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Killings and physical injuries by Oromo-dominated ENDF in West Gojjam Zone

Killings and physical injuries of civilians by the Oromo dominated ENDF in Dembecha, Jiga and Finote Selam towns (West Gojjam Zone, Amhara Region, Ethiopia) on June 11 and 12, 2023


Overview


The Amhara Association of America (AAA) has conducted investigation into the killings and physical injuries of civilians in Dembecha, Jiga and Finote Selam – West Gojjam Zone, Amhara Region – by Oromo-dominated Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and local police (in Finote Selam). As of Sunday, June 11, 2023 around 6:00 pm, members of the ENDF opened fire in Dembecha city, alleging that they are pursuing members of the Amhara Popular Front (APF) and local Fano members. In this incident, AAA was able to verify the death of three civilians and the physical injury of 15 others in name.


On the next day, aggrieved by the incident, the residents of Dembecha town, joined by Jiga and Finote Selam cities conducted protests calling for the withdrawal of ENDF from Dembecha and other Amhara cities. In the interim, local police and members of the ENDF tried to curve the peaceful protest in Finote Selam through shooting at protestors and anyone else found in the street. In this incident AAA was able to identify names of one killed victim and names of an additional ten civilians who sustained physical injuries. The detail of the report, the background (including area and thematic context) and findings of the investigation is elaborated as follows.


Background: area and thematic context of the investigation


The town of Dembecha is located in the West Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region in Ethiopia. Though small, its residents are known for being politically engaged and vocal on national and social issues affecting the Amhara community. Since Prime Minister Abiy and his Oromo Prosperity Party came to power, residents in this area have been at the forefront of the Amhara resistance including participating in peaceful demonstrations denouncing the regime’s repressive policies. This investigative report identifies two factors that prompted the latest round of local resistance: one, Prosperity Party’s decisions to disarm the Amhara Region forces (Liyu Hail) in early April 2023 which served as a pretext to deploy the Oromo dominated ENDF in Dembecha and other Amhara Region cities, and the other is the decision taken by the joint military and security council after the Atse Melke Selassie Monastery massacre (found in Debre Elias Woreda, East Gojjam Zone, Amhara Region), marking Sheret Medhanialem Monastery (found in Dembecha Woreda of West Gojjam Zone) as their next target can be taken as the immediate one.


The government had targeted the Atse Melka Selassie Monastery, alleging that Eskinder Nega, journalist, human rights defender and coordinator of the recently established group, the APF, and his collaborators were there, then the ENDF proceeded to kill dozens of religious persons (hermits, religious students, orphaned children, and pilgrims) and destroyed the monastery itself. After the so-called military operation and religious-oriented massacre, they issued a press release stating “the success” of the operation and that what remained was to “apprehend Eskinder”, adding that he had managed to evade them but that they were in pursuit Observers shared their fears that the ENDF’s next target under the guise of chasing Eskinder and Fano was to be the Sheret Medhanialem Monastery. And in fact, their fear began to materialize in the aftermath of the Atse Melka Selassie Monastery tragedy, the ENDF immediately began turning its face to Dembecha and started to deploy infantry soldiers. They also established their military base a week before the incident in the city.


The incident in Dembecha City and AAA’s finding: killings and physical injuries of civilians


Since Sunday, June 11, 2023 at around 6-11 pm, as per AAA’s sources, by taking the night as a safe avenue for their activities, the Oromo dominated ENDF opened fire on residents of Dembecha town, alleging that there was Fano and APF allies in the city. AAA verified from sources, that members of the ENDF also fired heavy artilleries on the city residents.



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