It is numbing to say the least to be writing about a subject on which we have opined on no less than half a dozen times over the past four years. However, we have no choice but to say our two cents on it yet again. On June 18 hundreds of ethnic Amharas were viciously slaughtered in the Tole locality in the restive Gimbi Woreda, West Wollega Zone of the Oromia regional state. Though official figures have not been provided so far, according to some reports the number could top 1,000, making the massacre arguably the deadliest episode since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) assumed office in April 2018 and began to introduce a series of reforms intended to broaden the democratic space. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the massacre was related to clashes between government security forces and from the OLF-Shene or the self-described Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a claim which the group denied. Outraged and stunned in equal measures by the interminable butchery of innocent civilians, Ethiopians are longing the day they do not wake to news of such a sickening carnage.
The four-year tenure of the premiere has seen hundreds of ethnic conflicts and targeted attacks against certain communities occurring 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. The expression of sorrow and revulsion in the aftermath of similar previous incidents unfortunately has not galvanized a concerted action to end their recurrence. In fact people have by and large become indifferent to outbreaks of violence and tend to view the victims as just another statistic. The vows made by the administration of Prime Minister Abiy and the regional governments where the slaughters are occurring to put an end to them and restore peace and security in the affected communities are ringing hollow though given they have failed to live up to their word.
Last week’s killings are the latest in the unending cycle of violence Ethiopia has been locked in a cycle of violence following the ascendancy of Prime Minister Abiy to power. As he acknowledged over a year ago the country has been averaging one deadly conflict every week since he came to office. There is no denying that Ethiopia’s strategic enemies have played a part in instigating the plethora of conflicts that have bedeviled it. They execute their evil design—to destabilize Ethiopia by sowing the seeds of division and hatred between communities which have co-existed in harmony for centuries—through dyed in the wool extremists or hired guns. These proxies use violence to rule over and bleed dry the communities living in the areas they operate. If they are allowed to act with impunity, they are bound to commit even more egregious atrocities.
The latest bout of bloodshed in West Wollega gives rise to the usual questions that remain unanswered to date. Why are defenseless citizen butchered regularly? Why can’t it be stopped? How long do they have to endure living in fear? When will the regional government show the gut to purge treacherous elements within its ranks that openly collaborate with the perpetrators of the heinous crimes? The dismal record of the regional and federal authorities when it comes to availing a credible explanation regarding why they are unable to guarantee the safety and security of the inhabitants of an area that has witnessed perennial violence is truly unfathomable. The public is demanding to know why they are unable to crush or at least blunt the OLF-Shene’s capability despite frequent assertions that it has been dealt a debilitating blow. Furthermore, the fact that the terrorist-designated group has been able to wage a campaign of terror for over four years now has forced the general public to question whether the government is genuinely interested in hastening its demise.
Ethiopians are sick and tired of the senseless bloodletting that has ongoing for years now. Although the government shoulders the primary obligation of putting a stop to the alarming frequency of appalling carnages, its efforts cannot bear fruit if it does not enable the public to play an active role in the search for solutions. It has to go beyond vowing to eliminate the responsible entities/individuals and take the steps necessary to ensure that they are brought to justice. So too must elements within both federal and regional government structures and the security infrastructure complicit in the atrocities. Aside from ensuring that the perpetrators of unspeakable atrocities face the music, it’s incumbent on all stakeholders to strengthen age-long bond of fraternity between Ethiopians. Though the decision passed by Parliament to investigate the extent of the damage caused by the recent violence in Gambella region and West Wollega Zone and the human rights implications thereof may be deemed to be a step in the right direction, it’s paramount to see to it that any probe into the massacre is thorough and impartial.. This will go a long way towards learning the lessons needed to prevent a recurrence of the unspeakable massacre in West Wollega Wollega and similar other incidents elsewhere that are a stain on the nation’s conscience.