A week of riots in various parts of Ethiopia’s Southern regional state has left 15 people dead, a regional official said on Saturday.
Solomon Hailu, Head of Communications Affairs Office, Southern regional state, said the largest number of casualties happened in the regional state capital Hawassa city, where days of riot left 10 people dead and 89 others injured, reported local media outlet Radio Fana.
The riots in Hawassa city are said to have involved ethnic Sidamas, the original inhabitants of Hawassa city and the neighboring Wolaita ethnic group.
Photos and videos circulated on social media by eyewitnesses purportedly showing “Sidama youth” ransacking property of Wolaitas in Hawassa has shocked many Ethiopians accustomed to seeing the lakeside city as a calm tourism and business hotspot.
Hailu said retaliatory violence in the last several days in Wolaita Sodo city, Southern regional state dominated by ethnic Wolaitas left three people dead and 10 others injured.
Ethnic Sidamas and ethnic Wolaitas are among the more numerous ethnic groups in Southern regional state and have a history of tension which occasionally turned into deadly communal violence over land rights and economic resources.
In a separate development, Hailu revealed that two people were killed earlier this week in Wolkite city, Gurage zone, Southern regional state during clashes between ethnic Kebenas and ethnic Gurages.
Wolkite city, a major commercial hub in southern Ethiopia is contested by ethnic Kebenas and ethnic Gurages.
Ethiopia follows an ethnic federalism model, which has been credited with giving self-governance rights to the more than 80 ethnic groups that make up the country’s estimated 100 million people.
However, critics say the ethnic federalism model magnifies ethnic diversity at the expense of national unity, leading to occasional ethnic tension and clashes.