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Friday April 25th 2014

‘OROOMIFFA’ Archive

A Large-Scale Attack against Refugees in Kenya

(URJII ONLINE)

The Kenyan police and security agents have arbitrarily arrested and detained around 6000 refugees who are originally from neighbourning Horn of African countries; and have continued hunting for more, reported HRLHA reporter in Nairobi, Kenya on April 13, 2014.

This indiscriminate action against all immigrants who have been in the country began on Friday April 2, 2014; and has mainly targeted the immigrants living in Eastleigh District of Nairobi, a neighbourhood largely dominated by Somalis and Oromo immigrants and is often referred to as district of immigrants.  More than 400 Oromos and other Ethiopian immigrants have been arrested in these crackdowns. The crackdowns against immigrants by Kenyan Police and security began is said to been in response to the three bomb blasts in Eastleigh/ Nairobi and Mombasa in late March 2014, which killed about 12 people and injured 8 others. According to HRLHA’s informant, more than two thousand asylum seekers and refugees have been detained in the Kasarani football stadium in the Capital, a location described as a temporary police station, while some are being held at the Pangani police station.

Among hundredths of Ethiopian Oromos arrested in Nairobi, HRLHA has managed to obtain the following names:

No Name No Name Status
1 Abdi Mohammed Ahamed 26 Arif   Amin  Abdallaa Asylum Seeker
2 Suleyman Nuure Mohammed 27 Ismail  Iliyas  Kamaal Asylum Seeker
3 Ibsaa Safuan Mohammed Najash 28 Arif  Abdulwad  Abdalle Asylum Seekrd
4 Rudwan Abubakar Ali 29 Ibsaa Jemal Mohammed Asylum Seeker
5 Iliyas Kamal Usma’il 30 Fariya Mohammed Asylum Seeker
6 Abdisaa Mohammed Kalif 31 Mommed Nasir  Yusuf Asylum Seeker
7 Jemaal Sani Mohammed 32 Mommed Nasir  Yusuf Asylum Seeker
8 Anwar Muktar Ahamed 33 Ilillii   Abrahim Asylum Seeker
9 Nabil Abdulaxif 34 Sa’ada  Aqil Asylum Seeker
10 Tumsaa Robaa Qaxxisoo UN.mndt file NETH033036/1 35 Abdoo Nahawi Asylum Seeker
11 Imane Ahamed Yusuf UN file #NETH038280 36 Rihanaa Mohammed Mussaa Asylum Seeker
12 Jbny Najib Abubakar 37 Mistar Jamaal Asylum Seeker
13 Roba  Yusuf Abdalle 38 Guuled  Sheka Asylum Seeker
14 Adam Roba 39 Ifa Abdulahi Hassan file No.NETH035846/1
15 Mohammed  Osman Roba 40 Mahadi  Idiris Asylum Seeker
16 Fuad Aliyi Mumme 41 Azizaa Asylum Seeker
17 Nasri Ibrahim Jibro 42 Yusuf Yahya Ahamed/Somli

Asylum Seeker18Faami Sharif Ali 43Abdi Abduraman KabirAsylum Seeker19

Jemal  Abdo Osman

 

44Zakariya Mohammed OumerAsylum Seeker20Gatiso  Phetroos Eroke 45Yassin Ahamed/OromoAsylum Seeker21Sani   Ahamed  Yusuf 46Haaji Shariif AliAsylum Seeker22Xeha   Mohammed 47Abdusamad AmeWith Family23Ashrafuu  Ali Mussaa 48Mubina AbdusamadWith Family24Mohammed  Osman Mussaa 49Caaltuu AbdusamadWith Family25Zanabe  Hobe  Negiso

 

 

The HRLHA has also learnt that the Kenyan police and security forces are extorting valuable materials and also committing physical and mental abuses during the arrests. Besides, the Kenyan authorities have disclosed to different media agents that they are intending to deport all UNHCR unregistered asylum seekers; and have already deported 82 Somali refugees based on a pretext that they entered into Kenya without legal document.

The HRLHA would like to reiterate that deportations of regugees to their countries of origin against their wills is in breach of  Kenyan and international laws.  In case those Ethiopian-Oromo and other refugees have been deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and sentences them to up to life in prison, and often impose death penalty. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other unofficial or secret detention centres. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Kenya is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly. By deporting the four refugees and others, the Kenyan Government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.

Kenya: Arrest and Disappearance of Ethiopian Oromo Refugees

(URJII ONLINE)

Usual as it has been in the past twenty or so years, four Oromo refugees have been arrested or kidnapped in Nairobi, Kenya on the first of this month of February, 2014, and taken to an unknown destination. Below is an URGENT ACTION issued by the HRLHA regarding the current situation around the lives and whereabouts of the four Oromos who have been taken away by Kenyan Security agents:

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) expresses its deep concern regarding the safety of four Oromo refugees from Ethiopia who were arbitrarily arrested by Kenyan anti-terrorist squad from Isili  area in Nairobi  on different dates of operations  and taken to unknown destinations.

               According to information obtained through HRLHA correspondent in Nairobi, Mr. Tumsa Roba Katiso, (UNHCR attestation File#: NETH033036/1) was arrested by members of Kenyan anti-terrorist squad, who arrived at the scene in two vehicles, on February 1, 2014 at around 10:00 AM from 2nd Street in the Isili locality in Nairobi on his way home from shopping. The other three refugees, Mr. Chala Abdalla, Mr. Namme Abdalla, and the third person whose name is not known yet were picked up from their home which is located in the same Isli area in Nairobi, Kenya on February 3, 2014 by members of the same anti-terrorist squad of Kenyan. The whereabouts of those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees is unknown until the time of compilation of this urgent action.

