Ethiopia’s neglected crisis

Ethiopia’s neglected crisis

(dw)–Ethiopia is facing one of the world’s biggest displacement crises — nearly 3 million people in the country have fled their homes in recent years.

Starting over again Authorities have started returning home some of the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Gedeos who fled attacks in Ethiopia’s southern Oromia region, which is mainly populated by ethnic Oromos. But humanitarian organizations accuse the government of forcing Gedeos back to villages where they have lost everything – and still don’t feel safe.
Critical shortages of land About two months ago, the streets of Hinche – nestled in the green hills of West Guji zone – were empty. Now, almost all of the ethnic Gedeos who used to live here have come back after fleeing ethnic violence last year. West Guji is part of the Oromia region, and home to a majority of ethnic Oromos. The long-simmering conflict is primarily about land ownership.
Accusations of forced returns The residents of Hinche, as well as other ethnic Gedeos, were left with little choice but to return to their village after the government razed the refugee camps and limited humanitarian aid in the Gedeo zone. Observers accuse authorities of organizing ‘forced returns’, which they say will aggravate an already tense situation
Dwellings looted and razed Zele is happy to be back home with his wife and six children. However, life here in Hinche is very difficult, especially as the rainy season starts settling in. Zele’s house was destroyed and his belongings stolen in the violence, so he built this shelter. The family lives off monthly food aid of around 40kg of grain and 2 liters of oil.
Fear of futher attacks Most of the returnees are farmers but haven’t been able to cultivate their land since they have returned. Dingete is now working as a daily laborer to feed her four children. “Our farm is far from here, and I am afraid to go there because some people said they saw the Oromo armed groups in the area,” she says.
Reconciliation efforts Local authorities claim security isn’t a problem. They say elders have settled the issues and militias and communities are working together to identify wrongdoers. “Gedeos and [Oromos] believe we are brothers, and we live together. They have the same values, the same market, they marry each other,” says Aberra Buno, the chief administrator of the West Guji zone.
Lack of justice Many Gedeos are frustrated about what they perceive as a lack of justice. In Cherqo, more than 1,000 people fled, and almost all of the houses were destroyed. “Those who committed these things have not been arrested or faced justice – not a single person has been captured so far,” says Abebe, Cherqo’s administrator. The Guji police say they have arrested more than 200 people over the violence
Forgotten about Authorities say they have returned almost 100% those displaced in the Gedeo-Guji violence. However, thousands of people originally from the East Guji zone still live in camps in the Gedeo zone, seemingly forgotten. Food aid was stopped more than two months ago. Hundreds of children live in alarming conditions and don’t go to school.
Disease and malnutrition “We are starving, people suffer from diarrhea, our children have to go to the streets and collect food in the garbage and bring it to their families,” say Almaz, who has been living in this camp in Dilla in the Gedeo zone for more than a year
Food aid stopped Authorities in the Gedeo zone say they have requested food from the federal government, and then they can return the families to East Guji. But many Gedeo people don’t feel safe going back. There were more reports of killings of ethnic Gedeos in East Guji at the end of May.
Incomplete statistics Humanitarian organizations say thousands of Gedeos who fled their homes in the West Guji zone are living in informal settlements or renting houses. They are difficult to keep track of and thus don’t appear in official statistics. Nor do they receive any aid.