcher told AFP on Wednesday.
And another source involved in the investigation, who saw and counted the corpses, told AFP a total of 65 people had been killed, mostly in the city’s western suburbs.
The figures are more than twice that given by state media which on Monday said the death toll from violence in and around Burayu stood at 23.
Fighting broke out last week in Burayu, a western suburb of Addis Ababa, and continued through the weekend, forcing hundreds to flee and sparking protests that paralysed the city on Monday during which police killed five people.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, the investigation source said most of the deaths had occurred in the city’s western suburbs although others were killed in the centre.
“The 65 cases are from Burayu, Ashewa Meda, Kolfe and Kirkos,” the source said, referring to three areas in the west and Kirkos in the centre.
Some of the victims had been stabbed while others died after being beaten with sticks and rocks.
None had been shot and the toll does not include five alleged looters killed by police on Monday.
– Targeted by Oromo mobs –
Fisseha Tekle, a Nairobi-based researcher with Amnesty International, said he had compiled a similar tally of 58 dead.
Residents told Amnesty International they saw “eight dead bodies on Friday, 21 on Saturday,” he said.
“On Sunday they saw about 11 people and on Monday the number of dead bodies they’ve seen was 18.”
Government spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.
Burayu lies on the outskirts of Addis Ababa but within the Oromia region that surrounds the capital and which is home to the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
People who fled the clashes told AFP they were targeted by Oromo mobs because they are members of minority ethnic groups.
– Police failings –
Fisseha said the government must investigate the conduct of the Oromia and federal police, whom he accused of failing to quell the violence.
“They have to investigate why they have not responded on time, why they have failed to protect the vulnerable communities there,” Fisseha said.
The violence began last week in the run-up to Saturday’s return of the once-banned Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group that returned to Ethiopia following a string of radical political reforms pushed through by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
An Oromo himself, Abiy took power in April and has won popularity for his aggressive reform agenda which has seen him freeing jailed dissidents and overhauling the security services, who have long been accused of violating human rights.
He has also pushed through a landmark peace deal with Eritrea, which was signed in July, ending two decades of enmity sparked by a border conflict.
But bloody ethnic clashes have broken out repeatedly since his inauguration, with the worst clashes occurring in the south where fighting between the Oromo and Gedeo minority has displaced nearly one million people.
(Photo፡Askale Adacha, 63, weeps as she speaks about fleeing the violence on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital)