Last week, at least 44 individuals were killed and upwards of 70,000 fled their homes amid horrific violence in western Ethiopia. These bloody ethnic clashes, between rival ethnic groups, occurred on the border between central Oromia and western Benishangul-Gumuz regions, according to local officials said Al Jazeera. According to residents of the Benishangul-Gumuz region, the clashes erupted following the murders of four local officials while visiting the Oromia region. The clashes are mainly fueled by youths of both regions, armed with “rocks and knives” according to Al Jazeera. Although security forces have been deployed to the areas, locals continue to flee.
This past April, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed began his rule and has since been praised by the international community for his ‘reformist’ attitude, according to Al Jazeera. Prime Minister Ahmed has tried to smooth relations between not only the very diverse regions of Ethiopia but has also made several great attempts to better their relations with Eritrea through a recent peace deal and normalization of trade and travel between the neighboring nations. Prime Minister Ahmed, on Eritrea, agreed to, “the freeing [of] prisoners and…a string of sweeping economic and political reforms,” according to Al Jazeera. All in all, Prime Minister Ahmed has continually promised to ease ethnic tensions and steer the nation away from some of its security policies of the past. However, despite his efforts, a wave of communal violence has continued over his first few months of rule, including clashes in the capital back in September which resulted in at least 58 deaths. Since April, nearly 1 million Ethiopians have been forced from their residences as a result of violence in southern and western Ethiopia.
These clashes, although not the first of their kind, have been a great sounding horn. It seems that there is much work to be done in normalizing relations between the diverse and very segregated regions of Ethiopia – Prime Minister surely has his hands full. Tragedy after tragedy, it becomes more and more apparent that changes across the board need to be made, the problem is that nobody knows what it will take to discontinue these clashes due to ‘patriotism’ for one’s Ethiopian region. The Prime Minister has begun to normalize relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, now comes the normalization of his own backyard and its nine regional states.
Back in September, when fighting broke out in the Capital, many fled the area saying, “they were targeted by Oromo mobs because they were members of minority ethnic groups,” according to SBS News. Meanwhile, fighting between the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, and the Gedeo minority group of the south continue to displace Ethiopians, having already displaced around 1 million. In the midst of the terror, at the end of September, as mentioned previously, Prime Minister Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki attended a Summit in Saudi Arabia where they signed a historic peace agreement which resulted in a great deal of talk regarding the new rule of Prime Minister Ahmed. During the signing of the deal, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres had also spoken in regard to this momentous agreement stating, “There is a wind of hope blowing in the Horn of Africa,” according to Africa News. However, despite the positive boost in Ethiopian-Eritrean relations, many think that the newly minted Prime Minister needs to focus on relations back home.
Overall, tragedies seem to come in multiples in Ethiopia in recent months. Despite great attempts by Prime Minister Ahmed to better relations both at home and abroad, the very diverse Ethiopian regions continue to clash. Hopefully, in time the Prime Minister can foster a patriotism for being Ethiopian rather than for being only a specific ethnic group within the nation. This is much easier said than done, as international history provides but hopefully small victories will result in some form of peace in the coming months for Ethiopians of all ethnic backgrounds.
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