I have Buried 61 People Including 22 of My Own Children and Grandchildren – Personal Testimony of an Amhara Father Who Survived the Massacre at Gimbi (Western Ethiopia) on Saturday the 18th of June 2022
Assefa Negash, M. D.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 10th of July 2022
On Saturday the 18th of June 2022 many Amhara inhabitants and their family members have been killed in the massacre perpetrated at the locality known as Tole which is located in Gimbi, Western Wellega zone of Ethiopia.
Among the Amhara inhabitants of this locality who survived this gruesome massacre figure Mr. Mohammed Yusuf. Mr. Mohammed Yusuf, aged 64 told (BBC reporters) that he moved from his birth place Harbu which is located in Wello of the Amhara region to his present place of residence Wellega in 1990. He moved from his birth place to Wellega in order to escape the deleterious effect of the drought that affected his birth place at that time.
Mr. Mohammed moved to Wellega, along with his wife he married at a young age and their six children. After he moved to Wellega, he was legally given land to till and was engaged in farming thereby paying the appropriate tax due to the government. After he moved to Wellega, he got more children and has also been able to be a grandparent.
Mr. Mohammed who said that “Before this time, there was no such worry. We used to live by working very hard on our farm”. But what transpired or happened on Saturday the 18th of June 2022 was unprecedented and has left behind an indelible memory of grief which he cannot ever forget. On this fateful date the 18th of June 2022 when the locality he lives in was invaded by armed men, “assuming that they do not kill women and children, my children, grandchildren gathered at my home and sat behind closed door. I hid myself in within a maze farm” said Mr. Mohammed recollecting what happened.
Mr. Mohammed said that he returned to his home after the shooting which lasted more than half a day has subsided. But when he arrived at his home, the door of his house was left wide open. When he entered his house, his family members whom he left behind were not inside his house. Mr. Mohammed said “I moved here and there and everywhere in search of his family members”. In the process of searching for his family members, he met his wife and the mother of his children, with whom he has lived since his youth walking on the road. His wife has sustained wounds on her side (flank) and her palms. His wife who was soaked in blood was heading to her house.
Mr. Mohammed said “we were overwhelmed by shock”. And added that “I asked my wife where are the children?”. Mr. Mohammed’s wife told him that they were killed near the Mosque. Mr. Mohammed hurriedly ran towards the Mosque. But when he arrived at the Mosque, there was no one survivor left alive. “He found bodies of massacred members of his family piled upon each other. And that included a newly born child”. As he was relating this story, Mr. Mohammed was sobbing.
According to Mr. Mohammed, his family members were taken away from their village and taken to another village known as Chekorsa Selsaw and killed next to the Mosque located there. Mr. Mohammed said that “at this place 42 individuals, including my family members, have been massacred”. Mr. Mohammed was still crying while relating the following about the loss he sustained.
“My eldest daughter Semira Mohammed was killed along with her five children (6 family members); my daughter Aminat Mohammed was killed along with her four children (5 family members); my daughter Amet Mohammed (1 family member); Saada Mohammed (1 family member), Fatima Mohammed was killed with her five children (6 family members) and my daughter Mereyma Mohammed was killed along with her two children (3 family members) thereby making the total number of family members of Mr. Mohammed massacred soar to a staggering figure of 22 persons)”. According to Mr. Mohammed children of his sister had been killed and six other members of his family members who sustained injury are undergoing medical treatment at the Nekemt and Gimbi hospitals.
Among his children who had been killed figure his eldest daughter Mrs. Samira Mohammed who was 40 years of age and the youngest victim of massacre is the daughter of his sister who was just four days-old (newly born baby). In the grave I dug on my own to bury my children and grandchildren, sixty-one (61) people were buried. Mr. Mohammed said that there are many Amharas who have lost all their family members and remain alone now.
Mr. Mohammed said that “we have not done any harm to anyone except tilling our land in order to earn our living. We have been killed because we are Amharas” thereby underscoring the fact that the attack (the massacre) was specifically directed against members of the Amhara ethnic group. The house, store and property of Mr. Mohammed had been set on fire and destroyed. Mr. Mohammed told the BBC reporters saying that he is staying with the remaining family members who survived the massacre in the part of the house that has survived the fire attack.
Mr. Mohammed said “I am spitting out blood in grief and my brain is not functioning anymore”. He added “No government authority or functionary has come towards them (the survivors) to even ask what happened to them”. He said “This neglect by the government has compounded or amplified the grief of the survivors”.
According to Mr. Mohammed, the area in which he lives is not yet free from security risks and worries linger on or persist for the surviving inhabitants of the area. Mr. Mohammed said “They have held us back from leaving the area but what we want the government to do is help us get out of here”. He added “How can we live in the place where we have buried our beloved children and family members in our own backyards?” Mr. Mohammed added that “The surviving women and children are leaving the area on foot”.
A local official, who chose remain anonymous, told to the BBC journalist saying that “most of the people massacred on the 18th of June 2022 were pregnant women, children and women”. This local official has confirmed to the BBC the fact that “Mr. Mohammed Yusuf has lost twenty-two (22 family members) of his children and grand-children”. The local official who was present at the funeral confirmed to the BBC the fact that among members of Mr. Mohammed Yusuf’s family members figured children who were 2 ½ years old, seven years old and 10 years old.
