During the month of May, the Government carried out massive returns of IDPs to areas of origin, over 300,000 according to local authorities’ data (unverified by partners) in Gedeo and West Guji zones.
Most returns have been conducted without major incidents as the Government invested significantly in enhancing security conditions in areas of return and maintaining law and order. Humanitarian partners have reported a number of protection concerns, with reports received regarding the intimidation of IDPs resisting to return, instances in which IDP representatives were detained, and sporadic reports of IDPs been beaten by security forces. In some areas, IDPs have expressed concerns that the deployed militias are composed of only one ethnic group, and that some perpetrators of violence remain at large. In a meeting with partners on 21 May, the Ministry of Peace announced that some 217 arrests have been made (out of 300 people identified) and that over one thousand youth allegedly participated in the violence have been sent to rehabilitation centres.
Against this backdrop, active hostilities between the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) and Unidentified Armed Groups (UAG) continue to be reported, causing major restrictions on humanitarian movements and operations in a number of kebeles of Gelana, Kercha, and Bule Hora woredas. In the most insecure kebeles, there remains a heightened risk for IDPs to be newly displaced. Some returned IDP report that this has been the second time they find themselves living in collective centers within their own kebeles, first time during the first wave of returns in August 2018.
No major incidents of violence between returned IDPs and host communities have been reported. Having said this, the situation in each area/ community differs, with reports of IDPs been welcomed and greeted and others where they have been harassed. While in one locality, local sources report that the host community threw stones at temporary shelters for several days, in another one, the host community welcomed the IDPs and provided them with food and various utensils Most previous IDP displacement sites have been dismantled, with few exceptions that continue open hosting highly vulnerable IDPs. As a result, assistance to IDPs is now only available in areas of return. Many IDPs have established themselves in ‘secondary displacement sites’ (transit centers), as a result of security concerns as well limited assistance provided for rebuilding their houses. In those sites, there have been reports of local authorities restricting partners’ access and activities to avoid creating a “pull factor” for IDPs to not return to their former houses. In some instances, IDPs concerns about the return process as well as their reluctance to return have not been addressed. Further, there have been two instances whereby humanitarian personnel have been temporary detained while conducting protection monitoring activities.
IDPs have expressed frustration over limited assistance upon return, with mainly food and plastic sheeting provided. In addition, IDPs who originate from isolated areas, far from main roads, have struggled to access assistance. While local authorities continue to request partners’ support, these have not shifted assistance immediately and expressed discontent for the lack of planning and coordination, including limited information sharing, for instance in regards to the areas where IDPs were returned, complicating the response. Partners have requested information on the whereabouts of the assets provided in IDP displacement sites that have been lost after their dismantling, which is been reportedly followed upon by the relevant authorities.
In terms of physical access constraints, poor road conditions – aggravated by the start of the rainy season – have hindered access to Gotiti and Chiriku sites, and the village of Bank Tatatu in Gedeb. In addition, the road from Dimtu town to other villages in Hambala Wamena woreda, and to Gerba “1” in Bule Hora woreda, are also affected.
It is recommended that partners carry out localized risk analyses while initiating shelter reconstruction and livelihoods recovery activities in areas that remain unstable from an access and security perspective, and where ‘housing and land property’ issues remain unresolved (“do no harm”).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.