Addis Abeba – Civilians are caught in crossfire and subjected to alarming crimes amounting to “grave violation of human rights” in the escalating attacks and militarized clashes in different parts of Oromia region in a span of five months, a new report by the government’s Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
The worsening crisis in Oromia region is due in most part to attacks by armed groups operating in the region, including by armed militia crossing over from the neighboring Amhara regional state; civilians are also increasingly being targeted in militarized clashes and deliberate attacks involving government security forces and armed groups, the report said.
Due to the abundance of indicators and evidences gathered from the areas on the extent of the violation of human rights, the violations “can be classified as a grave violation of human rights according to the principles and provisions of human rights.” the report, issued on Wednesday, said, adding that hundreds of civilians have been killed, injured, and displaced from their homes having their properties destroyed over the last five months, and several rural villages and towns have been either completely or partially destroyed.
armed groups operating in these areas have shown “a tendency to increase or become more complex in terms of their type and number”EHRC
In many of these areas covered by the report, EHRC said that government security forces, as well as the local residents who have been armed by the government to defend themselves, and those who have also come from other regions and armed groups that are commonly said to be Amhara militants, and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), commonly known as OLF/Shene operate in the areas. “These armed groups and the government’s security forces have been fighting each other at different times, and due to their separate attacks at other times, many civilians have been killed, injured, displaced and property destroyed, and some villages or rural towns have been completely or partially destroyed.”
the violations “can be classified as a grave violation of human rights according to the principles and provisions of human rights,”EHRC
According to the report, the fighting and attacks targeting civilians have been reported in at least 16 zones, including the four zones in Wollega: Horro Guduru Wollega, East Wollega, West Wollega, and Kellem Wollega, as well as North Showa, Illu Abbabora, Bunno Bedelle, East Shoa, West Shewa, South West Shoa, Arsi and the two Guji zones. It also listed multiple districts in east and west Wollega including Kiremu, Gida Ayana, Alge, Hurrumu, Amuru, Horro Buluq, Jardega Jarte; and east Shewa districts including Boset, Gindeberet, Chobi, Dera, Kuyu, Merti Jeju and neighboring districts of Arsi Zone as districts frequently hit by violence
civilians are also subjected to abuses in instances including when the armed forces or government security forces control given areas
In addition to the context of the conflicts in which the killings, displacement, injuries, looting, environmental destruction and human rights violations happen, civilians are also subjected to abuses in instances including when the armed forces or government security forces control given areas. Human rights violations that occur in the areas where conflicts do not take place should also be of equal concern, the report said.
Equally, in areas under the control of armed groups, kidnappings, killings, robberies, other violations, including extortion are inflicted on the local residents and the community to suffer no less than the conflicts and attacks, the report said.
The fact that armed groups operating in these areas have shown “a tendency to increase or become more complex in terms of their type and number”, and the fact that different groups have been in control of entire kebeles or districts at different times, has also “aggravated the human rights violations”, making it impossible to conduct an adequate investigation into the exact number and areas of affected people, EHRC said.
Despite that, however, the reports says that hundreds of people have been brutally killed, an unknown number of people have been injured and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their villages by militants of the armed groups, whereas, civilians were also subjected to extrajudicial killing by government security forces for supporting one or the other armed group, as well as airstrikes near civilian settlements without proper investigation, and illegal and arbitrary arrests, and torture of suspects constitute grave human right violations.
Exacerbating the suffering of the civilians is the fact that the attacks “deliberately target civilians, and are especially based on ethnicity”, and in certain cases, the fact that they are “based on political views”EHRC
Exacerbating the suffering of the civilians is the fact that the attacks “deliberately target civilians, and are especially based on ethnicity”, and in certain cases, the fact that they are “based on political views” – that victims are blamed for supporting one or the other group, which puts an overlapping pressure and/or threat on the violation of human rights against civilians, the report further said, adding that such act erodes confidence in justice and security administrations and has a significant impact on efforts to find a lasting solution.
Government officials have also been killed, public and civilian properties looted and destroyed, and public infrastructure and services damaged or disrupted, the report said, adding that hundreds of thousands of IDPs are currently in dire situations due to lack of humanitarian aid or inadequate supplies food and non food items.
The delay or lack of provision of humanitarian aid and basic services, as well as the disruption of transportation, productivity, education, health and other services due to the conflict have caused great tribulations to the residents of the area.
The Commission urged deployment of sufficient security forces and all other necessary efforts to ensure the safety of civilians, and to coordinate all stakeholders to provide immediate humanitarian aid for the IDPs.
The Commission also called on the Oromia regional state and the federal government to work together and give a lasting solution with immediate and full attention.
EHRC’s report was published in the backdrop of heightened security crisis in East Wollega zone, one of the zones covered in the report following attacks on 25 and 29 of November in Kiremu district, which authorities of the local government and fleeing residents attributed to “Fano Militia” from the neighboring Amhara region, left dozens dead and the the “entire” residents of the district displaced.
This was followed by yet another intense fighting over the weekend of 03 and 04 December with several contested accounts about the the events, which involved federal government and regional security forces on the one hand and armed groups of the Fano militia and members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on the other; reports indicate unknown numbers of civilian causalities and mass displacement. The conflicts left scores dead and thousands displaced from their villages who are now in need of humanitarian support.
Both the federal as well as Oromia and Amhara regional governments did not comment on the violence as of now. AS