The local official told the BBC that he did not have prior knowledge in regard to the security risks/problems obtaining in the area and said that the members of the armed group (the Oromo Liberation Army) have been living in the adjoining desert for more than three years.
“For more than a month, we have witnessed the movement of many armed men (members of the Oromo Liberation Army otherwise dubbed Shene by the government). It was reported that these armed men were traveling to Dembidolo (a region located in Western Wellega). But as of May 2022, we do not have any information about them” added the unnamed official.
The official said “We do not have contact with the district administrators. As the roads are closed, we cannot travel to the administrative office of the district even when we are called to come there and participate in meetings. It is only when government security forces come to our areas that we can move about to conduct our work” thereby underscoring the security risks and problems obtaining in the area.
“On Friday the 17th of June 2022, security forces (belonging to the Oromo Regional government administering the Oromo region) left the area, just a day before the massacre was perpetrated. When we asked why the government security forces were withdrawn from the area, we were not told the exact reason for their pull out or withdrawal. Subsequent to their withdrawal, we were in a state of fear (apprehension) and suspicion” told the local official to the BBC.
The Amhara association, based in USA, has stated that many Amhara inhabitants have lost all or most of their family members and added that Mr. Mohammed who lives in the Chekorsa locality of Wellega (Western Ethiopia) has lost 31 family members. With regard to the number of victims of the massacre, the Ethiopian government has put the number of those killed just to 338 individuals whereas the Amhara Association, based in USA, has put the number of those massacred so far as being close to 600 individuals.
Eye witnesses, survivors of the massacre and the Ethiopian government whom BBC has talked to, have blamed the Oromo Liberation Army (belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front) otherwise dubbed Shene by the government as being responsible for the massacre. The Oromo Liberation Army on its part has blamed the Ethiopian government as being the culprit or the perpetrator of the massacre.
The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations (UN) has stated that many houses were burned down and more than 2000 people have been uprooted and displaced following the killings of hundreds of people, most of those killed being women and children. Following the attack (massacre), the UN Commission for Human Rights and other political organizations have demanded a speedy, independent and a detailed inquiry into the massacre. The Ethiopian parliament has instructed the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (which is a governmental body) to conduct an investigation about the horrendous human rights violations perpetrated on innocent citizens in Western Wellega and Gambela and report back to the parliament. It has also been reported that United Nation’s Human Rights Commission would investigate the massacre perpetrated in Western Wellega.
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Note from the translator:
This report was compiled by BBC’s Amharic Service. It has bearing on the recent massacre perpetrated against innocent Amhara civilians living in Western Wellega (Western Ethiopia). In order to reach a wider public, I have translated it into English. Please help in spreading the word about this horrendous genocide which is still unfolding with increased intensity and fervor as witness the genocide that followed at Kelem (Western Wellega) on the 3rd of July 2022 claiming at least 400 lives of innocent Amhara civilians, just two weeks after the massacre at Tole on the 18th of June 2022. Since Abiy Ahmed has been ensconced into power, Wellega has been the frequent site of Amhara carnage. The massacre has all the hallmarks of genocide as it has targeted members of a particular ethnic group (Amharas) who have been subjected to a barrage of systematic and incessant campaign of state-sponsored demonization, dehumanization thereby singling out members of the Amhara ethnic group dispersed in all nooks and corners of Ethiopia, particularly in the newly carved ethnic homelands of Oromia, Benishangul, Metekel, Southern region, etc for a gruesome massacre on account of their ethnic identity. This has been unfolding during the past 31 years. Bedeno, Arba Gugu, Metekel, Grua Ferda, Benishangul, Tepi, Guliso, Eastern & Western Wellega, etc bear witness to the horrendous atrocities committed against Amharas with the abatement, connivance and authorship of the Ethiopian state be it the one led by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) from 1991 to 2018 or the one led by the Orommuma ultra-nationalist/fascist party of Abiy Ahmed (from 2018 till now) donned and masquerading as the “prosperity” party.
The words or statements in parenthesis in this translated report have been added by me the translator to highlight some of the texts that need more elaboration for readers who may not be conversant with the reality of Ethiopia.
Readers of this translated report can forward any comment they may have with regard to the translation via Debesso@gmail.com
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This story is heart wrenching to say the least. Who could do such evil actions. Collecting so many unarmed and innocent women and children in a worship mosque and murdering and hacking to death. This is vicious barbarism and beyond human deprivity . It seems , people held contempt for the Muslim faith , its followers and humantity in general as being sacred thing with morals, values, culture annd emotional feelings. I guess there is no lower point that these criminals can sink beyond this.
Oh God when will you met justice to the blood of the innocent because no human justice is expected from the Oromo nationalists who pose as different actors – outright killers (OLA) , propogandists (OLF, OFC), tacit supporters (oromouma sympathizers in the PP), funders (egypt, CIA), inspiration and guidance (tplf)…..what have these poor farmers done to you?