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News: Reuters investigation reveals ‘secretive security committee’ in Oromia, sheds light on Karrayyu Gadaa leadership massacre

Some of the 14 Karrayyu Gadaa leaders who were shot-dead by Oromia security and were the subject of Addis Standard’s series of investigative reporting.

Addis Abeba – After conducting a months-long investigation, Reuters says it has uncovered troubling actions perpetrated by a concealed security apparatus with the objective of suppressing dissent within Ethiopia’s largest and most populous region, Oromia.

The focus of the report is on an entity referred to as the “Koree Nageenyaa,” which is roughly translated to “Security Committee.”

According to the news agency, the Committee was established subsequent to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assuming office in 2018, with the objective of mitigating anti-government protests and unrest in the Oromia region, where armed groups are present.

The Committee is purportedly led by Shimelis Abdisa, the president of Oromia Regional State, and comprises senior security and civilian officials, according to the investigative report.

Following interviews with over 30 current and former Ethiopian officials, as well as a review of pertinent documents, the report asserts that it has revealed a “brutal crackdown campaign” orchestrated by this body against “government protesters and suspected sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA),” also referred to by federal and regional authorities as “Shene.”

Among the sources interviewed is Milkessa Gemechu, a former member of the central committee of the ruling Prosperity Party.

The specific allegations encompass dozens of extrajudicial killings purportedly ordered by the committee, along with hundreds of warrantless detentions of individuals deemed “security threats.”

Among the highlighted instances of violence is the massacre of 14 elders from the Karayyuu tribe in 2021, which the government attributed to OLA fighters. However, the investigative report indicated that “evidence indicates the Committee authorized security forces to carry out the slaughter.”

The 2021 killing of Karrayyu Gadaa leaders in the East Showa Zone of the Oromia region, including Abba Gadaa and Kadir Hawas Boru, has been a subject if Addis Standard’s comprehensive coverage.

Addis Standard had established in its reporting that the killings of the leaders were carried out with the involvement of government forces. However, the Oromia regional government attributed the attacks to the OLA, whcih has later been incorporated by a partial report from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which said that there was “reasonable ground to believe” that the killing of 14 members of the Gadaa leaders constitutes “extrajudicial killing” by security forces.

Reuters’ investigation sheds the step-by-step decision leading up to the point-blank shooting of the 16 Gadaa leaders.

The investigative report by Reuters also asserted the presence of interference by the Committee in the justice system, leading to prolonged detentions without cause. Additionally, the report documented accounts of detainees being subjected to torture methods, including electrocution, suspension, and beatings.

According to the report, “Judges and lawyers attempting to resist such interference have faced violent reprisals and intimidation.”

Furthermore, it asserts that Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC) verified “the existence of the Committee” and indicated that it has “documented extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and torture linked to the body.”

As quoted in the report, Daniel Bekele, the chief commissioner of EHRC, stated that “its aim was to address growing security challenges in Oromiya, but it overreached its purpose by interfering in the justice system with widespread human rights violations.”

The Oromia regional government refrained from responding to Reuters’ requests for comment concerning the committee and the allegations leveled against it.

Reuters also indicated its inability to independently verify all specific allegations but asserted that “patterns of abuse were clearly evidenced.”

No response has been given to the investigative report so far by the Oromia regional government. AS

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