‘News Stories’ Archive
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They speak of democracy, but act violently to suppress dissenting voices and control the people through the inculcation of fear: they ignore human rights and trample on the people, they are a tyrannical wolf in democratic sheep’s clothing, causing suffering and misery to thousands of people throughout Ethiopia. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government repeatedly scoffs at international law and consistently acts in violation of their own Federal constitution – a liberal document written by the regime to please and deceive their foreign supporters. They have enacted laws of repression: the widely condemned Charities and Societies (ATD) law (CSO law) and the Anti Terrorism Declaration, which is the main tool of political control, together with the ‘Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation’ they form a formidable unjust arsenal of government control. Freedom of the media (which is largely ‘state-owned’) is denied and political dissent is all but outlawed.
Against this repressive backdrop, the Semayawi (Blue) party, a new opposition group, organized peaceful protests on the 2nd June in Addis Ababa. Ten thousand or so people marched through the capital demanding the release of political prisoners, “respect for the constitution” and Justice! Justice! Justice! It was (Reuters 2/06/2013 reported), an “anti-Government procession…. the first large-scale protest since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 200 people”, a ‘disputed election’ result that was discredited totally by European Union observers and denounced by opposition groups and large swathes of the population.
The Chairman of the Semayawi Party, Yilekal Getachew, told Reuters, “We have repeatedly asked the government to release political leaders, journalists and those who asked the government not to intervene in religious affairs”. In keeping with the recent worldwide movement for freedom and social justice, he stated that, “if these questions are not resolved and no progress is made in the next three months, we will organize more protests. It is the beginning of our struggle”. To the disappointment of many and the surprise of nobody, the government has made no attempt to ‘resolve’ the questions raised, and true to their word a second demonstration was planned for 1st September in Addis Ababa. In the event, as the BBC report, around “100 members of Ethiopia’s opposition Semayawi (Blue) party were arrested and some badly beaten”, and “equipment such as sound systems were confiscated”, ahead of the planned rally, which was banned by the EPRDF. Government justification formed, and a cock and bull story was duly constructed with Communication Minister Shimeles Kemal stating “the venue [for Semayawi’s event) had already been booked by a pro-government group condemning religious extremism”.
Non-interference in religious affairs is one of the key demands of the Semayawi party, a demand based upon the constitutional commitment of religious independence from the State, which Muslim groups claim the government has violated. Enraged by government interference in all matters religious, the Muslim community have organised regular small-scale protests and sit-ins in the capital for the last two years. In early August, Reuters 8/08/2013 reported “Demonstrators chanted "Allahu Akbar" and hoisted banners that read "respect the constitution", referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council”. Around 40% of Ethiopia’s population (around 85 million) are Muslim, for generations they have lived amicably with their Orthodox Christians neighbours, who make up the majority in the country; they are moderate in their beliefs and peaceful in their ways. The EPRDF in contrast are violent, intolerant and ideologically driven; ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ being the particular tune to which the democratic dictatorship hums and drums its partisan rule.
The government’s response to the peaceful demonstrations, has unsurprisingly been intolerant and dismissive; their comments inflammatory and predictable, stating Mail@Guardian 14/07/2013 record, "most of these demonstrators are Islamic extremists”, and showing their own ‘extreme’ tendencies, authoritively declaring that “the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by "extremists" [this time] overseas”. Duplicitous nonsense, which serves to distract attention from the underlying issues being raised and the imperative (and legal requirement) for the government to act in accordance with its own constitution.
Along with such disingenuous comments the regime has responded to the protests in a repressive manner; imprisoning Muslims calling for justice, causing Amnesty International 8/08/2013 to be “extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia… of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters”, Amnesty demand that the “on-going repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now”. Despite the fact that the protests have been peaceful and good-natured the regime has consistently described the protesters as violent terrorists, in February the ‘Holy War Movement’ was shown on State Television, it presented protestors and those arrested (including journalists), as terrorists. And in a clear violation of people’s constitutional right to protest, the regime has threatened to take firm action against further protests.
