Monday, December 02, 2019

Another Ignored Crisis

In total, more than 1.4 million Ethiopians were forced from their homes in the first half of last year – the largest internal displacement anywhere in the world in 2018 – as ethnic and land-fuelled conflicts exploded across the country following the appointment of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the end of authoritarianism, which for decades had kept a lid on such tensions.

The policy of the federal government is that displaced households should be safely returned to the communities from which they were evicted, though in some cases resettlement may be possible for those who do not wish to go back.
Almost one million Ethiopians uprooted by ethnic violence after Gedeos were accused by their Oromo neighbours of trying to annex land and resources.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Gedeos are trapped in dire conditions in makeshift shelters across a part of southern Ethiopia. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 internally displaced people living in overcrowded shelters without roofs and sanitation as the rainy season approaches. Those that arrived in Gedeo reported tales of castration, the cutting off of limbs, and gang rape by local youth and armed rebels, as well as general intimidation and extortion.

The Ethiopian government has not formally acknowledged Gotiti's inhabitants as IDPs eligible for humanitarian aid. Aid workers say food assistance for IDPs in several areas near the border with West Guji, including Gotiti, has been blocked in order to encourage inhabitants to return to Oromia. Several previous attempts to send Gedeos back to Oromia – sometimes by simply putting them on trucks and buses – have backfired. For example, mass displacement occurred in June last year shortly after the return of many of those evicted two months earlier.

“The government is saying we have to go back,” said Bekele Worasa, 45, a coffee farmer currently living in Gotiti. “But how can we do that when there are people dying there still? During the day it seems peaceful,” said Tegeno Tiba, 86, now living in an orphanage in the Gedeo town of Chelelektu. “But at night they come in mobs, singing and dancing. You can hear gunshots, and they throw stones. They harass and intimidate us.”
“This is an enormous problem for the government,” said a senior official with an international organisation working in the area. “But what is tragic is they are not accepting the support we are offering. They are forbidding us from operating.”

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