Updated: Oromia president denounces as Chelenko’s death toll rises

(Updated on the seventh paragraph with additional info about the deceased)

Oromia president pledged quick inquiry, as the number of people killed due to a clash in the eastern town of Chelenko reached sixteen.

Last Monday, federal security forces shot several people while disbanding a crowd in Chelenko town, Meta woreda, Oromia region.

The spokesperson of Oromia region posted on Monday on his facebook that six people were killed by the federal army, which applied lethal force to disband a local crowd and open a main road crossing the town.

The locals blocked the road due to anger over the killing of one person by Somali region special police in the border kebele of Serkema, the spokesperson narrated on his post.

A US-based opposition media, OMN, claimed, “the local crowd was moving to help their compatriots who are fighting in Serkema kebele when they clashed with the solidiers”. It also aired a footage of burning buildings and roadblocks.

The latest figure from Oromia region officials indicated the death toll reached sixteen. Another thirteen people were wounded.

Nine of them were killed in Chelenko, while seven were killed in the neighboring Dishe kebele. The same army unit dispatched to Chelenko was responsible for the shooting of the seven people in Dishe kebele, while gathered for a farmwork, a local official told VOA radio on Thursday.

The nature of the conflict in Serkema kebele is not fully known. Somali region sources told HornAffairs that local Somalis were trying to recover more than fifty camels, which were taken by a group of Oromo men days earlier. The sources claimed the camels belonged to Rerekun and Ferbula sub-clans of Issa and the federal army failed on its promises to recover the camels.

The official facebook page of Oromia’s ruling party OPDO/EPRDF posted on Tuesday that an inquiry committee drawn from members of the regional Council of Representatives will be tasked to the circumstances of the Chelenko tragedy.

On Wednesday, Oromia president Lemma Megersa appeared on the regional television to denounce the killing. He said he didn’t know “who called and who ordered the force” and characterized it as “illegal”, according to the region’s official broadcaster OBN Amharic.

A quick inquiry will be conducted to hold the solidiers accountable and to inform the public about the circumstances, the regional president pledged.

Last September, following the conflict between Oromia and Somali regions, it was announced that the adjacent districts of the two regions and main roads would be placed under federal security forces.


Daniel Berhane

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