Whilst the majority of actions during the last two years have been without incident, protests in Kofele in the Oromia region on 8th August ended in “the deaths of an unconfirmed number”, there have also been reports of large numbers of people being arrested in Kofele and Addis Ababa, including two journalists. Following the Kofele deaths Amnesty called for “an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the events in Kofele, as well as into the four incidents last year which resulted in the deaths and injuries of protestors”. Legitimate demands which the regime has duly ignored.
The EPRDF does not tolerate any independent media coverage within the country and indeed does all it can to control the flow of information out of Ethiopia and restrict totally dissenting voices. And they don’t care who the journalist is working for, key allies or diaspora media; In October 2012 a reporter from the Voice of America (VOA) covering a protest in Anwar Mosque in Addis was arrested and told to erase her recorded interviews, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report. This was not the first time a VOA journalist had been detained. “They are criminalizing journalism,” said Martin Schibbye a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed [in 2011] along with a colleague for more than 14 months in Ethiopia”, for entering the Ogaden region. A heavily militarized area where wide ranging human rights violations constituting crimes against humanity are taking place, which has been hidden from the International media and aid organisations since 2007. Fearing imprisonment, many journalists have left Ethiopia, CPJ report that in 2012, along with Eritrea, it was were Africa’s ‘top jailer’ of journalists”, coming in eighth worldwide.
Unjust Laws of Control
In July last year, hundreds of protesting Muslims peacefully demanding that the government stop interfering in their religious affairs and allow them to vote freely for representatives on the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Most were released, but 29 members of the protest committee were charged on 29th October under the universally criticized Anti Terrorist Declaration (ATD), accused of “intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause” by force, and the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of terrorist acts.” Their arrest has been slammed by human rights groups as well as the United States Commission on religious Freedom, who “are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s government is seeking to silence peaceful religious freedom proponents by detaining and trying them in secret under trumped-up terrorism charges. They should be released now and their trials halted”. The men claim to have been “tortured and experienced other ill-treatment in detention”.
The ambiguous ATD was introduced in 2009 and has been used by the Ethiopian government, “to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) state. It violates dues process, which like a raft of other internationally recognized and legally binding rights, is enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. The legislation cause outrage amongst human rights groups and the right minded when it was proposed. HRW (30/06/2009) said of the draft law, (which un-amended found its way onto the statute books) that it would “permit the government to repress a wide range of internationally protected freedoms”, – precisely the reason for it’s introduction, and it provides “the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy”.
The unjust law allows for long-tem imprisonment and the death penalty for so called crimes that meet some EPRDF definition of terrorism, and denies in some cases a defendants right to be presumed innocent – the bedrock of the international judicial system. Torture is used without restraint by the military and police, under the ATD evidence obtained whilst a prisoner is being beaten, hanged, whipped or drowned is admissible in court, this criminal act contravenes Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (ratified by Ethiopia in 1994), which ‘requires that any statement made as a result of torture is inadmissible as evidence’. Terrorism is indeed an issue of grave concern in Ethiopia, it is not rooted in the Muslim community, the media, the Blue Party or the Universities, it is State Terrorism that stalks this land, that kills and falsely imprisons, tortures and rapes the innocent, it is the EPRDF; the rebel group that ousted a communist dictator in 1991 only to take up his tyrannical mantle, who manipulate the law to serve their repressive rule and who violates a plethora of human rights, consistently and with impunity. Ethiopia’s donors and international friends, (primarily America and Britain) have other, larger fish on their minds, and even though they give the country over a third of its federal budget they seem unconcerned by the criminality being committed, much of which is taking place under the cloak of development. Violent rule however is a storm that is imploding throughout the world, the people, who have suffered long enough, sense their collective strength and are awakening.
Need for Unity
Although completely contrary to the EPRDF’s pledge of Ethnic Federalism, divide and rule is the effective methodology of division employed by the regime. In a country with dozens of tribal groups, various ethnicities and different religious beliefs (Islam and Christianity), unity is the key to any popular social revolution, much needed and ardently longed for by millions throughout the land. We are witnessing a worldwide protest movement for change; age-old values of freedom, equality and social justice, brotherhood and peace are the clarion call of many marching and protesting. And so it is in Ethiopia, the Blue party and other opposition groups, the Muslim community and the students on the streets demanding Justice! Justice! Jusitce! are in harmony with the rhythm of the times. Out of step and blind to the needs of the people and their rightful demands, the ruling party acts with violence to drown out their voices and suppress their rights: in Addis Ababa, where thousands marched in June, in Oromia and the Ogaden, where the people seek autonomy, in Amhara, where thousands have been displaced, in Gambella and the Lower Omo Valley, where native people are being driven off their ancestral land into state created villages, women raped and men beaten.
