News Analysis: Weeks after rights commission expressed concerns over the security situation of civilians in East wollega, Communal Violence breaks out in Kiramu Woreda

Communal violence broke out in East Wollega last Sunday

By Dereje Gonfa 

Addis Abeba, October 12/2021- Addis Standard received reports from members of both the Amhara and Oromo community in Kiramu woreda of the East wollega zone. The testimonies received from members of both communities and a community leader reveal that violence broke out on Sunday October 10, claiming the lives of many and forcing people to flee their homes. Sources disclosed to Addis Standard that the violence started at noon and went well into the day.

Dawit (name changed for security reasons),  an ethnic Oromo resident of the woreda said that the onslaught took place between 12 AM and 5 PM. The offensive resulted in the death, injury and displacement of many according to him, among which are his own families.  He alleges that Amhara militias launched the an hours-long onslaught on civilians.

The eye witness went on to accuse the Amhara militia of crossing over into the Oromia region and enticing violence by rallying up the Amhara community in the town. He insists that the attacks are ‘premeditated and organized’. 

“This attack was carried out by the Amhara militia,”

A member of the Oromo community

Dawit told Addis Standard that three of his family members, (his father, mother and his 12 years old brother) were killed in their house. He said “It is an intentional attack against Oromo civilians,” adding, “We can’t even lay the dead to rest.”   

According to him, more than 25 ethinc Oromo were killed in the attack. He narrated, “They forced many out of town and killed them and they are also torturing those they didn’t kill.” He narrated the events “They came in large numbers, armed with heavy artillery. They killed randomly, looted what they could and burned what they couldn’t carry.”

Another resident of the woreda and an ethnic Amhara, Jemal (name changed for security reasons) testified, “The attacks didn’t target the ethnic Oromo alone, it is rather a conflict between Oromo and Amhara residents”. He claims “The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) operating in the area may be behind the attack.” Jemal recounted the event, from where he was hiding, “We hid the children and women and  those of us who were armed fled to the woods. I heard that about Seven ethnic Amharas died and others were injured.”

“We hid the children and women and  those of us who were armed fled to the woods. I heard that about Seven ethnic Amharas died and others were injured.”

A member of the Amhara community

Dawit, however, refutes Jemal’s claim and maintains that the OLA does not operate in this area. “This attack was carried out by the Amhara militia,” he said, asking, “If there were armed Oromos in the area, would they leave us here for dead?”

An elderly and a community leader of an Amhara origin detailed how the attack unfolded. He recalled the withdrawal of Oromia Special Forces from the area on Wednesday, four days before the attack. “We asked the authorities to stop the withdrawal of the special forces from the area, but they did,” he added, “Shooting ensued shortly after, claiming the lives of many civilians, majority of which were Oromos.” 

Corroborating Dawit’s testimony, the community leader continued, “There was an exchange of fire and the majority of the casualties were from the Oromo community. I am not sure about the exact number, but I have seen many dead bodies. Eight ethnic Amhara were killed.” He regretted the withdrawal of government security forces, “We suspected this might happen and that is why we asked government security forces not to leave the area.”

The recurring  violence in East wollega zone continues to claim lives of civilians. This attack comes weeks after the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)  expressed concerns over the security situation of civilians in Kiramu Woreda, in East Welega Zone of Oromia regional state following the september 17 and 18 attack that killed 18 people in Boka Kebele. The commission noted the situation of residents of Kiramu woreda who fled to neighboring kebeles and towns seeking humanitarian aid.

Addis Standard  reached out to the administrator of Kiramu woreda, Desta Tiki  for comments which he replied by saying, “I cannot comment unless I receive a direction from the government to give comments to a specific media organization.” Ararsa Mardasa, the commissioner of Oromia police on his part, refused to comment unless he is contacted in person. Moreover, multiple attempts to reach the administrator of the East wollega zone Alemayehu Tesfa, as well as the head of peace and security bureau of the zone were to no avail. AS

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