In December, two members in one of the movements that our colleague overseas in southern Ethiopia were instrumental in stopping violence. Outsiders with political motives had paid some men from Tribe B to start burning farms of Tribe A. However, the two men persuaded some 5,000 people just to report such incidents to the police rather than fight back. The police did intervene and the violence ceased.
Those two men kept working for peace. Recognized as elders by Tribe A, they have cultivated relationships with the elders of Tribe B. On January 7, the day Ethiopians celebrate Christmas, they managed to bring the elders of both tribes together for a whole day of talks. By the end of that day, those elders had made a formal peace agreement and called all who had fled to return to their own land. The evening of January 12, more than a thousand returnees from both tribes crowded into a school compound, shared food, and slept together.
The next day, thirty elders from both tribes and from tribes as far away as 100 miles presided over a traditional reconciliation ceremony. Both tribes made restitution of about $700 to each family who had lost loved ones and extended forgiveness to everyone who confessed wrongdoing. Families forced to split because of ethnic differences reunited. As the ceremony concluded, hugs, weeping, three-cheek kisses, and laughter not heard in years swept through the compound.
All that week, blue plastic tents provided by the government sprang up everywhere as people returned to rebuild on the ashes of their former home
The day after the reconciliation, our colleague toured the area with local officials, noting where wells had been destroyed during the violence. For the first time, they took him into Tribe B’s territory. One well particularly caught his attention. The fighters had broken its pump and dumped dirt and stones into the well, but some of the 246 families who had been dependent on that well had already erected blue tents nearby. One young man recounted almost being killed one night while he was searching for water for his family. Our colleague promised to return.
On Saturday, January 15, thousands of people celebrated. Only a relatively few could fit into the school compound, but even beyond its walls, voices sang out together: “Now our future is bright. We have forgiven one another!” Dr. Abiy, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, sent congratulations, and leaders from across the region gave speeches. Then came food, everyone sharing, and dancing in Ethiopia’s unique style.
Meanwhile, men from around the Tribe B well found a man experienced in well repair, whom they lowered 28 meters (92 feet) down into the well to clean it out. They poured new cement to replace the smashed well cover. They also measured the parts needed and gave the list to our colleague. On February 9, he brought them a new pump and some pipe (purchased by you who support Hope In View), and they completed the fix. As the women brought out the coffee and bread to celebrate afterwards, he spoke to them all about peace and forgiveness. He was able to introduce members of the movement in Tribe A who all offered their help to the Tribe B folk.
We rejoice for this new peace, something that nineteen attempts by the government had failed to produce. We pray it may be an example elsewhere in Ethiopia, which so desperately needs peace on many fronts.