Ethiopia County, home to 25,000 people, captured by fighters: EHRC

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an armed group controls a country that is home to around 25,000 people in western Ethiopia. According to reports, civilians were killed and public servants abducted. 

The state-appointed body received reports that as of April 19, Sedal Woreda in the Kamashi district of Benishangul-Gumuz was “almost completely under the control of armed groups”. The commission did not indicate which armed group it was referring to. 

Residents who fled the area told the EHRC that an armed group set fire and looted public and private property, and the Woreda administration and local police had left the area. The commission said there were also reports of civilians being killed and officials abducted.  

“According to residents and officials interviewed by the EHRC, a small contingent of the regional security force in the vicinity is outnumbered,” the commission said, urging the federal government in Addis Ababa to deploy security forces to the region “to prevent further deaths”.

No comment came from the government of local authorities. 

With a population belonging to a myriad of ethnic groups, such as the Gumuz, Agaws, Shinasas and the Amhar, Benishangul-Gumuz is home to the strategically essential Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia believes that the multi-million-dollar Blue Nile project is the key to its economic development and power generation. However, the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan regard the dam as a potential threat because they fear that the water source of the Nile will be interrupted.

Benishangul Gumuz has suffered more and more ethnic violence in recent months, including an attack in December that killed more than 200 civilians.It is one of several hotbeds across the country of more than 100 million people where ethnic rivalries for land, power and resources have erupted ahead of the late national elections scheduled for June.

On Monday, after three days of violent clashes in Ataye City, killing an unknown number of people, the government declared a state of emergency in the southern part of the Amhara region.

At the beginning of this month, more than 100 people were killed in border clashes between the Afar and Somalia regions. 

The two regions blamed special forces from each other’s sides for the deaths.In March, assailants killed at least 30 civilians in an attack on a village in Oromia.