BY ADDIS STANDARD STAFF
Addis Abeba, December,3/2021- The Oromia regional government today announced the killing of civilians including the Karrayyu Abba Gadaa, Kadir Hawas Boru in the East Showa zone. While Addis Standard received reports of killings and abduction of community members which point to the involvement of government forces, the Oromia regional government blamed the attacks on the Oromo liberation army(OLA) in a statement issued this afternoon. The OLA on its part yesterday issued a statement attributing the attacks to government forces.
Abera (name changed for security reasons) recounted the events before the attack beginning from Wednesday December 1st where a prayer ceremony, Waaq Kadhaa was being held at the seat of the area’s Gadaa leadership. According to Abera, government security forces comprising Oromo special forces, regional police and militia arrived at the ceremony attended by a lot of people. He noted that the attendees of the ceremony were unarmed while attend the sacred ceremony. “None of them suspected anything as it is normal for the woreda administration to convene with Abba Gadaas regarding issues of security and administrative matters. Our area hadn’t seen any security issues recently so none of them were alarmed when they were suddenly surrounded by government security forces,” Abera said.
Abera also recalled an incident in Haroo Qarsa, another kebele in the woreda which he admitted to not having the details of. Putting his speculations about the possible security issue he said, “Our kebele borders Boset Woreda and is far from Haroo Qarsa so we only heard of a security issue and the deployment of security forces a few days ago.”
“NONE OF THEM WERE ALARMED WHEN THEY WERE SUDDENLY SURROUNDED BY GOVERNMENT SECURITY FORCES.”
ABERA, AN EYE WITNESS
Abera recounted, “After their arrival the government forces abducted the men including Abba Gadaas, Abba Boku, prominent community members and young men from the prayer ceremony,” he detailed, putting the number at a total of 41 individuals. He continued, “They forced them to hand over their weapons and traditional armaments then drove them to a remote area called Anole. They beat them while they begged to be told what they did wrong.”
According to him, Two people managed to escape and reach the community after midnight and informed them of the conditions of the people who were taken by security forces. “On Thursday people went out to search for them, including in police stations, then finally recovered the bodies of 14 of them by midday,” he said, adding, “We don’t know the whereabouts of the remaining people.” Another resident of the woreda, Bekele (name changed for security reasons) told Addis Standard the government forces prohibited the community from collecting the remains which according to him were eaten by animals when discovered.
“ON THURSDAY PEOPLE WENT OUT TO SEARCH FOR THEM, INCLUDING IN POLICE STATIONS, THEN FINALLY RECOVERED THE BODIES OF 14 OF THEM BY MIDDAY.”
ABERA, AN EYEWITNESS
Abera who spoke to Addis Standard while attending the funeral of the 14 people described the atmosphere, “The people are in absolute shock and terror. The government forces continue to beat and harass the community in several areas of the woreda.” Commenting on the statement issued by the Oromia regional government, Abera asks, “If Shanee is responsible, why didn’t the government help us find them Wednesday through Thursday?” He spoke of a recent pro-government rally attended by the woreda’s community including the deceased and asked, “Why aren’t they here searching for the remaining people with us? Why don’t they hold the perpetrators accountable?” He also expressed his disappointment in the Oromia Abba Gadaa council, “These Abba Gadaas are not of the Karrayu only, they belong to Oromia. We don’t understand the silence while our community is suffering from drought, border clashes and now this.”
“IF Shanee IS RESPONSIBLE, WHY DIDN’T THE GOVERNMENT HELP US FIND THEM WEDNESDAY THROUGH THURSDAY?”
ABERA, AN EYE WITNESS
The head of Oromia region communication bureau, Hailu Adunga told Addis Standard that the attacks were retribution measures taken by Shanee (a term used by government officials to refer to OLA). When asked about why the government withheld the information of the abduction until Two days later Hailu said, “It is not appropriate to divulge operations being undertaken by government forces as it might reach the enemy.” Hailu declined to comment on the number of casualties in the attack as well as abducted individuals, “It is an ongoing operation and the police will soon make the information public.” However he disclosed that government forces have taken measures against 16 members of the OLA.
THE HEAD OF OROMIA COMMUNICATION BUREAU DECLINED TO COMMENT ON THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES IN THE ATTACK AS WELL AS ABDUCTED INDIVIDUALS.
Bekele corroborated Abera’s statement when recounting the events in Haroo Qarsa kebele on the morning of November 30. “Oromia special forces, Oromia police and local militias arrived in Five patrol cars, started rummaging through Haro Qarsa kebele asking the people to expose the members of ‘Shanee’ among them. They were beating harassing people and raping women.” He detailed that the security forces’ attempt to take Five young men was met with resistance resulting in confrontation between the people and the police. The police fired live bullets to disperse the crowd and drove back to Matahara at around 5PM local time, according to Bekele.
The Oromia communication bureau head refuted the allegations, “There has been no confrontation between government forces and the public. All operations in that area are against the terrorist group.” The administrator of East Showa zone, Ababu Waqo also corroborated Hailu’s statement saying that government forces were helping the community find its abducted members. He also spoke of ongoing operations and additional deployment of government security forces to the area.
The secretary of Abba Gadaa union and Abba Gadaa of Tulama, Gobana Hola declined to comment on the matter citing the conflicting narratives by both government forces and the OLA, “I better not comment until I travel to Fentale woreda hear from both sides.” AS