Hundreds flee violence in southern Ethiopia

More than 450 people in southern Ethiopia’s Sidama area who had fled their homes fearing violence are sheltering in a church, an official has told the BBC.

The people seeking protection are residents of the town of Yirgalem, one of several places in the area in which people were killed last week in violence over a delayed referendum on whether a separate federal state of Sidama should be created.

Tilahun Tafesse, who is head of security in Bore in neighbouring Oromia state, told the BBC that those seeking shelter were in his district.

He said that those displaced alleged they were targeted because of their ethnicity.

Hospital sources have told the BBC at least 25 were killed in clashes between Sidama protesters and security forces, as well attacks against members of other ethnic groups.

Some businesses were also targeted in towns like Yirgalem and properties said to be owned by members of other ethnic groups were damaged.

Following the violence, soldiers and federal police have been deployed to the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, where Sidama is located, to oversee security.

The Sidama, Ethiopia’s fifth largest ethnic group, have campaigned to have their own regional state.

Activists from the group said they would declare a state last week after accusing the government of failing to arrange a referendum.


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