5/16/2004

"They Killed You Like a Dog" -- An Anuak Survivor's Story

NAIROBI, KENYA -- Emmanuel Okwier Oletho, a teenage agriculture student in Gambella who has a sister in Minnesota, was at home at around noon on December 13. His father, Okwier Oletho, the pastor at the Assembly of God Chuch, was one of Gambella’s most prominent figures. Here is Emmanuel’s eyewitness account of that day:

“A lot of Highlanders came, followed by Ethiopian government soldiers. My Pop opened the window and he said ‘I’m a pastor, why are you looking for me?’ They said ‘We are searching for you. You are the one we are looking for.’ He said ‘Okay, let me finish my prayer.’ At that time the house was starting to burn because they threw two bombs into the house. The furniture was burning.

“When he finished he ran out the window. They pursued after him and killed him with an axe. There were three soldiers in uniform. One guy who had come to visit my Dad, they shot him in the back. When he fell down they poured gas on him and they burned him. The guy was absolutely roasted.

“Two members of the choir were praying and the soldiers said, ‘We are going to blow up the church.’ Then when the choir members were running out of the church, the soldiers shot them in the back.

“My cousin, they shot him in the face. He was a little guy. He was really angry when he realized that his father was killed. So he came out the house really angry, and when he came out they shot him the face.

“The military used guns, the Highlanders uses machetes, spears, and axes. The Highlanders were our neighbors. We used to even share coffee together. I can’t explain it. It really hurts for me even to say it. They cut you just like a tree. A person you used to live with, they killed you like a dog. It’s unbelievable.

“It’s something that just seems unreal. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream when I think about it.”

Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report