Director of the Human Rights Council, Bitsate Terefe, accused the Ethiopian regime of inciting ethnic violence between the Oromos and the Amharas. Bitsate told ESAT that on December 12, 2015 his office received a call from Ameya Wereda, and according to his sources, ruling party officials were encouraging some of their members to launch an attack against Amharas, in a deliberate attempt to instigate violence between the two ethnic groups.
According to the Bitsate, the perpetrators have asked the Amharas to leave the area “as the land did not belong to them.” More than 40 homes of the Amharas were turned to ashes, he said.
Understanding the severity of the situation, Bitsate said his office informed embassies, international news agencies, and government officials before it was too late.
He said the situation exacerbated the next day after an Oromo was killed by unknown people, but was blamed on the Amharas. Then, according to the chairman of HRC, the conflict spread to eight other localities, as some Oromos, hoodwinked by the perpetrators, were out for a revenge.
The Amharas then left their property and belongings to take refuge in Darge and Walga. The displaced Amharas were reportedly in severe psychological trauma after their houses were burned, and their properties were destroyed.
“During the chaos, some children disappeared, either they were burnt alive or they lost track when they were following their families,” the chairman feared.
HRC wrote letters for concerned national and international organizations and the media to bring the issue to their attention and to stop loss of human lives and damage to property.
In a telephone interview he gave to ESAT, Bitsate hold government officials accountable for inciting the violence. The regime’s local officials and police officers, namely, inspector Hailu Driba, Chairman Asay Getch, and Commander Genene Beyene were reportedly the main architects of the conflict. One the officials has been heard threatening to kill the Amharas who live in the area.
Bitsate said he contacted Ameya Wereda administrator and asked if they could stop the violence waged against civilians. He said the administrator told him on the phone about the seriousness of the problem problem, as many houses were burnt and property was destroyed. The house of the Wereda administrator was also burnt as he refused to cooperate with the perpetrators.
The Wereda administrator said he knew the identity of the people who instigated the violence and burnt the houses belonging to the Amharas.
During the conflict, one individual was reportedly killed, and 10 others were severely injured. In total, 124 houses were also burnt. It was reported that the local Oromo people did not listen to the hostile call of the administrative officers; instead, they helped the Amhara victims financially, materially and morally, the report added.
According to Bitsate the victims told his office that they were not attacked by the local Oromos, who instead were helpful to them to get through this difficult times. They said the perpetrators were Oromo speaking local officials and government operatives.
Asked about the story on Bloomberg news, as filed by William Davidson from Addis Ababa, who wrote that the protest by Oromo students is turning to ethnic violence, Bitsate said Mr. William Davidson was one of the reporters who received our alert who later called him to talk on the issue.
Bitsate said Mr. Davidson asked him over the phone whether the ethnic conflict and displacement was related to the Oromo student movement, and he replied to Davidson that HRC did not have any evidence whether the student protest had any connection with ethnic conflict, but reiterated the existence of ethnic conflict and loss of life and damage to property.
“The two paragraphs that HRC and I were cited by William Davidson do not reflect the views of the organization and myself,” Bitsate said. “We only released ‘alert’ on the situation and did not say anything on the ongoing Oromo student protest,” he said.
Ato Bitsate said the report “only reflect the attitude and views of Mr. Davidson.”