By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 27 May 2022-2 June 2023
- Total number of political violence events: 1,109
- Total number of reported fatalities from political violence: 5,710
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 2,591
By the Numbers: Ethiopia, 27 May-2 June 20231Some events from this coverage period might be included in the data in subsequent weeks due to reporting delays.
- Total number of political violence events: 17
- Total number of reported fatalities from political violence: 131
- Total number of reported fatalities from civilian targeting: 19
Demonstrations continued in Addis Ababa in connection with the demolition of mosques in Sheger city, while political violence, including battles, remote violence, and violence against civilians, continued in Oromia and Amhara regions.
Last week, on 2 June, Muslims gathered after Friday prayers at the Grand Anwar Mosque in Merkato in Addis Ababa as well as in Robe, Shashemene, and Jimma towns in Oromia region, and Harar town in Harari region (see map below), to condemn the demolition of mosques by the government in the newly established Sheger city in Oromia region. The protesters also condemned the killing of Muslim protesters by government forces in the previous week. On 26 May, security forces fired live bullets during a demonstration at the Grand Anwar Mosque after Friday prayers, reportedly killing two people and injuring an unknown number of protesters (for more, see EPO Weekly: 20-26 May 2023). Last week, in Addis Ababa and Jimma, government forces used force to disperse the protestors, resulting in casualties. In Addis Ababa, government forces – republican guards, federal police, and Addis Ababa city police – surrounded the Grand Anwar Mosque compound, blocked the gate, fired tear gas and live bullets at the crowd, and reportedly killed at least three and injured an unknown number of protesters. Some reports indicate that eight people were killed due to the security forces’ excessive use of force.2 Addis Maleda, ‘It was stated that until now eight people were killed due to the violence in Anwar Mosque,’ 4 June 2023 Several Muslim worshippers were trapped in the mosque until the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council negotiated with the Federal Police Commission to allow those injured to get treatment and others to go home safely in the evening. According to Addis Ababa Police Commission, around 63 police officers were also injured.3 Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, ‘Press statement from the Joint Peace and Security Task Force,’ 2 June 2023 Similarly, members of the federal police force and Oromia regional state police beat protesters and fired tear gas and bullets in Jimma town. Two people were injured, and hundreds were arrested. Discontent over the demolition of houses and mosques in the newly established Sheger city has been rising in the capital, Addis Ababa. According to the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, at least 19 mosques have been demolished in Sheger city.4The Reporter, ‘Mass protests erupt over mosque demolitions,’ 27 May 2023
Sheger city officials have been ordering the demolition of houses without the proper paperwork since its establishment in January 2023, sparking public outcry among sectors of the public who claim the demolitions targeted non-Oromos.5Addis Standard, ‘News Analysis: Despite growing grievances Sheger city officials continue demolishing “illegal houses”, deny accusations of ethnic prejudice,’ 6 March 2023 Defending the demolitions, the head of the Oromia Government Communications Affairs Bureau pointed out that all illegal buildings were being destroyed and not just mosques, urging Muslims to ignore the “organized internal and external extremists who work under the guise of religion.”6Addis Standard, ‘News: Oromia region defends demolition of buildings as “constitutional and legal”, blames extremists for “false propaganda,”’ 31 May 2023 Other organizations, like the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, have denounced the demolitions and insisted that some of the demolished houses had ownership documents.7 BBC Amharic, ‘The Ethiopian Human Rights Council stated that more than 111 thousand houses were demolished in Addis Ababa and Sheger cities,’ 1 June 2023
In Amhara region, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) engaged in clashes with an unidentified armed group from 26 to 30 May in the Debre Elias Bihere Betsuan Melka Silase Andent Monastery in Degolma kebele in Debre Elias woreda, East Gojam zone. The government referred to the group as Amhara Popular Front, while some witnesses identified it as a group that identifies itself as the “light of the world.”8 Ethiopian Federal Police, ‘Press statement from the Joint Peace and Security Task Force,’ 2 June 2023; Ethiopian Media Services, ‘EMS Mereja Fri 02 Jun 2023,’ 2 June 2023; Debre Elias Woreda Communication Office, ‘Press statement from Debre Elias Woreda Peace and Security Office,’ 31 May 2023 Casualty estimates vary widely across different sources. According to these estimates, at least 200 members of the ENDF were injured, and 10 others were killed during the clashes. In a statement released on 31 May, the Joint Peace and Security Task Force accused the former Chairperson of the Balderas Party, Eskinder Nega, of being primarily responsible for the violence and claimed that 200 of his “militants” were killed during the “operation.”9Ethiopian Federal Police, ‘Press statement from the Joint Peace and Security Task Force,’ 2 June 2023; EBC, ‘The Security and Safety Joint Task Force announced that the action taken against Eskinder Nega and his accomplices, who were working to overthrow the government through armed struggle, in the Selase Gedam fortress of Debre Elias Woreda, East Gojam Zone, has defeated their plot to destabilize the region,’ 3 June 2023 According to the Debre Elias Woreda Peace and Security Office, the group was providing training inside the monastery and was involved in killing religious leaders, local elders, and local officials.10Debre Elias Woreda Communication Office, ‘Press statement from Debre Elias Woreda Peace and Security Office,’ 31 May 2023
Moreover, last week, two grenade events were recorded in the region. On 30 May, an unidentified group threw a grenade at a conference center where a meeting involving zonal, woreda, and kebele level Prosperity Party administrators was being held in Ajbar town in Sayint woreda, South Wello zone. There were no casualties, although damage to the conference center was reported. The next day, an unidentified group threw a grenade and injured six members of security forces who were on duty, including five local militia members, in Woldiya town in North Wello zone. Following the attack, gunfire was heard in the town. However, as of the time of writing, it is unclear who was involved in the gunfire. Since the government made the decision to integrate regional special forces into different security sectors in the country, Amhara has been one of the most unstable regions in Ethiopia (for more, see EPO April 2023 Monthly: Volatility in Amhara Region While the Rest of the Country Stabilizes).
In Oromia region, armed clashes and violence against civilians continued last week. The ENDF and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane clashed in Bada Tinno and Ereri Kelo kebeles in Abuna Ginde Beret woreda, and in Shikute in Jeldu woreda, in West Shewa zone, as well as in Mude in Dodota woreda in Arsi zone. In addition, six incidents of attacks against civilians perpetrated by the ENDF, the OLF-Shane, Fano militia, and an unidentified armed group, resulting in at least 16 reported fatalities, were recorded in the region.