By Damo Gotamo
Ejjeettos and their financiers are in big trouble. They are running for their lives. Many are behind bars, and those who escaped prisoner are being chased down by the brave men and women in uniform. Some of the criminals who were caught, confessed, in-front of Judges, that they are mentally deranged and didn’t know they were involved in criminal activities. Others gave their lives to Jesus Christ and finding comfort in religion, behind prison walls.
The hegemony of Sidama extremists in Awassa and their crimes against its residents appear to be ending. With the establishment of a Command Post, people in the city are enjoying newly found freedom and empowerment. Residents who have been abused, harassed, and displaced for decades at the hands of Sidama ethnic lords are full of optimism about the future. It is difficult to list and describe every crime the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs committed in Awassa over the years in such a brief piece.
Illegal activities described below represent only the tips of the iceberg in terms of the crimes the Sidama extremists committed in Awassa and the cities in Sidama zones.
During the 2018 Fiche Chamebelala Holiday celebration, the Sidama extremists burned people alive and displaced thousands from their homes in Awassa. Many of the perpetrators of last year’s crimes were not brought to justice. They were left free to roam the streets of the city to commit more crimes. Instead of serving time behind bars, the criminals were rewarded with employment and promotion opportunities in the city. Emboldened by the indifference of the PM, the Sidama extremists resorted into committing brazen crimes and reduced Awassa to a dangerous place to live and do business.
On several occasions last year, the extremists forced government and private institutions to close their doors on any day they wanted. The closures affected the government’s ability to provide services to people and curtailed its capacity to perform important functions such as collecting revenues. Private institutions like banks, hotels, and other businesses closed their doors frequently causing them to lose millions of Birr. Factories in the Industrial Park had to cease their operations for months due to continued lawlessness in the city. Schools couldn’t teach regularly, hindering the academic progress of their students.
Last year, the Ejjeettos easily entered a supposedly secured government building and interrupted the meeting of a central committee of the SEPDM (Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement) and beat many of its members. In the incident, an official sustained serious injury, and he required hospitalization.
It was a long time since the extremists turned a football stadium in Awassa to a political arena for promoting their narrow ethnic agenda. Every week, Sidama extremists would send the Ejjeettos to the stadium( Ejjeettos never paid entrance fee) to harass and attack the non-Sidamas who were in attendance to watch football matches. The Ejjeettos frequently assaulted fans in the stadium, while the members of the police looked disinterested on the sidelines. In one occasion, they even attacked off duty members of the military, who were in attendance to watch a football match. Match days became favorite times for Ejjeettos to taunt non-Sidamas and rob the properties of the people who worked and lived near the stadium.
Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs were also engaged in extorting and abusing business owners in Awassa. Several times last year, the Ejjeettos demanded businesses in the city to give money for their cause. They delivered stamped letters to the owners, asking several hundred Birr from them. If an owner hesitated to pay, the Ejjeettos would threaten him with closing his business.
The criminals were extorting up to thirty thousand Birr from a single businessman. This is on the top of the money they illegally take from people every year in the pretext of celebrating Fiche Chambelala holiday. A few months ago, Million Mathewos, the president of SPNNR, gathered business men in the city and urged them to contribute money for “ Sidama cause.”
In Awassa, Ejjeettos were above the law. They were free to commit any crime without due regard for the law. Fore example, they could order anything in any restaurant and leave without paying. If they were asked to pay their bills, they would say “We are Ejjeettos.”The incompetent police of the city would do nothing to stop the crimes of Ejjjeettos. Instead, it would encourage them to do anything (loots were shared with the police) and summon Ejjeetto’s help when it wanted to harass the non-Sidamas in the city.
Ejjeettos could force teachers to take exams for their students. In this year’s ESLC exam, many students from schools in Sidama zone are expected to pass because the Ejjeettos ordered teachers to work on student exams. Similarly, because of the
orders of the thugs, in this year’s COC (Center of Competency) exam in Awassa, every student who was registered to take the exam received a passing grade.
After gradually placing everything in the city under grips, the Sidama extremists worked hard to make Awassa exclusively a Sidama only city. In the process, they openly and systematically committed many crimes against the people of the city.
Using their positions in Awassa, the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs tried to alter the demographic of the city. They brought many Sidamas from the country and settled them in Awassa. They issued IDs illegally to people who don’t live in the city and to those who didn’t have fixed addresses. Thousands of ID’s were issued using forged stamps.
