More than 800,000 people have been forced from their homes due to a new wave of inter-ethnic violence that has been in place in southern Ethiopia since June, according to a joint report by the United Nations and the Ethiopian government.
“Renewed violence along the border areas of Gedeo and West Guji zones since early June … has led to the displacement of over 642,152 IDP’s (internally displaced persons) in Gedeo zone … and 176,098 IDP’s in West Guji zone of Oromia region,” said the report, which was issued on Wednesday. There was no information about casualties.
The inter-ethnic violence initially broke out in April in the region, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa. According to the report, traditional leaders encouraged the return of the displaced people after the initial clashes in April but many have fled again since June.
“The security situation has been challenging despite the deployment of the Ethiopian Defense Forces in the area, with reports of continued destruction of houses, other assets and service infrastructure,” the report read.
It further said that the newly displaced people are in need of food and other aid.
Ethiopia, a racially diverse country, has witnessed mass protests triggered by ethnic discontent that forced Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign in February.
In April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office and has promised political and economic reforms to address the complaints of marginalization by several ethnic groups, including his own group, the Oromos.
More than 200 people are estimated to have been killed during last month’s violence, diplomats said, stressing that confirmation is impossible due to a lack of security.
Rising ethnic tensions in Ethiopia is blamed on the country’s federal system. Ethiopia’s ruling coalition took power in 1991 and has created regional states based on ethnicity in a federal republic.
By Africafrique and agencies