By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne
Addis Abeba – Several reports of summary executions and civilian casualties of airstrikes have been coming out of Oromia in the past two weeks. Civilians continue to be targeted by government forces after the regional government vowed to take measures against forces of Shanee (government’s reference to the Oromo Liberation Army, OLA). Summary executions, looting and burning of houses were retaliatory measures taken by government forces according to witnesses Addis Standard spoke to. What most of the attacks had in common is the attacks took place after government forces suffered losses in the ongoing armed conflict with the OLA.
“The executions were led by the son of police officer Kassa Reta who was killed in armed combat,” a resident of Warra Jarso woreda of the North Showa zone in the Oromia region said. Umar (name changed for security reasons) recalled, “there had been heavy fighting between government forces and OLA in Bustilo Dhera a few days before.” He continued, “Subsequently, a huge crackdown on Afaan Oromo speaking community in the Woreda intensified”, he said, adding “anyone who speaks Afaan Oromo was associated with OLA by default.”
The people were taken from separate wedding ceremonies in the two localities, according to Umar. A total of 18 people, three from Jimjimela kebele and 15 people from Aware Golje kebele were arrested on the night of Sunday, 01 May, and on Monday 02 May, respectively, according to Umar. The detainees, including the elderly, were taken by local militia. “They were executed a day after their arrest.”
“The executions were led by the son of police officer Kassa Reta who was killed in armed combat “A resident of Warra Jaarso woreda
On 02 May, the communication bureau of Warra Jarso woreda announced that 18 members of Shanee (government’s reference to OLA) were arrested, and that 15 of whom were from Aware Golje kebele while three were from Jimjimela kebele. The woerda also stated that a total of six weapons were seized.
While Umar’s sequence of events checks out with the statement by the woreda communication bureau, Umar insists that save for the six individuals who owned arms, all of the victims were innocent civilians. The woreda administration did not make a mention of the measures taken on the individuals. But Umar said that, “the bodies of the victims is not collected until now. Families who tried to collect the bodies of loved ones were arrested. The bodies lie in a ditch.”
“Families who tried to collect the bodies of loved ones were arrested. The bodies lie in a ditch until now.”A resident of Warra Jaarso woreda
The last week of April saw similar horrifying accounts of retaliatory measures taken by government forces against civilians in Ada Berga woreda, in the West Showa zone of Oromia regional state. Adem (Name changed for security reasons) told Addis Standard that 20 people, including the elderly, were killed on 26 April 26 when government forces opened fire on civilians on a market day. The onslaught took place in a town called Jimata where people from Tuli Dessie and Boro kebeles and Chancho kebeles were gathered for shopping and selling goods, according to Adem.
Adem explained that the administrator of the woreda helped government security forces to spare members of the local administration as gunshots were launched toward civilians; houses were ransacked and burnt, and crops were destroyed. “We buried 13 people in one palace on Friday,” Adem said, further explaining that the next day on Saturday the deployment of security forces intensified and they arrested many youth who tried to take the bodies. “Others were buried in the neighboring Boro Kebele for fear of continued harassment.”
“About 20 people were killed by air strike while 7 people died after falling into trenches trying to escape.”A resident of Abuna Gindeberet woreda
“There is a reign of terror,” the witness said, while speaking about the current state in Ada Berga woreda. He stated that the people were scared to return to their homes for fear of their lives. “Their houses are burnt, properties are destroyed, they don’t have a place to get back to.”
In the same week, another woreda of the West Showa zone was hit by drone strikes. A resident of Abuna Gindaberet woreda told BBC Afaan Oromo that drone strikes were carried out in the woreda on 22 April 22. “People are fleeing into the woods. About 20 people were killed by the airstrike [and] seven people died after falling into trenches while trying to escape,” the eyewitness said. Another resident who spoke to BBC Afaan Oromo also said, “What happened was horrifying. People fell into trenches and died while fleeing airstrikes. Five women gave birth in the woods and couldn’t even get food.”
“We thank our militias, police and special forces who perished en masse to sustain this rule and keep us in our seats.”Shimeles Abdisa, President of Oromia region
Earlier in March, at the Oromia regional state council meeting, Shimeles Abdisa, president of Oromia state, discussed the security situation with members of the Caaffee (state Council) in the region and told attendees that “While the TPLF forces were progressing towards the capital, Shanee forces did all that it could. We thank our militias, police and special forces who perished en masse to sustain this rule and keep us in our seat.” He also mentioned unidentified enemies of “supplying arms” to OLA/ and noted the importance of strengthening security forces. But he also said the issue cannot be solved with arms alone and that it needs a political resolution.
President Shimeles assured the council whe he said: “there are directives in place to thwart the advance of guerilla fighters. We hope that we will see great changes in the coming months,” and mentioned the assistance from the federal government without divulging further details. AS