What is behind Wollega’s mass killings? Is it ethnic hatred, re-settlers hatred or a resource conflict?
My heart aches for the thousands of innocent people that perished as a result of the horrific massacre in Gimbi Kelem and other regions in Gambella and Benshangul Gumz. Expressing my deep sorrow, I would like to discuss about the issue of resettlement and the crimes committed in Ethiopia.
When I heard about the killings and forced evictions of re-settlers from different parts of Ethiopia in general and in Oromia, Benishangul and Gambella regions in particular; they are ethnically Amhara’s. The issue forced me to ask the following questions.
Why is it, especially these days, only the killing of Amhara’s is highly heralded? Are we talking about the majority? If so, why is it that other ethnic re-settlers are excluded from the agenda? If we look at the current narration from the wollega mass killings, it is only about Amhara re-settlers. Are they only Amhara’s? If so, where are the other re-settlers (those from Tigray, Agew, Wollo and others?)
My intention here is not to undervalue the killing and eviction of Amhara re-settlers from different parts of Ethiopia but rather get the full picture of the killings and evictions of re-settlers.
By 1986, according to Mulatu Wubne, the Derg government had resettled more than 600,000 people. More than 250,000 went to Wollega; about 150,000 settled in the Gambella area of Illubabor; and just over 100,000 went to Pawe, the largest planned resettlement in Gojjam and largely sustained by Italian financial support. In addition, another 78,000 went to Kaffa, Shewa, and Begemder.
To my knowledge, most of the re-settlers were forcefully taken from Tigray, Agew, and from former Wollo Administrative Regions from 1976 to 1985.
Gebru Tareke, studying the Derg government records of resettlement program, provides us a more accurate picture.
“Between 1984 and 1986,” he writes, “594,190 people were hastily, forcibly and pitilessly uprooted from the cool, dry highlands of Shewa, Tigray, and Wollo to the hot, wet lowlands of Gojjam, Illubabor, Kafa and Wollega. Of this number, the largest group 367,016 or 62 percent came from Wollo; 108,241 or 18 percent from Shewa; 89,716 or 15 percent from Tigray.
The settlers encountered harsh conditions: as many as 33,000 or 5.5 percent died from starvation and tropical diseases, while at least 84,000 or 14 percent more are believed to have fled these new settlements.
The survivors have stayed in Wollega, Benshangul Gumz, Gambella and other areas for about 40 years. Most of them have changed their former lifestyle and have adopted the culture of the area they were resettled in and mixed with the indigenous people. Probably, all of them are speakers of the languages of the indigenous peoples. Now, their children have become native speakers.
Having this fact in mind, if we say it is always the Amhara’s who are killed; can we also say the killers left other re-settlers (e.g. Tegaru, Wollos, Agews) intentionally? If so, how do the killers ethnically identify one settler from the other? If not, why is the massacre of Amhara’s highly fanned separately? Is there a negative motive to widen the existing problems between Amhara and Oromia Region?
There is a clear need to conduct a research to understand the problem. The problem could be related with a resource conflict, re-settler hatred, maladministration, ethnic fundamentalism, and etc. It should be studied. As some writers suggest, are Eritrean leaders and their hidden security men really aggravating the situation?
I don’t know what comes next, but for me, if we really are touched by the merciless massacres in Wollega and other regions of Ethiopia, we have to herald the killing of others as well.
According to Mario Giro, an Italian politician, nobody can do a gruesome accounting of the victims as if it was some kind of competition to see who suffered the most or who caused the most pain. The figures are of little help and convince no one: everyone uses them as weapons to throw in the opponent’s face. War is making everyone meaner and more insensitive. It is war itself that is our enemy: it disfigures the face and soul of the peoples who live or suffer from it.
What we must do together is to start explaining the reasons for living together again. I know that now our voice is weak, but we must believe and explain again and again.
Only peace is holy and will save Ethiopia.
But, who really is responsible for the mass killings?
Many local and diaspora activists and their power mongering sponsors were disseminating hateful, cruel, despiteful, malevolent and malicious messages for more than three years. In these same years, the activists and their companions who were being motivated and charged by political, religious, ethnic, etc. interests were agitating and calling people to be ready for war in these same years.
Thousands of pages are written to convey the same ill ideas by the so-called intellectuals. Many meetings, press conferences and interviews were held to feed people false information. Uncountable news were broadcasted and published. Billions of birr were allocated and millions of dollars and Euros were collected to aggravate the situation. They were beating the drums of war, blinded with their partisan ego. Instead of working for peace, tolerance and living in harmony they were fanning hateful propaganda.
Now, these same activists are condemning the mass killings and are complaining about the outcome of the civil war. I don’t know what others say, but for me, nobody else but they are responsible for these results. Fellow Ethiopians, what happened so far is more than enough. From now on, let us work for peace, tolerance and harmony. Let us work for development. I call upon all peace loving people and organizations to support us in realizing harmonious living.
Peace is the only solution we have. If we really are ready to realize peace in our country, avoiding hateful speeches that are worsening the situation must be stopped without preconditions. Reconciliation of history has to be given a priority. Finding the means to retain a national reunion has to be a national agenda.
Contributed by Teshome Berhanu Kemal