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WCHR warns of new ethnic clashes in South Ethiopia

Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR) says calls by activists and politicians that could lead to ethnic clashes in South Ethiopia

South Ethiopia _ ethnic clashes
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June 10, 2020

As we honor the victims and approach the 2 year mark of the 2018 Wolayta massacre in Hawassa and other cities, Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR) is disturbed and condemns the recent calls for violence the last few days by activists and politicians; particularly from Wolayta, Gamo, Sidama and Dawro. 

As the federal and regional governments continue to negotiate on reshaping the administration of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region; it is important the process is peaceful and ethical. 

However, the process of decentralizing the SNNPR has so far lacked transparency and trust among the stakeholders. Instead, the process has created a hostile environment. The government of Abiy Ahmed has expressed its intention to create peace and discourage competition due to growing statehood requests in the past by the dozens of ethnic groups in SNNPR. In reality, the flawed process itself is encouraging more political and dangerous ethnic competition. After the recent round of meetings, elites and activists from several ethnic zones have began insulting, defaming and threatening each other and their communities. 

WCHR asks the government to address this crisis before it gets out of control. 

The last few years are proof that lack of strong will and security can quickly lead to a humanitarian crisis. The first job of every government should be the safety and protection of human life, particularly Ethiopian minorities residing in territories marked for a “native” or named after a certain majority. Recent threats on the movement of people and goods between warring zones is a recipe for violence against minorities (the “others” or “outsiders”) in every zone. 

WCHR supports the government to continue advocating co-existence and promote multi-ethnic regions in the south. Members and supporters of WCHR who attended the recent forums have asked the government to prioritize human rights and protect minorities everywhere. To achieve this goal, our members have asked the SNNPR and federal government of Abiy Ahmed to consider creating independent federal or charter cities (Hawassa, Sodo, Arba Minch etc) with “special interests” allocated to corresponding ethnic zones or states. We have also advocated for “open borders” between zones and states to promote peace and unity, including between Gedeo & Guji, and between Sidama & Wolaita.

It is imperative that the Ethiopian government prioritizes the human life and security of all its citizens, instead of prioritizing the political interests of any politician, elite or activist.

As the ongoing violence between Oromos in Wolega and the deadly internal clashes between ethnic Gurages with different dialect, custom or religious background shows us; rewarding statehood or autonomy to any Ethiopian ethnic group does NOT guarantee peace. The formula for peace and human rights is a government and people with a social contract fully dedicated to protecting the basic right to life and individual rights for all human beings in Ethiopia. 

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