Addis Ababa – The Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region Peace and Security Bureau said that decision has been made to put the entire Gurage zone under the rule of an organized command post as of 25 November.
In a presser he gave to the local broadcaster, Debub TV, the bureau’s head Alemayehu Baudi said “illegal and destructive” activities have been carried out by irregular groups in the zone under the guise of demands for statehood, and that these activities cannot be stopped using the regular law enforcement system.
Accordingly, Alemayehy said that security forces are authorized to take a number of measures and legal actions against groups accused of actively taking part “in destruction”, including those who participate in “activities that are not allowed by the law, and those who are doing any activity in any illegal way” outside of the auspices of legally mandated government officials.
On 18 August this year, a region-wide military command post had already issued restrictions against holding any governmental and non-governmental meetings in woredas and towns of the Gurage zone for an indefinite period of time.
Regardless, Gurage zone has seen protests which include suspending civil service works and business activities as part of the zone’s push for own statehood and increased self-administration.
The latest of such protest took place on Friday 18 November when residents in Wolkite city, the capital city of the Gurage zone, staged protests boycotting routine activities in the city and its environs which included suspending civil service works and business activities. But heavy crackdown in the aftermath of the protests saw more than 100 people detained by security forces.
The protests are in opposition to a decision made by Ethiopia’s House of Federation in August, to restructure the Gurage zone into a new regional state in a cluster with Hadiya, Halaba, Kambata Tambaro, Silte and Yam special woreda.
Alemayehu did not mention who the “irregular groups” he was referring to but he said, that they want disrupt the normal functions of the government in the zone and to confuse the people.
He added that the groups are carrying out activities that creates discontent between the Gurage people and the other peoples of the region.
Due to inability to control these groups with the regular and local law enforcement, a command post comprising Federal Police, SNNP special forces and other security agencies will be in charge of the security situations of the zone, he said.
He admitted that 70 individuals suspected of having roles in the illegal activities have been arrested so far. Unauthorized meeting and public gatherings have been banned under the rule of the command post. AS