Ethiopia’s civil war between the federal government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is not the only deadly ethnic conflict raging in that turbulent country. On Friday, residents of the Oromiya region reported digging mass graves for at least 42 villagers slaughtered by a rival tribal militia.
The killings occurred in the Amuru district of Oromiya, located about 230 miles west of the national capital, Addis Ababa. The area is largely inhabited by a people called the Oromo, who represent about a third of the Ethiopian population, making them the largest of Ethiopia’s dozens of ethnicities.
According to eyewitnesses, the killers belonged to a militia called Fano, which draws most of its manpower from a rival ethnic group called the Amhara. Witnesses said the attackers, who numbered between 150 and 200, were armed with rifles and spoke the distinctive Amharic language. Fano members tend to be young, often teenagers.
While the Oromo are numerous, they have little political power, even though current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hails from the Oromo region. Abiy ran as a member of an Oromo party, on a platform of addressing injustices against his people, but once in office he became much more concerned with centralizing power. Some Oromo regard themselves as a captive nation, conquered centuries ago by invading tribes who became the modern Amhara and Tigrayans. Like many of Ethiopia’s feuding ethnic groups, the Oromo have their own militant movement, the Oromo Liberation Front.