In Awassa, where ethnic Sidama account for only five percent of the city’s population, they occupy ninety-nine percent of the bureaucracy. After the Command Post was in place, almost all the government offices in the city remained empty (people undeservingly occupying the bureaucracy are afraid to to go work), proving beyond any doubt that one ethnic group has dominated the government bureaucracy in the multiethnic city of Awassa. Another example which shows the Sidama domination of the federal bureaucracy is when Sidama Coffee football team played matches on weekdays in Awassa . On match days, offices remained empty, severely affecting the functions of government.
Education is one of the sectors in Awassa that is riddled with rampant corruption and nepotism. In addition to having breathtaking landscapes and a river, Awassa is also a place that harbors thousands of quacks masquerading as educated people. The city hosts more than four thousand suspected quacks with forged diplomas and degrees who hail from one ethnic group.
It is an open secret to people in Awassa that, to satisfy his yearning for helping people from his ethnic background, the President of Awassa University hires unqualified people with no credentials under their names.
Most of those people who hold key government positions in Awassa have nothing to show about their skills and abilities except forged certificates. These are the same people who are behind every illegal activity in the city, including organizing and leading behind the scenes, the unemployed youth, the criminal Ejjeettos.
As part of making Awassa a Sidama only city, the long time residents were uprooted from all corners of the city. Their homes were given to the people from a single ethnic group.
Those who occupied government houses illegally turned them into their own private homes, no one questioning them for their actions. People who worked in the city’s municipal office cooperated with the criminals by putting stamps and their signatures on illegal documents.
Under the guise of investment, many acres of land in key locations in Awassa was distributed to people of Sidama background. One of the ‘investors’ is a person by the name of Zelalem W/Michael. He is a known financier of the Ejjeetto and its criminal activities in the city. Ten years ago, Zelalem was a government employee with a monthly income of three thousand Birr. Thanks to his ethnic background, today he is a billionaire and the richest man in Awassa. He received land illegally in several key locations in the city. Among the properties given to Zelalem were the former location of the DMC near Monopol and a vast area around the lake Awassa where many non-ethnic Sidama communities used to live.
Zelelem also received many government contracts without a bid forcing other business men in the city to go somewhere else.
Other properties in the city were also taken from the legal owners and handed to organizations that bear Sidama names. For example, the Sidama Development Association, one of the corrupt institutions run by Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs, took Amaroa Gedele and its fishing association from the former owners. It, then, renamed it as Gudemela and made it a favorite spot for hatching crimes against people in Awassa.
Likewise, the Sidama Bahel Aderash (formerly Film Bet), which was built by money contributed from Ethiopians and Eritreans is illegally taken and converted for the exclusive use of the Sidama ethnic group. It also became another favorite meeting place for Sidama extremists to fan hatred against people in the city.
One of the tactics the extremists used to displace people from a particular place was setting the place on fire. A couple of months ago, a marketplace near the Revolution Square was destroyed, and a few days later it was given to people of Sidama background. The displaced shop owners and their families were left in the dark, struggling to survive.
Ever since they completely besieged Awassa, the Sidama ethnic lords were busy changing the original names of the places in the city. Many former names were deliberately replaced by new and Sidama sounding names, including the name of the city, Awassa. Names like Amora Gedel, Arab Sefer, Wukro Sefer, and Harer Sefer were replaced with Gudemele, Adare, Daka, and Telte.
The frequency of the crimes in Awassa increased since PM Abiy came to power. The extremists stepped up their crime using the service of gullible Sidama youths. The Ejjeettos became a perfect tools to promote the political agenda of the Sidama extremists and unleash a series of criminal activities in Awassa, making the city virtually unlivable. Unable to defend themselves against organized thugs, many people left the city and those who chose to stay, lived in constant fear. People who lived in some sections of the city stayed away from their homes for fear of being attacked by gangs who operated in those areas.
Worried about the ongoing lawlessness in the city, I wrote several articles in the past year about the situation in Awassa. In the piece I wrote on January 31st, 2019, titled “Is the Sidama Ejjeetto Peaceful?”, I stated in detail the reasons why the group was created and its criminal activities in Awassa. I warned that unless Ejjeettos activities were nipped in the bud, many people would end up losing their lives. Citing the dangers of the Sidama extremists to the peace and security of the country, I urged the government to take swift action against Ejjeetto and its financiers. However, my pleas and those of the city’s residents failed to get the attention of the government.
