Security forces in Wolaita Zone appear to have used excessive force in confronting protesters, killing at least six people on August 10, 2020, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
The protests were triggered by the detention on Monday of several senior zonal officials who sought to unilaterally declare the formation of a new regional state within the federation. Authorities, however, have accused them of conspiring with opposition groups in an attempt to destabilize the zone.
“Security forces should exercise maximum restraint from using lethal force in dealing with peaceful protest. Such actions only exacerbate an already tense situation,” said Aaron Maasho, senior advisor and spokesperson at EHRC.
“The killing of at least six protesters requires a prompt investigation into the circumstances of the case and use of lethal force.”
Protesters took to the streets in several towns across the zone in the aftermath of the arrests. According to witnesses who spoke with EHRC, the incidents involving loss of life took place in Boditi, where five people died. One additional person was killed in Sodo, the zonal capital.
A total of 178 people were detained during Monday’s arrests, 28 of whom are senior officials in the zone’s administration. They remain detained in the premises of Wolaita Sodo Agricultural, Technical and Vocational Education College.
“Authorities should also ensure that the rights of all detainees are fully respected, including to appear before a court promptly,” said Aaron.
“The Federal and Regional government should demonstrate leadership to achieve a timely and peaceful resolution of issues related to pending requests for separate regional statehood within the SNNPR.”