Addis Abeba – A local official in Binishangul Gumz regional state told the BBC Amharic service that latest attack by militants claimed the lives of at least 20 civilians. The attack was carried on a public bus traveling from Metekel to Guba on Wednesday, 02 March, in which dozens more were also injured. The ambush near the area called Africa Agricultural Development.
The official blamed the attack on “anti-peace forces” infiltrating through Sudan, and added the militants had carried out similar attacks on civilians in the past. The attack comes in the backdrop of growing insecurity in the region which has left more than 500, 000 people internally displaced, according to the latest UN report.
Growing insecurity and displacement
In September last year, regional Special Forces from Gambella, Sidama and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) were deployed to Bulan woreda of the Metekel Zone following the deployment earlier of Amhara Special Forces.
However, the latest UN report says that “growing insecurity in Benishangul-Gumuz Region’s Metekel Zone expanded to the region’s Assosa and Kamashi zones as well as the Mau Komo Special woreda, or district, in early 2022, leading deteriorating humanitarian conditions and prompting the secondary displacement of tens of thousands of refugees from Sudan and South Sudan.”
“In Mau Komo, conflict between armed group actors and Ethiopian National Defense Force-aligned elements broke out near Tongo village on January 18 and subsequently led to the looting and destruction of a refugee camp where more than 10,000 people were sheltering. Events in Tongo followed the looting of the woreda’s nearby Gure-Shimbola refugee camp by armed actors in late December,” the report said.
As of December, many parts of Benishangul-Gumuz’s Metekel and Kemashi zones remained inaccessible to relief actors due to insecurity
The UN report said that the two incidents prevented relief actors from reaching affected populations and prompted the displacement of approximately 20,000 refugees to areas of the region surrounding Benishangul-Gumuz’s capital city of Assosa. “Relief actors were coordinating with regional authorities to provide food, water, and health services to the secondarily displaced refugees as of early February. Regional authorities also established a new site adjacent to the Tsore refugee camp, where approximately 17,000 of the affected refugees were sheltering as of late February.
Recent armed group attacks across the region have severely limited the ability of crisis-affected populations to access humanitarian assistance and basic services, according to the UN. As of December, many parts of Benishangul-Gumuz’s Metekel and Kemashi zones remained inaccessible to relief actors due to insecurity.
In October last year, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called on the federal government and the local command post “to take immediate action” to strengthen the security situation in Metekel and Kamashi zones of the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state.
“Overall, more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 70,000 refugees from Sudan and South Sudan were sheltering in Benishangul-Gumuz as of January.”
The Commission’s statement came despite repeated pledges from the federal Command Post in Benishangul-Gumuz state that federal and special forces deployed in the region from five different regional states were putting the security crisis under control.
According to the latest UN report, in particular, armed attacks in 2021 prompted the displacement of thousands of members of the Gumuz community to isolated rural areas of Metekel that are inaccessible to relief actors. “Regional authorities have suspended public services in many rural parts of Benishangul-Gumuz, while armed groups have damaged or destroyed health centers and public infrastructure across the region,” the report said. “Overall, more than 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 70,000 refugees from Sudan and South Sudan were sheltering in Benishangul-Gumuz as of January.”