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Militarized Kobo saw a day of crackdown

As Amhara regional authorities hold a meeting with residents of Kobo , TPLF was mounting a crackdown and made arrests

Kobo crackdown
Source – VOA Amharic

January 26,2018

What triggered the marathon meeting of the ruling party in December of 2017 was a widespread protest in the country, mainly in Oromo region of Ethiopia. It was meant to identify the origins and solutions to the deepening political crisis which manifested itself in a form of ethnic-based killings on University grounds, ethnic violence (which displaced over have a million people) in the Somali region of Ethiopia and widespread protests in the country. The state machinery barely worked as it should for many months.

Leaders of the ruling coalition announced, in a two hours press conference with state media, following the completion of their meeting, that they have made a “mistake” in a way implying that they would do things differently; they announced decision to release political prisoners in order to “broaden the political space” in the country and end Maekelawi prison as a torture chamber and give it a new life as a state of the art museum.

As it turns out, leaders of the ruling party, specifically TPLF who are still the master’s of the coalition, didn’t say what they mean. Apparently, they rather meant to buy time to reorganize the machinery of repression. Although some prisoners, including one prominent opposition leader (Merera Gudina), were released, the ruling party swiftly resorted to the same old system of brutal repression of peaceful protests. Political and economic demands are not addressed; the regime does not seem to have the will to do that.

The killings and arrests of civilians continued in different parts of the country. From what people say in the parts of Ethiopia where there was extremely inhuman killing over last weekend, not all member parties of the ruling coalition seem to be involved.A resident of Woldia who lost his son during the massacre at a religious festival told VOA Amharic service that forces deployed to kill were Agazi, TPLF forces, and they apparently came from Tigray region for the Woldia operation.

Another evidence is that Amhara regional authorities were not involved in the massacre is that all those arrested on the day there was massacre were released after a town hall meeting between residents of Woldia and Amhara regional state authorities including the president Gedu Andargachew.

Kobo attack and the subsequent crackdown

Just days after Woldia massacre, the same Agazi forces that went on killing rampage at the religious festival embarked on another killing in Kobo, 50 Kilometers north east of Woldia. The clash between Agazi and residents of Kobo started, according to borkena sources from the town, when Agazi forces try to suppress residents who took to the street to oppose the massacre in Woldia. What makes the Agazi operation in Kobo somewhat different was that combat helicopters were deployed to terrorize residents; some say shots were fired from a helicopter.

According to residents, at least seven people were killed in Kobo and several others injured but government media disputes the number of deaths; it says it is only three. Two members of Agazi forces are killed as residents reacted in self-defense. Amhara regional state authorities are reportedly in Kobo, holding a meeting with residents; perhaps clue that points to the possibility that the regional authorities were not aware of Agazi forces’ combat helicopter assisted operation in Kobo. The region’s president Gedu Andargachew seem to have seen the protests in light of economic grievance and is cited by the VOA Amharic service as saying that protestors are not the causes of what happened in the town; he owned it as a government problem. Clearly, the regional authorities are missing the political cause or they meant to deliberately overlook it as it would bring them on a collision course with TPLF, a party that no longer seem to count on administrations in Amhara and Oromo regions of Ethiopia as allies and consequently resorting to an all-out military campaign with hopes that the protests would go away like that. TPLF forces have also killed three people in Alem Tena, in Oromo region of Ethiopia, as protestors were mourning for the killing in Woldia, a city in Amhara regional state in northern Ethiopia.

As Amhara regional state was talking to residents of Kobo, where uneasy calm is restored, TPLF forces mounted crackdown and made numerous arrests, according to residents who spoke to VOA Amharic on conditions of anonymity.

The emphasis on militarizing Kobo (which was the heart of Raya, now in Tigray, before TPLF took over power in 1991) and imposing a state of terror in there is believed to be related to the fundamental political cause of the people which is a resistance to imposed identity; Tigray.

The response to the protest is harsh in part because if the protest took root and turn out to be relentless and persistent in the region, it could turn out to be a springboard to suffocate, TPLF seems to think, the military and political base in TPLF, Tigray region. But many doubt if TPLF terrorization would work in its favor in the long term.

The better option and what opposition figures, including recently released Merera Gudina, call for, is a political dialogue which tastes bitter to the “prestige and power” of TPLF. It amounts to humiliation, for them. In the process, TPLF is dragging the country to a dangerous situation.

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