The protests were sparked by the detention of several senior officials in the area who sought to unilaterally declare the formation of a new regional state within the federation.
Authorities, however, accused area officials of conspiring with opposition groups in an attempt to destabilise the area.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said security forces in the Walayita area appear to have used excessive force to confront the protesters, killing at least six people.
“The security forces should exercise maximum restraint and not use lethal force to deal with peaceful protests,” the commission said.
A total of one-hundred and seventy-eight people were arrested last Monday, 28 of whom are senior officials in the area administration. They are still being held in the premises of the agricultural, technical and vocational college of Wolaita Sodo.
In a statement released this past Tuesday, the South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region Peace and Security Office (SNNPR) confirmed the arrest of the officials.
The office also said officials broke the state of emergency rule that bans holding rallies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tensions began after thirty-eight members of the Walayita area council withdrew from the area council to protest the federal government’s plan to reorganise the southern region into four separate regional states.