Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
A series of violence and mass killings has left Gambella—one of the nine federal states in Ethiopia—in a state of severe insecurity and trauma especially after another round of violence that occurred near Jewi Refugee Camp on Thursday, left as many as 21 people dead and seven others heavily wounded.
Jewi is one of six refugee camps in the Gambella Regional State which hosts as some 48,648 South Sudanese refugees. The latest incident was instigated by the death of two toddlers from the refugee community as result of an accident that was caused by a water truck ferrying drinking water to the camp.
The unfortunate incident led to an outburst among South Sudanese refugees in the camp which later translated into a violent rampage on the local community living and working in the area.
Nevertheless, a week after the tragic killings of 186 civilians and the abduction of some 125 children by the South Sudanese heavily armed Murle tribesmen, confusion and disarray still abounds the public due to conflicting reports regarding the tribesmen which are responsible for the massacre and the kidnapping of the children.
The death toll was put at 208 by official estimates citing another insertion that happened a month ago by the same group. The attack, which was spread across 13 kebeles in the region, has also resulted in the looting of 2,000 cattle and the disappearance of many who have fled the violence.
However, unverified sources told The Reporter that the number of causalities could increase in the coming days since new bodies have been discovered on Thursday and Friday, drowned in Baro River. The bodies are suspected to be of people who were fleeing the gun shots, the same sources said.
The tragic killings which happened around dawn exactly a week ago is still shrouded with confusion. According to official accounts, armed men perpetrated the killings and that neither the government nor the oppositions sources in that nation has a hand in the violence.
However, eyewitnesses in the area were quick to account that the armed men were much more than ordinary tribesmen on a customary cattle raid in the area. In fact, the armed men were reported to be in military uniform and were heard communicating via radio. This led some to cry foul play and suspected a big plot in the works.
Both officials of Ethiopia and South Sudanese governments disclosed that they sought to coordinate their efforts to find the assailants and rescue the abducted children.
According to reports from Juba, the South Sudanese government and the government of Ethiopia have agreed to launch a joint military offensive to dislodge and bring to justice ethnic Murle militia fighters who are believed to be behind the attack.
South Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Peter Bashir Gbandi said that preparations are underway for joint military operations. He also stated that South Sudanese army chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan (Gen.), would travel to Ethiopia to finalize the deal on how to carry out the military operations into the Murle territory.
”These are criminals,” Gbandi said while referring to the Murle militia fighters.
Nevertheless, military sources are also saying that the Ethiopian army is already in South Sudan conducting a military operation to find the abducted children and make the perpetrators pay. In fact, information around the middle of the week revealed that the Ethiopian army has already located and circled the locality that the abductees are being kept.
“We have sought approval of the government of South Sudan to conduct these operations,” Getachew Reda, government communication minister, told the Associated Press.
Adding to the confusion, reports are also emerging from Juba, which claim that leaders of South Sudan are trading accusations over who is responsible for a cross-border attack in Ethiopia.
Major players in this are Baba Madan, governor of Boma State in South Sudan where Murle tribe is known to have occupied and the ex-governor of the same region, David Yau Yau (Lt. Gen.), who heads so called “cobra faction” militia which rose against the government of South Sudan. The lieutenant general led the Murle insurrection against the government of South Sudan before signing a peace deal in 2013 and integrated into the national army.
The two have exchanged blames according to various reports in the week. New reports reveal that Madan is first to thrown accusation at the “Cobra Faction” saying that it is the militia under the leadership of the general who performed the attacks. Nevertheless, the office of Yau Yau was quick to respond with what he claimed to be reliable information about the attacked being sponsored by the Madan and carried out by his men.
However, clear information is yet to come out.
በጋምቤላ የተጨፈጨፉትን ወገኖቻችንን በተመለከተ የመከላከያ ሠራዊቱን ገመና የሚያጋልጡ መረጃዎች እየወጡ ነው!