Addis Abeba — On 31 November around 41 members of Gada leaders of the pastoralist Karrayyu community were rounded up by government security forces at a place called Motoma, in Fentalle District of East Shoa Zone, Oromia region, while they were on a prayer ritual. 14 out of those arrested including the leader, Abba Gadaa Kadir Hawas Boru were brutally executed on 01 December while the rest were taken to prison. Council of Oromo Gada Leaders later said one of those arrested was tortured and died in prison.
The Oromia regional government had initially said the members of Karrayyu Gada leaders were killed by armed group Oromo Liberation Army but later, officials exposed that the perpetrators were government security forces. MP Hangassa Ibrahim took it to Facebook accusing regional police commissioner Ararsa Mardasa to have played a role in the killings, while State minister for Peace ministry Taye Dendea said the topmost leaders of the regional government were to bear responsibility for the killing of the Gada leaders.
The Ethiopia Human Rights Commission (EHRC) conducted an investigation and subsequently released a report in February in which it said there's "reasonable ground to believe" that the killing of 14 members of the Gadaa leaders constitutes "extrajudicial killing" by security forces. EHRC also urged that members of the security forces who committed the crime should be brought to justice and that the victims and families of the victims should be redressed.
Addis Standard reported that following the killings the settlements of the Gada leaders as well as other places where they used to carry out rituals were captured by militants from the neighboring Amhara region. There have been disputes over land and frequent clashes near the border between the Fentalle district, home to the Karrayyu pastoralist community and the neighboring Amhara communities.
Residents say attacks by Amhara militants have been intensified since the killings of the Abba Gadaas. A member of the Karrayyu community who spoke to Addis Standard said the community neither got justice nor peace after their leaders were killed. "We haven't been successful in uncovering the truth about the killing of our Gada leader. Because the killing involves government officials and is carried out by government security forces, they have continued to conceal the truth saying that "Shane" did it" he said.
"the Gada Leaders were deliberately killed after their names and respective roles in Gada were identified"
Gobana Hola, Abba Gadaa himself and secretary of the Oromo Gada leaders council told Addis Standard that the council had publicly implicated the government for the killings despite contrasting reports. He added that the council had sent elders to the Oromia regional president's office and to the prime minister's office demanding an explanation over the killings of the Karrayyu Gadaa leaders.
"Oromia regional president's office has admitted that the Gada leaders were killed by mistake. Mistakes are inevitable for someone who is working. During that time Karrayyu was under command post and the Gada leaders were conducting rituals. They were arrested and killed by mistake," Abba Gada Gobana said.
He said following several consultations with the remaining Gada leaders of the Karrayyu community, a consensus has been reached for compensation to be paid as per the tradition, and 1.4 million birr was paid for each and every member of the killed Gada leaders. Thus, he said the Karrayyu community had been compensated very well.
"The process of compensation carried out by the council of Gada leaders was an attempt to informally pay few people in the community so that they go on the media and declare that reconciliations were made."
However, Gada Hawas, a brother of the deceased Abba Gada Kadir Hawas strongly feels otherwise. He told Addis Standard that, "the Gada Leaders were deliberately killed after their names and respective roles in Gada were identified" adding that the killing intended to weaken the Karrayyu community and its Gada rule.
Both Gada Hawas and the member of the Karrayyu community who spoke to Addis Standard said the compensation was done as an attempt to obstruct justice, and the process was incognizant moral damage done to the community.
"The process of compensation carried out by the council of Gada leaders was an attempt to informally pay few people in the community so that they go on the media and declare that reconciliations were made. But it failed because those few people refused to do so until the perpetrators were held accountable," the member of Karrayyu community said.
Gada Hawas on his behalf accuses the council of Gada leaders of aligning with the government. "Karrayyu has its own customs of performing reconciliation and redress. There was no option to pursue that way. The council wanted to pay money and silence the community," he added.
"There is money paid, but that doesn't fulfill the customs of redress. The way it was decided and paid isn't right. As the family of the deceased Abba Gadaa, what we know is that there has been no redress. There should have been someone admitting guilt and absolution should have happened accordingly," he said.
According to the member of the community, after the government's attempt to conceal the truth about the killing of Karrayyu Gadaa leaders was foiled, officials holding a grudge have been trying to pit the Karrayyu community against neighboring communities. He said as a result the Karrayyu have been deprived of peace and stability.
Secretary of the Oromo Gada leaders council Abba Gadaa Gobana Hola said the Karrayyu has never been at peace as governments come and go. He said this is majorly due to its strategic location given the main Ethio-Djibouti Road passing through Karrayyu 's Fantalle district.
He added that due to attempts by different interest groups to pit the Karrayyu community against its neighbors and also against government security forces for the sake of political gains, the community has lived in instability for long .
"Currently, the Karrayyu community is in a concerning security situation. Several killings have been committed even after the massacre of our Gada leaders. We reached a point where we don't even know who is killed and who is alive. It is difficult to put into words the misery of our community," a member of the Karrayyu community said.
He added the government security forces deployed to the area to pursue armed rebels on one hand and armed militants from neighboring Amhara Region on the other are causing the community a great deal of tribulation.
The member of the community, Gadaa Hawas, and Abba Gadaa Gobana Hola, all of them confirmed to Addis Standard that the village where the deceased Gada leaders used to settle is currently under the occupation of the armed militants from the neighboring Amhara Region. AS