Govt. Troops Massacre Ethiopian Citizens In Their Homes

Government officials in Ethiopia last Thursday denied allegations that members of its military massacred civilians in the Amhara region in January after Western leaders called for an investigation into the killings, the Associated Press reported.

Ervin Massinga, the US Ambassador to Ethiopia, on February 9 demanded an investigation into the allegations, saying that the US was “deeply concerned” by claims by local human rights groups who said Ethiopian soldiers had murdered over 80 civilians in the town of Merawi following clashes with rebel fighters.

The rebellion in Amhara broke out in April after the Ethiopian government sought to dissolve the province’s regional forces and bring them under the control of the federal army.

The rebel militia Fano in August launched a surprise attack in the province seizing towns throughout Amhara for several days before returning to the countryside.

Throughout the rebellion, human rights groups have documented multiple abuses by the federal army, including allegations that troops were involved in extra-judicial killings.

Even the country’s state-appointed human rights commission reported that at least 45 civilians were massacred by government troops in Merawi after the January clashes with the rebels. Another human rights organization placed the death toll at more than 80.

Both groups confirmed that some of the civilians were killed as soldiers conducted house-to-house searches for rebels.

However, in an interview with Deutsche Welle last Thursday, Legesse Tulu, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, confirmed the fighting in Merawi but denied the allegations that soldiers targeted civilians.

Legesse said that during the house-to-house searches of civilian homes, the soldiers “were fired upon again” by armed rebels and fired back in “self-defense.” He insisted that the military would not kill civilians or “surrendering combatants.”

Last week, both the European Union and Great Britain joined Ambassador Massinga in calling for a full investigation into what happened in Merawi. The EU also called for dialogue between the government and the rebels to resolve the conflict in the province.