THE SMNE CALLS ON THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE ALL ETHNIC-BASED KILLING AND VIOLENCE IN GAMBELLA AS PEOPLE FEAR FOR THEIR SAFETY
We in the SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT FOR A NEW ETHIOPIA (SMNE) give our heartfelt condolences to the families of those persons killed on May 29, 2019, after they were attacked by unknown assailants inside Bajaj car, a few kilometers outside of Gambella Town in the Gambella Region. We strongly condemn this kind of horrific killing of innocent people and call on the government to fully investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In the last few months, lawlessness, violence and murder have increased in the region. Lately, most of it has been carried out between the two dominant ethnic groups, the Nuer and the Anuak; however, now, innocent highlanders of Tigrayan ethnicity who worked as Bajaj drivers were targeted around Itang wereda. People suggest they were killed because of their ethnicity.
NO ONE should be targeted because of one’s ethnicity or in retribution against actions committed by others in that same ethnic group. Neither should they be targeted because they were outside their own region of birth—although these Tigrayans could have been born in Gambella like numerous other people from the highlands.
In the case of these two who lost their lives, they were Ethiopians and Gambella is in Ethiopia. Ethiopian citizens should not be afraid to live outside their “ethnic-based regions” because our citizenship should not have ethnic boundaries.
The core principles of the SMNE strongly condemn the targeting of anyone because of their ethnicity, skin color, the region from which they were born, religion, viewpoint or any other identity factor. Murder is murder. It is against God’s law and is also against the law of our land; however, why is the regional government, the enforcer of the rule of law, not confronting these crimes?
THE CYCLES OF ETHNIC-BASED MURDER AND CONFLICTS STOP MOVEMENT OF THE PEOPLE AS WELL AS REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Do we or our government lack the boldness necessary to legally stop this cycle of tribal-based revenge killings where one group kills innocent people from another group and then that other group retaliates against other innocent people from the first group?
This kind of savage cycle exists in places where the rule of law does not; so, what are we doing to ensure it addresses the increasing ethnic-based conflicts in Gambella and other regions? It is wrong! Equal justice and equal accountability under the law for crimes committed are primary responsibilities of government. When government does not do its job, everyone is affected. If this is allowed to go on with impunity, it can grow into society upheaval, disintegration or even a failed state. It happened next door to us in South Sudan. What’s the answer? Responsible government!
We in the SMNE have researched these recent events, consulting with Nuer, Anuak, and highlanders. All of these diverse sources have essentially said the same thing; they blame regional authorities for ignoring and failing to take action against these barbaric acts of violence and murder. As a result, none of them feel safe. The lack of security is paralyzing movement of the people within the larger region, effectively creating roadblocks to many worthwhile activities, like regional development and collaboration, as many are fearful of going outside the acknowledged limits of their own areas. This must be resolved.
WHAT IS CALLED FOR?
The regional government of Gambella must investigate the crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice, regardless of ethnicity. This must also include more intensive investigations of the crimes as to whether or not any of them were incited by others as a more organized effort to cause insecurity or instability as part of an effort to achieve some other self-serving benefit—all at the expense of these human lives and the overall peace.
Why has the government not made an effort to find an enduring solution to this ethnic violence through dialogue among these key players? Why is the problem being ignored or dismissed? Why have they abdicated their primary duty to uphold the rule of law and to ensure the safety of ALL citizens in the region?
Crimes will occur, but if the government does not do anything to secure the safety of the citizens, the authorities of the region are accountable. The current leadership should step up to assume this responsibility.
Two weeks ago, another incident took place where two highlanders were attacked. One survived and the other died; yet, it appears that nothing has been done. Now, another senseless killing of highlanders has taken place. Reportedly, the bodies were taken to the Tigray region for burial.
As we strongly condemn these killings, we also call on the regional government, as well as on the federal government, to investigate these crimes and bring the suspected perpetrators to stand before a court of law. This should also be done in the cases of past crimes within the region.
It is time to bring law and order to Gambella— for the first time. If there are some invisible groups who seek to benefit from this, they also should made to stand accountable before the law. Only genuine justice will free the people of Gambella to live together in peace, security and harmony
The position of the SMNE is to stand up for the rights and wellbeing of each and every Ethiopian, regardless of any differences, putting humanity before ethnicity, because we believe each Ethiopian is part of our family. When one is hurt, we are all affected. When one grieves, we all grieve.
These people who just lost their lives in the last few months were someone’s son or daughter, sister or brother, father or mother or someone loved or valued, especially by those who knew them. At the end of the day, they are a member of our greater Ethiopian family.
Those who took their lives are people who fail to see the humanity within them. It is the responsibility of all of us to speak up and condemn this kind of crime. It robs us of peace, stability and freedom of movement. It produces fear, anxiety and for some, it reinforces divisions. These perpetrators should not remain in the community or be protected from accountability due to ethnic or other loyalties. Covering up these crimes of revenge will only perpetuate the cycle, continually claiming new victims, including new ones from one’s own group. When the rule of law is effective and just, it can lessen or stop future incidents from happening—protecting all of us.
This is why the SMNE believes in the value of each and every person. That means their rights and wellbeing must be protected by law for no one will be free (and safe), until all are free (and safe). This is not only important in Gambella, but should be upheld throughout Ethiopia.
We call for this kind of justice in places like in Benishangul-Gumuz, where many innocent people were killed and then retaliation took many more lives. Recently, violence in Oromia, triggered more violence where more lives were lost. This is senseless violence taking the place of dialogue and just legal processes. The strengthening of our institutions of justice is what we should emphasize and develop so it replaces vigilante injustice and brings more sustainable solution.
JUSTICE IS FOR ALL ETHIOPIANS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION
We call on ALL Ethiopians to stand up for the wellbeing of ALL Ethiopians; not only those from our own ethnic groups. The only way security and peace can be better assured in Ethiopia is when we care for others as we care about ourselves and our loved ones—the Golden Rule.
Our own failure to do this or to engage in dialogue when we have trouble working out some conflict—talking to each other rather than about each other, is the reason we have so many crises in our country.
It is why we now lead the world in the number of internally displaced people—approximately three million.
It is why we remain among the poorest of nations, despite our abundant resources and large population which could be empowered to greater capacity for the good of the country.
It is why we continue to be plagued with ethnic-based violence.
It is fed by this backward, self-centered tribalistic view that has become the over-riding law of the land.
As each serves the interests of one’s own group, it comes at a huge cost to the wellbeing of our nation. Can we embrace a new paradigm of thinking that can free all of us? Let us get out of this vicious cycle of the dehumanization of others. Do your part! Uphold the dignity, rights and wellbeing of ALL Ethiopians.
May God humble us and guide us so we might better learn to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper!
For more information, contact Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE.