Ethiopia paints a bleaker picture of effects of recent violence
Authorities revise up arrest and death tolls as residents report looting and rampages by Oromo youths
Addis Ababa — Ethiopian authorities arrested more than 1,200 people after violence erupted in and around the capital in September, a police official said, three times more than earlier estimates.
Twenty-eight people died, the head of the capital’s police commission, Degfie Bedi, said, raising the death count from 23.
"The majority were beaten to death. Seven were killed by security forces," Bedi said late on Monday.
Violence that raged from September 12 to 17 and included attacks on minorities in Ethiopia’s ethnic Oromo heartland outside Addis Ababa, was a blow to efforts by the new reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, at reconciliation.
The unrest escalated on the day of a rally marking the return to Ethiopia of leaders of the exiled Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which had waged a four-decade insurgency for self-determination for Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
In the town of Burayu, north of the capital, residents said shops were looted and people attacked by Oromo youths who stormed through streets targeting businesses and homes of ethnic minorities. Reuters could not confirm the accounts of who was responsible and the OLF did not comment.
"[A total] 1,204 are in custody, but they are now being rehabilitated for a short period of time," Bedi said.
The arrested included people suspected of holding "illegal rallies", burglaries and other crimes, he added.
Ethiopia’s Oromo, who make up about a third of the population, have long complained of being marginalised during decades of authoritarian rule by governments led by politicians from other smaller ethnic groups. In recent years the Oromo have been angered by what they see as encroachment on their land.
Abiy, the first Oromo leader in the country’s modern history, has pursued reconciliation since taking power in April.