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Analysis: Oromia reeling from state violence after security forces kill, injure a staggering number of protesters

Doctors and nurses in two hospitals in east Hararghe were scrambling to save the lives of gunshot victims as the number of causalities overwhelmed their hospitals

Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb and

Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan

Addis Abeba, August 19/2020 – A staggering number of civilian protesters were killed and injured by security forces in several cities and towns across the Oromia regional state in the last two days alone.

Based on several eye witnesses who spoke to Addis Standard over the last two days, we were able to confirm that some of the most affected areas where security forces have either violently dispersed protestors, or used excessive forces, including killings of protestors, include areas in west Arsi: the city of Shashemene and Gedeb Asasa; in Bale Robe and the city of Ginir in Bale zone; in west Hararghe in the towns of Asebot, Galamso, Ciro (formerly Asebe Teferi), and Hirna; as well as towns in East Hararge particularly Haramaya and Aweday cities and in Kombolcha town.

Security forces have also violently dispersed protesters in Fadis, Dhangago, Midhega and Irressa towns and local districts in Harari regional state, as well as Dire Dawa city.

In West Oromia in the city of Ambo, security forces have detained several protestors on Monday August 17 late afternoon. Many of them were released on Tuesday morning, some of them were beaten.

Protests ignited for two reasons: On Monday August 17 late in the afternoon instant protesters erupted in Shashemene, Ambo, Aweday and Haramaya, among other cities, after news broke that Jawar Mohammed was critically ill and was unable to stay through his court appearance.

These instant protests took place one day before a scheduled mass protest across Oromia was scheduled to take place. The protest was called by activists and was aimed at protesting against mass arrests of opposition politicians and killings of protesters in Oromia by security forces in the last eleven weeks following the assassination of prominent Oromo artist Haaccaaluu Hundessa. (This is the third such round of protests called by activists in Oromia to protest against the government by blocking roads and boycotting markets among others.)

The following are some of the eye witness accounts Addis Standard gathered over the phone in the last two days:

Haramaya, east Hararghe

According to a medical doctor working at Hiwot Fana Specialized University Hospital in Haramaya on Monday August 17, 12 people with gunshot wounds were admitted to the hospital late in the afternoon two of them have since died. And on Tuesday August 18, as widespread protests took place nine more people with gunshots were admitted to the hospital; one of them died soon after. Quoting his colleagues at Jegol Hospital in the city of Harar, the medical doctor, who wants to remain anonymous, also said that at least half a dozen people with gunshot wounds were admitted there both on Monday and Tuesday. “Those who died have sustained severe injury and it is difficult to know the number of death at this moment,” he told Addis Standard this morning. Among the victims is a young boy aged between 11 and 12.

Dr. Ibssa Musa, a medical Doctor at the hospital told Addis Standard as of this afternoon, 26 people who sustained injuries as a result of gunshot and beatings were admitted to the hospital. Two of, both men, have since died of their wounds; both died of gunshots.

Currently, there are 12 patients admitted to the surgical ward of the hospital. One patient with a severe head injury is admitted to the intensive care unit and is placed on mechanical ventilation. The others are receiving treatments for light injuries.

In Qobo, a small village on the way to the city of Harar two people were shot and killed by members of the Oromia Special Forces, Lega Chercher, a local resident told Addi Standard. One of the two were killed yesterday, and the second was killed today.

Aweday, east Hararghe

Adem Dhalate, a resident of Aweday told Addis Standard that he personally know of 18 people who were shot and wounded. Among those who were fatally shot are Lemmi Jamal, a pregnant woman who was shot and killed in the specific area called Ganda Usman; and Tahir Amin, who was killed in the specific place called Walembo. “It was a bloodbath,” Adem said. He shared several graphic pictures with Addis Standard.  

Sharifa, originally from Aweday & a resident of Addis Abeba who is said, “There is something going right now in my city, my parents have taken the children and left for the countryside.” She referred to a relative of hers who was in the city when security forces started cracking down on protests. Sabonna, Sharifa’s relative, spoke to Addis Standard via a phone call from Aweday. Speaking to over the sound of ongoing gunshot on August 18 evening, Sabonna said: “I am in hiding, they chased us down the streets, they fired at us indiscriminately and left a ton of bodies [on the street], a neighbor of mine was shot.” he said. Gunshots were continuously heard during the phone call.

Another resident of Aweday city who spoke to the VOA Amharic said she was “short of words” to describe what took place after protesters went. “People were hurt beyond expectation. We have seen for sure that eight people have died, and we know for sure that 15 people were injured, but it is more than that in rural parts,” she said.

