Campaign Update - Ethiopia: Violence Surges in Gambella

April 10, 2012

Anuak refugees from Ethiopia are reporting mobilization of national military and police forces in the Gambella region, and increasing violence there.

Okok Ojulu, an Anuak refugee, reported that conflict recently arose between Surma and Diji tribes after a land investor apparently bribed locals to spark violence that would induce the Surma people to abandon their village. Forty-two houses and grain storages were reportedly burnt down in the Surma villages, inciting violence that lasted over five days without government intervention. "It appears as if the government is using ethnic cleansing conflicts as means to acquire the indigenous land for the extension of commercial farms," reported Ojulu.

In a press release from the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), Obang Metho reported the following: "New threats are again on the rise in Gambella region of Ethiopia as the TPLF/EPRDF regime [government security forces] attempts to exert increasing federal control of the region, leading to new clampdowns against civilians. Many believe that these actions are meant to suppress the deepening indigenous people protest over the increasing land-grabs."

On April 7, an Anuak student was gunned down in Gambella town by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's security forces, apparently without provocation. This comes with a rising trend of government police and security presence in the region, and harassment of Anuak farmers. Gambella Today reported that one Anuak man, Owar Oballa, was gunned down last week and another, Omot Abook, disappeared three days after the security forces took him.

More atrocities were reported in the communities of Angela, Okuna, and Dumbang, where the government has been implicated in beating hundreds of villagers as a means to force eviction from their land.

For more information on landgrabbing in Gambella, and to take action, see our campaign page here.