Dozens killed in ethnically motivated violence in Gambella, residents say TPLF forces and Riek Machar’s army fuel the violence

ESAT News (January 30, 2016)

Dozens of people were killed in the Gambella region of Ethiopia in what appeared to be killings motivated by ethnic animosity. A group from the Nuer clan broke into the regional prison yesterday and killed 9 inmates from the Anuak tribe; 7 others were seriously injured.

Four people were shot and killed by the regional special forces following a violence that erupted at the Teachers Training College between the Anuaks and the Nuers. Seven others sustained serious injuries and were taken to the hospital. An Anuak was also injured in a grenade attack near the Baro River.

The recent violence was sparked two weeks ago by the shooting of the driver of the regional president, who is an Anuak. He was in a land dispute with the dean of the college, a Nuer.

Sources told ESAT that in a retaliatory measure, a group of youth from the Anuak tribe ambushed and killed the head of the regional transport bureau, a Nuer.

A month ago, a married couple, a Nuer and an Anuak, were killed following a dispute between the two. The violence then spread to others as houses were set on fire and lives lost.

Meanwhile, according to sources in Gambella, armed militia lead by Riek Machar, a group opposing South Sudan’s Salva Kiir government, and which is operating from Gambella, have been allegedly involved in the ethnic violence. The Ethiopian government is accused of arming and supporting Reik Machar’s militia, who are ethnically Nuers. Director of Survival International, Nykaw Ochala accused soldiers and migrants from South Sudan, who are Nuers, for fueling the ethnic violence. He accused the Ethiopian government of arming Machar’s militia and Sudanese migrants, who got weapons at their disposals to carry out the attacks against the Anuaks.

An already tense situation between the people of Gambella and members of the ruling TPLF who have taken huge tracts of farmlands from the locals, have now turned violent. Sources say TPLF operatives have been involved in inciting and fueling the conflict in order to divert the attention of the Gambella people, who were irate about the plunder of their fertile land by members of the TPLF and their close allies.

International rights groups accused the Ethiopian government of perpetrating the 2003 genocide against the people of Gambella. Over 2000 people, mainly Anuaks, were killed and 50,000 others fled their villages that year, according to the Anuak Justice Council.