By Natnael Fite @NatieFit
Addis Ababa – The head of the Oromia regional state Communications Bureau, Hailu Adugna, told local media that due to “actions being taken against armed groups” in Oromia, the militant group operating in the region has been “very weakened.” However, Hailu’s comments directly contradicted with that of Taye Dendea, State Minister of Peace and a member of the Oromia regional state council (Caffee), who expressed his dissatisfaction with how the most recent regular meeting of the regional council was conducted, and reports of security crisis in the region.
In his statement issued to local media, Hailu admitted that the issue of security in the region was raised as a major problem of the region during the regional council’s last week, but said that there were improvements and changes.
“Some have been killed and many militants of the group have been captured in coordinated attacks on areas previously controlled by the group. This is an indication of change. At the regular meeting of the regional council, the people’s representatives confirmed that there has been a change by the action taken by the government. But still the people are worried. The group occasionally hides and attacks civilians,” Hailu said, adding that the government was working to reduce the group’s attack power to a high level and gradually destroy it. Hailu was talking about the Oromo Liberation Army (ALA), the armed group operating in the region and often referred by the government as “OLF/Shene.”
He further said that the regional government believes that there is no other option other than the use of force to solve the security problem in the Oromia region and that the military action against the “terrorist” group was bearing fruits and bringing results.
This claim is disputed by Odaa Tarbii, the international spokesman of OLA, Odaa told VOA Amharic that the government’s claims of action against its armed forces are not true and instead said the government’s army is being defeated. “The reality on the ground shows the collapse of the empire. What is happening in reality does not match to their statement,” he said.
When Hailu was asked to reflect on the contradictory views of both from Taye Dendea and Hangaasa Ibrahim, another member of House of Peoples’ Representatives (HoPR), who recently blamed the leadership of the Oromia Regional State government as bearing responsibly for the killings and rampant corruption in the region, Hailu declined to answer and said the matter concerned the party.
“In my opinion, the security report presented to the regional council doesn’t fit the honorable council. Last year, it was said that ‘we will make peace in a few months’. The report says that a considerable number of people have surrendered, various items have been seized, roads have been blocked and a few villages captured by the enemy have been released,” Taye wrote in his recent post on his Facebook.
Furthermore, Taye said that the damage caused on civilians and their property was not reflected in the report submitted to the Chafe. “As in North Shewa, our data shows that 210 civilians were killed, 109 people were maimed, 526 houses were burnt, 410 cattle were slaughtered, 1.5 billion birr cash was looted, 195 schools were closed and 75,000 students have lost access to their education. It may be even more when closely investigated. But if it is so much in North Shewa, how much will it be in Guji and Wollega? How much damage was done in West Shewa and East Shewa?” he asked.
Similarly, earlier this month, MP Hangaasa went on a live Facebook broadcasting in which her heavily criticized regional authorities not only for failing to protect civilians from recent atrocities in western Oromia, but also organizing and financing clandestine hit group rampaging the region. MO Hangaasa said the crisis will not go away unless the federal government removed the leadership of the Oromia regional state including the regional police.
Meanwhile, residents of Yaya Gullelle district in North Shewa zone of Oromia region confirmed to Addis Standard that security problems in the district have deteriorated during the past eight months. They said, burning houses, killing people and slaughtering farmers’ livestock as a result of fighting between armed groups and government security forces has become a “culture”. They blamed the government security forces for the burning of the houses.
A resident who did not want to be named told Addis Standard that five people, including farmers, were recently killed by government forces in Yasa Goda Werke village of Yaya Gullelle district. “It was the government that armed the two farmers. But then when they [government] declared these same people as ‘Shene’, the farmers were afraid and fled from home. When they [the farmers] returned home, the government forces spent the night surrounding them. The next morning, government troops opened fire against 16 people, including the two farmers, who were about to flee. Five people were killed in this way,” he said. AS