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Persons Displaced from Wollega to Amhara Region Report They Are Being Forced to Return Where They Came From

Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic report taken from BBC Amharic and is intended solely for information purposes.

BBC Amharic - Persons displaced from Wollega to Amhara Region report they are being forced to return where they came from

Saturday, December 23, 2023 (Tahasass 13, 2016 EC)

IDPs displaced from the various zones of Wollega to shelters across North Wollo and South Wollo told BBC they are being forced to return to where they came from against their will.

The regional threat prevention and preparedness authority told BBC IDPs will not be forcibly relocated and the relocation will be to areas of Wollega that are relatively peaceful.

Despite these remarks from regional officials, IDPs across Gerado, Degan, Jari, Kutaber, Hayk and other shelters told BBC they are being forcibly relocated to an area where they will have no assurance of protection or safety.

BBC spoke to IDPs in shelters who said, “although we have no desire to return to areas in western Oromia, we were informed we would be relocated there in a matter of days.”

The people BBC spoke to in this report chose to withhold their names, place of origin and where they are currently sheltered to protect their identity.

According to one IDP, “we were told we would have to return to where we came from and that there was peace there. We were told we would be relocated this coming Monday, December 25, 2023 (Tahasass 15, 2016 EC) in the afternoon. We would like to return but there is no peace yet. Their claim that there is peace is a lie. We receive information from our people there on a daily basis. They survive constantly having to protect and defend themselves.”

According to this IDP, it has been over three years since there was peace in the area they came from in western Oromia.

They described the situation as follows: “it has been over three years since people living there could go to market or receive medical care. They have no contact with the local woreda administration.”

The IDPs said the day after tomorrow, on Monday, if they are made to return to where they came from, they will be forcibly moved from the shelter they are currently residing in.

There is starvation here. But if we go there, it will mean certain death.” This is what the IDPs said awaits them, also mentioning the last time they received food assistance was near the end of last year on Nehase 2015 EC (August - September 2023).

When we speak to our people there (western Oromia) they describe living in fear. There aren’t even grain mills, they have survived using stones to grind grain. It has been years since they’ve had ashabo and berbere.”

Residents said they would only willingly return to their homes when there is tangible peace. “How can we return to a place with no peace where so many of our parents, children and women perished? When we asked this, they told us if we didn’t leave the shelters between December 25 and 27 (Tahasass 15 and 17), relevant authorities would come to remove us by force.” This is what was told to the IDPs, and another IDP described a discussion they had with the local administration.

The South Wollo Zone Threat Prevention and Food Security and Early Warning Response group lead Ato Mehamed Sayed stated the IDPs would be relocated to areas with relative peace and that there was no authority that would force them.

The IDPs are currently taking shelter in structures such as schools, saying, “if the problem is the buildings which previously served basic functions are needed for those purposes, the IDPs can simply take shelter somewhere else.”

Ato Mehamed added if IDPs are unwilling to return to where they came from, they can integrate with the local population.

He added, if certain buildings are needed to serve basic functions, “they can integrate with the local community or they can move to another shelter. And reasons for their being unwilling will be investigated.”

The Amhara Region Threat Prevention and Food Security Program Coordinating Commission’s Commissioner Tesfahun Bayabel said the date of the residents’ return was undisclosed and described the circumstances for their return as follows.

There is no forced relocation. However their current living conditions are not permanent. They will return after a committee is able to verify an area where peace is reliable and basic facilities are available.” After saying this, he listed areas where the IDPs are expected to be taken.

According to Ato Tesfahun, zones where there was said to be relative peace include East Wollega, West Wollega, Horo Guduru Wollega and West Shewa.

Ato Tesfahun told BBC there was no forced relocation of IDPs at this time and there were currently discussions underway.


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