Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), called on the federal government to “arm communities” living in “areas where government security forces cannot easily reach and are difficult to maintain peace using regular security forces.” The party said this in a statement it issued in connection with the recent escalating violence in the Wollega zone of Oromia regional state and other parts in the country. “We would like to emphasize and remind that it is important to arm the community in a legal and organized manner to defend itself against such massacres,” Ezema, led by Prof. Berhanu Nega, Minister of Education, said.
“The responsibility of the regional state government and the federal government to maintain the peace and security of the citizens, and the rule of law notwithstanding, not being able to do this while it is their main responsibility to enforce the rule of law and even if there are works done not letting the community know about them and not paying the attention it deserves is gross negligence,” Exema said, adding that as it has “repeatedly” said in the past that it is important to inform the public on measures taken in identifying and prosecuting those who are within the government structure and who commit “these kinds of massacres.”
Four other opposition political parties have also issued statements this week blaming the federal government for failing to stop the recent violence that saw dozens of civilians killed and thousands displaced in East Wollega zone, Oromia regional state. Three of them have requested the government to put Easter Wollega zone under a military command post. In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, three opposition parties: Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), All Ethiopian Unity Organization (AEUO), and Enat Party, also expressed their dismay at the “extreme violence” and called for an end.
Earlier, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), issued a statement condemning “the irresponsible and barbaric killings of innocent civilians by the PP-led Ethiopian government,” and has called upon the Oromo people to “defend” themselves. “Students in high schools and universities, teachers at all levels, peasants in rural areas, and the Qeerroo should defend themselves,” the statement reads. The party also accused the government of training and arming the “Fanno militants” the party said.
In addition to its call for arming civilians at risk, Ezema also asked the federal government to give clarification in relation about the crisis, and blamed both the Oromia region and the federal governments for failing to protect the peace and security of citizens and uphold the rule of law in those areas. “A security force that is supposed to stop violence against the innocent by maintaining peace and security of the citizens was found being facilitators of the evictions and murders,” the party said.
In a separate statement the party released last week it strongly accused the government for having structure that harbors and supports the “terrorist group” of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) that it accused of “committing atrocities on civilians with the support from government officials.”
“At a time when even senior government officials are publicly admitting that the OLF/Shene is not only a bandit in the forest, but also supported by individuals within the government structure, the federal government has not paid enough attention to the issue and has not taken strong actions; the terrorist group is disrupting the daily lives of civilians,” Ezema alleged.
Dozens of civilians, including Damtew Kefyalew Gemeda, Kiremu District Court judge, were killed and more than 350, 000 people of the entire Kiremu district were displaced in the two days attacks on 25 and 29. Over the weekend, several contested accounts of intensified clashes involving federal government and regional security forces on the one hand and armed groups of the Fano militia and members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on the other were reported with unknown numbers of civilian causalities and mass displacement.
The extent of the causalities from the weekend violence, the exact nature of the violence and who it involved is hard to come by as regional state governments of both Oromia and Amhara regions, as well as the federal government remained silent about the reported violence.
Following the violence, protests were held on Monday and Tuesday in many towns and cities, including schools and university compounds, in different places across Oromia.