BY SIYANNE MEKONNEN @SIYAANNE
Addis Abeba, December 17, 2021- The remaining people who were said to have gone missing after the contradicting reports surrounding the killing of 14 members of the Karrayyu Gadaa leadership were found in a detention center in Mojo, reports said. The secretary of Abba Gadaa union and Abba Gadaa of the Tulama, Gobana Hola confirmed to Addis Standard that the remaining members of the Karrayyu Gadaa leadership are detained in Mojo and that one of them died. Residents of Fentale woreda spoke of tensions running high as the crackdown on the community escalated over the days following the killings and abduction of the Gadaa leadership.
In Addis Standard’s earlier report, an eye witness said that government forces abducted a total of 39 men including Abba Gadaas, Abba Boku, prominent community members and young men from the seat of the Gadaa leadership, Karra, where a prayer ceremony, Waaq Kadhaa was taking place on Wednesday December 1, 2021. The Oromia regional government however refuted the allegations and blamed the attacks on Shanee (a term used by government officials to refer to Oromo liberation army, OLA). The OLA on its part issued a statement attributing the attacks to government forces.
Gada Hawas Boru, the brother of the late Karrayyu Abaa Gadaa Kedir Hawas Boru, expressed dismay in the attack on the leaders. He detailed that the Karrayyu community including Abba Gadaas were harassed by government bodies he did not specify by name for allegedly supporting armed rebels and failing to mobilize support for the government. Gada speculates that the onslaught was a retributive measure taken by government forces in response to an earlier incident in Haro Kersa Kebele where a standoff between police and the community resulted in the injury of members of government security forces. “Resorting to pointing fingers after the killing of this many people is a failure in politics and punishable in the face of God,” he said.
Abba Gadaa Gobana who told Addis Standard that the union was closely following the killing of the Karrayyu Abba Gadaas divulged that the remaining leaders are under the custody of government forces. “We strongly condemn the killing of Karrayyu Abba Gadaas. The leaders were attacked at a sacred place of worship. Abba Gaddas convey God’s message”, he continued, “We reject the government’s report surrounding the killings. We demand a clear investigation.”
“WE REJECT THE GOVERNMENT’S REPORT SURROUNDING THE KILLINGS. WE DEMAND A CLEAR INVESTIGATION.”ABBA GADAA GOBANA HOLA, ABBA GADAA OF THE TULAMA AND SECRETARY OF ABBA GADAA UNION
He also recalled a meeting the Abba Gadaa union held in Adama with officials from the Oromia regional government including the deputy president of Oromia regional state, Awelu Abdo and officials from Oromia tourism bureau where the union condemned the killing of Karrayyu Abba Gadaas. “There are contradicting reports coming out, preventing the union from identifying the perpetrators while different parties trading blames,” he said.
Roba, who wanted to go by his first name for fear of reprisal, put the number of detainees at 23, including one of the captives who was beaten to death on Wednesday, December 8, 2021. The body of Jilo Borayu Hawas was recovered Two days later by a group of elders who went to Mojo after receiving tips that the missing leaders were held there, according to Roba. While explaining the conditions of the detained leaders he said, “They were beaten severely and sustained serious injuries while being interrogated to reveal the whereabouts of OLA members.”
“THEY WERE BEATEN SEVERELY AND SUSTAINED SERIOUS INJURIES WHILE BEING INTERROGATED TO REVEAL THE WHEREABOUTS OF OLA MEMBERS.”
Moreover, Roba discussed the dire situation that the Karrayyu community is in. He stated that movement has been restricted since the killing of the Abba Gadaas on December 1, discontinuing market activities and preventing the pastoralist community from traveling in search of water and cattle feed. “The people have been subject to harassment and indiscriminate mass imprisonment. Whoever is spotted in urban areas to seek health care or buy goods is beaten and taken to jail.” While putting the number as high as 200 people including women and the elderly, Roba described the conditions of their detention, “It is impossible to visit or bring food to the detainees. A lot of people don’t know whether their loved ones are dead or alive.”
When asked if the OLA operates in those areas, Roba said, “The government claims that the OLA operate in these areas although we have not seen the evidence.” Gada shares similar views and insists that claims pf armed group operations in the harsh arid area is implausible. “The Karrayyu community is neither on the government’s side nor the OLA,” Gada said, adding, “The murder of the Abba Gadaas is similar to that of Hachalu Hundessa.”
“WHOEVER IS SPOTTED IN URBAN AREAS TO SEEK HEALTH CARE OR BUY GOODS IS BEATEN AND TAKEN TO JAIL.”ROBA, A NATIVE OF FENTALLE WOREDA
Roba explained that the group of elders were promised by elements in the Oromia regional government that the detained leaders were set to be released on Thursday, December 16. He put forward his guesses that higher rank of the regional government is unaware of what is happening to the community on the zonal level. Corroborating the statement of the head of Abba Gadaa union, Roba said, “Regional officials including the deputy president of Oromia, Awelu Abdo intervened and communicated with the elderly to facilitate reconciliation between the community and themselves.”
Roba concluded his testimony by underlining the need for the withdrawal of government forces deployed to the woreda in search of OLA combatants. “An entire community can not be labelled ‘Shanee’. Intensifying crackdown on innocent civilians will only create a bigger rift between the government and the community,” he said.
The deputy president of Oromia region Awelu Abdo, denied having any conversation with Karrayyu elders and referred the question to Oromia police commission. The commissioner of Oromia Police commission, Commissioner Ararsa Merdasa declined to comment unless he is contacted in person.
Contrary to his previous statements to Addis Standard, the administrator of East Showa zone, Ababu Waqo said that he has no information of the detained leaders. In an earlier interview, Ababu indicated that government forces were helping the community find its abducted members. When asked about the detainees in Mojo, he replied by saying, “There were no missing people in the first place, I have no information on the matter.”
Addis Standard reached out to another resident of Fentale woreda to confirm the promised release of the leaders on Thursday. The resident who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons said, “The elders are still waiting for the release of the detained leaders.” The resident placed the number of detainees at 23, including the Jilo Borayu Hawas whose life passed while in prison. According to him, they are detained in an informal detention center in Oromia Special Forces training camp. He added that the group of elders witnessed severe injuries the detainees sustained as a result of physical assaults.
“THERE WERE NO MISSING PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE, I HAVE NO INFORMATION ON THE MATTER.”ABABU WAQO, THE ADMINISTRATOR OF EAST SHOWA ZONE
Imad Tune from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on his part told Addis Standard that the commission has remotely collected information about the incident including of the detention of individuals. Imad said that the commission is preparing to send a team to collect factual information on the ground. He admitted that the contradicting reports have made it difficult for the commission to put out a report.
Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to speak to the head of Oromia region communication bureau, Hailu Adunga, the administrator of Fentale woreda of the East Showa zone, Kelil Geda as well as the commander of Oromia Special Forces, Commissioner Dechasa Bitima were to no avail. AS