Two Catholic Relief Service (CRS) workers in Ethiopia were shot and killed on Easter Sunday. While much is still unknown about the murders, they occurred during a time of nationwide violent protests over a recent decision by the federal government to do away with regional special forces groups.
A CRS release identified the two victims as Chuol Tongyik, a security manager, and Amare Kindeya, a driver. The incident occurred while the pair were returning to Addis Ababa from an assignment, traveling through the Amhara region.
Zemede Zewdie, CRS country representative in Ethiopia, wrote:
“The depth of our shock and sorrow is difficult to measure and we are saddened over this senseless violence. CRS is a humanitarian agency dedicated to serving the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia. We express our deepest condolences to Chuol’s and Amare’s families and hope they find strength in this tragic time. CRS reiterates our commitment to continue working in support of the people in Ethiopia.”
Zewdie added, “These colleagues were an integral part of the CRS team and the larger community of humanitarian workers. We honor their sacrifice and deeply mourn their deaths.”
While CRS did not cite the civil unrest as the cause of the murders, Reuters notes that the proximity to the town of Kobo, where residents reported heavy artillery fire on Sunday, could have been a factor. The federal order to dissolve regional special forces went out on Thursday, April 6, and reports of large protests and gunfire have increased in the days since. Protesters have reportedly blocked roads and started tire fires.
Reuters explains that the government’s decision would require all private armed forces which serve each of the separate 11 Ethiopian regions to integrate into the federal army. The people fear that this change would leave them vulnerable to invasion by actors in neighboring regions or independent militants.