Two days after Amhara regional state announced that relative peace has returned to the region, reports that fighting has been ongoing in the Oromo Special Zone of the Amhara regional State resumed, started to surface.The violence that has been reported to have been started on Friday March 19, 2021 after an imam was gunned down in front of his mosque in Ataye has spiraled out of control after attempts by elders tried to resolve the matter. In Kemise, the violence left an unknown number of casualties and caused a lot of damage to properties. North Shewa Zone Peace and Security bureau head, Abera Mekonnen at the time told Addis Standard, “A mosque and a church have been burned down in Ataye as a result of the violence, I can’t give more details as investigations on the matter are ongoing.”
Not long after the breakout of violence, the Oromia Regional State chapter of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP), the Oromo Prosperity Party (OPP) accused Amhara Special Forces of fomenting violence in the Oromo Special Zone of the region. The party also described in its statement earlier attempts to shift the blame from Amhara Special Forces towards ‘OLF-Shene’ as “Attempts to hide the truth.”
On its part the Amhara Regional State chapter of the ruling Prosperity Party (PP), Amhara Prosperity Party (APP) slammed the statement its counterpart chapter in Oromia Regional State and described it as “irresponsible and irrational,” further explaining that the party would have not engaged in issuing such statement had not been forced to. The party also made claims about the existence of the group called ‘OLF-Shene’ and detalined it in its statements the group’s attempts at disturbing Amhara Regional State peace and security.
Sa’eed Mohammed, the head of Bati Woreda (One of the woredas in the Oromo Special Zone of the Amhara Regional State) culture and tourism bureau contacted Addis Standard and confirmed that fighting has reached Bati Woreda and he spoke of new development in the woreda. He said, “Amhara and Afar regional States have come together with the aim of ending Oromo dominance in this Zone (Oromo Special Zone). Everyone heard about the involvement of Amhara Special Forces in the violence in North Shewa and Oromo Special zones but everyone ignored the Afar special forces who are now involved alongside the Amhara Special Forces.” He added speaking on the conditions in the zone., “Lives are lost, properties are destroyed and people are being displaced. Six villages in the zone are empty of its residents, these are: Gamato, Ona Borana, Kanta Heru, Maretu, Aba Bayyan and Gerba Hora and i can tell you that so far in the woreda 57 houses and 5 hectares of land with its crops have been burned,” he continued, “Elders, women with their children are fleeing the violence in every direction and you can see them as drive by major roads in the woreda.” He talked about the difficulties facing the woreda in keeping the peace and safeguarding civilians, “We are faced with two well equipped special forces, one of which is supposed to protect us. We have limited manpower and we are under equipped, we are trying to safeguard civilians with everything we have.” According to Saeed soldiers from both special forces are still arriving and the available resources will not be enough to stop their aggression. When asked about the timing of the arrival of both Amhara and Afar Special Forces Sa’eed told Addis Standard, “Two days ago but there were skirmishes for the past five days.”
Another eyewitness who resides and asked to remain anonymous whom Addis Standard contacted to confirm Sa’eed’s accounts, she said, “They (Afar Special Forces) came two or three days ago and first started attacking the nearby villages of Burqaa and Hawsaber and they are going to all nearby villages before entering. They planted the Afar Regional State flag.” She explained that the Afar claim over territories in the Oromo Special Zone of Amhara Regional State is old and added, “They claim all land from the two regions’ borders until Kombolcha (a city in the South Wollo Zone, Amhara Region).
Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to reach the head of the Afar Regional State communication bureau head and the Amhara Regional State communication bureau head were unsuccessful. However, Addis Standard was able to reach Ahmed Hasan the Oromo Special Zone administrator who declined to answer questions.