Remembering The Hidden Massacre of Amharas & Christians in Arsi 1991

Introduction:

Amsterdam, December 4, 1991 We wonder why a governmnet which rushed to either demobilize or imprison the 500,000-strong former army, decides to tolerate and even encourage the mushrooming of dozens of ethnic -based armies (OLF/IFLO, Issa, Benishangul ethnic armies, etc) in every nook and corner of the country unless it has a hidden design on Ethiopia. We wonder why a government which has refused entry visas to organizations of proven politiccal track-record that want to participate in the peaceful political life of the country tolerates the proliferation of ethnic-based armed movements unless it has a hidden motive of embroiling Ethiopia in an incessant civil war.

The alarming rate at which these ethnic-based armies are being recruited, trained and deployed negates the very notion of peace, democracy and stability in Ethiopia. We believe that this trend is not compatible with the very notions of “peace, stability and democracy” that the present government is peddling and repeating ad nauseam through the national media that it monopolizes. Billeting, a long forgotten practice whereby roving armies of warlords used to live off peasants, is becoming a fact of life in many areas as the mushrooming ethnic based armies have to depend on the peasants for sustenance. In fact, what we are witnessing is, that peace and stability are becoming rare, if non-existent in Ethiopia; that in various parts of Ethiopia destabilization, inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts are today the rule than the exception. This destabilization is in turn hampering farming, commerce, transportation, schools, normal life, etc so much that the Damoclean sword of an unprecedented famine will be hanging over Ethiopia next year.

Today, leaving aside the misleading media orchestrations of EPRDF about “peace, democracy and stability”, the pervasive and miasmatic ethnic politics of the EPRDF-dominated government is leading to inter-ethnic strife, wars, etc. The ramifications of this misguided ethnic policy have already claimed thousands of human lives. In what follows we would present one such ramification of EPRDF’s ethnic politics i.e the hidden massacre or genocide of innocent civilians in Arsi region of southern Ethiopia. It is a graphic account of a horrendous ethnic-based genocide directed against minority AMHARAS and CHRISTIANS living in these areas. It is encumbent upon the international community to take congnizance of these serious developments in Ethiopia and intervene on behalf of these voiceless people who are falling victims (by the day and the hour) of the divisive political policies of the incumbent EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front) dominated government that is deliberately fanning inter-ethnic animosities. We hereby call upon the international community, western governments, African governmnets, the EEC, UN, OAU, the International Red Cross, UNCHR, Amnesty International, etc to:

1 – bring pressure to bear upon the incumbent EPRDF- dominated government so that it stops its policy of engineering inter-ethnic conflicts, and the genocide of defenceless ethnic minorities in different parts of Ethiopia.

2 – send an international commission of inquiry to establish and verify the atrocities perpetrated in Arsi and other parts of Ethiopia; make public the results of its findings to the world community.

3 – reach the tens of thousands of surviving victims of this massacre whose homes, villages and properties have been destroyed and rehabilitate them.

N.B

We have also prepared a translated Italian version of this horrible account and hope that Ethiopians living in other parts of Europe would do the same to bring the plight of these victims to the attention of the world. On December 10, 1991, on the occasion of the EEC summit meeting that took place in Maastricht (Holland), a small group of Ethiopians living in Holland handed in person this translated English version of the ARSI MASSACRE as a petition to the Dutch vice minster of foreign affairs Mr. Piet Dankert. He promised us to pass our enclosed petition to each of all the twelve EEC government leaders and the European Parilament, to the Dutch queen, prime minster, foreign minster and to the foreign minster of Portugal, the country which would take the EEC presidency during the coming six months. On this same day no less than 130 copies of the HIDDEN MASSACRE IN ARSI were distributed and brought to the attention of the more than 1500 journalists then covering the EEC summit at Maastricht, Holland.

Ethiopian Information Service Network {S.H.I.N.E}

Amsterdam, December 4, 1991

The following is the full text of the translated English version of the massacre in Arsi and for the sake of clarity, we have marked it with inverted comma signs at the beginning and the end of the text.

