Burayu massacre

The Burayu massacre (Oromo: Ajjeechaa Burraayyuu, Amharic: የቡራዩ ጭፍጨፋ) was a series of communal clashes which occurred in the vicinity of the Ethiopian town of Burayu, in the Oromia Region, on 14–16 September 2018. Individuals from the Oromo and Dorze ethnicities fought in and around Burayu, a town in Oromia state which is located near the northwest boundary of Addis Ababa, the federal capital. Different sources cite number of civilians killed both from Oromo and non-Oromo ethnicity.[6]

Burayu massacre
Part of Oromo conflict (2021)
Burayu is located in Ethiopia
Location of Burayu in Ethiopia
LocationAddis Ababa, Burayu, Oromia Region, Ethiopia
Coordinates09°05′08.93″N 38°31′19.17″E / 9.0858139°N 38.5219917°E / 9.0858139; 38.5219917
Date14–16 September 2018
TargetEthnic Oromo, Amharas, Dorzes, Gamos, Wolayitas, Gurages, Silt'e & other minorities
Attack type
Pogrom, looting, arson, mass murder
Injured670+[citation needed]
VictimsEthnic Oromo, Dorzes, Gamos, Wolayitas, Gurages, Silt'e, Amharas and other minorities
PerpetratorsIndividual from Amhara, Dorze and Oromo but the authorities blamed unspecified organised groups. [2][3][4]
  • Amhara youth from Addis Ababa opposed Oromo Liberation Front flag from being flying in Addis Ababa as NAMA claimed Addis Ababa belongs to Amahara.[5]
  • In Burayu Dorze ethnic groups attacked Oromo resident, who waving OLF flag resulting in two Oromo deaths.[5]


Since 2016, Ethiopia had been gripped by repeated waves of unrest and protest against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front, despite the EPRDF's victory in 2015 general elections (in which it and its allies won all seats in the lower house of parliament), which were not considered credible by international observers.[7] These protests displayed a considerable degree of inter-ethnic solidarity.[8][9]

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn resigned in April 2018 and was replaced by Abiy Ahmed from Oromo ethnicity, a relative unknown who had previously been Deputy President of the Oromia Region.[10] Abiy swiftly promised to implement a sweeping series of political and economic reforms, and ended the state of emergency that had been in place since October 2016.[11] As part of this political opening, political prisoners were pardoned and opposition movements permitted to resume operating in the country, including the Oromo Liberation Front, an Ethiopian political party established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to promote self-determination for the Oromo people against Abyssinian colonial rule by Amhara ethnic groups. OLF believe that the Oromo people constitute a nation that united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting today's Oromia Region and Oromia Zone in Amhara Region territory.[12][13][14][15]

OLF rallyEdit

The chairman of OLF Party Dawud Ibsa, along with 1,500 fighters, made their formal return to Ethiopia in September 2018, and were received by millions of demonstrators at a large rally at Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa on 15 September.[16] Their presence was met with clashes from city residents, who in particular objected to the OLF's supporters taking down the Outlawed Flag of the Ethiopian Empire without seal (1914–1936)[17] and replacing it with the separatist movement's, painting public spaces in the "OLF's colors".[18][19][20] The "scuffles" in advance of the rally were reported to have left at least one person dead in Addis Ababa.[21]


The town of Burayu is located in the Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne in the Oromia Region, directly adjacent to the national capital, Addis Ababa.[22] With the growth of the city in recent decades and urban sprawl, the town has faced considerable economic and demographic pressure.[3][23]


According to eyewitnesses, clashes began late on Thursday, 13 September and continued sporadically the next day before escalating into a "full scale attack" on Saturday, 15 September.[24] The events over the weekend were characterized as "organized robbery", as rioters looted and burnt businesses belonging to ethnic minorities. Hassan Ibrahim, a trader, told Reuters that "mobs of ethnic Oromo youth then marched here in Ashwa Meda [a neighborhood in Burayu] and attacked our homes and looted businesses chanting 'leave our land'".[25][26]

Regional police were largely unresponsive to the events as they folded; regional police commissioner Alemayehu Ejigu described the mobs as "organized hoodlums whose interest is looting", but said that the police were unable to respond "due to the topography of the region where the attack took place".[27] Some witnesses alleged that local police had joined the mob in attacking local businesses.[28] In the Burayu area alone, authorities reported that 23 people were killed, more than 500 have been injured and over 15,000 were displaced (local news sources reported exactly 15,086 people).[29][30] Addis Ababa police said the following Monday that 14 people had been killed in Kolfe district (Amharic: ክፍለ ከተማ, kifle ketema), 5 in Addis Ketema, 1 in Arada, 3 in Lafto and 5 in Kirkos.[3][31]


