Gondar and Gojam, Amhara, Ethiopia.
By Gebrekirstos Gebreselassie
There is a genuine fear of massacre of tens of thousands.
I talked to some contacts from Shehedi, Metema, Amhara. Shehedi is the administrative center of Metema, an area in North Gondar. I talked to two people who said they had businesses in Shehedi, but who are now in Gondar on their way to Tigray. One of them said he had a 65,000-capital shop selling mattresses, and the other one said he had a boutique of half-a-million capital. They both said their businesses have been robbed and vandalized and that they have left empty-handed. They were told by the military to escape for their lives, and to not think about their properties.
They informed me that most Tigrayan properties (shops, businesses, houses) in Shehedi are robbed and vandalized. Some are escaping some are trapped. Only today, 8 minibuses (around 20 people each) of Tigrayans have reached Gondar on their way to Tigray. I asked them to give me contacts from Metema town. They said their contacts' phone numbers in Metema town are not working because Tigrayans in Metema town have fled to Sudan. Some have reached Humera via Sudan and many are in Sudan. In Metema, Tigrayan businesses are burned down.
According to my contacts, events unfolded as follows.
On August 22, 2016, there was some violence in shehedi, Metema and the military took over. The Tigrayans, fearing for their lives, wanted to leave the area. On 24 August, the mayor of Shehedi town, Mola Hussein, after noticing the fear of the Tigrayans, called a meeting where he reassured the Tigrayans to stay and run their businesses. He promised them that his office will make sure that they and their businesses are all safe. They believed him and stayed.
On Saturday, August 27, 2016, a group of local police and militia from the areas demanded that they keep the security and order of their town themselves and that they do not need the presence of the military. According to my contacts, the group had had received a large sum of money from abroad. One of my contacts said he saw the group leader, Mesele Zewdu, showing proudly the cheque he received to a neighbor business man. The group of local police and militia convinced the mayor, and the mayor asked the military to leave, citing that there was no need for them any more.
On Tuesday, August 30, 2016, the military left the town, as per the request of the mayor. On the day the military left, at around 19:00 pm, a mob started to rob and vandalize Tigrayan businesses. The robbery and vandalism continued until 23:00 pm, when the military returned. About 10 large Tigrayan business were completely robbed and vandalized. The local police and the militias were firing to the sky in total pretense that they were not in support of the robbery and vandalism. In stead of trying to save the businesses, the local police and militia went to the periphery of the town in an attempt to fortify the town from the possible early return of the military, and to allow the mob to destroy as many businesses as possible. Around four, the local police and militias gathered the mobs and hid them from the military. My contacts believe the local police and militia were completely in support of the robbery and vandalism by the mob groups.
Asked about the reasons for the attacks against Tigrayan businesses and Tigrayans, my contacts said that the local government officials want the Tigrayans to leave the Amhara region. They believe that TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for 25 years, and that, now, it is their turn to rule Ethiopia. For this reason, there is a lot of military training and campaign. In the campaigns and training, the thousands of armed militias are readying to drive Tigrayans all the way to beyond the Tekeze river by the November. They see any Tigrayan as a problem for the military trainings and campaigns because they suspect he/she will be government spy.
I asked them about the local people. They said that the local civilian people were very helpful and that they saw them off crying today. They could not, however, protect them from a heavily armed militia. My contacts believe that the low government officials are behind the attack of Tigrayans and their businesses. They encourage the armed militias to attack, rob and vandalize.
My contacts, members of around 160 people who escaped today from shehedi to Gondar, feel trapped in Gondar. They said their plan was to take the only Gondar-Humera open road tomorrow, but they heard now that the armed militias have vowed to close the road tomorrow. They do not know what to do to reach safe areas. They say many Tigrayans are trapped in Tahtay Armachoh and many other areas of Gondar and Gojam. They said all roads are closed, except the soon-to-be-closed Gondar-Humera. Flights from Gondar are full.
They have desperately appealed for help. They want to be evacuated to safe areas. They call upon the government, people and the world to help prevent a looming massacre of tens of thousands of people who are now trapped in Northern Gondar and Gojam areas of the Amhara region.
It is to be remembered that an Amsterdam-based TV station (ESAT) which is affiliated to the # AmharaProtest has been for years instigating hate against Tigrayans, and recently it openly called for a total extermination of all Tigrayans (Amharic video of the call here: https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXFXaWehyo4 ). It specifically called to dry the see (a reference to the people of Tigray) in order to kill the fish (the politicians from Tigray).
The pictures below are of Tigrayans who fled from Metema, Gondar to Sudan. BBC Africa, CNN International,The Guardian Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, VOA Tigrigna VOA Amharic
Gondar and Gojam, Amhara, Ethiopia.