Gunmen killed more than 100 people in a dawn attack in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia on Wednesday, the human rights commission said, as residents described fleeing the latest deadly assault in an area bedevilled by ethnic violence.
The attack occurred in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said in a statement, an area where multiple ethnic groups are living.
Africa’s second-most populous nation has been grappling with regular outbreaks of deadly violence since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018 and accelerated democratic reforms that loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
Elections due next year have further inflamed simmering tensions over land, power and resources.
In a separate part of the country, Ethiopia’s military has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for over six weeks in a conflict that has displaced close to 950,000 people. The deployment of federal troops there has raised fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.
Ethiopia is also fighting an insurgency in the Oromiya region and faces long-running security threats from Somali Islamist militants along its porous eastern border.
The attack came a day after Abiy, the military chief of staff and other senior federal officials visited the region to urge calm after several deadly incidents in recent months, such as a Nov. 14 assault in which gunmen targeted a bus and killed 34 people.
“The desire by enemies to divide Ethiopia along ethnic and religious lines still exists. This desire will remain unfulfilled,” Abiy tweeted on Tuesday along with photos of his meetings that day in the town of Metekel, near where the Nov. 14 attack occurred.
He said residents’ wish for peace “outweighs any divisive agenda”.
Main Photo: An Ethiopian refugee woman with her child from Tigray region wait to receive aid at the Um Rakuba refugee camp, the same camp that hosted Ethiopian refugees during the famine in the 1980s, some 80 kilometers from the Ethiopian-Sudan border in Sudan. EPA-EFE/ALA KHEIR