Analysis: Victims of violence in East Wollega endure dire situations, hesitant to return home citing lingering insecurity despite officials urge otherwise

Thousands of civilians displaced from Gida Ayana district were first sheltered in school compounds. Photo: Gida Ayana communication bureau

By Getahun Legesse @Birmaduu2

Addis Abeba – Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who are stranded in Gida town of Gida Ayana district, in East Wollega zone of Oromia regional state, said they are forced to endure dreadful situations without enough food, water and medical services for months.

They are the victims of deadly attacks in Kiremu and Gida Ayana districts which took place in November last year and have since been living in IDP shelters in the small Gida town.

“We received 25 kilo of flour per household in a month or two. We do not have access to clean water. We either have to buy or fetch from rivers. We do not have access to health services either” an IDP from Gida town told Addis Standard. “The majority of us are living on the streets. We are spending night under verandahs,” he said.

In December Addis Standard reported that more than 30, 000 internally displaced civilians sheltered in Gida town were in dire humanitarian crisis without access to food, water, shelter and medical services.

The only option is to return them back to Kiremu and dispense assistance through the zone’s administration”

Ijigu Gudeta

Speaking to Addis Standard, Ijigu Gudeta, administrator of Gida Ayana district, said that some 35, 000 IDPs: 22,000 who fled from Kiremu district, and 13,000 who fled from different villages of the Gida Ayana district, are currently sheltered in Gida town.

According to him, the regional administration is providing assistance to the displaced people in their respective districts, but he urged the IDPs who fled Kiremu district and who are currently in Gida town to go back to their districts. He said that some of the IDPs have already returned back to their homes, while the majority who have refused to go back remained stranded in Gida town.

“We are calling on the IDPs to go back to their district. It is impossible for us to rent houses for all the 22,000 IDPs from Kiremu. The only option is to return them back to Kiremu and dispense assistance through the zone’s administration,” Ijigu said.

Similarly, administrator of Kiremu district Fikadu Hunde said the people who fled the districts should return back to get better assistance.

The IDPs however, are reluctant to return to their homes saying that the security is still volatile. “It is risky for us to go back to our villages before reliable security is established in the area” an IDP who asked to be anonymous told Addis Standard.

“The security in the area is volatile. The ‘Fano’ militants may come back anytime and start another round of offensives after the government security forces leave the area. This had happened in the past,” the IDP who fled Kiremu said.

“It is risky for us to go back to our villages before reliable security is established in the area”

an IDP

“They [the government] have not yet restored security. However, we are being forced to return back to the district,” he added.

He also demanded the government to investigate the attacks that led to their displacement and ensure accountability.

“Our properties have been looted and destroyed by this group. They have burnt our homes and destroyed our farms. They have looted our livestock. Thus, they need to be hold accountable,” he emphasized.

Two attacks on 25 and 29 of November in Kiremu district, which authorities of the local government and fleeing residents attributed to attacks by “Fano Militia” from the neighboring Amhara region, have left dozens dead and the “entire residents of the district displaced.”

It was followed by yet another intense fighting over the weekend of 03 and 04 December with several contested accounts involving federal government and regional security forces on the one hand and armed groups of the Fano militia and members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on the other; several reports indicate unknown numbers of civilian causalities and mass displacement.

A report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said at the time that due to the abundance of indicators and evidences gathered from the areas on the extent of the violation of human rights, the violations “can be classified as a grave violation of human rights according to the principles and provisions of human rights.”

Both administrators of Kiremu and Gida Ayana districts have admitted that the area is still volatile, but noted that the zonal administration is working to restore security in the conflict-affected areas and redress the existing problem. They called on regional and federal governments to double the effort to resolve the problem permanently.

Underscoring that the assistance being provided is far behind what is needed, they also urged government and aid organizations to scale up their effort to address the humanitarian crisis.

The UN said in its latest report released on 02 February that tens of thousands of people who have been displaced due to fighting in Gida Woreda about month ago remain short of food and other necessities due to lack of access. Parts in Southern and Western Oromia Region continue to be impacted by volatile security and conflict, the UN said.

The UN had previously said that due to the prevailing insecurity since 2019 in Western and Southern Oromia, the humanitarian crisis has been deteriorating from time to time, and there are an estimated 740,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Western Oromia, border areas with the Amhara and the Benishangul Gumuz regions. AS

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