Resolving Violent Conflicts and Restoring Peace in Southwest Shewa and West Arsi Zones project

The new master plan to expand Addis Ababa City Administration plan posed political unrest and riots in Oromia region. As a result, there had been huge loss of lives, massive destruction of private and public properties and other infrastructure. Private investments (both foreign and domestic) also faced immense property damages by the conflicts. The issue of master plan had spilled over effect on Oromo students in higher level learning institutions.
PDC is looking for modern, diversified yet tolerant society with a great and real national pride where conflicts are resolved peacefully before they transform into violence through dialogue without which any efforts made to build a prosperous nation remain in vain.
Southwest Shewa zone is one of the zones in Oromia regional state most affected by conflicts. What makes it different from other zones in the region is that severe inter-ethnic violence was observed resulting in human and property losses especially in Amaya Woreda.
PDC signed project agreements with German Embassy in Addis Ababa to implement the Project-Resolving Violent Conflicts and Restoring Peace in Southwest Shewa and West Arsi Zones. The project had two phases – Phase I and Phase II. The implementation area for Phase I was Southwest Shewa Zone which lasted from October, 2017 through April, 2017. Phase II, which was also funded by the German Embassy following a proposal by PDC to further expand the project to West Arsi zone of Oromia regional state. This project started its operation in May 2017 up to December 31,2017. In addition, PDC has been given additional funding form the Embassy to provide trainings for 24 Peace Committee members established in both zones from September 1,2018 through December 31,2018.

As prime implementer of the projects, PDC in partnership with both zone administrations, carried out capacity building activities to build up the execution capacity of practitioners and officials of the target zones and woredas under Phase I and II.
In Southwest Shewa zone, PDC was supporting 12 conflict- prone woredas namely, Waliso, Amaya, Becho, Dawo, Elu, Goro, Kersana Malima, Seden Sodo, Sodo Dacha, Tole, and Wonchi woredas.
The project for Phase I included the following objectives
• Restoring peace in Oromia regional state, South West Showa Zone through organizing public forum, mediation and conflict resolution
• Bringing elders on board in addressing issues that divide the harmonious relationship between different ethnic communities in the region.
• Scaling up lesson from the implementation of the project in South West Showa Zone
PDC was the implementer of the project in partnership with the concerned zones. In both phases, agreements were signed with the Embassy of Germany, and MoUs with the zone administrations.
Phase II, which was also assisted by the German Embassy following a proposal by PDC by the request of target zones to expand the project to West Arsi zone of Oromia regional state. After signing an agreement, the project started its operation in May 2017. The project was aimed at enhancing capcity of traditional elders and local officials in conflict prevention and resolution. The trainings covered all woredas under the zone administration.
After the introduction of the project to concerned zone officials, the first training was conducted by a consultant hired by PDC. The training targeted local government officials and experts.
Brief Summary of Activities Accomplished during phase I and Phase II
After signing project agreements with German Embassy, PDC organized consultation meetings with project operational zones about the objectives of the projects submitted to the German Embassy with which it entered agreement. Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) between the two zones and PDC to implement Phase I and Phase II. Experienced consultants were recruited to deliver the trainings.
Train local government officials and experts: The training was organized from 17th -18th June, 2017 at Shashemene, capital town of West Arsi zone. PDC organized the first training workshop for pertinent government officials at woredas and zonal levels. The training focused on conflict early warning and early response mechanism, and approaches to be employed to address conflicts and protests that broke out in Southwest Shewa. Another training was conducted for 45 traditional elders drawn from all target woredas and towns of the zone. A nationwide elders’ conference was organized in Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa in which PDC board members and prominent elders and religious leaders from other parts of the country took part.
Training workshop for West Arsi zone local government officials: The training workshop was conducted from 17-18, June, 2017 at Shashamane town. 45 participants from all woredas and concerned zonal departments attended the training. The themes of the training included early warning and early response, conflict prevention, management and resolution and human and democratic rights of citizens. During the plenary discussion, training participants underscored that effective Early Warning and Early Response system must be in place in order to proactively address potential conflicts.
The second session dealt with human rights and democratic rights of citizens. It was noted that violations of human rights stir public grievances which will finally evolve to political instability and protests. Training participants suggested that awareness creation and training for law enforcement bodies at grass root level will help respect human and democratic rights of citizens.
A topic on conflict was addressed during the third part of the training followed by intensive discussions with local officials. In this section, participants analyzed the Oromo protest.
Organizing public forum in 24 woredas of Southwest Shewa Zone: The training drew participants from different sections of the society. Elders, religious leaders, youth and women representatives from local structures at local level. After the training, public forum training participants then established Peace Committees. The peace committees were given orientation on conflict management and collection of early warning and early response information in their operational areas.
Organize consultative workshop: This workshop was conducted at Elily International Hotel in Addis Ababa. This Consultative workshop was organized for selected elders from different zones in Oromia region. The purpose of this workshop is to identify problems and public demands of the protests in Oromia region and present recommendations to high level officials of the country. The workshop was moderated by Professor Ephraim Isaac, PDC Board Chair, and Dr. Tilahun Beyene, PDC, board member.
Consultative Workshop at Ellily Hotel
Major demands and recommendations of the elders were:
• Release of political prisoners arrested because of protest.
• Start political dialogue with different political forces working in Ethiopia and outside the country.
• Government should compensate those who lost they loved ones during the protest.
• Government should commit itself with fighting wide spread corruption that has prevailed in this country in unprecedented way.
• Unfair distribution of wealth in the country needs urgent solution.
• Issue of land grabbing and management is the core problem for urban and rural society and government should be transparent for the public at different levels.
• The law of the land should be respected and enforced by both the public and government.

