Heartaches, grief engulf Wollega

For the past few years several ethnic conflicts and targeted attacks against certain communities occurring in several areas of Ethiopia including the War in the northern part of the country have transpired causing deep wounded heartache; and now following the horrific attack in Wollega on June 18, the country greaves for the hundreds of ethnic Amharas who were viciously slaughtered in the Tole locality in the restive Gimbi Woreda, West Wollega Zone of the Oromia regional state.
Tole kebele which has 11 villages saw survivors of the deadliest attack narrating how the ambush was spurred and targeted the Amhara community who faced this atrocity mainly because of their ethnic identity.
“It started in the morning at about 8:30 am,” said one of the survivors from the horrific attack made by the militant wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), adding, “it continued till 1:30 pm, as they killed as many as they could.”
“We are farmers, we don’t have weapons, they all wore the same uniform, and had long hair. They had modern weapons, and looked like snipers,” said another survivor, adding, “they caused havoc and killed us using guns, knives and torched the houses of some of the residents.” Having escaped this traumatic event, he explained that he had been living in Tole Kebele for the last 25 years after a move from Bahir dar, Amhara region. He further elaborated that he spoke three languages fluently, including Oromifa and as a result of this tragedy had lost 25 of his relatives.
Residents of Tole who spoke to Capital, only spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, “as the entire community is traumatized,” they said.
The official number of deaths has not yet been disclosed by government’s side yet as the residents express, the number of deaths from the attack is more than 1500 people. “So far we have buried 920 dead bodies. We have been burying dead bodies up until Wednesday. We have buried them like an animal which is not as per our religion. It is difficult to find the rest of the missing bodies, since it could be eaten by dogs, hyenas and some of them have might have been taken by the flood,” the residents explained.
“For the last three years, we have been living in fear, however, we didn’t expect such dreadful things to befall on us,” said a father who lost his wife and two children, aged 4 years and 6 months.
As he narrates, a few kilometers away from Tole Kebele in a place called Chefe, was the main assumed spot for the rebellion group and three days back before the attack, Saturday, these rebels has started to gravitate towards Tole kebele.
We informed this to the woreda leaders to strength the security forces. However, by then most of the state forces had left the area and some has mixed with the society out of fear of the group.
“It is carelessness of the highest order,” the grieving father of two out-cried.
Selamawit Kassa, state minister of government communications said that for the last four to five days, the security forces from the region, federal police and the national army have been taking massive measures against the OLF group.
“The area is complicated, it will take time. Further information will be publicly announced through security forces,” the state minister said as she indicated that the government is now working to provide humanitarian aid to the survivors.
“We are not receiving proper aid. We call on government, the general public and the rest of the world to help us,” begged the survivors, as they indicated that now they are staying a few kilometers away from Tole, to which the federal and state security forces advised them to stay there.
“The only thing we want from the government is to move us to a better place” the survivors added.
As videos show of the small villages, graphic images of the dead bodies from the massacre have been circulating on social media for the past few days.
“Attacks on innocent civilians and destruction of their livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces is unacceptable. There is zero tolerance for horrific acts claiming lives recently in both Benishangul and Oromia regions by elements whose main objective is to terrorize communities,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaking on the launching event of green legacy.
“Residents are still calling for immediate assistance due to security concerns in the area,” said the Ethiopian Human right Commission in its statement.
The commission called on the government to take necessary measures to prevent further attacks on civilians, to take appropriate precautions against civilian targets in any case, and to find a lasting solution to the problem.
UN High Commissionner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed these acts as a senseless killing and urged Ethiopian authorities to hold prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into the attacks that led to the killing of hundreds of people in the West Wollega zone, western Ethiopia, last weekend.
The UN Human Rights Office has spoken to witnesses who report that at around 9am local time on 18 June, a group of armed individuals descended on the village of Tole, with a predominantly Amhara population, and reportedly began shooting randomly, leaving hundreds dead – most of them women and children – and forcing at least 2,000 others to flee from their homes. The armed individuals also reportedly burned down several houses during the four-hour assault.
The public over the country, political parties, leaders, diplomatic community, country leaders, international community, and organizations have been expressing their grief over the week.
Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice Party (EZEMA) on Monday said the government is responsible for the lives of innocent civilians that are being massacred in different parts of Ethiopia.
EZEMA said that the government should have worked to ensure such massacres do not happen.
Similarly, the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) said the government should understand that its number one responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of citizens and that it should discharge its responsibilities.
NaMA went further to demand that collaborators of radical armed groups that are working from within the government structure and armed groups should be brought to justice. On 21 June, four members of parliament representing the NaMA walked out of an ongoing parliamentary session, which was convened to receive Federal Auditor General 2021 Audit Performance Report.
In the past few years several ethnic conflicts and targeted attacks against certain communities have occurred in several areas of Ethiopia.
Thousands of unarmed civilians including children and the elderly have been massacred with millions more displaced from their homes and left deeply traumatized due to acts of violence in the Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella, Amhara, Afar, Somalia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional states and the war in the Tigray region.
According to the OCHA, relief web in Ethiopia from April 2018 to 10 June 2022, shows the total number of 3000 organized violence events have occurred with 16,477 reported fatalities from organized violence and 7,324 reported fatalities from civilian targeting different ethnic groups.
On June 14, 2022, clashes between government forces and rebel forces have been taking place in Gambela. Members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Gambela Liberation Front (GLF) have launched an offense against government forces in Western Ethiopia. Security forces have reportedly regained control of some areas of the city that had been taken over by the rebels following hours of clashes.

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