The utter silence of PM Abiy baffled the residents of Awassa and other citizens in the country when Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs completely besieged the city. Under Abiy’s watchful eyes, the seat of the SPNNR and a key tourist and industrial hub in the country turned into a lawless city. Many people questioned the PM’s resolve and his government’s ability to restore law and order in the city. Abiy turned the other way when organized ethnic thugs destroyed the economy of the second largest city in the country; he looked disinterested when the extremists harassed people and committed serious crimes including economic sabotage in a span of a year.
PM Abiy was very late in punishing the Sidama extremists. No government in the world would have tolerated the lawlessness in Awassa for a day, let alone for a year. The Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs acted like a spoiled child, largely due to the PM’s reluctance to take firm action soon after they began acting erratically. Many people suspect that the ethnic lords mistook PM Abiy for Jawar Mohammed, their godfather.
The government was also late in establishing a Command Post in Awassa and in the cities in Sidama zone. Our troops should have been positioned when the criminals started bragging openly about declaring their own Kelil or at least ten days before the infamous 11-11-11. It would have saved the lives of many innocent people and destruction of properties. Why Abiy’s government is notoriously slow to act in an impending danger remains an enigma to many people.
Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs who were hibernating during the twenty-seven years of the TPLF rule took the government’s reluctance as a sign of weakness. They openly challenged its authority and bragged about declaring their own Kelil illegally. Members of Ejjeetto openly said they would uproot people and appropriate their properties. The extremists hyped many young people into believing that manna would rain when Sidama declares its statehood. When nothing happened, the Ejjeetto criminals turned into what they do best, killing people and looting properties.
When Ejjeettos tried to set fire on Awassa, the government acted decisively. The PM stayed true to his words, and in one day, the criminals, who caused so much misery to people in Awassa, were rounded up and thrown into jail.
To say the military and the federal police have saved Awassa and its residents from a disaster of epic proportion is an understatement. The forces intervened and dispersed the thugs when they were gathering to march to the center of the city.
After meeting regularly at Amora Gedel, the Sidama extremists, sponsored by SLM (Sidama Liberation Movement), hatched two sinister plans. At the end of their meeting, they decided to burn Awassa and kill the president of the SPNNR and other officials they thought conspired against their interest.
The extremists selected key businesses in Awassa to set fire on them. Their targets included Pinna, Central, and Ker-Awud hotels. By blazing these properties, the terrorists hoped to strike fear into the hearts of the residents. Their plan was to expel as many people as they could out of the city and divide the spoils of their work afterward.
Ethnic entrepreneurs promised Ejjeettos who lived in Atote, a business district in the city, a thousand Birr for each house they would burn. A little bird told me that Tariku Lemma, the leader of the terrorist group, personally promised the Ejjeettos to pay the money.
A year ago, on the instruction of a Sidama businessman, the Ejjeettos razed to the ground a big marketplace in Awassa, which served the non-Sidama residents of the city. Using their experience in arson, they concocted a bigger crime in Awassa, but this time, their plan failed miserably.
The plan to kill selected government officials at Gedemela also failed. The prime targets were the president of SNNPR and chairman of the Sidama zone. New leaders were elected and ready to replace them. But, their schemes were aborted when the military interfered and disbursed the thugs. I received reliable information from my source that the officials who were targeted for assassination received word that they would be attacked and decided not to attend the meeting.
People in Sidama zone cities weren’t as lucky as those in Awassa. Ejjeettos killed non-Sidamas and destroyed properties in Wondo Genet, Aleta Wondo, Yirgalem, and Hagre Selam. Innocent people who lived in those areas for generations were beaten to death by thugs who don’t value human life.
One of the crimes in Aleta Wondo profoundly touched many people in Awassa.The Ejjeettos killed two brothers in the city and burned their business. After receiving the news of his brothers murder, another brother who lived in Dilla committed suicide.
To date, more than one thousand suspected criminals and the ringleaders have been rounded up and thrown into jail. The hard core criminals were immediately shipped to Showa Robit Prison to face the music for their year long crimes in Awassa. They will be free to declare their Kelil inside the prison walls. The only good news for them is Jawar Mohammed is a few kilometers away from the prison. He won’t have any problems arriving on time to attend the ceremony and bless them if he doesn’t have a prior arrangement to spew his venom.
Many criminals are kept in the same place where last year’s victims of genocide in Awassa were sheltered. Back then, the Ejjeetto criminals didn’t realize that one day, they would swap places with their victims.
Last year, every resident in the city rushed to help the victims of Ejjeetto’s crimes. However, when it was the Ejjeettos turn to get locked up in the same place, no one cared to pay them a visit. Even those government officials, who were aiding and abetting them to commit crimes, completely avoided the criminals.
