December 8, 2022

Rights body holds OLA/Shane, Amhara militants accountable for Wollega attacks

City: Addis AbabaNewsCurrent Affairs

EHRC said the group calling itself the Oromo Liberation Army and Amhara militants were the main participants in the attacks in the Eastern Wollega.

Avatar: Kalayou Hagose
By Kalayou Hagose

Kalayou Hagose is a law graduate and reporter at Addis Zeybe.

Rights body holds OLA/Shane, Amhara militants accountable for Wollega attacks
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The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission holds Oromo Liberation Army and Amhara militants responsible for the alleged recent mass killings and attacks in the Oromia Regional state western Wollega zone. 

An organized attack has been reported in the Eastern Wollega zone in the districts of Gida Ayana and Kiramu, with alleged mass killings, hundreds of thousands of people displaced, and properties destroyed and looted. Reports indicated that the mass killings and attacks targeted the Amhara ethnic group in the region. 

Imad Abdulfata, EHRC's Research and Monitoring Regional Director, told BBC Amharic that "the group calling itself Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Amhara militants are the main participants in the attacks on civilians in Oromia Regional State Wollega zone." 

"The information and evidence we have collected show that people are targeted and attacked because of their identity," said the director, adding that “the degree of recent attacks may be higher.”

Following reports and claims of mass killings, displacement, and organized attacks on civilians in Eastern Wollega, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) urged the Federal government to take immediate action and find a lasting solution to the grave violations of human rights, including ethnically targeted killings of residents in Oromia Regional State. 

It is recalled that EHRC announced in its annual report on July 8, 2022, that "the right to life continues to be in the worst danger at the national level, and especially due to the human rights violations committed by the armed forces and government security forces in Oromia regional state."  

It also revealed that the instability and security problems in the region prevented the government from fulfilling its human rights obligations. 

The commission said it has been monitoring the conflicts and attacks in Horo Gudru Wollega, East Wollega Zone, West Wollega Zone, North Shewa, Kelem Wollega Zone, Ilu Ababora Zone, Buno Bedele Zone, East Shewa, West Shewa, South West Shewa, Arsi Zone and the two Guji Zones in different districts, particularly in Kiremu, Gida Ayana, Alge, Hurumu, Amuru, Horo Buluq, Jardega Jarte, Bosset, Gendeberet, Chobi, Dera, Kuyu, Merti Jeju and others. 

“According to the commissions’ assessment, the government’s security forces; civilians armed by the government; armed groups that are brought from other areas which are called Amhara militants; and the Oromo Liberation Army (addressed by the government as OLA/Shane) operate in the area. The frequent conflicts between these groups and independent attacks by separate groups have resulted in many civilian deaths, injuries, displacement, and destruction of properties.”

Enat Party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party, and the All Ethiopia Unity Party blamed the government in a joint press release saying that “the genocide, killing, destruction, and looting that have been committed against people of Amhara ethnicity in the Oromia region for the last few years are being sponsored by the government.”

The parties urged the Oromia regional government and the Federal government to give an explanation on the issue, take measures to stop the ethnic-based violence, hold perpetrators responsible, and demanded the zone be governed by command posts under the control of the national defense force.

The Council of Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations also expressed its deep concern over the deaths, displacements, and suffering of citizens in East Wollega, Oromia regional state. 

Previously Tole Kebele of Gimbi woreda in the west Wollega zone suffered the same grave allegations of mass killings and massacres.  

It was reported at the time that due to the attack in the area on June 18, 2022, according to the government’s figures, 338 people were killed in the Gimbi attack, while the Amhara Association of America documented in a report that it identified the names and identities of 455 dead people and that the total number of victims would reach around 600. 

Barely eighty days after the alleged massacre and attack on civilians in Tole Kebele of Gimbi woreda, a new report of a massacre of civilians emerged in Kelem Wollega Zone on July 4.  

Reports showed that in the Kelem attack, people were brutally massacred, and women, infants, and elders were the subject of the violence, in which about 150–160 people were killed. 

By that time, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission had called for an urgent reinforcement of government security forces so as to prevent additional civilian casualties and deaths. 

The current claim of mass killing and organized attack on civilians in the Eastern Wollega zone in the districts of Gida Ayana and Kiramu emerged five months after the Gimbi massacre and Kelem massacre on June 18 and July 4, 2022, respectively.

After the hyped news of the attacks, Deputy Chairperson of the Oromo Federalist Congress and prominent Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed proposed three ways that he said would be solutions for the deepening Oromo crisis: "start negotiations with the OLA towards a truce, remove Fano militia out of Oromia and facilitate the return of IDPs, accept a comprehensive national peace process is the only solution and plan accordingly." 

Opposition political parties based in Ethiopia also shared their concern and called upon the government to take measures and deploy federal forces to Wollega in order to save the life of civilians. 

Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice said in a statement that "in the Oromia region, in Wollega, West Shoa, Jimma, South West Shoa, East Shoa, East, and West Guji zones, and in various districts, the OLA/Shane attack, which posed a serious threat to citizens, is expanding and taking roots from time to time." 

The party urged the federal government to take necessary measures.

Several protests have erupted voicing concerns over the reports of atrocities in Eastern Wollega. Students in different universities, including Addis Ababa University and Adama Science and Technology University, and high schools in the Oromia Regional State held demonstrations denouncing the repeated attacks on civilians in Wollega.