Mass Massacre in East Wollega

The Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organisation (OMRHO e.V.) received very shocking news that massacre of Oromo civilians have taken place in eastern Wollega on17th of May, 2008.  It is reported a minimum of 400 Oromos were killed, many more were severely wounded, and about 12000 were displaced alone in between 17th to 19th of May.

The massacre, it was added, made no discrimination between adults and children, men and women, young and old Oromos. Overtly the massacre has been perpetuated by the Gumuz ethnic group, who have been peacefully living with Oromos for centuries. Eye witness reports described the massacre as instigated and coordinated by the Ethiopian government as a part of its divide and rule strategy. The perpetrators were not only well armed with high tech machineguns but also militarily uniformed. It was also reported that the massacre took place in a militarily well coordinated and pre-planned manner in that the perpetrators spectacularly overwhelmed their Oromo victims early in the morning while they were sleeping. In a nutshell, the situation was strikingly similar with the Tutsi-Hutu state-sponsored conflict in Rwanda, except for the difference in their scale of massacre.  
Such dreadful overall picture of the incident has been confirmed by various official reports including the Voice Of America (VOA), Afaan Oromo Radio Program. As the VOA journalist reported online from Nekemte Hospital, where dozens of wounded Oromos were admitted, one could hear at the background screaming and agonized voices of the Oromo victims who confirmed hundreds of deaths and many more fatal injuries. Despite this fact, the government police refused to make any statement or comment to the request of the VOA journalist for official explanation. This is not to mention the total silence of the central government in Addis Ababa on the incident. As it later became clear, the Ethiopian government showed not only indifference but also arrogance of power to such a big size of causalities on lives of civil citizens it claims to be a legitimate ruler.

As it is well known, there have been records of gross human rights violations in Ethiopia since the current TPLF led Ethiopian government came to power in 1991. The Ethiopian regime’s track record of the past 17-years reveals that the regime pursues a malicious divide and rule policy by instigating a chain of conflicts between Sidama and Oromos, Somalis and Oromos, Gedyos and Oromos, Anyuwak and Nuers, Oromo and Afar, Oromo and Konsos, Oromo and Amharas, and this time between Gumuzis and Oromos.

The Oromo and Gumuz peoples have lived together as good neighbours for centuries. They are culturally intermingled and share social values, political and economic set-ups. It is precisely this socio-historical mutual interdependence that Meles Zenawi’s regime aimed at to destroy in having turned the Gumuz-Oromo peoples against each other as a part of its permanent “divide and rule” policy. What makes this time the regime’s involvement unique is the fact that it not only instigated the conflict but also that it organised, trained, armed and unleashed militias from Gumuz as wanton killers of the Oromos.

The Oromo who are exclusively disarmed by the current regime since 1991, couldn’t even defend themselves in the face of the well concerted military assault of the Gumuz ethnic group. The Oromo civilians mercilessly shot down or burnt down in their houses.  Elders, women and children were indiscriminately slaughtered or amputated in order to unleash terror and horror so that the surviving would evict their land, houses and properties. Conflicts have been reported in several parts of East Wollega of regional state of Oromia. Among others, highly affected areas include:

(1)    Saasiggaa district, Particularly Haroo Waataa, Camp 4, Camp 8, and
     Baloo villages;
(2) Limmu Districts, particularly Arqumbee village, Ambo 7 and   Mandar
     (Village) 10.

Among the reportedly 400 people killed, 115 bodies were found in only four mass graves. The remaining bodies were reportedly burnt down or eaten by wild animals like Hyenas. So far, over 12000 people are believed to have left their homes only to find their life destinies in a temporary camp Naqamtee town and at a primary school in Saasiggaa district. Some languish in over crowded and poorly equipped Neqamte hospital with little chance of survival. According to the information OMRHO received, the hospital admit only those who were on the verge of death just because of lack of space and medical personnel. Therefore, thousands of victims, even those who suffer sever injuries, were obliged to remain just in an open Soccer field at Neqamte School with no shelter, food and medical assistance. Though humanitarian organizations like the Ethiopian Red Cross, has been attempting to provide minimum basic life saving assistance to the victims, it was reported that such assistance is far from even mitigating the problem let alone solving it.

Just to add oil to the burning fire, OMRHO is receiving incoming news that the conflict is spreading to other areas in the region such as Diggaa district, Arjoo, Guddatu and Diimtuu areas. Accordingly, OMRHO worries about the possibility of further humanitarian catastrophe to prevail unless the Ethiopian regime and its allies curb this tragic development.

The constitution of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), Article 14 to Article 18, grants the Rights to life, the Security of Person, Liberty and Prohibition against Inhuman Treatment. Article 40 of FDRE also protects The Right to Property. It also defines the power and function of the Federal Government in accordance with FDRE Constitution of Article 51(14) to settle the deteriorated security situation.

Ethiopia is the state party to African Charter on Human and Peoples Right in which Article 4 to 6 protects the right of life and security of a person. Further, Ethiopia, as state party to ACP-AU Partnership Agreement, must comply with Articles 9, 10 and 11. Ethiopia is also a signatory of Universal Declaration in which the Article 2 and 3 protects the right to life, liberty and security.

However, the Ethiopian regime has repeatedly shown that it has never been willing either to abide with the international Covenants it ratified or with its own constitution.  Neither do we see any reason why it will do otherwise in the future.

Therefore, OMRHO once again calls, as it has always been doing since its very inception in 2005, upon all peace, justice and democracy loving humanitarian international organizations and governments to exercise their utmost influence on the Ethiopian regime so that

•    The continuous systematic genocide against the Oromo people be stopped.
•    The massacre in Eastern Wollega be investigated by non-partisan international body.
•    All perpetrators of the massacre be brought to justice.
•     A direct humanitarian aid to rehabilitate the survivors of genocide be possible.

The following pictures depict the dreadful face of the massacre