The week-long violence in Woldia and Kobo towns in Northern Wollo Zone of the Amhara Regional State, are far from over, as the region tries to calm the situation and start arresting youngsters, The Reporter has learnt.
The violence began on Kana Zegelila celebration, the second day of the Epiphany Festival, in Woldia town. The violence then spread to Kobo first and then to Mersa town.
The Reporter has traveled to those affected areas of Northern Wollo including Mersa, Woldia, Mehal Amba and Sirinka, where it witnessed burned trucks, public offices and business as well as blocked roads.
As a result of the violence in the area, the usual public transport from Dessie to Woldia – an estimated 110 kilometers – was terminated.
On January 28, 2018 during its travel to the area, The Reporter witnessed, only two minibuses that took the risk while transporting 36 people through Woldia. There were no buses leaving from Dessie bus station daring to make the journey. The drivers of one of the minibus were telling the travelers that all of them should have their identifications card in case if anyone asks for it. “If you have your ID, there will be no problem,” the driver said.
Later, The Reporter observed the driver telling his passengers that, there might be an ethnic oriented attack from the protestors along the way. These two minibuses, forced by protestors, had to stop after traveling about 80 kilometers. They told their passengers they can no longer travel beyond Mehal Amba, 30km from Woldia. From Mehal Amba, The Reporter along with other travelers, had to walk for 30 kilometers for more than seven hours to reach Woldia. On the way to town, The Reporter witnessed youngsters demanding travelers to show their ID and ask them where they came from.
Furthermore court houses, hotels, shops and other businesses and public offices in a town called Mersa were set on fire and a number of businesses were vandalized and torched, The Reporter observed.
The Reporter has also observed a military presence in Mersa dominated by a highly equipped National Military, Federal Police and few members of the regional police.
It is to be recalled that, the deadly clash in Mersa town claimed the lives of many people including a brutal killing of a judge who had worked in the area. The killing of the judge seems to be a revenge killing by the people who were affected by his judgements previously, according to a resident of Mersa.
The youths who were involved in the protest following the incident in Woldia didn’t listen to our advice, said another resident of Mersa in his 70’s. He went on to say that, a body of an individual who said was killed by security forces, had no one there to take his body.
The Reporter saw two buses and three trucks carrying people, escorted by mainly the member of the National Defense.
The protest also spread to towns such as Kobo, and Robit. Depite the efforts taken by regional officials in Kobo, has continued over the week where it saw the destruction of public offices, business and lives.
A public servant who lives in Robit, whose name withheld upon request, told The Reporter that, people in Kobo and Robit were raising genuine problems of maladministration, lack of infrastructure as well as good governance. He also stated that, they are going into every house and started arresting people.
Following the talks for holding a three-day-stay home strike, in the same week in Woldia, The Reporter has observed that businesses have remained largely shutdown with youngsters closing down major roads leading to and out of the town.
Meanwhile, federal forces have been spotted arriving in the area.
A teacher working in Woldia, who spoke to The Reporter anonymously, said that although first semester final exams for high school students were scheduled to take place this week, starting Monday, but the probability of that happening now has gone down considerably given the current situation. It is highly unlikely that students would be able to sit for their exams in the current conditions, said the teacher.
Similar to last week, protestors are reported to have started attacking homes and properties of local officials and businesses.
So far regarding the loss of lives, except for the seven people who lost their lives in Woldia, no official figure was given by the region as well as the federal government in respect to property destruction and loss of lives.