” In the six districts located in Arba Gugu sub-province of Arsi Adminstrative region, thousands of homes have been razed and burnt down to ashes, thousands of human lives have perished; property worth millions of Birr has been destroyed. Human beings have been slaughtered like animals; the breast of women were cut and these very women victims forced to roast or grill their breast. Countless atrocities have been perpetrated. Looking at the following objective evidences (accounts) would give a good picture of the damage wrought.

I) – ATROCITIES PERPETRATED IN THE DISTRICT OF GOLOLCHA

JUNE 9, 1991 :

Groups calling themselves members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) entered into the town of Debre Selam (capital of the district of Gololcha).

JUNE 10, 1991 :

In the morning these OLF members came to the Gololcha school. They brought down the Ethiopian flag and tore it down. Those students who are the children of Amharas and as well as those who are christians were told that their country is that part (of Ethiopia) which lies beyond the Abbay river (Blue Nile River) and accordingly they were told to leave Arsi. They closed the school, dispersed the students and hoisted their own flag (the flag of the OLF). On this very day 16 peasant associations elected and sent elders as representatives to mediate between them and the OLF members. However the elders were greeted with insults and sent back by the OLF.

JUNE 11, 1991 :

On this day OLF members having mounted automatic machine guns on open wagons, looted property (which was being taken care of by elders from twenty peasant associations) belonging to the peasant associations and the government; took away 500 quintals of washed and unpounded (uncrushed) coffee and 57000 birr meant for the coffee plantation workers in the area. On this same day these OLF members opened fire and killed two civilians and wounded five. They shot dead three legal prisoners who were in the prison.

JUNE 13, 1991 :

On this day the EPRDF tried to stabilize the situation. For the time being the killings stopped. There took place a political agitation (propaganda by the OLF) which had the effect of fanning differences between the christian and moslem populations which have (hitherto) always lived together in peace and harmony. Gradually many people joined them (the OLF) as a result of the propoganda campaign.

OCTOBER 8, 1991 :

On this day we were told about the entry of 15 members of the OLF (into the town of Debre Selam) for political activity. On this same day an (OLF) army of more than 2000 equipped with modern weapons entered during the night by using the darkness of the night as their cover. This army had a health team along with large and medium sized trucks loaded with dry foodstuff. On this day these OLF members killed one of the three OPDO (Oromo Peoples Democratic Movement) members who was then in Debre- Selam, while the other two, who were hand-cuffed by the OLF, later escaped towards the near-by peasant associations. However, as one of these escapees was wounded (by the OLF) while escaping, he later died of the wound he sustained. While their dry foodstuff (of the OLF army) has been canned, it bears the script LIBYA on it. Many civilians who tried to defend themselves by taking positions and entrenching themselves along rivers and streams died due to the poisoning of the water by the OLF. The poison was manufactured in Saudi Arabia.

OCTOBER 30, 1991 : IN THE MORNING

The OLF members closed the narrow and key road connecting the district of Gololcha with the district capital – Abomsa thereby killing 10 people and looting a lot of property. Among those killed were:

1). Mr. Hailu Habte Mariam who was a famous elder and a man with a modest medical knowledge.

2). Mr. Haile Wolde Michael who was a reknowned elder of the area.

3). Mr. Mamo Beyene

4). Mr. Awgichew Gucho

5). Mr. Bedlu Shifferaw and 6) Mr. Tutu Shifferaw who were brothers.

OCTOBER 31, 1991:

Beginning at 6 a.m in the morning, the OLF surrounded the 16 peasant associations around DIBU and GIGAN areas in the district of GOLOLCHA killing 7 people and wounding many others. The people in the area opposed this massacre by trying to defend themselves by resorting to spears. Upon the intervention of elders the shooting was stopped.

NOVEMBER 2, 1991:

On this very area (DIBU and GIGAN areas) the OLF opened fire beginning at 7 a.m thereby killing more than 1000 (one thousand people). The homes and properties of 16 peasant associations and their individual members were looted, pillaged and the rest set on fire by the OLF. The genocide which took place on this day was extremely horrendous and barbaric. For example, the OLF members after having forced two christian elders to say “Alah Weakber” against their religious belief, have blind-folded these two elders with a piece of cloth and slaughtered them like animals and thrown them in front of the doorsteps of SAINT MIKAEL (MICHEL) CHURCH at GINGA.

