200 Body Mass Grave Discovered in Ethiopia Likely Attributed to Former Regional President
Abdi Mohammed Omer, former President of the Somali region located in Eastern Ethiopia, resigned last year. He was subsequently arrested after widespread violence broke out in Jijiga, the capital of Somali. There is an ongoing investigation into his management of the region which was partly prompted by a Human Rights Watch report calling for a probe into Mohammed’s leadership. Abdi Mohammed is being accused of various human rights abuses which include rape, torture, beatings, humiliation, and extra-judicial killings.
As a part of the investigation, Ethiopian police forces discovered a mass grave of over 200 bodies on the border between Oromia and Somali. The Oromia and Somali regions of Ethiopia have long been centers of ethnic violence. The police are currently examining the mass grave and attempting to identify the bodies. The grave and many other killings are being attributed to the brutal Liyu Police force. The Liyu police force was created in 2007 and was made to combat a separatist group called the Ogaden National Liberation Front(ONLF). The Liyu forces have long been understood to answer directly to Abdi Mohammed. From their inception in 2007 onward, they have been launching a brutal crackdown on the ONLF and what they deemed as “sympathizers.”
The crackdown had reached such horrible levels that in 2008 the HRW issued a report which called for an investigation into the abuses. The Liyu police forces not only were cracking down on the rebels but also on anyone ethnically Somali. In the HRW report, they even quoted a man as having said, “Anyone with a bowl of water is suspected of supplying the ONLF.” The Liyu police forces have also been accused of the abuses perpetrated at the Jijiga Central prison. The prison is the center of much of the widespread torture and where most prisoners are yet to be charged with any crime. As the HRW reported, “The purpose of the torture and humiliation was to coerce prisoners to ‘confess’ to membership in the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a banned opposition group.”
The new investigation into the crimes of Abdi Mohammed, in which 200 bodies in a mass grave were found, is a part of an initiative from the new Ethiopian government. Abiy Ahmed, the new reformist Prime Minister, is leading large-scale changes in the country. After signing a peace treaty with Eritrea, he has also done the same with the ONLF. These moves are a part of the reconciliation campaign in which the Prime Minister is attempting to end the ethnic violence plaguing the country. A part of his reformist moves is to bring abusers like Abdi Mohammed to be held accountable. To replace Mohammed as president of the Somali region, Abiy Ahmed appointed a human rights activist to the position. The tragedy of the death of those 200 persons will not go in vain as the government is taking real steps to hold Abdi Mohammed accountable for his abuses.