Ethiopia's Rights Body Calls For Investigation Into The Killing Of A Prominent Opposition Figure

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s state-appointed rights commission on Wednesday called for an investigation into the killing of a prominent opposition figure recently released from prison.

Bate Urgessa was gunned down on Tuesday night in his hometown of Meki in Oromia, Ethiopia’s biggest region, according to the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF. He was a political officer with the OLF, a legally registered opposition group that boycotted elections in 2021.

The OLF said it has information indicating that Bate “was shot dead," adding that it's investigating.

Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, called for “a prompt, impartial and full investigation by both the Oromia regional and Ethiopian federal authorities to hold perpetrators to account.”

Oromia’s regional government condemned Bate’s killing as “unacceptable” and denied any involvement. In a statement Wednesday, it said it was also committed to an investigation.

An outspoken critic of the government, Bate spent several stints in prison over the years. In 2022, he fell seriously ill while he was detained alongside other senior OLF members for several months.

In February, he was arrested alongside Antoine Galindo, a French journalist, as the two met at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. They were accused of working with rebel groups in a “conspiracy to spread chaos.” Galindo was released after one week, and Bate was released a few days later.

The OLF once waged a guerrilla war against Ethiopia’s federal government, claiming to fight for more rights for the Oromo people, the country’s biggest ethnic group.

In 2018, the OLF signed a peace deal with the government, but part of its armed wing, the Oromo Liberation Army, continued the struggle and has stepped up its efforts against the army in recent months.