May 23, 2008 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethnic clashes erupted in Ethiopia between the neighboring Gumuz and Oromo leaving hundreds killed and thousands displaced in Eastern Wellag of Oromia state.
The clash started on Saturday May 18, 2008, when armed Gumuz crossed over from their regional state to Oromia State and attacked villages before day break”, residents told Sudan Tribune.
Government officials have declined giving the official number of the victims of the conflict so far. Residents said that over 130 people died and about 8000 people have been internally displaced.
People died from both sides of the tribes but eyewitnesses have said, “the attacks were preplanned and nocturnal and the Oromos were caught unprepared ; as result, the majority of the people who lost their lives and whose houses were burned down with children inside were Oromos.”
Oromos further accused the federal government of manipulating and arming the Gumuz to attack their neighboring Oromo over land claim.
The Oromo residents also suspect both the regional sate of Benishangul Gumuz and central government have role in arming and mobilizing the Gumuz to attack them.
Benishangul Gumuz state is located in the border with the eastern Sudan state of Blue Nile.
The federal police and Oromia regional police have not intervened to avert the armed attacks, residents claimed. They further say that the conflict is still going on and people are dying, houses and properties are being burned down daily.
For over a century, the two tribes share the same history of repression under successive Ethiopian regimes and lived together peacefully.
The Oromo are the largest single ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 32.1% of the population according to the 1994 census, and today numbering around 25 million.
They are divided into two major branches that break down into an assortment of clan families, however a number of ethnic based political organizations have been formed to promote the interests of the Oromo. Some of it seek to create an independent Oromo nation, some using armed force.
Giving a land that belongs to one group to the other to incite conflict has been seen in many neighboring Southern region since the current regime came to power in 1991. Land is also the cause of the conflict between the invading Sudanese Army in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.