ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian prosecutors on Wednesday accused last year of the former president of the Somali region and 46 others of incitement of ethnic violence because the new prime minister cracked security services and older members of former administrations.
The arrest of Abdi Mohammed Omer, who spent more than ten years in the vast, gas-rich region that shares the border with Somalia, became the prime minister last August due to the massive reforms since Abi Ahmad's April appointment.
42-year-old Ahmed promised to silence powerful security services and make peace with separatist groups including ONLF rebels that Abdi spent years trying to crush.
Right groups regularly accuse Abdi of administering abuse including torture during and after rebellion.
Last year, 58 people died and more than 250 were injured when violence broke out in Yijiga, the capital of Somalia.
According to a five-month federal investigation that led Abdi and 46 other officers to be accused, organized gangs were ordered to "kill, exploit and destroy" non-ethnic residents and their possessions.
Abdi and other officials were accused of "direct or indirect involvement" in encouraging ethnic Somalis to get rid of weapons against non-Somalis.
The defendants "organized a youth group and spread news that would kill all other non-Somali inhabitants and confiscate and destroy their possessions, kill banks and insurers and burn churches and petrol stations" Reuters.
Abdi, who appeared in court with five other political and security officials from his administration, was particularly accused of trying to "overthrow constitutional order."
All defendants are due to appear in court on February 6 to sue. Most officials were department heads in regional government or other higher political and security roles.
Details of the investigation published last week by the federal prosecutor's office describe how the regional government presided over the litany of horrific crimes, including wailing, torture of opponents, and mass rape.
The police revealed a tomb containing at least 200 bodies along the Oromiysk border, as well as more than 50 corpses.
Reporting Aaron Maasho; Edge of Maggie Fick and Hugh Lawson