Has the Federal Government Succumbed to Sidama Extremists? (Damo Gotamo)

Damo Gotamo
March 16,2019

Sidama extremists have raised their ante to a new level. Within a week, they have committed two illegal (crimes) activities and are bracing for more.

The group which calls itself Ejjeetto had forcefully entered the meeting of the Southern Nations and Nationalities and People’s Region, removed the country’s flag, and beat members of the party. One person was seriously injured and still receiving treatment at Kuyera hospital in Shashemene.

After the incident, the emboldened, idle youth, fearing no one, has ordered the shutdown of the government and paralyzed all activities in Awassa for three consecutive days. So far, the government has done nothing to bring the criminals to justices except watching on the sidelines. Many are wondering if the country has a government because such brazen lawlessness doesn’t happen in countries where governments exist.

Many people have forewarned the government that Ejjeetto is a criminal group and appropriate action must be taken to disband the group. The government, however, chose to keep quiet when the group killed innocent Wolitas, forced government and private institutions to close, demand money from business men, and harass residents in the streets of the city.

The prime minster’s response to the journalist who asked about the ongoing lawlessness in the country during the press conference between the prime minster and the president of France has raised the eyebrows of many people. Dr. Abiye said his administration’s failure to maintain law and order in the country is because the government wants to be different from the previous governments, and he doesn’t believe in jailing people. The prime minster is telling us that he isn’t interested in bringing of criminal charges against trouble makers who beat government officials, order government institutions to close and commit other crimes. It is such an irresolute response which is encouraging ethnic entrepreneurs to resort to lawlessness.

Awassa is the second largest city in the country with the biggest Industrial Park in the country. As we have seen many times, the prime minster visited the park with a number of foreign leaders and dignitaries. The city is also the pride of millions of Ethiopians. At this moment the news that is coming from the park isn’t encouraging. A few days ago, two factories closed their doors and left the city. The owners said they couldn’t operate because of the never ending lawlessness in the city. In a time when the country needs the much needed foreign currencies, factories are forced to close because of lawless extremists.

It must be clear that Ejjeetto is a tool the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs use to achieve their political objective. Ejjeetto receives instructions from Sidama extremist who hold key positions in the government and some Sidama business men of the city.The police force of the city is the main partner of the group. It closely operates with Ejjeetto and takes part in all criminal activities of the group. Some Sidama business men also actively participate in the group’s illegal activities by making cash payments to the members of the group.

Every day the leaders of Ejjeetto wage psychological warfare against the residents of the city. Last week, the members of the group were telling people not to show up on the main streets of the city. They are also boldly claiming that they will not be participating in the upcoming population census unless their objective is met. It seems that the group is determined to achieve its objectives by intimidating the government. I believe the government’s inaction has contributed to the illegal actions of the group.

The government must make the leaders of the group including Mr. Million Mathewos accountable for their actions. Mr. Million is the de facto leader of the group. The day before the members of the Ejjeetto broke the meeting of the SNNPR and beat members of the party, Mr. Million said to have been walked out of the meeting that included key government officials. The next day, members of the Ejjeetto interrupted the meeting of the party. The city’s mayor, the chairman of the Sidama zone and others closely work with Mr. Million.

Instead of serving the people of the region, Mr. Millons has been working to fulfill the wishes of the Sidama extremists. He spends much of his time attending the meetings of the rouge group and agitating the idle youth. It is also an open secret that Mr. Mathewos has a deep rooted hatred to a particular ethnic group that he considers is behind the death of his late father.

A month ago when people in Tula Abela area demanded that they be granted a status of Wereda, Mr. Million responded by saying that he isn’t interested in guaranteeing the status to the area where a bunch of Neftegas (referring Amharas and Gurages) live. Last year, Mr. Mathewos urged the military, which was based in Awassa to leave (after a dinner party) citing that the city was peaceful. However, the next day, after the military had left, a market place of non-Sidamas was burned to the ground. There is no doubt that Mr. Mathewos is the one who is relying on government information to extremists and encouraging them to resort to lawlessness.

Once again shops, hotels, banks, and many other businesses were forced to close because of the threats of the extremists. Two factories at the Industrial Park shut their doors citing the security situation in Awassa. The real estate price in the city has declined steadily since the Wolitas massacre in the city last year. People in the city live in fear. What else needs to happen for the government to maintain the security of the citizen in the city and bring the perpetrators of the crimes? Is Ejjeetto more difficult to contain than the Hego of the Somali region? Is there any reason out there we don’t know why the government chose not to act against the Sidama extremists who are wrecking havoc in the city? People in the Somali region have been breathing fresh air since the government delivered a heavy blow against the Hegos. Why not take similar action against the Ejjeetto?

We have been told time after time that change is underway in Ethiopia. Of course, political prisoners and journalists have been released, foreign based political organizations have been allowed to enter the country, we have seen relative press freedom, and relations with neighboring countries particularly with Eritrea has improved. These changes are significant considering where the country was heading a year ago. However, since the appointment of the new prime minister not much has changed in the so-called Kilil particularly in the south. The old structures of the TPLF regime are still in place serving corrupt ethnic lords and suffocating our people.

The Sidama extremists are making outrageous statements and showing their ‘magnanimity’ to the whole world. They are again threatening to call for a work stoppage that will span 15 days. Almost on a daily basis they are telling people that ‘they will give permission to other tribes to live in the region after they have secured their own Killi’. They don’t mince when they utter such nonsense on a daily basis. After what they have done to Wolitas last year and the mess they have created in Awassa for many year, they think people believe everything that comes out of their mouths. I don’t know who has given them the license to permit Ethiopians to live in their own country?

Sources are telling me that the Sidama zone has runout out of budget within seven months. Apparently, the extremists don’t have money for their per dim, some of them receive per dime for more than 500 times a year. The only way to get enough per dim is to push for their own Kilil so that they will have enough pocket money from year to year. One should never think that they care about the people of Sidama. It is all about their pocketbook.

Once again we urge the government to take decisive action against law breakers in Awassa. The people in the city are feed up of with the silence of the government. Citizens should be told if the government has given up its duty of keeping the peace of citizens.

Disbanding Ejjeetto and making its leaders who are deeply entrenched in the bureaucracy of the city accountable for their crimes is the first step that must to be taken. Demobilizing the police force of the city which is 99 percent Sidama and creating a new police force that represents the other 53 ethic groups in the region is not a thing that must be left for tomorrow. There is no second class citizen in Awassa, and for that matter in the entire country!
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