Consultative workshop with zone and woreda administrators: This consultative workshop was conducted from November 3-5, 2016 at Woliso Belay Hotel in Woliso town. This workshop was opened by representative of the Southwest Shewa Zone Administration Admin & Security Department and PDC representative. Despite the volatile security situations in woredas of the zone, all chief administrators and heads of administrative & security offices including their attended the workshop.
During the workshop, basic concept of conflict prevention, management and resolution, human rights and conflict early warning and early response were discussed for participants. On the first day of the workshop, causes of conflicts, conflict analysis and approaches to violent conflict resolutions were discussed.
In this workshop, participants analyzed the conflict situation in Oromia region in general and their zone administration in particular.
Summary of the workshop discussions
Regarding conflict actors, the following issues were identified
• Unemployed youth who graduated from different Universities and colleges of Ethiopia.
• Dissatisfied civil servants by Government salary scales which differ from one sector to another
• Some religious institution like Waqefatta were among those mobilizing and organizing youth for protest
• Opposition political parties who were aggravating situations by mobilizing youth.
• Former party members who were removed from the ruling party (OPDO-EPRDF) were also involved in the protest.
Regarding relationships among stakeholders, participants pointed out the following:
• Dissemination of electronic and social media was fast that they easily reach protestors
• University students and graduates who use social media on their phone played disseminating information to high school students and rural public at large.
• Some are organized at religious gatherings- this was specifically mentioned for followers of Waqqefata religion.
• Opposing Addis Ababa integrated master plan that will cause displacements of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land.
• Unfair political power and economic resource distribution in the country –perceived grievance that t Oromia is not properly represented in the country’s politics.
• Demand Afaan Oromo to be the official language of the country.

The workshop also discussed the Human rights issues. Participants discussed on issues of human and democratic rights – the government was handling citizens in the protest hit region. Participants emphasized that the Ethiopian Constitution has enshrined basic human and democratic rights of citizens. But these rights were mostly violated and not properly enforced due to various reasons. The following reasons were raised by participants.
• Lack of awareness and knowledge of these rights by security bodies and other governing bodies on one hand and lack of adequate awareness by citizens on the other hand.
• Addis Ababa Master plan and land grabbing of public property- Protestors demanded the cancelation of master plan because: i/ it will evict Oromo farmers from their farmers without proper compensation ii/bad experience during the past years faced by Oromo farmers who lost their land due to investments and displaced without adequate compensation. One of the participants expressed his opinion that the problems related to investments are not solely limited to Finfinnee Special Zone but also in other parts of the zone.
• Lack of good governance: Government especially at local level is not responsive for the public. There is no free and fair election system in the country and the election board is not seen as independent by the public at large. There is no political space for opposition political parties when the ruling party fully dominate the political space. When the ruling party was challenged by opposition parties (e.g during 2005 election), the opposition parties were forced to flee the country and form rebel groups. Then the ruling party labeled them as terrorists and anti-peace elements.
• Unemployment: Currently there is high unemployment rate in the zone. What makes more disappointing is that employment process is not merit- based. It is either based on nepotism or by political loyalty to the ruling party through which one can get employed. Most of the youth university and college graduates in the country are jobless and see no hopes. So they are easily exposed and mobilized by anti-government propagandists based in Diaspora.
• Promise vs practice: Development promise by the government and its implementation has huge difference. Plans remain on paper and false reports are presented by government cadres. What is aired and talked on the media doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. Consequently, the public lacks confidence on the government.
• Courts are viewed as center of corruption and partiality.

Regarding solutions for current problem in the zone participants pointed out the following points.
• Ensure free and fair election which is open and acceptable by political parties in this country.
• The law of the land and policies formulated by the government should be properly enforced and implemented.
• Any development plan that affects the lives of citizens should involve public participation from planning to implementation and decision making processes. Government should also improve its responsiveness for public demands.
• Media should be independent and serve the truth rather than just serve as an instrument of the government/ruling party.
• Improve the quality of social services. There should be strong supervision in place on infrastructure development that are constructed by public money.
• Government should have strong commitment to fight corruption that has prevailed in the country in unprecedented level since recent years.
• Government should start discussion and dialogue with different political forces in this country.

One of the issues raised during this workshop regarding human rights was a question forwarded to participants how they handled individuals arrested during the protests in their specific woredas. In their response to this question most of them confess that there were violations at different levels due to the intensity of the situation. Iit was difficult to manage every activity carried out by federal and regional forces.

The last day of the workshop dealt with the early warning and early response mechanism. The intervention method had been largely characterized as ‘fire brigade approach’. Consequently, deadly conflicts have caused tremendous social and economic costs on the communities involved particularly in terms human suffering and deaths. It was recommended that an early warning and early response system should be in place for early detection of potential conflicts before they are transformed into violence. As a result, due attention is required to build up the necessary skills of practitioners at all levels of administration (kebele, woreda, zone and region).

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