People who live near the school compound where the Ejjeettos are jailed told me an interesting story. The criminals who were disturbing the peace of Awassa for a year, rise early every morning to sing gospel songs. After staying only for a week in the jail, the killers and looters have been converted to Christianity. Hallelujah!
The much ado about nothing 11-11-11 in Awassa passed without any major incident. Those who bluffed for months to create a new Kelil illegally were either in jail or hiding in the country. The extremists are known for running to the country when they feel threatened, leaving behind the kids they encourage into lawlessness.
A resident of Awassa who went to the center of the city at 9 o’clock in the morning couldn’t see anything unusual on the date the extremists bragged about declaring a new Kelil. He waited until 11 o’clock to see if anything could happen. When he saw nothing, he left for his home. Since the extremists love the number 11, he thought they could declare a new Kelil at 11 o’clock. Nothing happened on 11-11-11 at 11 o’clock, making the empty bravado of the Sidama extremists a thing of the past.
People in Awassa are very happy about the decisive action the government has taken against the criminals even if it came late. They want the Command Post to stay as long as possible. The PM remained true to his word and delivered the message home. What remains is making Awassa great again and make it a city hospitable for all Ethiopians.
Awassa is a multiethnic city and home to all Ethiopians. Since its inception in the early 1960s, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds have lived in harmony. The city has been a melting point to the country’s eighty plus ethnic groups. After Awassa became the capital of the SPNNR, many people flocked to the city. The Fifty-five ethnic groups in the southern region and other Ethiopians have heavily invested in Awassa, making it one of the best cities in the country.
One of the biggest government investments in Ethiopia is located in Awassa.
The largest Industrial Park in Africa generates close to one billion Dollars in export every year . The work to build a state-of-the art airport in the city is near completion. When the project is finished, it will connect Awassa with big cities in the world. A construction is also underway to finish the Modgo-Awassa express highway that connects Addis Ababa to Awassa.
The loan for constructing big infrastructures in Awassa was secured from overseas lenders and the taxpayers in the country. The debt must be repaid with its interest.
Leaving such critical investments of the country to a few irresponsible ethnic extremists was a mistake. They didn’t care a bit about it when they run the city amok. They almost bankrupted the country because of their reckless acts in the city. Sidama extremists have proved that they can’t manage a small village, let alone one of the biggest cities in the country.
One shouldn’t underestimate the Sidama extremists. They are on par with the TPLF and the OLF in terms of cruelty. Their crimes of the past one year have proved beyond any doubt that they won’t hesitate from committing genocide and displace people in thousands. The recent killings and property destruction in cities of the Sidama zones are sufficient proofs that Sidama extremists couldn’t be left alone, even if they are allowed to have their Kelil.
In the past years, the Sidama extremists demonstrated their loyalty to the OLF by displaying its flag in the streets of Awassa. Glorifying and sympathizing with murders and bank robbers is a proof that Sidama extremists are no different from the OLF.
I don’t want to sound an alarmist, but if the government makes another mistake of leaving Awassa exclusively in the hands of the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs, they will commit a Rwandan like genocide in the city. They were not shy about their intentions and promised to ‘right the wrong’, whatever that might be.
The only reason the Sidama extremists live and die is to control Awassa completely and own everything in the city. It seems funny, but people saw the Ejjeettos fighting in-front of the big hotels in Awassa over who will own the hotel when they declare their Kelli.
At the gathering of Ejjeettos last year, a Sidama extremist who returned from the west said, “Our children sleep on the street while the non-Sidamas sleep in their homes.’
I doubt if there is any other group in the world except the Sidama extremists who love to own things that aren’t theirs. Every time the Ejjeettos go out to disturb the peace of Awassa, they look for things to loot. They think everything in Awassa belongs to them.
To Ensure a lasting peace and order in Awassa and restore the city’s former self, the government must take the following actions:
- Outlaw the Ejjeetto completely. The group has proven itself to the whole country that it is nothing, but a gathering of killers and looters. It is an illegal entity and must be officially Banned.
II. Investigate the people who occupy key government positions and Sidama
businessmen in the city and find out how they were funding the Ejjeettos criminal
activities. Examine their bank records and sources of money.
A reliable source told me that the members of Ejjeettos were eating three meals
a day at one of the biggest hotels in Awassa. The matter came to the light
after the military started rounding up the criminals in the city.
What was the source of the money used to feed the criminals? It is highly probable
the government money was wasted to feed the thugs, who were engaged in illegal
activities in Awassa.