On 17 September, thousands of people marched in Addis Ababa condemning the killings and perceived police inaction, five people were shot dead in what Amnesty International described as a "violent dispersal".[32] In Arba Minch, condemnatory protests nearly turned violent as angry youths sought to stage reprisals against Oromo-owned businesses there, before elders intervened and succeeded in calming the mob.[33]

The attacks were denounced across the political system. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Leaders of seven opposition parties including the Oromo Federalist Congress, Oromo Democratic Front, Oromo Unity for Freedom, Oromo Unity Front, Blue Party and Patriotic Ginbot 7 Movement for Unity and Democracy issued a statement condemning the massacre after a two-day meeting.[33]

At least 1,200 people were detained by Addis Ababa, Oromo Region, and federal police following the attacks, although the New York Times reported that most of those had been arrested in connection with unrelated "petty offenses" in sweeps of bars and clubs and other gathering spots across Addis Ababa.[34] Amnesty International said that many of those arrested had in fact been taking part the in protests against the ethnic violence and demanded their immediate release.[32] Negeri Lencho, a spokesperson for the Oromo Regional government, said that police who had participated in the attacks had been arrested.[35]

Individuals sympathetic to Oromo ethno-nationalists engaged in revisionism or denialism regarding the attacks, claiming that Oromos had in fact been the targets or that they were in some way a premeditated false flag operation; Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni, Ethiopian Consul-General in Los Angeles, disseminated a document he claimed showed Ginbot 7 applying for a permit for a demonstration protesting the attacks the day before they had taken place, a charge a Ginbot 7 spokesperson denounced as a "recklessly cynical conspiracy theory".[3] Activist Jawar Mohammed claimed that 43 Oromos had been killed in the area of Saris Abo, but presented no evidence.[36]

Entertainer and activist Tamagne Beyene organized a relief appeal for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians (GARE) that raised 13 million birr (US$425,000) for the benefit of those who fled their homes.[37] Musician Teddy Afro donated 1 million birr (US$36,000) to relief efforts.[35]


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  2. ^ "Mob killings split Ethiopians as political fault lines test Abiy's big tent". Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Tasfaye, Ermias; Manek, Nizar (26 September 2018). "Mob killings split Ethiopians as political fault lines test Abiy's big tent". Ethiopia Insight. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
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  10. ^ Yibetal, Kalkidan (15 February 2018). "Ethiopia PM Hailemariam Desalegn in surprise resignation". BBC News. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  11. ^ Dahir, Abdi Latif (4 June 2018). "Ethiopia will end its state of emergency early, as part of widening political reforms". Quartz. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
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  17. ^ Ethiopia's flag protests show a nation fighting to become united, retrieved 18 September 2018
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  19. ^ Dahir, Abdi Latif (17 September 2018). "Ethiopia's flag protests show a nation fighting to become united". Quartz. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  20. ^ The colors on the flag of the OLF are in fact the same as those of the flag of Ethiopia—green, yellow, and red. However, to emphasize their ethno-nationalist sympathies and their rejection of Ethiopian identity, it has become popular to omit the yellow and display a simplified red-green-red tricolor.
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  22. ^ Finfinne is the Oromo name for Addis Ababa.
  23. ^ Bekele, Degu; Jafri, S.S.A.; Asfaw, Melese (2014). "Characteristics of Squatter Houses in Burayu Town Adjoining Addis Ababa, Capital City of Ethiopia". Civil and Environmental Research. 6 (8): 61–71.
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  30. ^ "Ke-burayu tefenak'elut keneberut 11 shīh, 902 yemīhonut wede menorīya k'eyachew memelesachew tegelet͟s'e [Of the 11 thousand who fled from Burayu, only 902 have returned to their homes]". Fana Broadcasting Corporation. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2019.[dead link]
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  36. ^ "Jawar Mohammed must reveal names of 43 people he claimed were killed in Saris area". SodereTube. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Tamagn Beyene delivered 13 million birr for the burayu displaced peoples through international cooperation". SodereTube. 29 September 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2019.