Seven Churches burnt in ethnic violence in Ethiopia
Churches were burnt and priests killed in Ethiopia when violence broke out in the east Somali region of the country where ethnic Somalis were said to have torched, looted and destroyed property belonging to indigenous Oromo and Amhara residents of the town of Jijiga, capital of the Ethiopian Somali regional state. Details are not yet very clear but reports say a number of people took refuge in an Ethiopian Orthodox church since, Friday, and thousands of people have been forced to flee the region.
An eye witness told Reuters that he saw four bodies on the ground.
Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church said “A total of seven churches were set ablaze and priests killed in the attacks. Civilians were also killed and thousands displaced,”
Government spokesman Ahmed Shide said “Infrastructure was destroyed and civilians were subjected to killings and lootings. Religious centres were also attacked and banks looted,” Shide told reporters. “These acts were carried out by gangs of youths that were organised by some members of the region’s leadership.”
Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa Director at the International Crisis Group (ICG) in a Tweet said the attacks erupted as a resulted of a standoff between the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power recently, and the Somali regional authorities over an arrangement of autonomy for the region. “They distrusted his reform agenda, concluded he was intent on disrupting the cosy arrangement that allowed the (Somali region) leader untrammelled power,” Abdi said.
“The political rewards of (Abdi) Iley’s ouster is uncertain while the security risks obvious. A political vacuum is a real risk,” Abdi added.
The violence triggered further demonstrations Addis Ababa in Ethiopia’s capital city, in front of the Ministry of Defense and the Prime Minister’s office, with banners saying, “Stop the killing in Jijiga”.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church condemned the burning of churches and the killing of people in the city.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.