PART III – THE HIDDEN MASSACRE OF AMHARAS AND CHRISTIANS IN ARSI

II) – ATROCITIES COMMITTED IN AND AROUND MOYE IN THE DISTRICT OF CHOLE.

OCTOBER 19, 1991 :

On this market day in an attempt to attack the Amhara people and disperse the people at the market, the Arsi moslems opened fire and shot dead 3 (three) people.

OCTOBER 22, 1991 :

These same moslems, having organized an army of between 300 and 400 men, opened fire on the town of Moye killing an unknown number of people. In general they looted and ransacked everything ranging from business owned by individuals to governmental organisations thereby leaving the town empty.

OCTOBER 23, 1991 :

These same fighters set on fire four peasant villages thereby leaving no less than 1000 (one thousand) families without any shelter.

OCTOBER 28, 1991 :

This same attack continued thereby destroying and burning 12 (twelve) peasant villages by fire and leaving behind more than 10,000 (ten thousand) inhabitants (people without shelter and exposing them to starvation and dispossession.

NOVEMBER 5, 1991 :

On this day also an OLF army, no less than 400 in number, penetrated deep into Moye from the neighbouring adminstrative region of Hararghe. This OLF force bombed and shelled with launchers, automatic rifels, bombs and explosives innocent farmers who do not know anything else except farming and civilian life. This modern army has different types of canned and dry foodstuff and was particularly attacking members of the Amhara ethnic group and the christian population living in the area. This massacre and genocide has not abated or stopped yet.

III) – ATROCITIES PERPETRATED IN THE DISTRICTS OF MERTI AND GEGU AND IN ABOMSA THE CAPITAL OF ARBAGUGU SUB-PROVINCE

OCTOBER 4, 1991 :

Mr. Tesfaye Alemu and Mr. Gebre Sellase Gebre Egziabher, both of whom were working on their farms, near ABOMSA town – the capital of the sub-province, were perforated and killed with bullets by the OLF forces. The killers went away ululating. The killers of these two men are Mr. Hussien Safeno and Mr. Kedir Gelma. Having committed these atrocities, the two men still live freely in the town (ABOMSA town) with their arms. Since the killing of these two men, the property and domestic animals of the christian population of the area are openly looted and the rest being set on fire.

OCTOBER 28, 1991 :

900 (nine hundred homes) housing people in six peasant associations in ANGODECHI area in the district of GEGU were set on fire and the properties of the inhabitants looted and ransacked. Although burned and tarred human skulls were found in the burnt houses, it was not possible to know the exact number of victims of this atrocity. However, those who survived this horrendous attack have fled into the surrounding bushes and valleys.

OCTOBER 29, 1991:

In this same district in WERENSO GURE, WENGELO KERSA, AMSHERA MENGAGSA areas 420 (four hundred twenty) houses were burnt down by fire. As the houses were set on fire during the night, at which time many people were in deep sleep, the number of people killed by far exceeds that of GEGU mentioned above. But the exact figure of the people who had died is not known.

OCTOBER 30, 1991 :

In three areas in the district of MERTI i.e in MOLLEME SEKA, FEREKESA MESKOBE, MOLOME KESA areas a total of 570 (Five Hundred Seventy) homes were burnt down.

OCTOBER 31, 1991 :

In this same district of MERTI in areas called AWACHURA MICHA, FEREKESA MUKAGELO, ASHE FELIKA 336 houses were burnt down.

