Addis Standard Staff
Addis Abeba, May 22/2021– It was on May 11 that a footage of a young man being interrogated by armed members of Oromia Special Forces was posted on the facebook page of the communication bureau of Dembi dollo city. The young man, Amanuel Wondimu, was telling his interrogators his birthplace and where he is from. Another footage emerged on social media platforms as well as YouTube where Amanuel was seen battered and paraded while he was forced to shout “ I am a member of Abba Torbe. Don’t do what I did. Learn from me.” Amanuel was publicly executed shortly after, something the city administration explained as being measures that were taken on a member of ‘Abba Torbe’, a killing squad that operates under the recently designated terrorist organization referred to by the government as ‘Shene’. Addis Standard received reports that, after Amanuel’s killing, security forces harassed his family and mourners who were present at his home to console them.
One of the mourners at Amanuel’s home was his relative who told Addis Standard that the family was asked to take down the tent set up to host the neighbors and relatives who came to offer comfort to the family. Amanuel’s relative who wants to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal said “Yesterday the mayor came with four members of Oromia special police and threatened to burn the house down if the tent was not taken down.” he continued, “Later more security forces came in four patrol cars and took mourners and family members.”
According to him, about 35 people who were released after hours of detention were taken to the Dembi Dollo police station where their cellphones and IDs were confiscated. “They didn’t spare the elderly, children and a person with mental illness. One of them is Keneni Wondimu, Amanuel’s six years old sister.” he continued, “The money collected by the mourners for the family was also taken.”
Another close relative of Amanuel, Ali (name changed for security reasons) corroborated the statement by saying, “Everyone who came to comfort the family was either beaten or arrested.” According to Ali, Amanuel’s father, Womdimu Kebede, still remains behind bars alongside two other relatives. According to an earlier Facebook post on the same day of Amanuel’s public execution, the city administration claimed that he was a member of ‘Abba Torbe’ who was shot in the leg while trying to evade capture after he hit an individual called Gemechu Mengesha.
However, Ali says that Amanuel has never been involved in politics. “He is barely home. He spends most of his time in the church. The accusations against him are absurd.” Ali told Addis Standard that Amanuel’s parents were beaten the day he was killed. “The harassment keeps coming even while we are mourning.” he added, “There’s a heavy security presence around the house. We can’t even speak on the phone because we fear they’ll hear us.”
There’s a heavy security presence around the house. We can’t even speak on the phone because we fear they’ll hear us.
The reactions from government officials on the issue, such as that of the head of the security bureau of Kellem zone, Tesema Wariyo, created controversy. Tesema claimed that it was confirmed that Amanuel was a criminal even though he was not put on trial. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) condemned the incident which it called “the parading and extrajudicial killing” and called for an investigation and accountability.
The Oromia regional state on its part explained that it did not know about the incident taking place in public but said, “Directions are put in place to take measures on bodies who kill people.” In an interview with BBC Afaan Oromo, the head of Oromia Communication Bureau, Getachew Balcha said, “On those who commit killing, any type of measure should be taken at any time.” He also accused the EHRC of defaming the Oromia regional government.
Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to contact both the head of Oromia region communication bureau and the Commander of Oromia Special Forces were to no avail. AS