Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian army has confirmed killing nine civilians and wounding 12 others by mistake in Moyale town in Shoaber District. The command post, which is in charge of enforcing the state of emergency, stated that the killings happened on Saturday morning.
The soldiers opened fire on local civilians based on false information about the presence of the militant group - the Oromo Liberation Forces (OLF), according to the command post’s statement to the state media.
The five soldiers involved and their commander were under investigation, as shooting to kill based on unverified information is not the first measure a soldier should take, according to the command post.
Some 88 parliamentarians, most of them from the Oromia Region, opposed the state of emergency last week, for fear of extreme spontaneous measures by the command post.
Ethiopia has been facing growing anti-government protests over the past two years. The Saturday shooting incident was first reported on Saturday evening by the Voice of America Amharic (VOA) Service, which talked to hospital sources and eyewitnesses. A relative of one of the causalities said the victim, a director of a school in Yabelo town, was going home when he was shot multiple times and killed on the street, according to VOA report.
The report also talked to one person who said he was among thousands of people who crossed the border to Kenya in fear of similar massacre by the army. It was the first time the command post admitted the killing of civilians by the army since the country declared a six-month state of emergency about three weeks ago. Last week, in a similar statement, the chief of the command post and Defence minister, Mr Siraj Fegessa, indicated that 17 security officers had been wounded in attacks by ‘the anti-peace forces’ and four vehicles had been torched since the declaration of the state of emergency. Critics say the sporadic anti-government protests were the consequences of the 2015 national election in which the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), declared 100 per cent parliament win, along with a few supporting parties. Others argue that the opposition against EPRDF, which has been in power for over two decades, was occasioned by cumulative injustice, tribalism, mounting corruption, youth unemployment and land grabbing. It is the second time that Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency after the May 2015 election, with the current one following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. (NMG)