The perpetual tears for the Booran community
It is with great sorrow that ArdaJilaa reports the horrible attack on Boran pilgrims traveling to a ritual site at Malka Sooda, near Ya’aballa town, Borana Zone, Oromiya region. According to the initial information we received, four of the pilgrims have been killed and four were missing, while the rest made it home safely. However, the latest information indicates that all the missing individuals have been rescued after spending agonizing days in the jungle. Although the attackers were not captured two individuals from Gujii-oromo have been found dead among the bodies discovered. This is an indication that the attackers could be from Gujii community. The locals reported that Gbras and Gujii villages around the crime scene were evacuated days before the attack. The evacuation of villages from the two communities prior to the attack strongly suggests the attack is pre-planned and may be a collaborative effort by a group from Gabras and Gujiis.
On Saturday morning of January 25, 2014 Boran families, including traditional leaders, women and young children, from Yaaha Kharrayyuu in Ya’aballa Woreda were travelling to the ritual observance at the place known as Malkaa Sooddaa in the Booranaa zone. The pilgrims were escorted by security forces from Ya’aballa. This ceremony, locally known as Khormaa-Khorbeessa, is common in Boran community particularly the Gada leaders. Therefore, whether it is near to home or far away, it is customary for the Gada leaders and their followers to perform such rituals occasionally.
The pilgrims started their journey from Dharriitoo, a rural village approximately, twenty-three kilometers East of Ya’aballa town and passed through the Surupha town. Locals who witnessed the pilgrims journey through Surupha reported that Gabras, a community at the heated tension with Boorans both in Ethiopia and Kenya, harassed and intimidated the pilgrims and took some of their properties like cell phones. According to the locals it is at this point that the Gabras instigated hatred intent between the Booran and the Gujii-oromo by spreading a malicious rumor that Boorans are going to their land to do evil spell (murma). On the contrary-to the message Gabras delivered, as a legalized performance; this particular journey and other similar rituals by the Boorans are fully recognized by both the government and traditional bodies of both Booran and Gujii ethnic leaders. Because of this reason, some ethnic Gujii-oromos occasionally participate in the event both from other locality and from the same Woreda where the ritual was intended to be carried out. Accordingly, it was reported that there were some individuals from Guji community started their journey to this event. While Boran and Guji coexisted in the region for long, there were sporadic tensions between the two communities. One of the memorable such incident between the two communities is the assassination of Booran Gada leader Jaldeess Borbor and his co-worker near Haroo Bakkee. However, this kind of ritual events have been peaceful and never targeted even during times of tension.
While the ritual was anticipated to be peaceful as usual, the ceremony was failed due to interference by armed group. The pilgrims were attacked by unexpected aggressors who killed as many as they can indiscriminately. According to survivors even children and women were not exception. However, the pilgrims were able to protect their children and women successfully. Not only protecting their loved ones, heroically, they were able to perform the ritual partially under the rain of bullets from the attackers. At the end of the aggression four Booran men were killed and four fled to the jungle.
While three of the fled returned home after spending agonizing day and a night in the jungle, until Sunday evening, the whereabouts of an individual by name Areeroo Diimaa Halakhee was not known. However, was reported that he has escaped to a hill near a place called Camee. Mr Areeroo was wounded on his arm by a sword and terrified to show himself up to anybody, since he was not sure who is who. Fortunately, he also reported to be home by Monday morning. On the Saturday’s list of missing, the fifth individual, the leader (hayyuu) by the name Dhaddacha was thought to be dead by the aggressors and left on the ground after taking all his belongings. Although he was hurt, fortunately, Mr Dhaddacha made it home and now he is being treated in the Ya’aballa hospital. During the time, the army engaged the aggressors, where some are killed immediately, and some have defended themselves for a while and lastly retreated. Two individuals from Gujii community were reported dead in the conflict.
The names of the four victims are Galgalo Duubaa (the hayyuu of yaaha Kharrayyuu), Muddaa Galgaloo (a married son of Galgalo Duba), Jaldeess Shanaa and Boruu Areeroo. The aggressors strategically, mercilessly and brutally killed these innocent people by butchering their flesh and cut their bodies in to pieces. They took their horses and the mules they were riding, bulls (Korma) planned to be sacrificed at two distinct locations, cell phones and all other materials were looted from the pilgrims.
The crime site is in the heart of current Gujii territory (formerly the Booranaa sacred ritual areas near Bulee Horaa, the former Kobbee Ilaalchaa or Khuukkuu) under the Booranaa zone near Malkaa Sooddaa of the Gujii Booroo. The aggressors took advantage of the fact that the pilgrims, particularly the leaders (Hayyus) do not carry a weapon due to their customary law.
According to one of the survivors Mr. Dima Konsicha, who vividly remembers the incident, they were attacked without any warning. They were surrounded by an army of thousands of Gujii men who are well armed with variety of weapons like knives, machetes, swords, rifles and other fatally threatening materials. Remembering the situation Mr. Dima adds that the number of men who fought them on the way to the ritual could be more than the Boorans turned out for the burial of the deceased individuals.
As the current situation, the dead are buried at the location called Buuyyaa, which is in between Surupha and Bakke town. The families of the pilgrims are safe and now are reportedly around the Surupha town. The region is still in a high tension and several public activities, particularly traveling is unsafe. Accordin to locals there is a great fear of a similar attack for Boorans that travel to other part of the country through Bulee Horaa (Agere Mariam) and other Guji territories.
Concerning the governmental bodies, every part of the system was well informed from the inception of the case to final deal. Some individuals like Mr. Liban Arero, Mr. Jarso Gollo, Mr. Abdisalam Wario and other officials stood by the people to make the situation calm and the environment more secure. In addition to that, it was indicated that the Oromiya police forces were giving their support and four police vehicles were used to bring the bodies to the burial site yesterday.
However, the zonal administrator, Mr. Aberra Ayele refused to take any action allegedly saying, “Because, this is the Booran case, tell the problem to your leader Guyyo Gobbaa (the current Abba Gadaa of the Booranaa community) what happened and he will solve it for you”. Mr. Abera has been at odd with Boran community in several occasions. Recently, he was alleged by locals for involving in activities that destabilize the region mostly, by targeting the Booran community. The case was presented to federal and regional administrations by Booran elders including Gadaa leaders.
According to the locals who followed the case closely, one of the allegations was ganging other ethnic groups in the region against Booran community.Similar allegation was made against Marsabit county governor Mr. Ukur Yatani, who some locals believe held number of secret meetings with Mr. Abera. It is now public that Mr Ukur is part of REGABU, an outfit that was organized to weaken the Booran community by organizing several ethnic groups on the Kenyan side. The Booran community on the Ethiopian side firmly believes that Mr. Abera is formulating similar strategy. The recent incident which involved the attack on Boorans interest by groups from Gabra, Burji and now Guji community suggests that the allegation could be true. While a conflict between neighboring communities is not uncommon, the recent recurring attack on single community, Booran, by multiple surrounding communities is new development. Unless this madness is stopped and whoever responsible held accountable, locals fear the situation could escalate and the region will turn in to a war zone. For most locals the lasting solution could be achieved only if Mr. Abera is removed from his administrative job. Mr Abara came to power after unexplained arrest of previous Administrator Mr. Kanuu Jiloo, following the historic attack on Moyale town and its surrounding villages.