Inclusive dialogue is crucial to diffuse tensions across Ethiopia, said the UN Secretary-General on Tuesday, following reports of dozens killed and injured during brutal attacks in the west of the country over the weekend.
According to news reports based on eyewitnesses, more than 50 were killed, many after being rounded up and killed, while homes were torched and livestock stolen, in attacks on three villages which are being widely viewed as ethnically-motivated.
The rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is being reportedly blamed for the attacks on Sunday in Oromia state, a breakaway militia from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that returned from exile following the election of Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Abiy Ahmed, in 2018.
The civilians targeted were mainly children, women and elderly persons, who were reportedly members of the Amhara ethnic group.
The Oromo and Amhara, reportedly make up nearly two-thirds of Ethiopia's population.
Since coming to power, President Abiy has freed political prisoners, legalized some formerly banned opposition groups and advanced peace with neighbouring Eritrea, leading to challenges to his rule and increased ethnic tensions.
In June, widespread violence broke out following the death of a leading Oromo singer, who was gunned down in the capital Addis Ababa. Hundreds were killed and arrested, and Amhara civilians were among the minorities reportedly attacked in the Oromia region.
"The Secretary-General expresses his grave concern over reports of recent inter-communal violence and attacks targeting civilians in Ethiopia", said the statement issued on behalf of UN chief António Guterres.
"He expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured."
The Secretary-General called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, and "appeals to all stakeholders to take urgent steps to calm tensions in the country and to resolve challenges through an inclusive and peaceful dialogue", the statement continued.
Mr. Guterres reiterated the commitment of the UN "to supporting the Government in its efforts towards ensuring a stable and prosperous Ethiopia, which will contribute to further strengthening peace and sustainable development in the Horn of Africa."