News Analysis: Konso zone and Segen Woreda admins, security officials discuss ways to jointly tackle ongoing security crisis in Segen

Addis Abeba – Local administrative and security officials drawn from Konso Zone and Segen Woreda in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regional state met on Saturday 23 April to discuss and outline joint plans to solve the security crisis in Segen Woreda, where the sounds of gunfire “continued in some kebelles” surrounding the Segen Woreda, according to Konso zone communication bureau.

The officials have discussed on ways of coordinating joint response to tackle the security crisis in Segen, which has displaced thousands in recent weeks alone.

Dawit Gebeyehu, chief administrator of Konso zone, said during the meeting that forces from an “extremist group” that he didn’t name started provocations at the even of the Ethiopian Easter in order to prevent displaced civilians from peacefully celebrating the Orthodox Christian holiday, which was celebrated this past weekend. The chief administrator further said that the local authorities will work “in coordination with the security forces to defuse the security situation in Segen.”

Last week, the UNOCHA said that intercommunal violence that erupted in Konso zone has “led to a new wave of displacement” of about 37,000 people, including about 19,000 women and girls, from 10 Kebeles.

Uprooting crops from the fields, looting animals, destroying property, and killing people has become the current acts of this extremist illegal group…”

“This includes the displacement of more than 32,000 people in Segen Zuria Woreda and more than 3,000 people in Karat Zuria Woreda (Fuchucha kebele) due to fighting between Konso and Derashe communities at the beginning of April. In the kebeles of Borqara, Mataragizaba, more than 1,000 persons have been displaced due to the violence, in the recent weeks”, the report said.

Gerche Kebelle in Segen Woreda “is still receiving gunfire” the Konso Zone communication bureau said, adding that the “destructive agenda” of the “extremist group” does not seek the peace of the people.

“Uprooting crops from the fields, looting animals, destroying property, and killing people has become the current acts of this extremist illegal group, which is blinded by evil and sows hatred,” the bureau said.

The Chief Administrator Konso zone, Dawit vowed that “this extremist group” which is known for its destruction of of the Segen surrounding Woreda and its conspiracy works will be reversed and peace will be restored in the woreda.

Last week, Ale Special Woreda communications affairs office said that community discussions were happening in various places to resolve the conflict in the adjacent areas of Konso and Ale Special Woreda. Efforts were also being made to relocate civilians who were displaced from Kerkerte Kebelle, Lageno sub-village and relocated to Maderia and Gizaba, Borqara, and Gegnara areas, and other areas to their areas of residence. When the IDPs arrived in Kekerte Kebele, Oybato Bane, they were warmly welcomed by the Karkere people, the bureau said.

Background on Konso (Structure and Context of Conflicts)

Konso is an area in the South Western of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, along the Segen River with a population estimated at 300,000. Located at around 90 kilometres south of Arba Minch city, it is bordered by Borena (Oromia Region) in the south, Ale Woreda (SNNPR) in the west and by Derashe and Amaro Woredas in the north. The Konso Cultural Landscape, recognized in 2011 by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage, is one of the main tourist destinations of the country.

Between 2010 and 2018, Konso was an administrative structure within a Zone consisting of five Woredas (Konso, Derashe, Amaro, Burji and Ale) and named “Segen Area Peoples”. The Segen Area Peoples Zone was given a new capital, called “Segen City Administration”, itself comprising of 17 kebeles which were formerly kebeles under the five woredas listed above. The Segen City Administration in effect merged 9 Kebeles from Konso Woreda, 4 Kebeles from Burji Woreda, 3 from Amaro Woreda and 1 Kebele from Derashe Woreda. Before 1994, these 17 kebeles were a single Woreda called “Gumayde Woreda” which in 1994 were split/reorganized along ethnic based boundaries.

The restructuring caused disappointments in those who opposed the “dismantling of the Gumayde Woreda” and a “Gumayde Peoples Special Woreda Return Committee” emerged shortly after

The demand by Konso to secede from Segen Area Peoples Zone and become a Zone, which began in 2014, was approved, four years later, and in [2018] the new Konso Zone was set up. It was also decided that the remaining four Woredas under the former Segen Area Peoples Zone, (Derashe, Amaro, Burji and Ale), become separate woredas on their own. This, in turn, resulted in the split of the “Segen City Administration” and the 17 Kebeles it combined returned to their former (1994) ethnic based organization.

The restructuring caused disappointments in those who opposed the “dismantling of the Gumayde Woreda” and a “Gumayde Peoples Special Woreda Return Committee” emerged shortly after. The people who consider themselves “Gumayde Peoples” and who live dispersed across the former 17 Kebeles, oppose the separation or organization along ethnic based boundaries and argue that the “Gumayde Peoples Special Woreda Structure” allowed easy access to social and public services, that the people share a common psycho-social makeup and that they would have been capable of choosing one official/administrative language. They feel that rather than dismantling the Segen City Administration it should be given a Special Woreda status.

Konso Zone, Amaro and Burji Woredas administrations on their part, contest the demand for the following reasons: “The people who demand a Gumayde Special Woreda status have no land, no people and no structure of their own. They are instead people from multiple ethnic groups living in various existing structures so it will be difficult for them to choose a single administrative/official language.”

Regardless, in June 2018, the SNNPR administration decided to dismantle the Segen City Administration and the 17 kebeles that formed returned to their 1994 ethnically organized woreda structures. Although, for many years, the area has been prone to border skirmishes, the decision to disassemble the Segen City Administration has made the conflicts more complex and drawn out by creating a divide between those who support and those who oppose the move.

Since the former Segen City Administration is an area that borders the Woredas of Konso, Derashe, Burji and Amaro, any conflict that begins in the area spreads to all other ones and disturbs the peace and security of all the people in the surroundings. For example, in a report from 2019, the EHRC reported that in a similar wave of conflicts, 53 people had died and an estimated 40 million birr worth of property was destroyed. AS

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