In Ethiopia, a forgotten refugee in her own land

15/10/2019 12:00
In Ethiopia, a forgotten refugee in her own land
Amina Yuya was one of tens of thousands of ethnic Oromos chased from home by armed gangs in eastern Ethiopia two years ago.

Sululta, Ethiopia - The rain beats loudly on the metal roof of Amina Yuya's new home, as her neighbours hastily gather clothes from a washing line and bundle a foam mattress through a doorway to escape the downpour.

Under the glow of a single light bulb, Amina tells the story of her flight from the eastern Ethiopian town of Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali region, almost exactly two years ago.

"They came at night at around 7pm," she recalls, as the youngest of her seven children squirms on her lap. "There was about 10 or 15 of them. They dragged us from our home and began beating us. They set houses on fire and killed three of my neighbours. I was lucky to escape."

She does not know what happened to her husband that night but she assumes he, too, was killed.

The 35-year-old mother was one of tens of thousands of ethnic Oromos chased from their homes by armed gangs in eastern Ethiopia two years ago.

During 2017 nearly one million people were displaced following clashes between ethnic Oromos and ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions.

Hundreds were killed, on both sides, mostly by regional security forces.

Amina fled with her children to a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), where she stayed for seven months.

 

Once they brought us here we were crushed morally ... we didn't get what we expected. We are starving, we are suffering, and we are all alone.

AMINA YUYA

 

She was then taken by bus to the town of Sululta, near the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. That's where she now lives, 650km from her old home town, in a block of corrugated iron sheds with some 30 other families.

"They told us they'd build us a house in Finfinee," she says, using the Oromo name for the national capital. "But once they brought us here we were crushed morally ... we didn't get what we expected. We are starving, we are suffering, and we are all alone."

'I don't have full hope in the government'

Amina's story is echoed across Ethiopia, which in the past two years has witnessed an eruption of land, resource and identity-related conflicts resulting in vastly swollen ranks of IDPs.

In 2018, following the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister and the process of liberalisation he set in motion, nearly three million people were displaced - the highest figure for new displacements recorded anywhere in the world.

The government's response to the humanitarian crisis was widely criticised, although today it claims there are almost no IDPs left. For several months aid to some camps in the south was blocked, in order to encourage the displaced to return home. In some parts of the country IDPs were forcibly returned, despite fears for their safety.

Oromos like Amina, who said they wished never to return to the Somali region, were promised resettlement within Oromia and in the booming satellite towns which surround Addis Ababa.

Yet two years on, Amina and her neighbours feel they have been abandoned by a government which promised to support them.

She says her view of Abiy, who comes from Oromia and heads the Oromo faction of Ethiopia's ruling party, is mixed.

"At times it seems good things are happening in the country, but at the same time people are still suffering. So I don't have full hope in the government."

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