Similarly, an eye witness who spoke to the BBC Amharic said members of Oromia Special Forces and federal army started to stop protestors who were chanting slogans. Then shooting started and ten people sustained gunshot wounds.” The same eye witness said two people were also shot dead.

Ciro (formerly Asebe Teferi), west Hararghe

Dr Sadam Aluwan, Acting Medical Director of Ciro Hospital, told Addis Standard that as of this morning 29 people were admitted to his hospital on August 18. Of these 24 of them were admitted during day time, and five were admitted late at night. Out of them 20 were admitted for gunshot wounds. Two patients: a 40 year old woman and a young adult in his early 20s, have died of their injuries; both were shot in the back. Nine of the total 29 were admitted for injuries sustained after severe beating.

Dire Dawa City Administration

Several businesses remained closed as of now in Dire Dawa. A resident of the city who wants to remain anonymous told Addis Standard that five people were shot dead between today and yesterday. Four of them were killed yesterday while the fifth was killed today at the specific place called Lagar, he too was shot and killed by security forces.

But the city’s police commission said yesterday that two people were killed and four were injured on August 18. In the statement, the city police said that the city was turned into “chaos orchestrated by anti-peace elements with a wicked purpose.” The protests called for August 18 (12/12/12 in Ethiopian calendar) were organized by “forces of destruction from abroad” were put under control after organized efforts by the city police and the community, it said.

Later on, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) Eastern command issued a stern warning that “any chaos and incitement outside of the democratic way of peaceful assembly is not acceptable, and that the army will not tolerate it.”

Ambo, west Oromia

Gunshots were first heard in Ambo on Monday August 17 after protests erupted in the city. But “there were no injuries or deaths that I have come across from my side,” said a source from Ambo University Referral Hospital who prefers to remain anonymous. On August 18, the city was normal after a long night that saw the arrests of many, most of whom were released early morning, “They arrested a lot of people in the middle of the night but I know most of them were released this morning. Some of them with minor wounds” said the source inside the hospital.

Yesterday some businesses in the city have gone back to normal according to Ashe, (only first name) but “some businesses were closed except for a few Bajajs and taxis operating normally in the city. The transportation to and from out of the city remained closed.”

Gedeb Asasa, West Arsi 

According to Isaac Eshetu, former copy editor of Kesem and Yemuslimoch Guday magazines, on August 18 security forces have shot and killed a local Imam and his nursing wife at their place of residence; their infant is also reported to have died later on. Earlier in the same day a deputy Imam of a local Mosque was also shot and injured inside the Mosque, according to Issac, who is currently a Vlogger & Blogger at Talk Ethiopia.

Shashemene, West Arsi

According to a resident of the city who helped Addis Standard’s team report from the ground in the wake of Haacaaluu’s assassination, protests erupted in the city in the specific area called Kebele 01 on Monday late afternoon after the news of Jawar’s illness broke out. “We didn’t know what happened except when we saw protesters forming on the streets and chanting “free Jawar.” Soon after that, members of Oromia Special Forces started to indiscriminately shot at protesters. “I ran for my safety and did not see what happened after that,” she said.

An eye witness who spoke to VOA Amharic said a teacher teaching at Kuyera elementary school was shot in his dead and died; two others were also shot and killed and many others were injured. Shashemene Melka Oda Hospital General Manager Dr. Bokona Buta confirmed to the news portal that patients were admitted to the hospital after gunshot wounds, but there was no reports of death among those who were admitted.

Bale Robe

Aisha and Mohammed Awol, two eye witnesses who spoke to Addis Standard on the phone said the roads leading to and from Robe and Ginir cities were blocked on August 18 we heard similar reports of such sort “Oromia Special Police are chasing people into hiding & dispersing gatherings by means of force,” Aisha said.

“I heard sounds of gunshots but I don’t know if there were any injuries and I can’t confirm if it was really gunshots. I was out but they chased me back to my home,” Mohammed said on his part.

A list of victims

Activists are sharing a “partial list” containing of names and their death places. The list contained 42 names of victims killed by security forces in the last two days alone. Most of them are from east and west Hararghe while a few are from west Arsi. Several graphic pictures are also making rounds on social media. Addis Standard cannot, as of now, confirm the total number of casualties. However we have received several graphic pictures from two hospitals in east and west Hararghe.

Getachew Balcha, head of Oromia regional state communication bureau, said yesterday that attempts to turn the region into a war zone by calling on protests were quashed and with concerted efforts between members of law enforcement agencies and the public. He did not mention casualties and his statement was published on the regional state’s communication bureau Facebook page, copied by all state owned media. AS

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