By Siyanne Mekonnen @siyaanne
Addis Abeba, March 08/2021 – An eyewitness told Addis Standard that on February 26, 2021 members of the military opened fire on civilians killing 26 people including women and the elderly in Albasa kebele of Dibate Woreda, Metekel zone, Benishangul Gumuz regional state.
Temesgen Gemechu, a resident of Dibate woreda said “We have never seen anything like it. Community leaders, elders and even a blind man was not spared.” The area is still unstable and gunshots could be heard until two days ago, according to him, and burials have not been carried out for the deceased. The residents of Albasa kebelle have fled their homes and are still in the woods a week after the attack. Temesgen said that he is unable to confirm the full number of the deaths because no one is allowed to go in.
Other witnesses who spoke to VOA Amharic also said that 26 civilians from the Gumuz community were killed in crackdown. Niguse Feyisa, a resident of Albasa kebele said that government security forces arrived in the area on the night February 26 searching for armed men operating in the area. The offensive took place at dawn, according to the witness, but none of the people who were killed were armed. According to Temesgen, armed rebels barely operate in Dibate woreda unlike neighboring woredas such as Wombera, Hiphar, Bulan, Guba and Gilglel beles woredas.
He said that the government forces crackdown on civilians is a response to an earlier attack on security forces in the hands of the armed rebels, recalling an incident where three government forces were killed and seven others were wounded at a place called Tulu Dimtu. He also spoke of the Oromo community in Gandaqorqa kebele who have been beaten and arrested for over a week now since the attacks. A couple, Abera Wirtu and Abebech Atiba, and a 13 year old boy named Kefyalew Dibaba are among the arrested who haven’t been brought to court for over a week. Families haven’t been able to visit them, either, he said. Samuel Genete and Surafel Wakjira were severely beaten resulting in the death of Samuel while he was being taken to a detention center.
In an interview with VOA Amharic, the regional police commissioner Abdulaziz Mohammed denied the involvement of government forces in the killing, although he admitted that measures are being taken on Gumuz People’s Democratic Movement militants that operate in the region. Addis Standard’s attempt to reach zonal and regional police were unsuccessful, while the administrator of Dibate Woreda declined to comment.
Egypt and Sudan behind deadly violence in Metekel
In a related development, a committee set up by the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) to evaluate and provide solutions to the unrest in the Metekel Zone said that Egypt and Sudan backed the conflict. The chairman of the committee Abdullahi Hamu, made the remarks on the briefing held by the committee on the ongoing conflicts outside the Tigray region and other areas.
Abdullahi said that the committee was able to learn from the community and the command post in Metekel Zone that there had been illegal arms trade and training operations for militia on Ethio-Sudanese border. He also spoke of unspecified groups who have agendas operating in the region in the name of investment. The conflict is not recent, but has been a well thought out affair since the eve of the reform,  according to him, and these groups have been advocating for people to get armed by speaking of an imminent invasion and the dismantlement of the regional state.
He said the militants who fled in most of the woredas have returned and 3,000 militants have surrendered to fight peacefully and have returned to their homes. More than 68,000 Gumuz people who fled the clashes to the woods have returned. The chairman of the committee spoke about the participation of the community in peacekeeping by way of recruitment and training over 10,000 militias.
The command post informed the committee about the measures taken on the officials at all levels who were said to have participated in the conflict. They have been removed from their positions and efforts were being made to bring them to justice.
According to Abdullahi, the committee was able to understand from the meeting it held with the community that the conflict was not among the people but was created by groups with political agendas. He said that people who have been displaced and lost their properties are receiving humanitarian assistance at various shelters they are stationed at.
The number of internally displaced people has reached 125,000 according to the chairman of the committee set up by the HoPR. Despite the organization of a technical committee working with the Federal and Regional Disaster Risk Management Committees, there are still areas that could not access humanitarian aid due to the high number of displaced people
Finally, he called on government and non government organizations to adequately deliver humanitarian aid to the IDPs. He urged the government to focus on rehabilitating IDPs and bring the perpetrators to justice. AS