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Study reveals rampant gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, mass arrests in two Guji zones

Merga Fikaduu (right), a human rights researcher and panelist for the study, and Nardos Chuta, Senior Specialist in Gender, Policy, and Development, highlighted a significant rise in gender-based violence within the Guji and West Guji zones (Photo: Addis Standard)

Addis Abeba – Research conducted by the Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD), titled “Voice of Guji: Grave Human Rights Situation in Oromia’s Guji Zones,” underscores severe human rights violations in these regions.

The investigation was carried out from March to May 2023, with an additional data collection phase in January 2024.

The research reveals a dire humanitarian crisis in the Guji and West Guji Zones of Oromia, Ethiopia, stemming from ongoing conflict.

Both government security forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, and the use of excessive force against civilians and protesters.

In the course of their investigation, the researchers documented a total of 36 specific instances of human rights violations.

These cases encompassed a range of abuses, including displacement from homes, the destruction of property, livestock raids, mass arrests, arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, prolonged incarcerations, emotional and psychological distress, torture, and theft.

Merga Fikaduu, a human rights researcher and panelist for the study, informed Addis Standard that mass arrests were prevalent in both zones during the conflict.

“Authorities arbitrarily detained numerous individuals without cause or due process, subjecting them to harsh conditions in inadequate facilities,” he stated. “These arrests were often based on alleged links to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) or participation in protests against the formation of the East Borana zone, violating the fundamental rights of detainees, including their freedom, security, and right to a fair trial.”

According to Merga, the conflict in Oromia, particularly in the Guji zone, has resulted in extensive property destruction.

“Deliberate attacks on homes and essential supplies have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, leaving numerous civilians without shelter or critical resources. This infringement on housing and property rights not only affects the immediate well-being of individuals but also compounds the broader challenges faced by the affected communities,” Merga elaborated.

Nardos Chuta, a senior specialist in gender, policy, and development, conveyed to Addis Standard that there has been a notable increase in gender-based violence within the Guji and West Guji zones.

She highlighted the prevalence of severe sexual violence experienced by women and girls in these conflict-affected areas, including instances of rape, assault, and degradation, all of which contribute to their suffering and trauma.

 Nardos expressed deep concern about the widespread occurrence of forced disappearances in both regions.

She explained, “Numerous individuals have been forcibly taken away, resulting in uncertainty about their fate and causing significant distress to their families and communities.”

Nardos further emphasized that such actions violate their rights to freedom, personal safety, and legal recognition.

Research findings indicate a prevalence of severe torture and inhumane treatment perpetrated by both state and non-state actors, in defiance of constitutional prohibitions. Individuals in custody have endured extreme levels of physical and mental abuse, thereby violating their fundamental human rights and dignity.

Studies have uncovered the grim realities of ransom kidnappings and displacements in the Guji zones. The practice of hostage-taking for coercion has led to heightened local insecurity and vulnerability.

The ongoing conflict has compelled numerous civilians to seek shelter in internally displaced persons (IDP) centers. Moreover, additional crises like drought have impeded the delivery of aid, exacerbating the challenges faced by displaced communities. AS

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