Gotiti Village is located 467km south of the capital, Addis Ababa, at Gedeb District in Gedeo Zone. The village was one of the areas affected by inter-communal conflict in 2018, with 552 displaced households suffering burnt houses and destroyed assets. The conflict also inflicted severe damage on institutions, including schools and churches.
After being displaced for six months, several families returned to their community with the Government's support. Sadly, these efforts were in vain as hostilities between the two ethnicities (Gedeo and Guji) grew even stronger. There were observable signs of hatred and revenge.
In line with the Government of Ethiopia's peace and stability-building efforts, World Vision provided peace-building training financed by the European Union to facilitate harmony and reconciliation between Gedeo and Guji people.
Twenty-five-year-old Mesfin Shibru is an evangelist at an Apostolic church from Gotiti village that participated in the peace-building training. He says, “The relationship between Gedeo and Guji people after the Government returned the displaced home was fragile and hostile. There was high tension and every one of us was thinking evil about one another. Our hearts were bitter and full of vengeance –mine were no different from the majority's thoughts.”
Berhanu Hundessa (35) and Mebrate Beriso (25) from Guji and Gedeo respectively, admitted that they both developed hostility towards one another’s ethnicity. Berhanu says, “Before the training and reconciliation, I had hatred towards Gedeo people. I did not feel at peace when I saw them.” Mebrate concurs, saying, “The lost lives and properties used to create anger in my heart.”
Mesfin, along with other training participants, vowed to teach the Gedeo-Guji community about forgetting to count all the ill-treatments, forgiveness, and settling disputes through peaceful dialogue and discussion. He says, “The training was very helpful to settling dispute and hostility between the two ethnicities. As a training participant, we committed ourselves to bring reconciliation between Gedeo and Guji people, whatever it costs us.”
Along with other training participants, Mesfin met influential youth who were believed to fan hostility between the two communities. They separately discussed the importance of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He says, “We selected 20 youth from Gedeo and Guji and provided peace-building training to them. At the end of the training, God helping, all of the training participants accepted the idea of reconciliation with full consent. We brought the Gedeo and Guji youth together and reconciled them. We also did the same with the Gedeo and Guji elders, religious leaders, and mothers. Now, there is nothing that threatens the peace we built.”
Berhanu from Guji and Mesfin from Gedeo were two of the youth members that took the training. Berhanu says, “After the training, my mind changed. I left every evil thought. I am now living and working with Gedeo friends. We are brothers now. Mesfin also testifies, “After the training, I abandoned all the resentment I had and created a peaceful relationship with the Guji friends. We sit together and share what we have as we used to do before the conflict.”
The training on peace-building has brought about several constructive and collaborative engagements between the two ethnicities. Mesfin and his colleagues’ reconciliation efforts have borne fruits, and revenge and hostility between the two communities are long gone.
Previously, Gedeo and Guji people were not worshiping at the same church; they were not going to each other’s village even for shopping, and their children were not attending the same school. After the appeasement, the two parties reconstructed the damaged churches and schools. Mesfin says, “After the peace-building training, the two communities rebuilt devastated schools and churches together. Now they are worshipping together and their children are attending the same school.”
The 1.25 million Euro worth project benefitted over 2 million people in the conflict-affected areas of Gedeo Zone of the South Peoples’ Regional State, and Guji Zone of the Oromia Regional State.
To learn about World Vision’s peace-building work, click here.