Unity is the song of the day, rich with diversity united in intent, the collective will of the people of Ethiopia and indeed throughout the world is an unstoppable force for change. All steps need to be taken to remove the obstacle to the realization of unity throughout the country, ethnic prejudices and tribal differences; all need to be laid aside. The Ethiopian regime may succeed in subduing the movement for change that is simmering throughout the country, however with sustained unified action, peacefully undertaken and relentlessly expressed, freedom and social justice, longed for by millions throughout the country, will surely come.
Author: GRAHAM PEEBLES
Source: Counterpunch Online
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The world tour underway by two Oromo nationals under the title “I AM OROMO, FIRST” was convened in Toronto, Canada over the weekend. The
- Some of the Participants of the Convention
convention that was held on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at Toronto Plaza Hotel attracted hundreds of Oromos of all ages, religions, and political backgrounds living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in Canada. Of the two Oromo nationals who are engaged in the world tour – Obbo Jawar Mohammed and Obbo Mohammed Ademo – Obbo Jawar was present at the Toronto convention, although Obbo Mohammed Ademo was not able to make it due to some personal issues.
In an invigorating socio-political atmosphere, all points of discussion by participants revolved around the Oromo identity and its homeland – Oromia, and the responsibilities of the present generation in general and the Oromo youth in particular in promoting the two underlying concepts were underscored at the convention. In his address to the participants, Obbo Jawar Mohammed elaborated on the phases that the Oromo national struggle has so far gone through, and the remaining phases that need to be completed. Obbo Jawar broke down the four phases as revival, reconstruction, institutionalization, and empowerment. Revival and reconstruction in most cases being the two phases that followed the subjugation of the Oromos by the Abyssinian rule, and were more of the restoration of the Oromo self, identity, cultural and psychological makeup that were damaged as the result of all the socio-cultural, historical and political destructions. But, Obbo Jawar’s focus was on the institutionalization and empowerment of the Oromos as individuals, as a society, and as a nation, both of which were described by Obbo Jawar as the responsibilities of the Oromo youth in particular.
- Obbo Jawar Mohammed
Obbo Mohammed Ademo, who addressed the participants over the telephone, brought up the idea of launching Oromo independent media and briefly talked about its significance by relating it to the current time of the Information Era. Obbo Jawar further elaborated on this project of launching Oromo’s own independent media, which is already underway. The Oromos at the convention, who applauded and welcomed the idea, started pledging financial supports right away.
The “I AM OROMO, FIRST” world tour, which made its tenth stop at Toronto, is expected to continue and take place in the same way in other parts of the world where there are Oromo communities.
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The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) has reported that hundreds of thousands of refugees in Libya, most of whom were from the Horn of African countries such as Sudan, Ethiopian and Eritrea, are in a very dangerous situation after they were evicted from their original refugee camps in Benghazi, Libya where they stayed for the past three years. The eviction took place following the infiltration and assault of the refugees by who were described as workers of the Libyan Red Crescent on the 15th of September, 2013. According to the report by HRLHA, the assault included stabbings by knifes. Those who broke out of the shelters to run away from the assaults were met with armed forces that were stationed around the camps prior to the starting of the assault. Then, the refugees were forced out of the camp on allegations that they attempted to instigate disturbances in the city, and taken to a remote area known as Alshatti.
