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News Analysis: Gunmen kill Derashe Special Woreda Admin in volatile SNNP, abduct eight Indians; officials vow order

Derache Special Woreda. Picture: Screenshot/Archive

By Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21

Addis Abeba– Gunmen killed Joberna Assefa, the Administrator of Derashe Special Woreda, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples’ (SNNP) region. He was killed on Saturday morning 30 April, an eye witness who wanted to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told Addis Standard

This is the second killing of a senior government official in the area in as many weeks. In March, Geremu Gelebo, head of the revenue bureau of Segen woreda was gunned down while dining in a hotel with his friends. The head of the woreda’s peace and security bureau, Gadissa Karo told Addis Standard that four suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of the local official. 

Alemayehu Baudi, Head of SNNP Peace and Security Bureau who is also the Deputy Head of Good Governance Cluster Coordinator office, confirmed the killing and said that the same “forces of destruction” who, on 25 April abducted eight Indians have launched attacks and injured security forces and civilians. Some members of the state’s special forces were killed during efforts to maintain peace in the region. Alemayehu did not mention the number of causalities both from civilians and the region’s special forces but said efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice would be intensified. He also failed to mention the status of the eight Indian nationals allegedly abducted, neither is there official statement from the Indian Embassy in Addis Abeba.

“The town of Gidolle in Derashe Special woreda, was rocked by gunfire for a week, from April 25 to April 30,” the eye witness who spoke to Addis Standard by phone said. Derashe is one of the Woredas where demand for the establishment of zonal administration is being raised.

gunshots were exchanged between armed men from Konso zone and Derashe special woreda  and the SNNP’s  special police forces. Luckily, local elders and religious leaders intervened to stop the violence in accordance with the local custom

A second witness who also spoke on conditions of anonymity stated that it had been a while since the lack of peace became the norm in the area. He further explained that heavy gunfire was heard in Gidole town lately and the residents were in a state of panic. “The youth also set fire on the houses of the former leaders. Following the absence of security forces in the area, our lives are in danger,” he added. 

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A third eyewitness echoed the same but added that gunshots were exchanged between armed men from Konso zone and Derashe special woreda  and the SNNP’s  special police forces. Luckily, local elders and religious leaders intervened to stop the violence in accordance with the local custom, he said. “The regular police remained in a state of panic.”

The witness blamed regional government authorities for being negligent for so long, and for failing to deploy security forces to safeguard the residents of the town from increasing security concerns.

On 01 May, SNNPRs Government Communication Affairs Bureau said members of Ethiopian Defense Forces were deployed to the area. The regional state vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice and called upon the local community to enhance their endeavors to expose the criminals. 

Volatile

Lst weekend’s violence came a week after a security meeting took place between local administrative officials and security forces drawn from Konso Zone and Segen Woreda on Saturday 23 April to discuss and outline joint plans to solve the security crisis in Segen Woreda.

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For the past several weeks Addis Standard has been reporting on the security crisis in Konso and its environs. In mid-April, Intercommunal violence that erupted in the zone has led to a new wave of displacement. About 37,000 people were displaced from 10 Kebeles including about 19,000 women and girls.

The displaced civilians include the more than 32,000 people in Segen Zuria Woreda and more than 3,000 people in Karat Zuria Woreda (Fuchucha kebele) due to fighting between Konso and Derashe communities at the beginning of April. In the kebeles of Borqara, Mataragizaba, more than 1,000 persons have been displaced due to the violence, in the recent weeks alone.

The Konso zone continued witnessing sporadic clashes that claim the lives of civilians especially over the past two years. Gudata Kutano, a member of the peace committee in the neighboring Kolme cluster kebeles, told Addis Standard that these clashes often result in the death and displacement of civilians.

Background

Konso Zone is located at around 90 kilometers south of Arba Minch city, it is bordered by Borena (Oromia Region) in the south, Ale Woreda (SNNPR) in the west and by Derashe Special Woreda and Amaro Woreda in the north. The Konso Cultural Landscape, recognized in 2011 by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage, is one of the main tourist destinations in the country.

However, several areas surrounding the Konso zone, and the zone itself have been volatile for the past decade. Between 2010 and 2018, the area was an administrative structure consisting five Woredas (Konso, Derashe, Amaro, Burji and Ale) and was named “Segen Area Peoples Zone”. The Segen Area Peoples Zone was given a new capital, called “Segen City Administration”, itself comprising 17 kebeles, which were formerly kebeles under the five woredas listed above. The Segen City Administration in effect merged 9 Kebeles from Konso Woreda, 4 Kebeles from Burji Woreda, 3 from Amaro Woreda and 1 Kebele from Derashe Woreda. Before 1994, these 17 kebeles were a single Woreda called “Gumayde Woreda”, which in 1994 were split/reorganized along ethnic based boundaries.

The demand by Konso to secede from Segen Area Peoples Zone and become a Zone since 2014 was eventually approved, and four years later, in 2018 the new Konso Zone was set up. It was also decided that the remaining four Woredas under the former Segen Area Peoples Zone, (Derashe, Amaro, Burji and Ale), become separate woredas on their own. Of these Ale and Derashe became Special Woredas accountable to the SNNP Council.

Since the former Segen City Administration is an area that borders Konso Zone, Derashe Special Woreda, Burji and Amaro Woreda where demands for zonal status remained unanswered except for Konso, clashes that ignite in these areas for one reason or another easily spread to all surrounding areas.

A report released by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in December 2020 detailed the sustained attacks in Konso zone and proposed some recommendations including transparent investigation into the role of officials within government structures and improving the measures to control increasing transfers of illegal firearms in the Konso Zone area. AS

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