Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) confirmed said an armed attack on 07 July in the Benishangul Gumuz Region, Metekel Zone, Gilgel Beles City was carried out by members of the local armed rebel group that has signed a peace agreement with regional authorities in October last year.
Eight people were killed, including three local militia, and 16 others were seriously injured. Several residents were forced to flee the area. The attack was conducted by members of the rebel Gumuz People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM), which has signed a peace agreement with the regional government.
In March this year more than 370 GPDM leaders and members who were detained during different operations in the region were released following the peace agreement with the local government. Harun Umer, Benishangul Gumuz Regional Police Commissioner, said that the leaders and members of the opposition political organizations were released through reconciliation and amnesty.
Citing local residents and local government officials EHRC said the attackers were members of the armed group who were camped in a camp near the city of Gilgel Beles in order to disarm in accordance with the agreement made with the local government while the the victims were members of non-native communities who live in the area.
The violence was proceeded by the death by a car accident of a native Gumuz teenager, which was settled after an agreement between the driver and the deceased’s family. It was followed by a killing of a shepherd by members of the armed group near the city of Gilgel Beles, according to EHRC report.
Gilgel Beles city hosts the headquarter of a joint office between the Amhara and Benishangul-Gumuz regional states which was established to promote peace and development, in the bordering areas of the two regions. The office is accountable to the presidents of both regions and is expected to thwart security breaches in advance and is tasked to monitor signs of security threats to prevent conflicts.
The area is now under a “relative peace for the time being” but it took the deployment of members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) after the attacks.
The attack is a reminder of the need to ensure the the work of disarming and rehabilitating armed combatants as important part of ensuring peace and security, said EHRC Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele. It is a reminder “that the process has requirements and principles that must be followed.”
Paying equal attention to the implementation of such processes and the close monitoring of their impact on the affected areas can effectively prevent human rights abuses, Daniel noted.
The latest attack is not the only incident that claimed the lives of civilians despite the peace agreement. In March last year, armed militants killed at least 20 civilians in attack on a public bus traveling from Metekel to Guba was ambushed; dozens more were also injured. Officials blamed the attack on unnamed “anti-peace forces” infiltrating through Sudan, and had carried out similar attacks on civilians in the past. AS