III. Investigate how the current and former government officials accumulated wealth.
Where did they get the money to build two or more properties worth several
Million Birr? Where did they get the money to buy cars that cost three Million or
Investigate people like Zelalem W/Michel who have received land and huge
government contracts without a bid. People like Zelalem are behind every crime
Ejjeettos had committed in the city.
IV. Disband the Sidama only police force in Awassa and create a new multiethnic
force. Most of the members of this city’s force, including those in the Southern
Liyue police are the sympathizers of Ejjeetto. They work with the criminals to
harass and rob people. The police are one of the main reasons for the lack of
peace and order in the city.
V. Remove the leaders of Ejjeetto from their government posts, who were behind
the lawlessness in the city. These are people who hold key government positions
in the city and are known for agitating and supporting the Ejjeettos. In many Kefle
Ketamas, they are still in their positions doing business as usual.
Make the bureaucracy in Awassa multiethnic. It is illegal and immoral for a few
illiterates to abuse the majority of people in a country where a government exists .
The current bureaucracy in the city is riddled with rampant corruption and nepotism
where the non-Sidamas have to pay their hard earned money to thugs if they want
things done. The network of the robbers must be dismantled.
It should be recalled that Million Mathews has been defending the Ejjeetto
publicly and attending their meetings regularly. The lawlessness in the past year
took place under his watch. He should be accountable for most of the crimes in the
city. No one should be absolved for failing to carry out his responsibilities.
VI. Undertake a thorough investigation against incompetent people with forged
diplomas and degrees who have suffocated the government institutions. Start with
Higher Educational Institutions in Awassa, which are not only harboring quack
instructors, but also producing incompetent graduates in a large number.
VII. Ban hate disseminating SMN (Sidama Media Network) permanently. Where did the
money to acquire the network came from?
Investigate the bank accounts of the people who are running the network.
The TV station, which was acquired recently through Jawar Mohammed is a mouth
piece of Sidama extremists. As the name SMN( Jawar is the owner of OMN)
indicates, the blueprints of Jawar are all over the place. According to the sources
familiar with the matter, Jawar received a ton of money for brokering the deal
between the Sidama extremists and a South African Satellite Company.
Considering his assistance to Sidama extremists in spreading their hate using his
OMN, Jawar deserved the big pay.
In conclusion, it is impossible to state and describe every crime the Sidama extremists committed in Awassa. What I tried to highlight in this brief piece is the very few that I thought will help people understand the criminal careers of the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs.
The crimes they committed over the years makes Sidama extremists the most dangerous group in the country. Burning people alive, killing an entire family, beating government officials, burning properties, and extortion of businessmen are among the few of the crimes the Sidadam extremists committed in Awassa and cities in Awassa zones.
The Sidama extremists should never again be allowed to overrun the second largest city in the country. The government should never negotiate the status of Awassa with ethnic thugs that have openly declared war on the city’s population and bragged about displacing people in thousands.
If peace is to prevail in Awassa, the Ejjeettos must be outlawed. It’s a tool the Sidama extremists use to promote their political agenda. Changing the Sidama only police force with multiethnic force will restore peace and security in the city. Untangling the city’s population from the corruption network of a single ethnic group and making the bureaucracy multiethnic ethnic will help restore order in the city.
Abiy Ahmed’s government must do everything to help Awassa revive economically. The city’s economy is in shambles because of the continued lawlessness in the city. After last year’s Wolita massacres in Awassa, the city’s real estate value declined significantly and people avoided the city like the plague. Hotels and restaurants couldn’t make enough money to pay their employees and repay their debts. Repaying the country’s debt for the infrastructures that were built in Awassa depends on reviving the economy of the city.
Awassa was built by the toil of all Ethiopians in the country. Every Ethiopian has a stake on the city.
It should also be noted that the federal government is a big stakeholder in the city.
Making Awassa a federal city and a city for all Ethiopians as it used to be should the number one priority of the government.
Leaving Awassa to Sidama extremists again after the Command Post finishes its mission is a blunder of an epic promotion and sending the entire country into darkness. Handing back the city’s affairs to the extremists who caused the death of many innocent people and destruction of properties will be a historic mistake. Our soldiers are paying the ultimate sacrifice to restore peace and security in Awassa and cities in Sidama zones. The government of Abiy has the duty to make sure that the scarifies of the soldiers will not have been in vain.
The government must finish what it started. Cleaning Awassa from Sidama extremists and making it a federal city will make his mission complete.