Drone Strikes persist in Oromia Leading to Civilian Casualties
Recent drone strikes in Oromia, targeting suspected Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) hideouts, have led to civilian deaths, destruction of homes, and livestock losses. Reports highlight continued regional conflicts, escalating over the past two days between militants and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF).
Ethiopia’s use of drones for combat, initiated during the Tigray war in November 2020, has significantly impacted civilians. The war, which later expanded to the Amhara and Afar regions, witnessed numerous deadly drone strikes by government forces. A notable example was the strike on a school in Dedebit, Tigray, in January 2022, killing over 55 displaced civilians. Despite the war’s end in 2022, drone deployment continued in the Oromia and Amhara regions, often resulting in civilian casualties.
ENDF chief, Field Marshal Birhanu Jula, defended the use of drones against insurgent groups, claiming efforts to avoid civilian harm. However, recent incidents contradict these claims. Notably, a drone attack on a Full Gospel Church in Oromia in December 2023 killed eight and injured three. Other attacks, including during the Irreechaa festivities and in West Shoa zone, have caused significant civilian deaths.
In the Amhara region, drone strikes have been frequent, with one attack on an ambulance in December 2023 leading to five deaths. The UN documented two separate strikes in November 2023, targeting a bus station and a school, which resulted in at least 20 civilian deaths.
Reports from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and other sources reveal that government drone strikes are inflicting severe damage on civilians, breaching international laws that protect civilians in war. The indiscriminate nature of drone warfare, with a high potential for errors and lack of accountability, necessitates restraint, thorough investigations into civilian casualties, and accountability for those responsible.