According to HRLH, about 500 refugees are now held in what was known to be a private detention centre in Alshatti with no adequate supply of basic necessities. HRLHA has also reported that the very adverse weather condition in Alshatti has worsened the situation to the refugees. Even two expecting women who delivered after arriving in Alshatti and their newly born infants were not treated differently, according to HRLHA. The fact that the refugees are now held in isolation where they are not visited by international agencies like the UN High Commission for Refugees and the ICRC, as they used to when they were sheltered in Benghazi, added to the very unfriendly living condition has raised their frustrations. The refugees who were contacted by HRLHA also mention that there have been detachments and disconnections among refugees who had acquaintances and/or relationships with each other. Most of the refugees who were taken to Alshatti are originally from Ethiopia and Eritrea, HRLHA added.
HRLHA has expressed its concerns regarding the safety and future fates of those refugees in such an isolated and disconnected socio-political environment; and therefore, has called up on the Libyan Government to first of all ensure the safety and well being of the refugees by providing full protection against any kind of attacks from any side or angle.
- The march to the river for cleansing
Oromos in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and other cities in Ontario and other parts of Canada warmly celebrated this year’s Irrecha Holiday yesterday, August 31, 2013 in the suburb of Whitby, a typical countryside environment that closely resembled that of Oromia. The 2013 Irrecha of Toronto has also attracted some Oromos from cities like Washington D.C and New York, from across the border in USA. There were also visitors from Germany.
As usual, this year’s Irrecha celebration in Toronto included ceremonies such as dhibaayyuu or sacrifice, cleansing or cuphaa, hulluuqqoo and darraa-gubaa or firework. Irrechaa, which is often described by anthropologists as “The Channel to God”, in all its senses is equivalent of what the Westerners call and celebrate as “Thanks Giving”. Particularly the “Dhibayyuu” part of the Irrecha ceremony is the part that signifies the saying “Thank you” to God aspect of the Holiday. Oromos of all religions, ages and gender join each other in celebrating Irrecha. Some video clips on this year’s Irrecha in GTA could be watched at: http://youtu.be/s1h7SqVOiE0, http://youtu.be/Dhu4cOxYKRA, http://youtu.be/_Q98Xw-SrDo
- The components of "dhibaayyuu": cuukkoo, buna-qalaa and itittuu/aannan
- Firewood displayed for sale at a rural marketplace in countryside Ethiopia
A year after the death of former Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi, hopes for change in the African country remain bleak, including for local aid groups struggling to cope with a wide range of restrictions over their work. The Ethiopian government passed in 2009 a law that restricted NGO fundraising activities and operations, and imposed stricter requirements for registration, like asking charities and civil society organizations to secure a letter of recommendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Four years later and with the dictator out of the picture, the law remains a burden to aid groups, whose numbers have decreased since. Prior to 2009, there were reportedly some 3,822 registered civil society organizations in Ethiopia, but today there are no more than 1,500, according to a local aid official. In fact, the official told Devex the situation for NGOs has “worsened” under the current regime.
A year later, sources inside the country note the government of current Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has failed to make it easier for these organizations to do their job. “The majority of Ethiopian local NGOs are in depression” due to limited funds and registration difficulties, noted the official. Many groups depend heavily on a small pool of foreign donors. And the Charities and Societies Agency, created in 2009 to regulate CSO activities, implements according to this source “double standards” during registration, being more welcoming to NGOs that support the ruling party. “Some optimists hoped that with new leadership the Ethiopian government would change track and carry out human rights reforms, including amending the abusive CSO and anti-terrorism laws,” Laetitia Bader, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Devex. “Disappointingly, instead we see much the same patterns on the human rights front — including large scale arrests of peaceful protestors and prosecution of dissenting voices.”
But what seemed to particularly upset the local official is that donors do not seem to be helping to ease these restrictions on CSOs. For instance, the official finds British support to build the capacity of the CSA as helping the government weaken the CSO sector: “DFID [is] repeatedly helping the Agency while civil society [is] in crisis.” The U.K. Department for International Development has a program whose aims include improving the dialogue between the government and civil society sector, and bridging the gap between the two. The program began in 2010, a year after the NGO law was passed, and eventually included capacity building for CSA to meet the program’s objective.
But an annual review of the program concluded in November 2012 noted: “CSO perception of a conducive political and legal environment is not improving; the Agency database is neither publicly accessible nor currently up to date; federal-regional cooperation is not moving forward (to our knowledge); Agency understanding of the civil society sector is not improving (partly due to high staff turnover); and the guidelines and regulations have only received a very minor amendment due to pressure from CSOs and DPs.”
