By Damo Gotamo
In a few weeks, the people of Sidama will celebrate this year’s Fiche Chambala holiday. They are eagerly waiting for the festivity that will be celebrated for two weeks. According to oral tradition, the holiday is the commemoration of Sidama women who would pay a visit to their parents and relatives.The holiday is celebrated annually in a spirit of peace and friendship. While the people of Sidama are preparing for the holiday, the extremists are also working restlessly to repeat their last year’s shameful act. They are again plotting to hijack the holiday to promote their political agenda. Because of the mayhem that took place last year and the ensuing lawlessness that is still prevalent to this day, the government mustn’t allow the holiday to be celebrated in Awassa.
During last year’s holiday celebrations, the Sidama extremists burned people alive and displaced thousands of the city residents. People including those who came out to take part in the festivity with their Sidama brethren were attacked mercilessly. The extremists searched and destroyed houses belong to ethnic Wolitas. Thousands were displaced from their homes. We saw textbook ethnic cleansing at work against the people who have been known for their hard work and magnanimity.
The effect of the previous year’s holiday mayhem is still lingering in the minds of the city’s residents. Many of the victims are still struggling to make ends meet after they lost everything they had worked for. They still can’t live in their ruined adobes because of constant harassment by the extremists and their minions.
Economic activities in Awassa have shown significant slowdowns to the extent that some owners are shutting down their businesses for good. The hotel occupancy rates in the city are less than fifty percent of the normal rates.
Bars and restaurants have laid down many of their employees because they couldn’t make enough money to pay their wages. Banks and other institutions remain closed whenever the extremists order them to close affecting their businesses.
The lawlessness hasn’t spared the Awassa Industrial Park, which is the bread and butter of the country in generating the much needed hard currency.
Tour operators are also suffering because tourists are not coming to Awassa as they used to. Lake Awassa, the main attraction in the city, is as quiet as a grave. The only people who frequent the lake are musicians and people from the entertainment industry to use it as a scene of shooting their music and film. By the way, the latest sensational music, Kokebey, by Joseph Gebre and Millen Hailu was filmed in Awassa. It is sad to see the beautiful lake sits idle because of ruthless extremists.
The real-estate market has also been affected by the illegal activity of the mob and the uncertainty that overshadowed the city. Building new homes has ceased affecting thousands of construction workers and their families. The value of the real-estate property has plummeted at an alarming rate. Once considered the top real-estate market rivaled only by Addis Ababa, Awassa’s real-estate market has stagnated significantly. People can no longer count on their property to make money, and the government has also lost in millions of birr that could have been generated as a result real-estate transaction.
Small businesses have also suffered significantly. Whenever the infamous Ejjeetto lashes its wrath, shops remain closed for fear of being vandalized. The Sidama extremists also harass shop owners constantly asking them to pay bribes. If they don’t comply with the demands of the extremists, their businesses would be closed.
Children couldn’t follow their education on a regular basis. Whenever there is lawlessness in the city, their parents remove them from schools affecting their proper development.
Allowing this year Fiche Chambala holiday to take place in Awassa is a recipe for another disaster. The people and the city can’t afford another catastrophe. It must be clear to authorities that the Sidama extremists will not hesitate to use the holiday once again to unleash havoc on the city. Those who caused last year’s mayhem are still at large and roaming the city plotting another tragedy. They don’t care about human life and property as long as they use the event to highlight their obsolete political agenda.
The extremists are openly bragging that they will declare a Sidama killi anytime. They should be warned of the consequences of another lawless and thuggish acts in the city. If something similar to the last year happens again, it will prove beyond any doubt that the government isn’t capable of maintaining law and order and protecting its citizens. The government must not allow this year’s Finch Chambala holiday to take place in Awassa. Let the peaceful people of Sidama celebrate their holiday in their vicinities peacefully away from extremists who taint the great people of Sidama. They can’t afford another shameful act and embarrassment at the hands of ethnic entrepreneurs who don’t care about anything except their pockets.