Zenaddis — President of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR) Mr Shiferaw Shigute dismissed reports of the eviction of ethnic Amharas from the Bench Maji Zone as baseless.
Shiferaw Shigute who has been silent on the issues since he ordered the eviction of hundreds of ethnic Amhara households from the Gura Ferda district said over 25 thousand ethnic Amharas still live peacefully in the Zone.
A letter signed by Mr Shiferaw stated that those who settled in the district after August 2007 should be sent back to where they came from. Shiferaw told journalists that the Regional Administration has issued a directive that orders people who settled in the Zone After August 2007 to leave the Zone.
He indicated that those who were evicted were transported to Bahir Dar in collaboration with the Amhara Regional State administration. The regional administrator has been keeping silent on the issue.
The settlers, that have subsisted in agriculture, have been in the Gura Ferda as early as 1985. In a move most human rights advocates dubbed ethnic cleansing, more settlers are expected to be evicted in the coming months.
In a VOA Amharic interview the president’s secretary said he was not aware of the evictions . And a team has been sent to the area to investigate the matter. Meanwhile the evicted households have been scattered in various regions in Addis, Debre Berhan, Nekempte and other areas.
Law experts have condemned the move saying it contravenes the country’s constitution. Article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution states that any Ethiopian has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
The evicted people said they were forced to leave properties behind them as local officials told them they should leave the properties they acquired in the South right where they belong. Those who managed to sell their cattle did so at a cut rate price.
Mr Shiferaw Shigute is the third president of SNNPR. He was in the position since March 2006 when the then administrator, current minister of Foreign Affairs, Hailemariam Desalegn was given a position in the Federal government. He is vice chairman of the South Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM) which is part of the umbrella EPRDF. He is also member of the House of Federation.