By Fithi Ataam
A.A: a deceptive informant gave Federal Boarder Guard information leading to confiscate 54 cattle. The informant claimed the cattle were in black market, located on Sudanese Boarder. On basis of the information, the Federal Boarder Guard confiscated 54 cattle. Farmers, owners of the cattle counter claimed and appealed to Federal Custom Branch in Bahir Dar for return of their cattle. As a result of the farmers’ protest, an Investigation Committee consists of six-person formed after ups and downs, because Ato Sewagegn Degfaw, agent of the Federal Custom Agency in Bahir Dar City, strongly opposed any investigation. However, following investigation, the committee proved the cattle belong to the farmers, and not in black market. Then, administrative organs in North Gondar and concerning bodies in the region, urged Ato Sewagegn to return the cattle to the farmers. In contrary, Ato Sewagegn ordered the cattle to be transferred to Gondar City and sold in auction in defines of the committee’s and administrative decisions. Stand up began between the cattle owners and Ato Sewagegn and continued for a week in Bahir Dar in the month of August. Then, Ato Ayalew Gobeze, Regional Governor, intervened to stop illegal sales, and the 50 cattle returns to owners, but 4 of them are still missing. Some observers believed Ato Sewagegn insisted on the cattle sales because he supposed to acquire some share illegally from informant’s bounty or reward. According to the custom’s regulation 60% of confiscated asset in the name of black market is paid to an informant whom gave information leading to capture, as a result, a money-minded informant can gave false information leading to confiscation of the farmers’ property.
An informant whom held in anonymity passed information on the issue to the Boarder Guard Federal army and Ato Sewagegn Degfaw on Aug 12, 2012. The informant claimed the 54 cattle were on Sudan border, just within the range of one hour travel to reach the boarder. Then, the federal force rushed to the Metema area and confiscated the cattle. The owners of the cattle expressed their protest at the spot, but they couldn’t stop the armed force from confiscation. The owners, residents of Metema Woreda, Metema Yohannes Kebele, village called Mendega are:
• Mr. Tadege Mamo, owner of 32 cattle
• Settegn Demse, owner of 10 cattle
• Yayu Tadege, owner of 7 cattle
• Abebaw Kelkay, owner of 5 cattle
The farmers, cattle owners went to Bahir Dar and presented their complaint to Federal Custom Agency, headed by Ato Sewagegn Degefaw. The farmers claimed the cattle were theirs, confiscated from their village not from black market. They further requested the matter to be investigated by an independent committee. They also proposed the committee include representatives from Federal Boarder Guard, Zonal Administration, Woreda Administration, Kebele Administration, Federal Custom Agency and victim farmers. Ato Sewagegn rejected unconditionally the idea of the investigation committee, but without legal justification. The farmers returned the next day and insisted on the investigation. Ato Sewagegn refused again. This time, Mr. Geremew Birru, Federal Custom Lawyer and Legal Affairs Coordinator, challenged Mr. Sewagegn’s refusal for investigation. After Mr. Gremew’s lawful pressure, on the next day, Ato Sewagegn agreed on formation the investigation committee, but refused inclusion of the victim farmers in the committee. Consequently, six-person Investigation Committee consisted of administrative organ representatives, Federal Boarder Guard and Federal Custom Agency.
The Investigation Committee traveled to the place where the cattle were confiscated and made investigation. The committee found: the cattle were not on Sudan Boarder or not in the range of one hour travel from the boarder, at the time of confiscation, the cattle were within the range of three-hour travel from the Sudan boarder, this place was Metema Yohannes Kebele, village called Mendega, which is the residency of the farmers. The cattle were confiscated from the farmers’ residential village not from the black market zone. The Committee concluded the cattle were belongs to the farmers, were not on the black market. The information given by the informant was false and misleading. A Federal Guard representative colonial also suggested the informant to be accountable for deceptive information. The colonial stated what was happened was misdeed against farmers; this might not be the first time, whatever confiscation done before could be wrong.
The Investigation Committee completed its mission by signing on the document and submitting report on its finding to the Federal Custom Agency, all concerned administrative organs and victim farmers. The cattle owners returned to Bahir Dar, Federal Custom Agency carrying the Committee’s report. They asked again Ato Sewagegn for the return of their cattle. As usual Ato Sewagegn said, “no I have already decided to sell the cattle, I know the drama, whatever it is, it is my decision”. Then the farmers went to Justice Bureau and appealed to Mr. Firde, head of the bureau; he told them what happened to their cattle was illegal. Because of he had no official communication channel with Federal Custom Agency, he promised he would report the matter to Mr. Ayalew. As stand up continuous, one of the victims sister went to Addis Ababa Federal Custom Office to appeal to Ato Sewagegn’s superior. Unfortunately, the head of the agency Mr. Gebrehud was not in his office, and she briefed Mr. Belay on the issue delegating the office and handed over him the Investigation Committee’s decision on the same. After reading the document, Mr. Belay said, “Ato Sewagegn would never do such a wrong thing”. The appealing woman got offended on Ato Belay’s response and hollered and chanted saying “to whom we should appeal”! Her utter in loud voice attracted a small crowd from inside the agency and outside. Ato Belay apologized the woman by saying he didn’t mean Sewagegn was right, but it was expression in surprise of misdeed. Ato Belay talked to Ato Sewagegn on phone and warned him to return the cattle to the farmers immediately, but Ato Sewagegn continued defining, and gave a new order the cattle to be sold. Ato Ayalew who was out of his station got information what was going on and instructed Mr. Gizat, North Gondar Governor to stop the illegal cattle sales by Ato Sewagegn. After stoppage was in effect by the administration, Ato Sewagegn had no choice, but gave order the cattle to return to the owners. Up to date 50 cattle were returned to the farmers, but 4 (four) of them are still missing. Observers believed four of the cattle could be immediately handed over to the informant whom likely benefit partner with Ato Sewagegn. There was no clear information, it appear to be under investigation. Informants are presumably more often among poor Werimino settlers and hand picked by Ato Sewagegn and victims are the indigenous community members. Despite such horrible acts no measures taken on the perpetrator as the result, there will be more offense against the poor farmers. One year ago, 60 cattle were confiscated in the similar fraudulent situation and their rightful owners Mr. Addis Awlachew and Mr. Ayitolign Tesera killed as they put resistance to their property. Their case remained in cold blood without due justice.