How a secretive Ethiopian security committee ordered killings, arrests: Reuters

A secretive committee of senior officials in Ethiopia’s largest and most populous region, Oromiya, has ordered extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions to crush an insurgency there, a Reuters investigation has found. Reuters interviewed more than 30 federal and local officials, judges, lawyers and victims of abuses by authorities. The agency also reviewed documents drafted by local political and judicial authorities.

These interviews and documents for the first time shed light on the workings of the Koree Nageenyaa – Security Committee in the Oromo language - which began operating in the months after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. The committee’s existence has not been previously reported.

Five current and former government officials told Reuters that the committee is at the heart of Abiy’s efforts to end a years-old insurgency by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which wants self-determination for the Oromo people and greater language and cultural rights. Oromos have long complained of political and social marginalisation. When new protests broke out in 2019, the government cracked down hard. The Koree Nageenyaa took the lead, the five officials said.

The violence in Oromiya has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Ethiopia’s government and human rights officials accuse the OLA of killing scores of civilians since 2019, a charge the group denies.

One of the five sources was willing to be identified: Milkessa Gemechu, a former member of the governing Prosperity Party’s central committee. The others, including two people who have attended meetings of the Koree Nageenyaa, spoke on condition of anonymity.

The people familiar with Koree Nageenyaa's activities attributed dozens of killings to the committee's orders and hundreds of arrests. Among the killings, they said, was a massacre of 14 shepherds in Oromiya in 2021 that the government has previously blamed on OLA fighters.

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