This report covers the month of May 2019 and outlines key protection issues and challenges faced by returnee populations as well as sector related gaps that were either addressed or referred to relevant agencies/clusters for which a response is in progress. During the reporting period, joint protection monitoring in West Guji was conducted by UNHCR, UNFPA, UNICEF and OHCHR in 17 kebeles1 in Kercha woreda, six kebeles2 in Hambela Wamena woreda and six kebeles3 in Bule Hora woreda.
On 27 March 2019, Federal, Regional and zonal officials held a third round of discussionsto prepare return of IDPs in Gedeo and West Guji zones. As a result, security forces, defence forces, police and local militias (approximately 600 individuals) were deployed in the different return locations as peace and reconciliation efforts continued between the two ethnic groups (Gedeos and Gujis). At the end of April, the zonal authorities communicated a plan to return of IDPs in West Guiji and Gedeo that would carry out in three phases:
Phase I: involved the movement of IDPs by government transport to their places of origin;
Phase II: a transit period of 3-4 days/assistance and establishment of service delivery;
Phase III: recovery and rehabilitation, including peacebuilding initiatives.
As a result of this announcement and subsequent returns starting on 03 May 2019, the Joint Protection Monitoring teams started to conduct return monitoring and produced ten situational updates and joint protection return monitoring reports. The government requested all partners to support the returnees in the areas of origin and ordered all the IDP collective sites to be closed.
The voluntariness of IDP returns remains a concern. Returned IDPs were not consulted but instead promised assistance in their areas of origin. Returned IDPs reported that it was futile to disobey the government. Discontinuation of assistance, including the dismantling of sites, in current displacement areas, was a means to coerce IDPs to return. This return process comes afterseveral attempts were made by the government in August, November and December 2018 to return the IDPs. The returns in 2018 were unsustainable due to the prevailing insecurity situation exacerbated by the absence of essential services in return areas.