News Alert: Eyewitnesses say more than 90 killed in fresh attack in Bulen Wereda, Benishangul Gumuz; region cautions civilians to join safe villages

News Alert: Eyewitnesses say more than 90 killed in fresh attack in Bulen Wereda, Benishangul Gumuz; region cautions civilians to join safe villages

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba, December 23/2020 – Disturbing eyewitness reports are reaching Addis Standard about overnight attacks which left “more than 90” people killed in Bekuji Kebelle, Bulen Wereda, Metekel Zone, in Benishangul Gumuz regional state.

Reports coming since this morning indicate that civilians were targeted in the attack which lasted for “several hours” in which “more than 90 people were killed, houses torched and hundreds were displaced,” according to one eyewitness who contacted Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity.

Quoting survivors, Amhara Mass Media Agency also reported that there was “heavy massacre” in the same area and was “ethnic targeted”. According to AMMA calls for rescue were “unanswered” from local authorities. Tikvah Ethiopia, a popular Telegram Channel for local news, on its part cited its members from the area as saying “more than 96 people were killed.” It also reported that more than 20 people were admitted to Bekuji health center for treatment.

The attack came one day after President of Benishangul Gumuz regional state, Ashadli Hussein, called on civilians in Metekel zone who have joined armed groups to stir clear from those areas. According to the President, those civilians do not fully understand “TPLF’s criminal mission” and cautioned them to get out of harm’s way during the ongoing “law enforcement operation” in the areas. He further called on civilians to join villages where “peaceful parts of the community” live and to separate themselves from “forces of destruction.”

On December 22, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has held discussion with the local community in Metekel yesterday and told communities that the federal government was working with the Command Post and local security forces to find lasting ways to resolve the security crisis in the area, which has seen intensified repeated attacks by armed groups in recent weeks.

In a statement released late in the evening, regional President Ashadli on his part announced that the regional state, in collaboration with the federal government, has set new directives to address the security crisis in the zone and provide long term solutions.

The President recalled that similar conflicts in Asosa and Kemashi zones were immediately halted but he admitted that it has taken time for the security forces and the leadership of the region to contain the security crisis in the Metekel Zone since 2019. There are a lot of groups participating in perpetuating the violence in the region, according to Ashadli, with forces associated with “TPLF being the major ones” who has been instigating conflict “by using different political parties to recruit the youth.”  He noted that coordinated efforts by both the federal and regional states in annihilating “anti-peace forces”, arresting them and confiscating firearms, bear some fruits but didn’t successfully address the problem. “The solution for those who wish to continue to engage in violence is law enforcement,” he said.

The President urged the people of the regional state to prioritize peace and take advantage of the opportunity that comes with the construction of the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD), located in Guba wereda of the region.

He also emphasized the positive relationship of the Amhara regional state and Benishangul regional state, adding that the security crisis in Metekel zone is a “common problem” to which the two regions would provide solution through discussion. The ministry of peace will oversee a reconciliation committee comprising Benishangul-Gumuz and Amhara regions. AS


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