Ethiopia arrests a violated regional boss accused of human rights violations

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The police in Ethiopia arrested the disgraced former head of the eastern Somali region on Monday accused of human rights violations and deadly ethnic clashes, the Attorney General's Office said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, president of democratic reforms in the African nation of 100 million, said Saturday violations of rights committed in the region "tolerated faith" and included torture, rapes and murders.

The administrator of the region, Abdi Mohammed Omer, had to resign on 6 August after the violence erupted in the provincial capital Jijiga.

At least 20 people died and thousands fled from Jijiga as plundered possessions of people in possession of ethnic minorities and burned down several Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

The central authorities said the unrest in the region was caused by local officials who were afraid of arrest for charges for human rights violations. [L5N1UV0ES]

On Monday, the federal police arrested Abdi Mohammed Omer at his home in Addis Ababa, said Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, citing the federal attorney general's office.

"Crimes he committed include violations of human rights and incitement of disputes along ethnic and religious lines," he said, adding that other officials were also wanted by the police.

Rights groups routinely accused Abdi's regime of abuses such as torture, while some witnesses claimed that he had paramilitary raids on civilians in the neighboring province of Oromiya following ethnic clashes there in September last year.

The government dismissed high regional prison officials last month for accusations of torture. Abiy on Saturday described cases where prisoners in cells had stopped lions, hyena's and leopards to force them to confess.

Over the past thirty years, the region has been plagued by violence, with the government fought against the secessionist Ogaden National Liberation Front before the group signed a unilateral ceasefire this month after reforms.

The region has four trillion cubic feet of oil and gas reserves, according to estimates from the government. GCL-Poly Petroleum Investments in China has been developing two gas fields there since 2013.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Omar Mohammed)

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