Gambella city residents staged a spontaneous demonstration after a refugee mob maimed and killed several Ethiopians.
A mob of South Sudanese refugees, mostly from Nuer tribe, attacked Ethiopian laborers on Thursday, as HornAffairs broke the news later that day.
The refugee’s mob was triggered by a car accident that killed two girls near Jewi refugees camp. The vehicle belonged to ACF (Action contre la faim), yet the driver was a “highlander” – a local label applied to Ethiopian residents who are neither from Nuer nor Anuak tribes.
Local sources informed HornAffairs the refugees killed two women and eight men. Another thirteen injured. The victims were “carpenters, masonry workers and daily laborers”.
However, VOA Amharic reported fourteen deaths. The number could rise further since the refugees chased the victims to the forest, where they mutilated the bodies.
Highlanders living in Gambella town held a demonstration today in protest of the killings. It lasted for about four hours from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm in the afternoon.
Federal Police blocked the protesters from going to Jewi camp. They later unsuccessfully tried to cross the Baro Bridge into to newland – an area dominated by Ethiopian Nuers.
However, Federal police and soldiers, in charge of securing the bridge, prevented the protesters.
Several Gambella residents told HornAffairs gunshots were fired for several minutes.
However, one local claimed the security officers were trying to calm down the protesters reasoning that an attack on newland will put highlanders in that vicinity in danger.
A Nuer mob was reportedly roaming in newland. It appears federal police quickly dispersed it.
Yet, HornAffairs received multiple tips that the highlander protesters had attacked a Nuer business around the Baro Bridge. Causalities were not confirmed.
Gambella region’s President Gatluak Tut Koat had his vehicle stoned when he went to talk to the protesters. Local sources claimed the windshield was broken, but it was difficult to verify the claim.
The protesters refused to meet Galtuak, who is Nuer, and requested for his deputy Olero Opiew, who is Anuak, instead. Olero held a meeting with the protesters late afternoon.
The motorcade of Riek machar, the leader of the South Sudanese rebel SPLM/A-IO, was reportedly stoned by demonstrators. It was not immediately clear whether he was in the same vehicle or motorcade with the regional president. The two officials were seen together at the Gambella Grand Resort hotel early afternoon. Machar, who is from the South Sudanese Nuer tribe, was supposed to go to the airport in the afternoon to fly to Juba, South Sudan, as part of a protracted peace deal facilitated by Ethiopia and IGAD.
A foreign correspondent tweeted two vehicles of World Food Program (WFP) were attacked.
The regional president issued a statement in the evening, for the first time since the refugee mob lynched the highlanders. He claimed thirty refugees are detained in connection to the Thursday attacks and expressed his condolences.
Jewi camp hosts almost fifty thousand individuals, mostly from South Sudan’s Nuer tribe. The camp is located 18 kms from Gambella town on the road to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia hosts about 270 thousand South Sudanese refugees mostly at the six refugee camps in Gambella region.