Ethiopia: 14 killed in Woldia, Kobo protest; Official denounced ethnic attacks

At least 15 people killed in the past week as unrest hits northeastern parts of Amhara. Regional official denounced ethnic attacks.

The latest wave of unrest began in Woldia city on January 20 when security forces clashed with a crowd on the sidelines of Epiphany celebrations.

Regional officials promised to inquire the incident in which six people were killed by security officers. They also claimed that the crowd refused refused to stop chanting “politican slogans” and threw stone to the police, as a trigger for the clash.

Local residents told media that one solidier was also killed. But the government didn’t comment on the claim.

The incident was accompanied by attacks on several Tigrayans businesses, government properties and vehcles passing through the city. The ethnic attack was the second in about a month in that city.

The unrest continued the next day following the funeral of people killed in the first day. The regional president went to the city on the third day, January 22, and held a townhall meeting.

Map - Woldia and Kobo cities, Amhara, Ethiopia
Map – Woldia and Kobo cities, Amhara, Ethiopia

Kobo, a small town 50 km to the north of Woldia, was hit by unrest on Tuesday January 23 evening. The municipality and other administrative buildings were torched. Tigrayan homes and businesses were indiscriminately set in fire and looted. An unknown number of Tigrayans fled the area.

Local police watched in silence, while the regional special police briefly entered the city after 24 hours and left immediately. A contingent of the military was deployed on the third day, January 25 morning, and restored apparent calm.

State media reported 3 people were killed, while the residents told Deutche Welle Amharic that 6 civillians and 1 solidier were killed.

Deutche Welle Amharic tried to whitewash the ethnic attacks by portaying the Tigrayan victims as spies and agents of the government. VOA Amharic similarly tried to make excuses in a less outrageous manner, but it also included a comment from a Tigrayan victim of the attack.

However, yesterday January 27, Amhara region’s spokesperson acknowledged that “attacks soley based on ethnic identity” were committed and denounced it as “saddening and shameful”.

The statement of the regional official show a departure from past practices. In mid-2016, when thousands of Tigrayans were evicted from Gondar city, the official engaged in arthimetics to deny the matter. It was about three months later that the regional president acknowledged and apologized in a session of the regional legislature. Western rights groups refuse to acknowledge ethnic attacks on Tigrayans as they deem it a collateral damage.

In the past two days, Amhara regional government officials have marched to the cities to hold townhall meetings and listen to people’s griviances which involves administrative and economic issues.

On Saturday, there were reports of unrest in a nearby smal town named Mersa. But HornAffairs could not confirm details.

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Daniel Berhane

Daniel Berhane