Tuesday, August 30, 2016

An eye witness account of the #GrandOromiaRally in Shashemene, West Arsi, 6 August, 2016.

An eye witness account of the #GrandOromiaRally in Shashemene, West Arsi, 6 August, 2016.
                                             (By XXXXXX)
It was quarter to two when I heard the first gun sound being fired. At that moment I was eating my breakfast with other six friends of mine who were eager to participate in the Grand #OromoProtests. We hardly believed that the sound we heard was a gun sound. Prior to that we had been discussing and arguing that this protest may not be possible because of heavy military presence. We saw more than 15 patrols (pick up cars) and Orals (lorries) who had been carrying Agazi, Federal, Oromia, and City police to place where Qerros of Shashamanne planed to gather for Grand Rally. To our surprise a military vehicle which seems to us a military tank with a man on top with sniper passed to a planned gathering location known by name 30 (Salasa). This was before the first gun sound was heard.
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We hurriedly ate our breakfast, and left the compound of the hotel which is in front of the new bus station, located about 700m from 30 (Salasa). I can't believe my eyes, despite that heavy military presence, I saw in distance brave Qerros waving the flag of resistance, carrying and chanting their slogans in the face of those ruthless security forces.
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When it was just 2 o'clock, residents already started marching towards the planned gathering site. All roads that lead to the site were blocked by government security forces. They would beat and arrest anyone who took the direction of the site. As such we can't able to join those brave Qeerros on the gathering site. We have tried, but the security forces forcefully prevented us from joining them. We made another protesters' group. Our number increased exponentially within few minutes. Shortly, we were surrounded by Oromia police; everyone kneeled down with crossed hands over head; some were crying by shouting 'Freedom/Bilisummaa', some were chanting different slogans loudly, some were recording video and taking pictures. We stayed defiant to verbal intimidation and rubber stick hit by the policemen. We showed how much we were peaceful, and we showed how much we were defiant to intimidation. Then out of desperation, they used tear gas and fire bullets to air to disperse this group of protesters which its number was massively increasing.
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We walked some fifty meters away from the place where tear gas was suffocating the surrounding air. Here we were joined with another group of protesters who came from 81 direction. Shortly, many such groups joined us one after another, doubling and tripling our numbers. Now, our number was not less than 6,000; we can see at a distance four more groups with much more population size than ours. In every such group, there were people from all walks of life. There were elders, religious and community leaders, civil servants, some ruling party members, famous business men and women, students, teachers, a disabled man on wheelchair, the list goes on.
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A disabled man on wheelchair began leading our group, a collection of some six thousand protesters, forward to a center of the city. He had been motivating, and warning us that no one shall fear, no one shall run. Everyone there amazed by his courage and bravery. This time military forces were doing whatever possible to them, to prevent protesting crowds from joining each other, and mostly preventing protesters from marching to a center of city where there is a military camp and other government offices.
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Protesters continued chanting different slogans that ask for a release of opposition leadears like Bekele Gerba, fair distribution of wealth, freedom of all kinds, and end of the killing of Oromo civilians. Despite people were asking them to stop killing, they shot in the head and killed one protester on spot who carried a resistance flag. That was a real tragedy, a prototype of their inhumane and savagery. No one rushed, everyone worked hard to take a body of the protester, and the killers, Agazi soldiers, did the same to prevent protesters from taking the body. After witnessing the defiance of the protesters, they left us to take a body, which was latter taken by his family members to his home. The protest continued with more loud voice and anger.
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There were only Agazi soldiers as time went on. Later, we informed that Agazi soldiers asked for removal of Oromia and City police by citing that they fear them for their lives because a member of Oromia police who had been working with them cried the time he saw how they shot and killed the protester explained above.
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The Agazii became so merciless. It seemed they became desperate as time went on; they almost stopped using tear gas; they had been firing one out of four bullets directly to protesters. They took away those shot by their bullets. They never allow anyone to take injured protesters. Conditions became tensely volatile, Heavy gun sound being heard across the city. They had been forcefully carrying protesters in to their patrols. They inhumanly beat anyone fell in their hand. Still people were demanding with powerful voice that TPLF must go.
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Later on, around 11:00AM, they managed to divide protesting crowds in to many small groups of protesters. They shot in to head of another protester who carried a flag of resistance. No doubt that he was shot with accurate target from sniper. Otherwise, it is so difficult to target a single skull out of thousand skulls. Oh! it was painful and saddening to see such trauma. The vehicle that look alike a tank was doing this mission throughout the day. That cruel soldier on top of this vehicle who for himself was inside a rectangular metal box was committing this heinous crime, shooting anyone he liked to kill with snipper.
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In around 12:05AM we got information from Melka Oda Hospital that government security forces had shot with live ammunition and injured more than fifty Protesters with rubber and metal stick. And even there were more than half a dozen who were stabbed with sharp knife after they had been caught by Agazii soldiers. Three of of the injured protesters who sustained severe head injury were referred to Black Lion and Hawassa Referral Hospitals. No doubt that there might be many more who were taken to other public and private health institutions. At that critical time many causality reports were being transmitted among protesters. An eyewitness also told me that one additional person, an elder in his 50s, was killed around the new bus station just in front of Madda Walabu Hotel according to this informant. According to other eyewitness, an adult in his late 20s or early 30s, was killed near Hamza Mosque.
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Being informed about overwhelming number of causalities, protesters started blocking roads with stone, of course, with cobblestone too. This had somehow halt the previously unrestrained movement of the killer Agazii soldiers' vehicles. Now they were not freely patrolling through the city to arrest and shot anyone they want. Around 12:30 AM internet blackout followed; the protest continued, many more being injured, at least least 700 arrested, three were confirmed killed and others still persistently demanding justice, chanting slogans, blocking roads, some returning to their home. 1:10 AM heavy rainfall came, still protest continued for about half a hour. Uninjured and unarrested returned to home, calling to each other, asking who was injured, who was arrested from their families, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc.
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This was only what had happened in Awasho sub city, there were similar rallies in other parts of the city. It was estimated that more than one hundred fifty thousand people might have attended this Great Grand Rally in Shashemene alone.
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We never forget. We shall and will win sooner than later.

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