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News: Heavy security crackdown sees more than hundred youths detained following daylong strike in Wolkite, Gurage zone

A group of elders and local community members in Gurage zone holding banners rejecting the new cluster arrangement. The message in the black, circle banner reads “Gurage regional state.” Picture: Social media

Addis Abeba – Residents of Wolkite town, the capital of the Gurage zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region told Addis Standard that more than 100 youths were arrested following a strike last week.

Resident of the city and its environs staged protests on Friday 18 August by boycotting routine activities in the city and its environs which included suspending civil service works and business activities as part of the zone’s push for own statehood and increased self-administration.

A resident of Wolkite town who preferred to be anonymous for his safety said that more than 100 youths have been arrested and imprisoned in the Irish Hall of the town. He added that the youths were also beaten up by security forces.

Another resident of the town, who also did not wish to be mentioned by his named, said the SNNP special forces did beat the people and inflict psychological damage on them. The resident claims that while the people were on a peaceful strike, security forces created violence by insulting some residents and turning that into an opportunity to beat the youths and mass detain them.

The zone has been a scene of two similar protests of boycott in the past, including one which was held on 09 August, shortly after a submission of proposal on 04 August by the SNNP regional state Council to the House of Federation (HoF) for a cluster of ten zones and six woredas in the current SNNP region to be restructured in two new regional states.

Despite approvals from respective Councils of zones and Special Woredas, the Gurage Zone Council had from the get go opposed to the restructuring as it was seeking its regional state status, which it tabled as far back as November 2018.

It is to be recalled that many zone leaders and department heads who oppose the zone cluster organization have been arrested.

In a statement released following the strike last week, the Gurage Zone Communication Office stated that illegal activities being observed in Wolkite city were the works of a group of people whose interests are affected and do not represent the community in the area. It added that those who have been carrying out this evil act in the name of the people are those who have been robbing of land and collecting other rents.

The zonal administration further said it was taking a determined stance and working to save the people from these misleading intriguers, but failed mention the mass arrest and assaults perpetrated by security forces as was claimed by residents.

But the zone says that it will continue to strengthen the law enforcement measures, to investigate and apprehend those who are causing the people to riot and violence by calculating their personal interests. AS

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