By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan &
Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne
Addis Abeba, April 26, 2021 – Reports of the arrival of ethnic Oromo residents of North Shewa and Oromo Special of Amhara regional state at Adama Medical College Hospital in the city of Adama, Oromia regional state hundreds of kilometers away from the nearby major hospitals in towns like Debre Berhan, Dessie and Shewa Robit flooded Social Media at the end of last week.
After confirming the arrival of the wounded both at Adama Medical College and Adama General Hospitals, Addis Standard team travelled to Adama to speak to the injured and their families as well as to collect their first hand accounts of the violence.
Addis Standard learned that currently a total of 10 adults and a two months old infant are receiving treatment for severe injuries at both Adama General Hospital and Adama Medical College Hospital. The patients explained that fear of a similar attack that took place in March on the premises of Yifat hospital in the town of Shewa Robit forced them to make their way all the way to Oromia region. According to a testimony of a victim relative Addis Standard was able to collect at the time, 12 of the injured and their families were taken out of an ambulance and attacked by a mob.
When asked about the road which the group took to arrive at Adama, Hassan Waye, an injured resident of Kemise said , “We were escorted by federal forces through Bati, Afar region then though Awash river district in Oromia region.” Hassan was left in the company of the group and was transferred in a private car to Adama through the route he described to Addis Standard.
Aman Mohammed is a resident of Ataye and a father of two who is receiving treatment at the Adama Medical College Hospital and share a ward with Hassan Waye said, “It just happened all of the sudden. The violence was on and off for a while and last Friday (April,19) I got shot while I was trying to escape the violence. I was carried to Senbete then to Kemise by family members and there in Kemise due to the seriousness of my injury, my family asked the Doctors to refer me to Adama for treatment.” Aman alongside his wife and brother Ahmed Mohammed who himself is receiving treatment for gunshot wounds at the same hospital accompanied Hassan, 7 other injured adults and a 2 months old infant who is accompanied by her parents through a journey from Kemise to Bati then to Afar region then through the Awash district in Oromia region to finally reach Adama with the assistance of Federal forces.
Mohammed Ahmed is an resident of Ataye who is currently receiving treatment at Adama Medical College Hospital and struggled to recall the incident when he was injured, “I was shot and transferred to Kemise by my family and community members from there I was carried with the group that is receiving similar treatment from bullet wounds in a private mini bus under the protection of federal forces.” He concluded, “My neighbor accompanied me.”
When asked for the reason they chose Adama instead of nearby major towns and Addis Abeba, his companion who came with him from Kemise, Hussein Sultan replied, “Fear was a major reason behind us opting not to go to these places. The road to Dessie where a major referral hospital exist is not safe for us neither is the road to Finfinne (Afaan Oromo name for Addis Abeba).” Hussein expanded, “ While the Federal police and army exist in the area, roads are still dangerous and I fear many of the injured will die in Kemise, Senbete and Ataye’s poorly equipped and unprepared hospitals. That situation can happen for two reasons: the absence of security on major roads to major towns in the zones and the financial inability for most families to come through the way we came.”
Fatuma Siraj is a two months old infant who was severely injured and transferred to Kemise for treatment and from there was referred to Adama Medical College hospital for further treatment. Fatuma took the trip accompanied by both her parents. Her father Siraj Ahmed who spoke to Addis Standard said, “Her mother who was with her while she was receiving treatment at Ataye Hospital heard the sounds of gunshots, carried her and ran for safety and the baby fell while the mother was running. She was injured severely.” He continued, “We first went to a health center in Ataye then we were referred to Kemise and from there they (Doctors) told us we should either go to Finfinee or Adama and we opted to come here with the assistance of Federal forces and in the company of other injured who are receiving treatment here.” When asked why he opted for Adama instead of Addis Abeba, he replied, “Because the road is not safe, we preferred to take the long route through Bati to Afar region then through Awash district in Oromia to reach here.”
Siraj Ahmed who is originally from Senbete, a market town that is 7 km from Ataye where violence first broke out on Friday March 19, 2021 like other survivors spoke about the involvement of Amhara Special Forces alongside mobs of Amhara youth in what he described as a destruction of Ataye. He explained to Addis Standard, “While it looks like it all began now but what is unfolding in our towns began in 2018.” He further expanded, “There are Amharas who don’t want this violence to take place but they are silenced and their pleas are not heard. They want peace but Amhara special forces and mobs of youth want to uproot us from the area. They use this argument ‘What are Oromos doing in the Amhara region’ and they tell us to ‘go back to Wollega’. I have to be honest with you Amhara Muslims have suffered with us and were inflicted with heavy injuries in the course of this conflict.” Siraj lost 4 relatives in the ongoing conflict.
“Because the road is not safe, we preferred to take the long route through Bati to Afar region then through Awash district in Oromia to reach here.”
Ahmed Mohammed, a resident of Ataye who is receiving treatment at Adama Medical College hospital alongside his brother Aman Mohammed told Addis Standard, “Ataye is a ghost town now, people have fled, properties are destroyed and looted and lives have been lost.” His statement is corroborated by Emishaw Takele, another resident of Ataye who said, “Ataye is deserted. The town is devastated socially and economically. ”
Emishaw is a community leader who participated in the several reconciliation processes between the Oromo and Amhara community. He is now in Debre Birhan fleeing the recent conflict in Ataye. He expressed confusion as to why the conflicts keep recurring, “If it was only a common dispute between the two communities, it wouldn’t have escalated to this magnitude.” Emishaw believes that there is a political aspect to the recurring conflicts, “This is the 6th time this is happening. It started in June 2018, and we normally escape to neighboring kebeles and return soon after. This time I fled my hometown with my family. So did many others. We are desperate.”
“We know that a command post was established but after what happened to us at the hands of the special forces and the youth, we don’t feel safe.”
Emishaw described the decades-long socio economic relations between the Amhara and Oromo communities, “The area from Shewa Robit through Kombolcha, is a very diverse area and a hot bed to entice an intercommunal conflict.” he continued, “We intermarried and lived alongside our pastoralist neighbors for ages. It pains us to see them suffer too.” He exposed details of a meeting between community leaders, “We held a meeting at Senbete just a day before the conflict broke out again last week. They told us that they are confused by what is happening.” Emisahw emphasized the need for an investigation into the conflict, “It’s better if the government reveals who is fueling the attacks instead of labeling the assailants. The lasting solution is to investigate and ensure accountability.” According to Emisahw, injured people seek medical treatment at Mehal Meda, Shewa Robit or Debre Berhan since health centers in Ataye are looted and destroyed.
The administrator of North Shewa, Tadesse Gebre Tsadik told Addis Standard that healthcare professionals have abandoned Ataye District Hospital after a fresh round of violence in the town last week. When asked about the security situation of the North Shewa zone, the security head of the zone Abera Mekonnen responded by saying,”The zone is now under a command post. It’s better to get information from them.”
Emisahaw however expressed dissatisfaction with the command post and further stated that the issue was raised by protestors at Debre Berhan. A similar dissatisfaction with the performance of the command post was expressed by patients receiving treatment at Adama Medical College hospital, Ahmed said, “We know that a command post was established but after what happened to us at the hands of the special forces and the youth, we don’t feel safe.” AS