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Illustration by iStock, Security Management

Ethiopia's Human Rights Committee Calls For Investigation Into Killing of Political Opposition Figure

Bate Urgessa, a senior official of the Ethiopian political party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), was killed and his body left on the side of a road on the evening of 9 April.

Bate was shot and killed in his hometown, Meki, which sits within Ethiopia’s largest, and turbulent, region of Oromia.

Bate’s relatives told a local news site that he was forcibly removed from his hotel room Tuesday night by people who may have been government security forces, according to the BBC.

The country’s state-appointed human rights commission has called for an investigation into Bate’s death. Oromia’s regional government has denied any involvement in the killing and has publicly committed to an investigation into Urgessa’s death.

A political officer of the OLF, Bate was a vocal critic of the current government, advocating non-violence, and was frequently imprisoned in current years, according to The Washington Post.

When he was arrested in February 2024, it was along with a French journalist, Antoine Galindo. The two men were accused of conspiring with rebel groups but were released less than two weeks later.

The OLF is a legally registered opposition group to the current government, and boycotted elections in 2021.

Previously, the OLF fought a guerrilla war against the federal government, demanding more rights for the nation’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo people. Although a peace treaty was signed by the OLF and the government in 2018, the OLF’s armed faction, the Oromo Liberation Army, has continued to fight against the federal army.

In November 2020, an armed conflict began, which was marked by serious abuses from state security forces and armed groups, communications outages, and hostile and restrictive environments for civil society organizations, journalists, and outspoken public figures. The conflict lasted until November 2022, according to the Human Rights Watch. However, the Ethiopian federal government continues to engage in conflicts with militia forces, including in the Tigray and Oromia regions.