Addis Abeba – Two attacks in the past few days in Kiremu district, East Wollega zone of Oromia region, killed dozens of people, including Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda, Kiremu District Court judge. According to information obtained by Addis Standard from residents, the attacks took place on 25 and 29 of November, 2022. Residents who spoke to Addis Standard blamed Amhara militants called “Fano” for the attack.
Debela Fikadu, a native resident of Kiremu district but whose family has fled from Kiremu district to the neighboring Gida Ayana district due to repeated attacks and who himself lives elsewhere for work, told that his brother, Capitano Fikadu, who lived in Kiremu district for work, was killed in the attack on Friday, November 25.
“My brother works in the land administration office of Kiremu district. He lived alone after his wife moved to her family’s place with their child due to security problems in the district. According to my information, the Fano militants, who were already armed with heavy weapons, surrounded the Oromia police on the road after receiving information that some of their members were arrested by the Oromia Special Forces and were being taken to Nekemte last Friday. They started shooting at the police and civilians as well, in an attempt to help escape their fellow members who were being taken to Nekemte police station. My brother was killed while fleeing the attack. We were told that he had been killed and buried there the next day,” Debela said.
The attack on 25 November killed several people, including members of the Oromia Police, Debela said. “They [the attackers] don’t set their target. They shot not only at the police but also at the civilians. Many people, including my brother, were killed while fleeing for their lives. There are those who fled to the forest and hid in their own homes to save their lives. I don’t know the exact number of dead but I have learned that there are more than 50,” he said.
Four days later, more than 20 additional people, including Kiremu District Court judge Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda, were killed in a similar attack in Kiremu district on November 29, another resident of the district who fled the attack to Gida Ayana district told Addis Standard.
According to a statement by Gida Ayana district government communication office, the attack by “extremist Amhara militants” displaced the entire Oromo natives living in 19 rural villages of the Kiremu district. The displaced are currently sheltered in Gida town of the neighboring Gida Ayana district, the statement added.
A resident of Kiremu district, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said the militants who attacked the district four days ago [Fano] opened fire in an attempt to “release the rest of their militants”.
“They shot at Oromia Police and managed to release some of their militants who had been arrested by the Oromia Police last week. On Tuesday, they opened fire and killed many people in an attempt to free the rest. They had information that many people had escaped by hiding in their homes during last week’s attack, so they went from house to house and opened fire on us. Many people, including the judge, were killed in their own homes. I escaped with God’s help and entered Gida Ayana. After I got here, I heard that my friend who grew up with me had been killed,” he said.
In a statement of condolence posted on its facebook page, the Higher Court of East Wollega Zone accused Amhara militants called ‘Fano’ for the murder of judge Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda.
“The Honorable Mr. Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda, judge at Kiremu district court, was killed at his residence by a group calling itself a Fano. He was a widower who was raising his children by himself. The children were left alone. We are very sad. He was an innocent worker whose work is exemplary…Let the blood of an innocent fight!” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, the Oromia Supreme Court issued a statement on the case and downgraded the murder as “accidental”. Addis Standard’s attempts to get further comment from the Supreme Court on the murder of the judge were unsuccessful.
Asked about the current security situation in Kiremu district, a resident of the district who fled the attack to neighboring Gida Ayana district said the security situation is showing stability. “I heard more government security forces are coming in. The situation is frightening but nothing is happening now, it seems to be calming down.”
Attempts by Addis Standard to reach Kiremu district administrator Fikadu Hunde for comment were unsuccessful as he hung up after picking up his phone.
On October 15, 2022, militants attacked four villages in Kiremu district, killing several people and burning more than 50 houses, VOA reported mentioning a district government official and residents. Kiremu district administrator Fikadu Hunde told VOA at the time that 30 people were killed in the attack. He blamed “insurgents based in the name of the Amhara ethnic group, some of whom lived in the district and some of whom came from Horro Guduru district” for the attack.
Over the past three years, telecommunications services have been largely blocked in four regions of Wollega due to ongoing fighting between the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and government forces. As a result, the residents of the region are suffering greatly in a manner away from media attention.
Recently, militants from the Amhara region and those who have been living in Haro village in East Wollega zone for a long time have been accused by residents and officials of attacking civilians.
The government blames Amhara rebel militants called ‘Fano’ and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) for the killings of civilians in these zones at various times, while OLA claims that they did not commit the killings and instead claimed that government forces were involved. AS