This is not the first time that DfID has been subject to criticism over its work in Ethiopia. The agency made headlines last year following its alleged plans to use part of its foreign aid budget for Ethiopia to train a police force accused of committing human rights abuses. DfID has dismissed the issue. Bader said: “We are concerned about any approach to the CSO law that is based on negotiating individual exemptions or waivers. This just allows the government to cherry-pick agencies, which completely undermines freedom of association. The law violates Ethiopia’s constitution and international human rights standards and needs to be amended; without fundamental changes it will be impossible to achieve a significant improvement in the working environment for NGOs.” Michael Shiferaw, communications officer for the Civil Society Support Program, which is managed by the British Council in Ethiopia and is also receiving some criticism, noted they are aware of these concerns, sometimes perhaps due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication. “We try to bridge the gap between what the agency does and what CSOs in general are doing by finding a common ground,” he told Devex. These realities are not helping address the country’s multiple problems, such as unemployment, high cost of living and corruption.
While the current regime may be trying to reach that by trying to improve infrastructure, many see this dream as far-fetched. “It looks like an illusion … still we are in agrarian society and majority of rural areas are food insecure … When [I] go to rural Ethiopia, I consider myself as if we are living in inhuman way of life,” explained the official. “For example, I was born from farmers family [and they are still] depending on me. I monthly send [them money]. If I keep quit even for one month, they can’t exist.”
Source: International Development News, www.devex.com
- Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda
Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda, a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience, has died in Ethiopia’s infamous jail of Kaliti. According to a report by the human rights agency Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda, an Oromo national who had been in prison since April, 2007, died on 24th of August, 2013 in Kaliti Penitentiary due to severe and repeated tortures inflicted on him at different detention centers during his imprisonment in the past six years. HRLHA has also reported that denial of medical treatments has highly contributed to Engineer Chamada’s death. Engineer Tasfahun Chemeda was one of the 15 Oromo nationals who were sentenced to life in prison in 2010 by the Ethiopian court simply for holding a political belief different from that of the ruling EPRDF/TPLF party and the government of Ethiopia.
Engeener Tesfahun Chemeda, was handed over to Ethiopian security agents by the Kenyan authorities in April 2007 from Nairobi, Kenya where he was living as a refugee after being granted the (refugee) status from UNHCR. He fled his homeland to escape persecution by the Government of Ethiopia. Although it falls on deaf ears in most cases, such are the reasons why human rights organizations like HRLHA strongly oppose to deportations of refugees back to their countries of origin particularly when their cases involve political issues.
HRLHA in its report has strongly condemned the inhuman treatments and atrocious torture that the Ethiopian Government is inflicting against its own citizens and holds the Government accountable systematically subjecting Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda to death through persistent torture and denial of medical treatment while in prison “… in violation of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Ethiopia has signed and ratified in 1994”.
According to HRLHA, by handing over Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda and other Oromo refugees back to the Ethiopian Government, the Kenya Government is breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary laws, and therefore shares accountability in the death of Engineer Chemeda.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has called up on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately conduct an independent investigation into the death of Engineer Tesfahun Chamada, including the roles torture and denial of medical treatment have played in his death, and disclose the findings to the public. It has also demand that those who were found responsible be brought to justice.
URJII publishers would like to extend their condolences to the families and friends of Engineer Tefahun Chemeda while they are mourning his loss as a result of injustice.
Two weeks after handing down a guilty verdict on 24 Oromo youth, all of whom were college and university students, an Ethiopian high court has sentenced 21 of them on the 7th of August, 2013, to three to eight years in prison. The court sentenced the Oromo youth to varying lengths of prison terms after finding them guilty, on July 24, 2913, of collaborating with opposition political organizations, the Oromo Liberation Front in particular, to commit terrorism.
