AU urges Ethiopian authorities to undertake necessary civilian protection actions

Photo taken on Feb. 3, 2022 shows the buildings of the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Xinhua)

ADDIS ABABA, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat called on Ethiopian authorities to undertake necessary measures to protect civilians after recurrent killings in western Ethiopia.

Mahamat has learned with concern about the reports of attacks in the Welega zone of the Oromia region in Western Ethiopia, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, according to an AU statement issued Wednesday.

The AU Commission chairperson "deeply regrets the loss of life and calls for an investigation into these attacks."

Mahamat urged the Ethiopian federal government and regional authorities "to undertake the necessary actions to protect all civilians, including minorities, and ensure that such incidents are prevented."

He expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and vowed to stand in solidarity with the people of Ethiopia and those promoting peaceful co-existence, unity, peace and reconciliation.

Mahamat's comments came amid the continued killing of civilians in the western Wollega zone in the Oromia region, in which the Ethiopian government and survivors have accused the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) fighters of carrying out the attacks.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a rights group established by the Ethiopian parliament, disclosed late Monday that the latest killings reportedly started in the early hours of Monday, in which perpetrators were suspected members of the OLA, also known as Shane.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen said the Ethiopian government will strengthen the protection of civilians across vulnerable areas.

The latest attack is the second recent mass killing of civilians by the rebel OLA, which the Ethiopian parliament designated as a terrorist group in May 2021. A similar armed attack on mainly ethnic Amhara on June 18 in Tole rural locality of Gimbi district, West Wollega zone, had left hundreds dead.

Speaking to journalists last week, Billene Seyoum, a press secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, said the death toll from the June 18 attack was at least 338.

Last week, Legesse Tulu, the Ethiopian government spokesperson, said the joint forces of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), Federal Police and Oromia Special Force were undertaking military measures on members of the terrorist group that have committed "the heinous crimes."