The patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church said a genocide was happening in Tigray, the country's northernmost region.
In a video, Abune Mathias said he has “repeatedly tried” to plea to put a stop to “what’s happening in Ethiopia today, especially the barbarism taking place in Tigray,” but has not been successful because “a permission was not granted.”
“I have been denied to speak, and my programs are repeatedly blocked,” said Mathias, who hails from Tigray.
The video was shot by an official of a rights group, Bridges of Hope, and published by online news outlet Addis Standard.
His latest comments, a diversion from the conciliatory tone he had adopted earlier, sent shockwaves across the horn of Africa nation.
Last November, rebels of the Tigray People's Liberation Front killed Ethiopian troops stationed across Tigray and looted sizable military hardware.
In response, the Ethiopian government launched a crackdown against them.
The patriarch did not explicitly mention the government but apparently his criticisms are targeted at the Ethiopian authorities, including the army.
He also spoke about last year's Axum massacre, allegedly perpetrated by Eritrean forces, likening the lives lost with “people left over the ground like leaves.”
“I speak, they bounce it back, I speak they bounce it back; so far there is no permission granted,” he said, without naming who is censoring him. “For six months our mouths were sealed, unable to speak for fear and influence.”
He also said that an interview he gave on April 15 was “blocked from airing.”
Mathias said there were violent crackdowns to quell insurgency in many other parts of the country, including Oromia, Benishagul Gumuz and in Shewa Robit, but none were as brutal as the one taking place in Tigray.