It was three years ago that the Oromo students were picked up from different colleges and universities in the country, one of which was the Arat Killo Natural Science Faculty of Addis Ababa University in the Capital. At the time, it was reported by various media agencies and human rights groups that confrontations between Tigrean students (who were sympathetic to and beneficiaries of the TPLF/EPRDF-led political system that most Ethiopians describe as racist and discriminatory) and the Oromo students led the discriminate apprehension of hundreds of the Oromo students, and not even a single Tigrean student. The reports added that it was the Tigrean students who triggered the campus violence, particularly in the Arat Killo Campus, by first posting derogatory fliers at different locations on the Campus and then engaging in physical confrontations. Then the security forces who were already awaiting around the University campus invaded the compound to make arrests accompanied by beatings.
Most of the 24 Oromo students, who were charged in one file as defendants and/or co-defendants, did not even have acquaintance with each other, let alone collectively committing terrorist crimes, as they were brought together from different universities in the country and met each other in the jail. According to some legal experts, the fact that the charges were mere fabrications aimed at imposing punishments intended for political intimidations has made it difficult for the accused to defend themselves. However, by blatantly acting as a political tool of the ruling party, the court handed down first the guilty verdict, and then the sentencing, on the Oromo nationals without taking into consideration some evidences that the defendants attempted to present to defend themselves against the charges.
Although both the verdict and the sentencing did not come as a surprise, as a lot of similar cases have been seen in the past twenty years, it has enormously added to the accumulation of partiality, injustice and unfairness of the justice system, raising further concerns among the human rights groups, and defenders of justice and equality.
- Part of the scene during the Kofele crackdown
According to reports by some media and human rights groups, twenty seven innocent civilians including five children have been killed, hundreds have been injured and hospitalized, and thousands of others have been taken into custody in two separate incidents in the first week of this month/August. The casualties were all the results of the heavy-handedness of the armed security forces against peaceful protestors who attempted to exercises some of their fundamental rights that are provided for in the country’s constitution and international human rights instruments.
In a clash between armed security forces and Muslim protestors that happened on the 3rd of August, 2013 in the Kofele locality of Arsi Zone in Central Oromia, twenty five civilians, four of whom were children, were shot dead while hundreds of others were injured and taken to hospitals in Asela and Shashamane towns. In another incident on the 8th of August, 2013 (which was the Ed-Al-Fitir Holiday) in the Capital Addis Ababa/Finfinne, an expecting women and a six-year old boy were beaten to death by the police at two different locations while thousands were reportedly taken to different concentration camps around the City after being detained for hours at the national stadium where they were gathered early in the morning for Id-Al-Fitir mass prayer that marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The arrests include two journalists – Mr. Darsemo Sori and Mr. Kalid Mohammed – who have been working for a radio station known as “Radio Bilal”.
Both the media and the human rights groups, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) in particular have reported that similar protests by Muslim communities and clashes with security forces as well as the resultant arrests during this past week in particular have been in different parts of the country. These include Waldiya and Desse towns in Wollo Zone, Northern Ethiopia, the Afar Zone, and Waliso town in Showa Zone, in Illubabor Zone in Western Ethiopia.
Although similar protests have been taking place at different times in the past two years by Muslim worshipers in opposition to the government’s interference in the election of their representatives in the Council of Islamic Affairs and the imprisonment of some of the leaders of the Council, this is the first time that the country witnessed such brutal killings by the armed forces. And this has clearly demonstrated the Ethiopian Government’s violent reaction, despite the constitutional provisions, against peaceful demonstrators not only to extra judicially punish its citizens who attempted to exercise their fundamental rights but also to intimidate others into silence.
Reports by the Oakland Institute in USA have shown how Western development assistance is supporting forced evictions and massive violations of human rights in Ethiopia. Below is the details of the reports:
The Ethiopian government’s controversial “villagization” resettlement program to clear vast areas for large-scale land investments is funded largely by international development organizations. The first report, Development Aid to Ethiopia, establishes direct links between development aid–an average $3.5 billion a year, equivalent to 50 to 60% of Ethiopia’s national budget–and industrial projects that violate the human rights of people in the way of their implementation.
The report also shows how indirect support in the form of funding for infrastructure, such as dams for irrigation and electricity for planned plantations, plays a role in repressing local communities by making the projects viable.
Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of US development aid in Africa, receiving an average of $800 million annually–even though the US State Department is well aware of widespread repression and civil rights violations. A strategically located military partner seen as a leader in the “African Renaissance,” Ethiopia is gently described as having a “democratic deficit” by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Yet this phrase does not begin to describe or justify the kind of routine violence and coercion taking place on the ground and documented in the Oakland Institute’s new report, Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley.
The massive resettlement of 260,000 people of many different ethnic groups in the Lower Omo Valley has been fraught with controversy and has set off an alarm among international human rights groups. Information around forced evictions, beatings, killings, rapes, imprisonment, intimidation and political coercion, has been shared, and these tactics have been documented as tools used in the resettlement process.
In response to allegations, DFID and USAID launched a joint investigation in January of 2012. After completing their visit, they came to the puzzling conclusion that allegations of human rights abuses were “unsubstantiated.” The contents of this new report, which include first-person accounts via transcripts of interviews that took place during the aid investigations last year, overwhelmingly contradict that finding and question the integrity of the inquiry.
The interviews paint a very different story from what DFID and USAID reportedly saw and witnessed, and for the first time are made available to the public here.
“[The soldiers] went all over the place, and they took the wives of the Bodi and raped them, raped them, raped them, raped them. Then they came and they raped our wives, here,” said one Mursi man interviewed during the investigation. Another man added: “the Ethiopian government is saying they are going to collect us all and put us in a resettlement site in the forest. We are going to have to stay there. What are the cattle going to eat there? They are our cattle, which we live from. They are our ancestor’s cattle, which we live from. If we stay out there in the forest, what are they going to eat?”
It is worrisome that aid agencies rubber stamp development projects that are violating human rights. Worse, they have chosen to ignore the results of their own investigations.
“Bottom line, our research shows unequivocally that current violent and controversial forced resettlement programs of mostly minority groups in Ethiopia have US and UK aid fingerprints all over them,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “It’s up to the officials involved to swiftly reexamine their role and determine how to better monitor funding if they are indeed not in favor of violence and repression as suitable relocation techniques for the development industry,” she continued.
The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank working to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues. Starting 2011, the Institute has unveiled land investment deals in Africa that reveal a disturbing pattern of a lack of transparency, fairness, and accountability. The dynamic relationship between research, advocacy, and international media coverage has resulted in a string of successes and organizing in the US and abroad.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has reported that three innocent civilians have been killed and two others wounded in eastern Oromia’s Regional State, in Ethiopia in a violence that involved the Federal Government’s special force known as LIYYU POLICE. According to HRLHA’s report, the three dead victims of this most recent attack by the federal Liyyu Police/Special Police that took place in the early morning of July 7, 2013 in the Gaara-Wallo area in Qumbi District of Eastern Hararge Province in Eastern Ethiopia were:
- Mr. Ibrahim Henno, 38,
- Mr. Mahammed Musa, 26
- Mr. Mohammed Yusuf , 27
The two wounded victims of this same violent action were Mr. Nuredin Ismael (age 25) and Mr. Ali Mohammed (age 27). HRLHA has confirmed that both Mr. Nuredin and Mr. Ali have since been being treated at the Hiwot Fana Hospital in the city of Harar. More shocking, according to HRLHA, was that the bodies of the three dead victims were eaten by hyenas, because there was nobody around to pick and burry; as the whole village was deserted when the villagers were forced by the armed federal forces to leave the area. According to HRLHA correspondents and other sources, the forced eviction has been taking place in the name of alleged border dispute between the two neighbouring states of Oromia and Ogaden; although the Ogadenis have reiterated that they have not made a land claim along the border. The victims claim that the forced displacements, that have been going on for over six months, were always accompanied by dispossessions, lootings, and confiscations of properties.
In its URGENT ACTION that it issued regarding violent action by government armed forces, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has urged the Ethiopian Federal Government and the Regional Government of Oromia to discharge their responsibilities of ensuring the safety and stability of citizens by taking immediate actions of interference to bring the violence to end, and facilitate the return of the displaced Oromos back to their homes. It has also called upon all local, regional and international diplomatic and human rights organizations to impose necessary pressures on both the federal and regional governments so that they refrain from committing irresponsible actions against their own citizens for the purpose of political gains.