[Updated with details on the third death]

At least three killed, six wounded as riots continue for second day in Ethiopia’s western region Gambella on Sunday.

Protests started yesterday in reaction to a killing by a refugee mob.

It is to be recalled that South Sudanese refugees attacked Ethiopian laborers last Thursday, as HornAffairs first reported. The death toll from the mob attack has risen to fourteen as locals continue searching bodies mutilated and thrown in nearby forest.

A car accident killing two refugee girls near Jewi refugee camp is believed to be the trigger.

The driver – same as the innocent laborers attacked by the refugees – are branded “highlanders” – a term used for Ethiopians not belonging to Nuer and Anuak tribes. “Habesha” and “buny” are also used interchangeably with highlander.

The highlanders enraged by the killings staged a demonstration yesterday, as HornAffairs reported. [Read: Breaking: Ethiopia: Angry protesters stoned Gambella President car]

Protests flared up again today.

Today, hundreds of highlanders marched in the town between 10am and 1pm. One local estimated the protesters around 500.

A group of highlanders attacked two people, ethnic Nuer, who were in the bus terminal to travel to Addis Ababa.

The two individuals, identified as Gatnor Wechyal and Chuak Kawesh, are reported dead, locals told HornAffairs.

A third man, ethnic Nuer, was found dead in Anuak neighborhood of the town, HornAffairs learnt. He was identified as Keak Tong.

Federal police and military officers successfully blocked the protesters from approaching Nuer dominated areas.

The protesters made similar attempts to yesterday to go to Jewi refugee camp and to newland, mostly inhabited by Ethiopian Nuer. Gunshots from security officers apparently did not result in any causality.

Today, however, a standoff between security officers and the protesters resulted in multiple injuries. Locals reported between five to six people were injured. It was not immediately clear how many were caused by the clash with the police.

A local source confirmed one protester was hit by a bullet on his legs.

Photo - Gambella city residents protesting on April 23. [Photo: Social media]
Photo – Gambella city residents protesting on April 23. [Photo: Social media]

INGOs serving the refugees were attacked by the protesters, for the second day. The reason being that they failed to control the refugees despite repeated calls from the highlanders and the Anuak residents.

The situation remained tense and volatile, though the protesters were dispersed in the afternoon.

Eyewitness told HornAffairs four busloads of federal police officers were deployed in the town around 3:30 pm in the afternoon.

The highlanders held a discussion with the vice President of the region, ethnic Anuak, after refusing to meet the region’s president, who is from Nuer. [See: Gambella state elects ethnic-Nuer President]. The meet up failed to calm the highlanders. 

The protesters were chanting “we won’t be governed by refugees” in an apparent reference to the region’s president who allegedly had been South Sudanese.

The president issued a statement yesterday evening indicating that 30 refugees have been detained in connection to the Thursday’s killings. The highlanders are unimpressed by that, alleging the perpetrators could be released once the spotlight shifts.

The population of Gambella town is about 70,000, according to the projection by the central statistics Agency for the year 2015/16. Whereas the region is inhabited by about 422,000 people.

Jewi refugees camp, located 18 kilometers from the town, hosts almost fifty thousand refugees, mostly from South Sudan’s Nuer tribe.


Daniel Berhane

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