Recent social media campaigns following reports of mass displacement and hunger of thousands of ethnic Gedios, residing in the Southern Regional State, might be one of the major setbacks for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) since he took power exactly a year ago. What came to be called the hidden tragedy of Gedio got little to no attention from the administration despite the fact some of the local media houses including The Reporter has been covering the issue for the past seven months.
However, the misery of the GedioIDPs came into the spotlight following a report by international media outlets such as The Guardian and others.Abiy’s infant administration was busy with many outstanding issues since it came to power back in April, 2018;and yet it has not been criticized as heavilyas it is right now for failing to manage the crisis in Gedio, which bordersGuji Zone ofthe Oromia Regional State.
In fact, the displacement in the area was sparked by a communal violence in the area between the Gedio and the Guji, which began in the same month that Abiy swore into power.
The much publicized criticism in the virtual world particularly facebook was sparked by a photo in circulation of a dying mother who suffered malnutrition in Gedio. The photo which went viral in every social media platform push the government to do a crisis management yet many seems unhappy the way the government tried to manage the issue on top of saying it was too little, too late.
In its recent article entitled, “Shadow falls over Ethiopia reforms as warnings of crisis go unheeded” The Guardian have described the situation which it said will be one of gravest sin where Abiy and his administration choose to ignore.
The Guardian speaking to aid workers have also reported that Abiy simply want to keep his administration new international image by ignoring the issue of internal displacement especially when it comes to Guji and Gedio.
Even though the problem in the area have been going on for the past six and more months, the government was very confident in the face of the public when claiming 90 percent of all the internally displaced population in Ethiopia had returned to their original homes.
This statement seems far from the reality; and in fact far from recently released reports by Ethiopian government as well donors.
For instance, back in July, 2018, when the number of internally displaced population in Ethiopia reached a historical high which was one million, the problems in Gedio-Guji was much visible than any other internal displacements in other parts of the country.
Back then, according to a UN report on Gedio – West Guji, the combined number of IDPs in the area has reached 818,250 and that life-saving assistance is required. Moreover, the same report showed that from the total number of internally displaced population, more than 90 percent are in Gedio Zone. From this, in Gedio zone alone, there are around 105,452 children internally displaced.
Atthat time, international NGOs were warning the government to fasten its seatbelt and assist those who are in need of help. There were also reportsof resource gaps, given the spectacular level of demand.
Amidthis crisis, few weeks after the aforementioned report, it is to be recalled that senior officials including the Deputy Prime Minister,DemekeMekonnen, as well as the current president of the Southern and Oromia Regional States have visited the people displaced from the area. Yet again, the same delegation led by the House speaker, MufritKemil, also chairperson of the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPD), one of the four parties constituting the ruling EPRDF, also went into those places and said those who were displaced would get the needed assistance.
However, all this ceremonials visits by senior officials brought little or no hope to those who are in need. In one of his recent speeches, the Prime Minister was heard while saying the internal displacement issues across the country is being managed and 90 percent of the displaced population is returning to their original homes.
In contrary to this statement, NGOs in Gedio-Gujicase,claimed that people were being forced to return to their original home without any security assurance and support.
The displacement in the area was first begun last year with a communal violence between the bordered Gedios and Guji population. This, in fact, escalated into a larger conflict which finally led to the displacements of millions in the area.
A number of reports also indicate that with the involvement of armed groups which it says claimallegiance to the Oromo Liberation Front are also behind complicating the problems in the area. According to The Guardian’s recent article “rapes and beheadings, and of complicity among local officials, police and militia, makes it seem more like organized ethnic cleansing than an ordinary tribal clash.”
KiramTadesse, a local journalist who went to the area last week, shared his experiences and observation in the area,on his personal facebookaccount.
Still, the government is not addressing the root cause of the internal displacement in Gedio, said Kiram. Even if the problem is not as worse as it was exaggerated in the social media accounts still it is very concerning.
“I have seen scars in a number of women from Gedio which said they were attacked by their close family members,” Kiram told The Reporter.
Despite the exaggeration and sometimes the fake news release regarding the crisis on facebook, still the influence of the platform and facebook users was unprecedented to point where it forced senior government officials including the Prime Minister to pay a visit to Gedio and speak to those living in destitution.
Millions of facebook users have shared a number of pictures which shows hungry and malnourished mothers and children from the area. This also comes with blaming and shaming the government for its failure to manage the humanitarian crisis in the area.
Following the incident a number of regional governments as well as individuals have promised to support the people in Gedio. Tigray regional state promised to donate money followed by Addis Ababa City administration and a number of government institutions.
The federal government on its behalf was seen rushing to procuring large amounts of food assistance which will be said to be distributed in the coming few months.
Just last week,as part of deterring the whole humanitarian crisis the government announce that is going to purchase 600,000 metric tons of wheat. It is to be recalled that prior to the latest purchase, the government has also purchase 400,000 metric tons of wheat at USD 108 million (3.04 billion birr). In addition, it wasalso preparing to float a tender to purchase an additional 400,000 metric tons of wheat.
From the aforementioned bulk including the latest one, 800,000 metric tons are dedicated for humanitarian food assistances.
According to a document which was jointly released by the Ethiopian government and its humanitarian partners,currently, there are 8.3 million Ethiopians in need of relief in food and cash, as well as non-food assistance, as of this year.The humanitarian crisis more importantly remained unchanged despite a better climate condition in comparison to last year. This is, in fact, mainly due to conflict induced mass internal displacements across the country which affected millions of Ethiopians.
In this regard, according to the latest humanitarian response document,there are around 3.19 million IDPs and IDP returnees who are in need of assistance; and out of which the 30 percent is in acute need of assistance. Looking into the details, from the total IDPs and IDP returnees, 47 percent are in Oromia, Somali (32 percent) and SNNP (13 percent).
Moreover, when it comes to food assistance,there are some 8.13 million people in need of food assistance. From this, more than 50 percent of the population lives in Oromia (52 percent)followed by Somali with 25 percent and SNNP 9 percent.
In terms of the number people who are in need of assistance,itwas not that much higher or worse compared to the numbers in previous years.
For instance, in 2015/2016 climate induced drought, there were more than 10 million people who were in need of assistance and at that the time, the government was appreciated by the international community for successfully managing the crisis.
Given the current situation, many were commenting that the government and the country given its vulnerability need to manage the crisis before it is too late. In total, Ethiopia currently needs USD 1.3 billion to manage its humanitarian crisis.
After Abiy visited the camps, 10 kilo gram of wheat was distributed per household and still there were many who did not get adequate food, according to Kiram.
“There is still a lot to do,” he said.