Pictures sent to Addis Standard by activists show villages burning in renewed attacks in Konso zone in which at least nine civilians were killed since January 09

By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil

Addis Abeba, January 12/2021 – The Konso zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPRS) is once again witnessing attacks by armed groups which claimed the lives of at least nine civilians and resulted in destruction of several villages, Abebe Alene, the head of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) in surrounding districts of Segen, told Addis Standard.

The latest attacks occurred despite traditional reconciliation which was held between the Konso and Ale communities in the last week of December last year and the suspected perpetrators were brought to justice. Among those detained suspected of instigating the violence which lasted for several weeks preceding the arrest include senior local officials, civil servants and farmers.

However, according to Abebe armed groups have attacked at least four kebeles in the zone: Toro, Buso, Afufo and Mekersa kebeles starting from January 9, 2021, resulting in the death of the nine civilians and critical injuries of three.

Villages that survived previous attacks are also set on fire, according to Abebe, who added that the latest attacks took place prior to yet another reconciliation process which was scheduled to take place on January 11. 2020.

On the other hand, residents of Aleko kebele who were displaced from their homes to other areas are slowly returning back but are still in fear of imminent attacks. “Most of the displaced people fled with nothing but their lives. Many, including children, sleep on grounds in open fields, with only ragged clothes on them to keep them warm,” says Kuse Hurumale, Chairman of Mele Gena Dungay Kebele in Konso zone.

“Around 3,000 households (18,000 individuals) displaced as the result of the conflict between different ethnic groups were assisted with non-food items intended to address their emergency needs,” Katia Sorin, Head of the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia, said after as ICRC and Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), have jointly delivered the assistance to the affected communities.

The renewed attacks since January 09 were reported to regional authorities but there has not been response yet. “The community is losing faith in us,” Abebe admitted over a phone interview. He said local authorities continued to engage with the communities who are yet again facing displacement despite the government’s efforts to rehabilitate and provide humanitarian aid.  

A report released by Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in December last year detailed the sustained attacks in Konso zone and proposed some recommendations including transparent investigation into the role of officials within government structures and improving the measures to control increasing transfers of illegal firearms in the Konso Zone area.

“The underlying problems behind the longstanding insecurity in Konso Zone and its surroundings has not been given appropriate attention. The sheer number of people displaced, and that some of them are being displaced for the fifth time, is a tragic humanitarian crisis. While the provision of humanitarian assistance to the displaced is an urgent priority, the federal and regional governments need to work together with the local population to find a solution that will restore lasting peace to the area,” said EHRC Chief Commissioner. AS

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