Monday, October 03, 2022
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A Genocide in Plain Sight: Sitti Zone

By Mohammed Sheikomer 

The heavily armed security forces of Afar region of Ethiopia and associated other armed groups allegedly executed an estimated 319 civilian men, women and children in the village of Garboise of the western Siti zone of the Somali Region of Ethiopia in July of 2021. 

Children scaping from the massecre in Sitti, Somali region

The genocide of innocent civilians was under reported by both the ederal government of Ethiopia and the regional government, including the highly “rated” human rights commission of Ethiopia. Several meetings took place at higher level in the prime minster office “meant” primarily to “mediate” and settle the issue, however, it all ended up with no positive results making kind of superficial statements, in fact it further encouraged the armed security forces of Afar to expand by recruiting more soldiers and occupying more land. 

This led to increased casualties and the displacement of tens of thousands of families.

A survivor, now living in IDP (internally displaced people) camp, stated that people were executed in small groups, several hundred people who had been rounded up in Garboise. Some of the people desperately tried to seek safe haven in a mosque, but they were slaughtered like chicken;  arms, heads and legs of children were littered in the town. The witness started crying saying “we wait for help from Allah only otherwise we are helpless!”, when asked if the Somali regional authorities are helping them, he said that ever since the tragedy happened one year ago we lost hope of going back to our land, we hear some authorities sweet lip service but nothing concrete till today, “I think they lack the authority and/or the courage to do so” he added. It is the same old way of treating Ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia as second citizens, history teaches us that colonizers select the weak and the ill-treated among the oppressed to serve as their loyal servants.

IDP from the Sitti, Somali region

Another wounded teenage resident who witnessed numerous executions before crawling nearby shrubs said: “I lived in terror, each minute, each second thinking it would be my turn to be taken away and executed. It took a whole night to wait as I walked away, slowly, I held my hand on my slightly wounded but bleeding shoulder, holding my breath, and waiting for another bullet to pass through my body.”, she explained “now almost every night those memories haunt my dreams and the trauma waking me up now and then, the aftermath is even more painful”

The killings occurred due to a dramatic and continuing spike in unlawful killings of civilians by armed groups claiming they are protecting “their ethnic nations”; in reality they are opportunistic. Afar nationalist fronts from Eritrea and Ethiopia like Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF), the latter was established in 1994 to fight against Ethiopia’s late EPRDF government, currently they are fighting for “Afar”. 

This group fights for its “nation” at whatever the cost is. Almost all fights and wars waged by the Afars have been funded by the government of Ethiopia. All regional special forces are paid by the government. There is a mountain of evidence and trail of blood to prove it. Needless to say, that such armed forces have also bit the hand that feeds them and killed members of the Federal Military. No matter what, they are unconditionally funded, armed to teeth and supported fearing they can join or sympathize the under siege Tigre region led by the TPLF.

The vast majority of those killed by the regional forces of Afar and allied forces were from the pastoralist Somali ethnic. All of the survivors and witnesses said that members of the Federal army and “Prosperity Party soldiers” were in agreement when the massacres took place, “they watched us being killed”, the villagers said. The west Sitti zone has been under the quasi-control of the Somali region, however, it has never been easy to communicate or get timely support as needed, at times waiting for the federal government to answer them. When asked what he thinks the future holds, “We have to fight” the villager said.

To be continued

Mohammed Sheikomer
Email: [email protected]

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