Popular riot in Gonder, North Western Ethiopia,is not showing omens of ease. Five days after its outbreak, confrontation between residents of Gondar and security forces is said to be escalated.
According to eye witness accounts which ended up in social media, there was an intense exchange of fire in Gondar and other smaller towns like Debark, Armachiho and Sanja. At least 10 people are killed so far. Yet,many say that the number of causality is under reported.
No independent international news correspondent seem to be present in the conflict area as yet. However, residents from the area are sending news updates to their contacts. Amharic service of the Voice of America contacted people and authorities by phone in Gonder and Addis Ababa. As well, Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) managed to speak over the phone to some residents from the conflict area.
The picture that emerges from all the reports seem to suggest that tension is getting worse. It sounds like a sense of resistance war is hovering over Gonder. Today was worse compared to the last two or three days. Different stores in the city remained closed. Incessant exchange of gunfire was heard in most parts of the town of Gonder.
What caused escalation of conflict between security forces and residents is the move by security forces to abduct Colonel Demeke Zewdu who turned himself to the Amhara regional police following a negotiation with Amhara police. The colonel was transferred earlier today from police head office where he was held temporarily to Angerebe prison – and that is where security forces who are believed to be from Tigray, according to many informants from the area, are trying to get Colonel Zewdu from.
In an interview with Tsion Girma of Voice of America Amharic Service, Communications head of the Amhara regional state-Negussu Tilahun- said that the security forces were in fact from “Anti-terrorisom Task Force” of the federal government. It is not secret that federal level security apparatus and high ranking military positions are under the control of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Colonel Demeke Zewdu was member of the Committee for “Wolqaite Question”. Wolqaite Question is constitutional and the committee members were pursuing the matter with relevant regional and Federal governments authorities.
Government ( essentially TPLF ) wanted to squash the question after realizing, based on many observes with insider information, that the committees could not give in either to carrot or stick. Subsequently, the committee members who are formally elected by the people of Wolqite are labeled as “terrorists” and mercenaries to the government of Eritrea.
When TPLF forces ( Federal Anti-Terrorist Task forces as to Nigussu Tilahun) killed at least three members of Wolqaite Question committee members and tried to capture Colonel Demeke Zewdu, the result was different. Colonel Demeke refused to surrender and opened fire against security forces and three of them reportedly died on the spot. When his house was surrounded with reinforced security deployment, people in Gonder flocked to the residence of Colonel Dekeme thereby a riot was ignited. And people took to the street as well.
Arrests in Addis Ababa and Gondar
From VOA Amharic phone interview with people from Gondar and in Addis Ababa, “Federal Anti-Terrorism Task Force” is hunting down people who are of from Wolqaite reigion in what seems to be a revenge for the resisting repression from TPLF government.
Unknown number of people are arrested in Gondar and Addis Ababa.
Government is employing two approaches to mount crackdown on the movement. For one thing, the legal question for which government was demanded to address is now reduced and linked to terrorism. For the other thing, the government is projecting the movement in its political base in Tigray as a movement that is aiming against “Tigrians” -and the supporting evidence, for the authorities, is vandalism against properties of TPLF affiliated businessmen in Gonder- whom TPLF elites are portraying them as peaceful civilians.
From opinion from observes, the only way to end the tension in Gondar seem to be answering the legal and constitutional identity question of people in Wolqaite. Unfortunately, the “Federal government” seem to be thinking in terms of escalating military action on the people of Gondar. Already, heavy artillery and additional forces is sent to Gondar. Absolute majority of people who are resisting “Federal Terrorist Task Forces”,which rather looks like a military contingent from Tigray, are not armed. Why the regime is taking Ethiopia along dangerous ethnic clash path is a mystery to many millions. Yet again, it is something expected for others.
Cover photo : Gonder Movement
Credit : Ethiopian Satellite Television