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Ethiopian PM deploys army to universities as ethnic clashes leave 4 students dead

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Ethnic clashes in Ethiopia continues to claim more lives, with the violence now spreading to institutions of higher learning.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Wednesday forced to deploy Ethiopian National Defense Forces to various universities across the country to quell violence.

Already, three students have been confirmed dead since Saturday after violent ethnic confrontations which are now synonymous in Abiy's reign.

The inter-ethnic clashes were first reported on Saturday at Woldiya university, in northern Ethiopia, leaving two students dead.

Reports indicate that the two died while watching the English premier league match between Leicester City and Arsenal.

Since then there have been clashes across at least two other universities, and officials from Dembi Dollo university told the BBC on Wednesday that a student was stabbed to death.

Security forces were specifically deployed to Oromia and Amhara states, which are the worst hit following the latest version of ethnic revenge.

Abiy, who won Nobel Peace Prize in October for the role he played in restoring peace in Eritrea, has struggled to curb ethnic animosity in his own country.

Since taking over from Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018, Abiy's government has had over 100 people dying from internal tribal violence. In the Somali region in 2018, 57 people of non-Muslim origin were killed.

In October this year, over 78 people died at Oromia region following violent protests which erupted after opposition activist Jawar Mohammed claimed that his life was in danger.

"Those media owners who don't have Ethiopian passports are playing both ways," Abiy was quoted as saying in parliament by Reuters news agency, blaming Jawar for the violence.

"When there is the peace you are playing here, and when we are in trouble you [are] not here," he added in reference to Jawar, who possesses an American passport.

Jawar Mohammed is a media entrepreneur and enjoys massive following both on social media and across Ethiopia.

Locally, PM Abiy has managed to progressively transform the country social-economically and even instigated a paradigm shift in geopolitical scope.

Through him, freedom of speech, media, and assembly were enhanced, freeing hundreds of political prisoners in the process. Thousands of exiled Ethiopians also returned home after the introduction of liberalism.

But in his journal, BBC African editor Fergal Keane noted that the positive reforms have given room for escalation of ethnic tensions, arguing that such agitations never existed during authoritarianism.

"The experience of Ethiopia under Abiy underlines the old truism that the most vulnerable moment for any authoritarian state is when it starts to reform. Under dictatorship ethnic hatred does not vanish. It simply gets driven underground," he said.

Abiy's reputation will now be further tested following the latest violence in higher learning institutions. Ethiopia has over 80 tribes and the current animosity could be an impediment to Abiy's progressive reforms.

Across the border, the PM is increasingly facing resistance from neighboring Somalia, with Jubaland accusing him of working with the Federal Government to undermine her sovereignty.


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