Thirteen students suspected of involvement in the weekend’s violence are detained; religious leaders, Woldiya city community members holding discussions with students

Hayalnesh Gezahegn

Addis Abeba, November 11/2019 – Students at Woldiya University, located in north Wollo zone, Amhara regional state in Woldiya city, expressed safety concerns after a campus violence left two students dead and thirteen students injured over the weekend.

Two students who spoke to Addis Standard on the phone said the victims: Shambel Alemu and Hassan Amin Mohamed, both first year social science students from Asella city, in Arsi zone, and Adano town, in Bale zone of Oromia regional state, were killed.

On the circumstances of the death of Shambel and Hassan, a student who spoke to the VOA Afaan Oromoo said one of them died after having been “thrown off of a building” whereas the second victim was “beaten to death.”

Regional authorities and the university’s administration have not yet established the exact circumstances that triggered the violence which claimed the lives of the two first year social science students. The University said identifying the victims’ body was difficult at first since both did not carry ID cards at the time of their death and dormitories block numbers were not identified immediately. That has since been resolved by a task force established with help from other students. Woldiya city community members were helping to send the bodies of the two victims to families. They are also visiting the injured and providing support. Many of them are expected to be discharged from hospitals today. But the university has not named the two victims, yet.

Speaking to the regional mass media, Woldetinsae Mekonnen, north Wollo zone administrator, attributed the violence to a fight that broke out between students who were leaving a TV room after watching football match on Saturday night.

“We found our dormitories ransacked and our belongings stolen at around mid-night. We left to hide ourselves after we heard that there was a violence and that some students were going door-to-door instigating fights,” said a first year student who shares a class with Shamble, and who wants to remain anonymous. “The fight was not only between students in the campus, there were other groups who came from outside campus and who got involved in beating students.”

A second student, also speaking anonymously for fear of his safety, said the violence lasted for about one hour around mind-night on Saturday before security forces from outside breached campus compound and put an end to it. “Campus security were no match for chaos and focused on keeping many of us who ran to the main get inside the compound,” he said on the phone. He also said that “people who came from outside campus were involved in the violence.”

Tefera Asnake, head of public relations department of the university, told Addis Standard that investigations were ongoing and that “the university was working with law enforcement agencies to establish the exact cause of the violence.”

Speaking at the ongoing regular meeting of Amhara regional state council, the regions peace and security building bureau chief Agegnehu Teshager said security establishment in the regional state were aware of attempts to instigate similar violence in all the ten universities in the region and that the bureau was coordinating efforts to take the necessary measure. According to him forces that are bent on instigating violence have used the the incident following the football match fighting and attempted to turn in into an ethnically motivated violence.

The two students who spoke to Addis Standard admitted that the fight was between Amhara and Oromo students, indicative of an ethnically motivated tension. This is the second similar incident in as many months to affect Woldiya University in which at least three students were killed following tension between Amhara and Tagaru students which itself was triggered by a death of another student in Adigrat, Tigray regional state. The tension was eventually resolved after religious leaders and community members involved in peace building efforts with campus community.

In its statement this morning, Woldiya University said thirteen students were detained suspected of involvement in the latest violence. The university cautioned against the spread of fake news and images on social media platforms.

Both students who spoke to Addis Standard have expressed their concerns especially over the accusations of the involvement of individuals from outside and asked for increased security. “We would like to see the security of the campus to be under the federal army,” one of them said. The second student said there were pressures from some students for students from other regional states to leave the campus. “I do not think this is a good idea, but I also think the campus security is not well equipped to guarantee our safety and security,” he said, “it is hard to focus on our studies if we have to worry about our safety.”

The University on its part said the campus was back to normal as of yesterday and that the students who were affected were expressing their concerns through their representatives. Based on requests for increased security during discussions with zonal and campus administration, a decision has been taken for security forces from the federal army to to enter campus compound and stabilized the situation. Currently, religious leaders and community members are holding discussions with university students, the University further said. AS

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