ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) — The Ethiopia Federal Attorney General Office on Thursday charged 53 people in connection with deadly riots in June 2018 that left 16 people dead.

The 53 suspects are accused of engaging in riots in the Benishangul Gumuz regional state, located in the western part of the country, in June that left 16 people dead, reported state media outlet Ethiopia News Agency.

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The suspects include the former mayor of Assosa, capital of Benishangul Gumuz regional state, as well as head of the region’s special police office.

Over the past year, Benishangul Gumuz regional state has been experiencing intermittent violence, including deadly disputes among locals and other ethnic groups residing in the region.

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Benishangul Gumuz, located along the Ethiopia-Sudan border, hosts Ethiopia’s largest development project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The dam is being built on the Blue Nile River.

Ethiopia follows an ethnic federalism model, which has been credited with giving self-governance rights to more than 80 ethnic groups that make up the country’s estimated 105 million people.

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However, critics say the ethnic federalism model magnifies ethnic diversity at the expense of national unity, leading to occasional ethnic tension and clashes.

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