The Suri Massacre in Omo Valley Ethiopia

By Douglas Burji | January 9, 2012

The Army surrounded the Suri women, 28 December 2012

The Army surrounded the Suri women, 28 December 2012

The Suri people live in southern Ethiopia, in the Bench Maji Zone. The Suri are divided into three groups known as Chai, Tirmaga and Balessa, Suri is a united name of these three groups. These tribes are similar to the Mursi living on the other side, the east bank, of the Omo River. These four tribes have similar cultures and share the same language and customs. They practice stick fighting, pierce their lower lips and ears, herd cattle, cultivate sorghum and maize and are attractive to tourists. Today the land grabbing foreign investors, some western governments, and bad donors like DFID, USAID, China, India, European Union and Saudi Arabia; their actions are leading to disaster.

The reason for the massacres happening now is the resettlement plans. The Suri people were told to leave their place and go to a new government chosen resettlement site, because the area was leased to a gold mining company. These Suri resisted moving out of this area and the gold mining people were having difficulties to expand the digging.

In the morning, the Ethiopian army came to the Balessa Suri village called Beyahola (meaning white rock) and surrounded the villagers and the village. The army arrested all the people in the village, men, women and children, and they tied all of the villagers’ hands together and drove them deep into the Dibdib forest and shot and killed all of them, except seven young people who escaped. It was a small village of 154 people. This Suri girl in the middle in the picture above, was killed, see the below picture where she is dead. The government tried hard to control the people not to report this massacre, but thanks to God the news came out. These are human rights violations, in southwest Ethiopia. Why is the American government and the UK government supporting the Ethiopia government? Aren’t they supposed to be fighting terrorism not supporting it?

Dead Suri girl(She was standing in the first picture above.), December 28, 2012

Dead Suri girl
(She was standing in the first picture above.), December 28, 2012

Dead Suri boy

Dead Suri boy

The dead bodies are buried in mass graves deep inside Dibdib forest and some bodies were transported to gold mining holes not far from the Dibdib forest. Some bodies were left out and eaten by vultures and predators. Most of the children were thrown into Akobo River. After the massacre, the army sent warnings all around the area that if anyone reports about this, the army will do things to these people who report, and more, even worse, things to the Suri.

The nonstop massacre of the Suri tribe is still going on and growing worse every month, but no one has reported about it. In the west, if a few people are murdered it will make the media headlines, but for the human beings living in southwestern Ethiopia no one really talks about it. What the Ethiopian government does to the pastoral people in southwestern Ethiopia, still has not become known.

  •  The Last few weeks 147 Suri were killed. 
  •  Previous two months before this 30 Suri were killed.
  •  Previous four months before this 70 Suri were killed.

Extremely aggressive investment programs in Southern Ethiopia

The big problems of investment in southern Ethiopia is costing many indigenous lives, these are:

  •  Resettlement
  •  Sugar plantations
  •  Cotton farms
  •  Gold mining
  •  Oil drilling
  •  Rice farms
  •  Palm Oil


Contact: Douglas Burji,

Human Rights Watch Report: Pastoralists Forced off Their Land for Sugar Plantations