By Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21
Addis Abeba: Residents of Wolkite city, the administrative capital of the restive Gurage zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region, told Addis Standard that the number of people killed by security forces yesterday has reached six, while more than 15 were seriously injured when security forces opened fire on protesters who were demonstrating against lack of fresh water carrying empty jerry cans.
Residents of the city have been suffering from chronic lack of water for years, and yesterday took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate carrying empty jerry cans to draw attention to the issue, according to Abubakar Kemal, a resident of the city.
However, special forces of the SNNP region opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing six and seriously wounding 15 he said, adding that the number of causalities may increase as those undergoing treatment in hospitals are in critical condition.
He also said that the security forces have committed horrific acts of attack against civilians while chasing the protesters, leaving the city in shock.
“The protesters first came together and held a peaceful demonstration at the office for water development of the city. Then they went to the city administration but they didn’t get answer. Suddenly the special forces arrived and started firing on them,” Abubakar explained.
He added that business activities in Wolkite city has stopped and government and private institutions are closed following the yesterday’s incident.
Another resident, Hayder Murad, told Addis Standard that, “mothers and the youth of the city were raising their jerry cans and demanding the government to solve the severe water shortage in Wolkite city especially for the last three months, but the security forces mercilessly killed 6 people by indiscriminately shooting on mothers and the youth,”
Hayder, said among the dead were children who followed their mothers adding that the number of those died may increase. More than 15 people, according to him, are currently in ICU room in the city’s hospital. He added security forces are preventing gatherings local communities who wanted to comfort grieving families.
Residents of the zone have long complained against heavy-handed measures by regional and federal security forces to contain their continued protests against government-backed clustering of the southern region to create two more new regional states out of the existing structure. The Gurage Zone Council had from the get go opposed to the restructuring as it was seeking its own regional state status, which it tabled as far back as November 2018.
Despite the opposition, however, senior officials of the region, led by regional president Ristu Yirdaw, decided plans to establish ‘Central Ethiopia Region’, a new region which will incorporate the Gurage zone.
Due to several state-at-home protests, the zone, including its capital Wolkite city, are under a command post since November last year following consecutive stay at home protests as part of the zone’s push for own statehood. One such protest was met with heavy security crackdown against civilians, leading to summary detention of more than 100 youths. The latest protest against the restructuring was held in the zone including in the capital Wolkite on 06 February but was largely peaceful.
Neither Gurage zone administration nor the SNNP region issued statement regarding the latest crackdown in Wolkite. AS