NOVEMBER 5, 1991 :

In a peasant association known as GOBENU CHAKA with the exception of 16 houses with corrugated roofs, all the remaining 116 houses (one hundred sixteen) were burnt down. While houses in the above -mentioned areas were set on fire, children and old people housed in these homes were also burnt alive. Those who were strong and tried to escape from the burning houses were shot at and the ones who survived have fled to an unknown direction. Within these two days, in these two districts alone property worth millions of Birr, accumulated over centuries has been destroyed. More than one thousand homes were burnt down. Schools and churches in the districts have been looted and pillaged. Parts of these schools and churches have also been burnt down. At this moment, in the whole sub-province 197 (one hundred ninety seven elementary and junior highschools as well as 2 (two) highschools, thus a total of 199 (one hundred ninety nine) schools are closed. While a school teacher in the district of MERTI had been killed, the remaining teachers have fled the area. With the exception of government offices in the sub-provincial capital, all government offices in other parts of the sub-province have been looted and closed. The culprits or the people responsible for this serious massacre (genocide) of people and the destruction of property are :

1) Mr. Kassim Hussien representative of the OLF in ARSI adminstrative region.

2) Mr. Abiyu Gilo representative of the OLF in the district of MERTI, HOMBA area.

3) Mr. Mohammed Kebir Adem otherwise known as Mohammed Moye a rich merchant in the district of Guna and member of the OLF.

4) Mr. Adem Abdulahi a very rich merchant of GEGU district and member of the OLF.

These four people are the general commanders and coordinators.

The following people are members of the OLF and commanders of the army who master-minded and led the OLF army that perpetrated these above-mentioned atrocities):

1) Mr. Sultan Kedir

2) Mr. Reshad Feto

3) Mr. Ahmed Amane

4) Mr. Tutuna Kedir

5) Mr. Gibriel Sheik Mukthar

6) Mr. Geylana Hagihum

7) Mr. Sikuare Sane

Various elders, representatives of the populace, church representatives have at various times appealed and brought to the attention of various authorities including the prime minster this genocide (massacre) and this boundless tribulation of the people. However, to this day no measures have been taken. The committee presenting this appeal has the backing of 221 (two hundred twenty one) persons and has as its aim the cessation or stopping of the current genocide or massacre that is being directed against the AMHARAS and the CHRISTIAN people living in the area; if at all this appeal is heeded and supported”.

End of the Translated Text

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An Explanatory Addendum

EPRDF -is an abbreviation form meaning Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Front. EPRDF is a deceptive euphemisim for the Tigrean People”s Liberation Front. Today (TPLF) is the single most important and dominant group dictatorially dictating terms to the so-called Transitional Government of Ethiopia. It, along with organizations like the OLF and IFLO, is responsible for the massacre of Amharas in many parts of southern Ethiopia – a massacre which it has master-minded and devised through its policy of weakening the Amhara people whom it depicts as opressors, chauvnists and expansionists.

OLF – Oromo Liberation Front, was the second most important group in the Transitonal Government next to the EPRDF. The OLF has always defined the Ethiopian state as a colonial state and the Oromos as colonial subjects although this view is not shared by millions of Oromos on whose behalf it claims to speak. Following the fall of Mengistu’s regime, the OLF rushed to join hands with the Tigrean group – EPRDF (TPLF) in forming the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. We wonder how long the political honey moon will continue.

OPDO – Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization , this is an organization which has been spawned by the TPLF (EPRDF) from the ranks of captured prisoners of war (POWs) of the former government. It was created by the TPLF and is used by the latter today to displace the OLF proper and justify TPLF’s pentration into so-called Oromo territories. The OPDO is considered by the OLF as a puppet organization of the TPLF (EPRDF); hence their enemity and clash as has been mentioned in this report.

EPLF – refers to the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front which has now set up a provisonal government in Eritrea. This secessionist organization today dictates Ethiopia’s politics through its ally – the EPRDF=TPLF) – which it has helped in coming to power. The EPLF today engineers the complete disintegration of Ethiopia on ethnic lines so that strong Ethiopia may never emerge to pose any challenge or problem to its secessionist project. It should be remembered that the EPLF along with the OLF forces was instrumental in the genocide of 300 innocent AMHARAS in Assosa in January 1990.

Christians – in this report refers to non-Amharas (Oromos, Gurages, etc) who live in Arba Gugu and have been identified as Amharas becuase of their christian religon, customs, use of Amharic language, etc and close identification and intermarriage with Amhara christians.

Source – Amhara — ቤተ አማራ  www.beteamhara.org

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