Addis Abeba, March 21/2018 – In a statement released this afternoon, the secretariat of the command post established to oversee the implementation of Ethiopia’s latest state of emergency, said Ethiopians who have fled in to the Kenyan border following the army’s killing of civilians in Moyale town, have “started to return home”. It also warned what it called “NGOs and some media organizations” which are spreading false information to refrain from doing so.
The statement from the command post stands in sharp contrast with reports from Kenyan and other international media organizations, including the BBC, which are reporting from the makeshift camps on the ground in Moyale, where above 10, 000 Ethiopian refugees are currently seeking help. It also contradicts latest report released by the UNHCR Kenya office, which said Monday this week that “nearly 10,000 Ethiopians seek asylum in Moyale, Kenya following violence back home.”
Update: “Reps from @UNHCR_KENYA, @UNICEFKenya, #WFP, @IFRCAfrica, Refugee Affairs Secretariat and #Kenya #RedCross, visit #Moyale to see first-hand the situation of the over 9000 displaced persons from #Ethiopia. Approximately 80 percent are women and children.” @KenyaRedCross pic.twitter.com/ngmGvpF3Lb
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) March 16, 2018
The other organization providing a constant flow of vital information and humanitarian support, The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), has told the BBC yesterday that 26 women have given birth in their makeshift camps where they are being offered with basic supplies including food and water. KRCS also said there were about 600 pregnant women among the 10, 557 refugees who have arrived in to the Kenyan side of Moyale. 80% them are women and children.
Today we delivered shelter materials and kitchen utensils among other items as part of emergency supplies, in Moyale, Kenya. Nearly 10,000 Ethiopian asylum seekers have fled to Moyale following violence in the Oromia region, Ethiopia. @Refugees@RaoufMazou @KenyaRedCross pic.twitter.com/YOb5yzM8QV
— UNHCR KENYA (@UNHCR_Kenya) March 21, 2018
It is not clear which NGOs and media the statement from the command post is addressing, but it said “NGOs and media which have either their own or other anti-peace organizations agenda are spreading information that are baseless and far from the truth.” It threatened these NGOs and media organizations to refrain from their acts or face the consequence. “If they are not refraining from doing do, all the necessary legal actions would be taken against them.”
Without providing numbers, the statement also said that in collaboration with local elders, Abba Geddas, and members of the command post “many of those who have displaced have started to return home. The effort will continue,” it said.
However, many of those interviewed by various media in Moyale said they do not feel safe to return back home.
On March 14, the state run EBC said 39, 825 Ethiopians were displaced after the army’s killing of nearly a dozen civilians by the military on March 10. The report said the displaced were from 5 different kebele’s including Shewa Ber in Moyale town, where the killing of civilians took place.
Members of the Ethiopian army responsible for the killing were operating under the supervision of the command post established to oversee the current state of emergency. In a statement published on the state run EBC, the command post secretariat, led by defense minister Siraj Fegessa, said the killing happened when five members of the army acted based on a “mistaken intelligence report.” It also said the army was pursuing members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), who “crossed in to the Ethiopian side.” The statement offered no details but said five members of the army were disarmed and were under investigations.