Looqqe Massacre, where heart breaking cruelity of Tigray People's Liberation Front on Sidama people unfolded. By Editor
16 years ago, dictatorial regime of current government of Ethiopia issued an order to take over control of Hawassa city and its environs which had been administered by the Sidama people and to relocate Sidama administration structure from Hawassa to another town of their choice. This daring order to uproot the Sidama people from their ancestral land purely meant to further marginalize the Sidama people economically, socially and politically and to expand the control sphere by TPLF and its criminal conglomerate.
Since its formation in early 1950s, the city of Hawassa has been center of attention for central and regional authorities. Its strategic importance to these who want govern the Ethiopian people with an iron fist, Hawassa is ideal location. Besides, Hawassa being at for front in economic growth, tourism and investment, it gave another inducement for the regime’s authorities who have no iota of regard for rule of law, but kill and maim innocent citizens. Besides, land grabbing and leaving farmers destitute has been another way of making easy money by these who want to make fortune overnight.
As Hawassa has been cultural and social heritage for the Sidama people for hundreds of years, the scheme created surprise and anger. In response, hundreds of thousands of Sidama people, from all walks of life planned to stage a peaceful demonstration demanding the reversal of this ill-devised policy with high hope on the rule of law. The country's constitution guarantees safety for the citizens who demonstrate peacefully.
The demonstration day set to be May 24, 2002. The plan was to start the demonstration at Looqqe village and to conclude at Hawassa city’s Meskel Square later in the day. Leaves from trees were gathered and distributed to demonstrators along with Ethiopian flag as symbol of peace to counter misinformation by some government agents who claimed there would be demonstrators who are armed with rifles. On the other side, instead of listening to the people’s demand whom they claim under their care, the regional and central government officials were conspiring to seize the moment to give a lesson to anyone, even beyond Hawassa, whoever would come on their way thereafter.
An ad hoc meeting that summoned a day before the massacre and attended by top officials of the regime that chaired by the then SNNPRG (South Nations Nationalities People's Regional Government) president, and retired PM Haile Mariam Desalegn, concluded by all attendees, but two, agreeing to crash the peaceful quest by force. The two attendees, Mr. Wakayo Damassa, the then head of the Sidama zone political bureau and Mr. Girma Chuluke, the then head of the Sidama Administration, who dissented from those immoral decision makers were later demoted and thrown into jails with accusation that they were the reason for this all tragic episode. After the meeting, the TPLF's rapid acting army unit known as AGAZI, was called up on and arrived over night to carry out the meeting consensus.
In the beautiful morning of Hawasaa city My 24, 2002, life started just like any other day. The number of demonstrators that attracted Sidamas from all Woredas and towns was growing into thousands and slowly moving towards Hawasa according to the plan. However, the demonstrators barely reached Hawassa city, when they met with the killers head on with machine guns mounted on the top vehicles. Snippers are also awaiting orders on the top of buildings and some are in nearby mountain of Tabor.
When the demonstration mass was fully visible targets, the shoot and kill order was issued by army generals and in the blink of an eye, the area that was peaceful moments before turned into a bloody killing zone with live bullets being sprayed into helpless innocents and snippers firing from all sides. 68 innocent Sidamas lost their life instantly including, students, farmers and children. Many wounded ones lost their lives afterwards due to lack of medical care, many thrown into jails for taking part in the demonstration.
The massacre was the first in its type in modern Ethiopian history by targeting such a large number of single Ethnic group by federal army under their care. More such massacres would take place in different parts of country ever since including massacre of Oromo people during Irecha celebration in 2016 and Massacre of Agnuwak people earlier.
The perpetrators, members of the administration who ordered this brutal massacre, have not been brought to justice. What is even more painful is that they have been elevated to higher positions that the regime could offer. The top puppet leader of the massacre, Hailemariam Desalegn had been ordering such bloodshed for last 16 years since Looqqe massacre and just stepped down.
After methodically taken out of the game from issues of Hawassa city with such brutal responses by TPLF heavy hands, the Sidama people today barely play any role in fate of the city. Now the game is largely between members of criminal organization of TPLF and SNNPRG who are organized under umbrella of EPRDF to liken themselves a legitimate government parties. They have displaced thousands of the Sidama people from their land holdings and many ended up being destitute, beggars on streets of Hawassa.
Unable to quench their wolfish nature, the regime and its henchmen now want permanent solution. SNNPRG want the future city of Hawassa free of Sidama by removing layers of city where majority residents are Sidamas and make remaining part their owned property according to the Gudumaale report here. On the other hand, the TPLF part wants even more by including surrounding kebels in addition to the city, to make the city their future economic hub where the Sidama people are mere onlookers according to this Gudumaale report and this online Bloomberg article.
On other hand, the TPLF regime wasn’t able to silence the Sidama people for past 26 years by killings and maiming them and never will. Specially, on the eve of Looqqe Massacre 16th year Anniversary the Sidama people and its youth are on the renewed move to make sure that lives lost at Looqqe didn’t die in vain. They only bear trade mark of their fathers and forefathers who gave their life so others and their children live free than die in slavery.
The black Friday of May 24 2002 may be long gone, but no one still fully comprehends why innocent civilians were so brutally massacred by the government who promised would protect them.