Unidentified gunmen killed dozens of civilians and injured 22 others in an attack on Balite Kebele, Debate District, Benshangul Gumuz region, early Jan. 12. Reports indicate that the attackers also torched several houses, displacing hundreds. As of yet, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks; however, the Oromo Liberation Front-Shane Group (OLF-S) and Gumuz Liberation Front routinely engage in similar incidents.
Authorities are likely to maintain increased security measures in the area in the coming days. Officials may impose movement restrictions and establish checkpoints. Restrictions may be expanded should violence continue.
Long-standing disputes over land and other resources are turning deadly as titular ethnic groups in Ethiopia's regional states clash with large ethnic minorities and attempt to push them into bordering regions bearing their ethnic name. The Metekel Zone borders Amhara Region and experiences recurrent cycles of retaliatory intergroup violence involving Gumuz and Amhara communities residing in bordering areas. Local security forces have long been suspected of playing a role in incidents of ethnic violence in the Benishangul Gumuz region. Ethiopia remains beset by myriad small-scale conflicts taking place over limited areas and often comprising an ethnic dimension. Since 2018, it is estimated that 1.4 million people have been internally displaced due to these communal clashes.
Consider avoiding nonessential travel to Debate District until the situation has stabilized. Liaise with trusted contacts and local government officials before traveling to the Benshangul Gumuz region. Avoid large crowds and travel at night. Heed the directives of security forces. Maintain contact with our diplomatic representation.