ADDIS ABABA – At least 78 people were killed during the violence in Ethiopia last week, said the prime minister’s office today.
Violence erupted on Wednesday last week after a high-profile activist Jawar Mohamed accused the government of trying to endanger his life by removing his bodyguards – a claim government officials denied.
Nigusu Tilahun, press secretary of the PM office, told reporters that what began as protests of government’s handling of the situation had quickly changed into clashes that took on an ethnic and religious dimension.
Nigussu said at least 78 people have so far been confirmed dead while homes, businesses and places of worship have been destroyed in the violence in Oromia region as well as Dire Dawa and Harare.
The government had to involve with support of elders, Aba Geda, religious leaders as well as communities to prevent the clashes from becoming more deadly, he said.
“Our initial move the government took was to stop the clashes that erupted in various parts of the country,” Nigussu said.
Nigussu said 409 people had been detained over the unrest and that investigation was ongoing and the death toll and number detained could rise.
“No one including the prime minister is not above the law,” he said. “We will continue to take measures on those who were involved at any level as the investigation continues”.
The PM office said the violence had been exacerbated by the involvement of forces “that push to create a climate of fear and hopelessness”.
Public consultations chaired by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are taking place in areas affected by the conflict.