Dozens of protesters were shot dead by security forces and dozens others wounded in Sodo town, capital of the Walayita zone in southern Ethiopia, APA learned on Wednesday.The protests were triggered by the detention of several senior zonal officials who sought to unilaterally declare the formation of a new regional state within the federation.
Authorities, however, have accused the zone’s officials of conspiring with opposition groups in an attempt to destabilize the zone.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said security forces in Wolaita Zone appear to have used excessive force in confronting protesters, killing at least six people.
“Security forces should exercise maximum restraint from using lethal force in dealing with peaceful protest,” the commission said.
A total of 178 people were detained during Monday’s arrests, 28 of whom are senior officials in the zone’sadministration. They remain detained in the premises of Wolaita Sodo Agricultural, Technical andVocational Education College.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Peace and Security Bureau of the South Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) confirmed the arrest of the officials.
The bureau’s statement further said the officials had breached the state of emergency rule which prohibits holding meetings during the presence of a coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions began after 38 members of the council of Wolaita zone withdrew themselves from the region’s council in protest against the federal government’s plan to reorganize the Southern region into four separate regional states.