The HRLHA is highly suspicious that those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees might have been deported to Ethiopia. And, in case those Ethiopian-Oromo refugees have been deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and sentences them to up to life in prison, and often impose death penalty. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other unofficial or secret detention centres. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Kenya is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly. By deporting the four refugees and others, the Kenyan Government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.

  1. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) to which Kenya acceded in 1997, Kenya has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:

    No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. We strongly urge the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations it has signed

Background Information:

The Kenyan Government is well known for handing over refugees to the Ethiopian Government by violating the above mentioned international obligations. It is very disheartening to recall that Engneer Tesfahun Chemeda, who died on August 24, 2013 in Ethiopia’s grand jail of Kaliti due to torture that was inflicted on him in that jail, was handed over to the Ethiopian Government Security Agents in 2007 by the Kenyan Government.

               Tesfahun Chemeda was arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces, along with his close friend called Mesfin Abebe, in 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, where both were living as refugees since 2005; and later deported to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government detained them in an underground jail in a military camp for over one year, during which time they were subjected to severe torture and other types of inhuman treatments until when they were taken to court and changed with terrorism offences in December 2008. They were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010.  (Mesfin’s death sentence was later commuted.)

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and security of the above listed refugees who were recently arrested by the Kenyan anti-terrorist forces; and for those who are still living in Kenya. It urges the government of Kenya to respect the international treaties and obligations, and unconditionally release the arrested refugees, and refrain from handing over to the government of Ethiopia where they would definitely face torture and maximum punishments. It also urges all human rights agencies (local, regional and international) to join the HRLHA and condemn these illegal and inhuman acts of the Kenyan Government against defenseless refugees. HRLHA requests the governments of the Western countries as well as international organizations to interfere in this matter so that the safety and security of the arrested refugees and those refugees currently staying in Kenya could be ensured.



The 2013-Irrecha – Oromo Thanks-Giving in Toronto

(URJII ONLINE)

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/Dhu4cOxYKRAhttp://youtu.be/_Q98Xw-SrDo

The components of "dhibaayyuu": cuukkoo, buna-qalaa and itittuu/aannan

NGOs in Ethiopia Still Struggling with Multiple Restrictions

(URJII ONLINE)

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

Accountability for the Death of a Political Prisoner in Ethiopia’s Jail

(URJII ONLINE)

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.

Extreme Brutalities against Civilians in Ethiopia

(URJII ONLINE)

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.

“Fingerprints of International Aid on Forced Relocation, Repression, and Human Rights Abuse in Ethiopia”

(Urjii Online)

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 Continuing of Deaths and Displacements in Eastern Oromia

(URJII ONLINE)

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:

  1. Mr. Ibrahim Henno, 38,
  2. Mr. Mahammed Musa, 26
  3. 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.

Sudan -Asylum Seekers are Entitled to Protection, Not Detention,

URJII,  March 19,  2012

 Fear of Torture and Deportation
HRLHA Appeal and Urgent Action

His Excellency Lieutenant General Omar Hasan Al-Bashir president of the Republic Sudan,

President’s Palace, PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: (00 249) 11 771651, (00 249) 11 787676, (00 249) 11 783223
SUDAN
Dear Honorable President,
First of all, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its appreciation to the people of the Republic of Sudan and to its government for their hospitality and kindness over so many years towards thousands of refugees who have fled their homes to escape government persecutions in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other neighboring countries at different times and now living in Sudan.
However, what has been happening to refugee seekers in Sudan over the past two Months is contrary to the good tradition of the Government of the Republic of Sudan towards the asylum seekers for many decades. According to information obtained by HRLHA through its informants in Khartoum, Sudan, the refugee seekers in the country, most of who are from Ethiopia have been subjected to different kinds of harassments, intimidations and detention.
According the report HRLHA received from its informants a number of Oromo national from Ethiopia have been (and are being) indiscriminately hunted and arbitrary arrested in the capital, Khartoum, in ma’imura detention center on Feb 15, 2012 in violation of Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 14 (1) “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” which guarantee the asylum seekers to enjoy freedom and protection in the country they are looking for an asylum.
The HRLHA informants managed to get the following fifteen among many asylum seekers believed arrested by the Sudan Security forces at different places and time from their temporary shelter on Feb 15, 2012..
Kadir Martu, an Oromo artist who was severely beaten and tortured in Ethiopia prison for his songs in which he criticizes the TPLF/EPRDF Government for its discrimination against Oromo, Jaba Morkata, Amin Ahmed, Amin Haji, Muzayan Sidiqo, Seyifu Hussen, Sa’ada Shube (female), Rukiya (female), Rabiya Aman (female), Muhamed Galato, Muhamed Hassen, Seifadin Hassen, Shukriya Hussen (female), Hussen Majid and Abdusalam Kassa Erbu.

Artist Kadir Ka Mertu

The HRLHA is highly suspicious that there might be a plan to deport those refugees to Ethiopia; In case those Ethiopian refugees would be deported, the Ethiopian Government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons.
There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian prisons and other secret places of detention. Under Article 33 (1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (189 U.N.T.S. 150), to which Sudan is a party, “[n]o contracting state shall expel or forcibly return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his . . . political opinion.” This obligation, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly by deporting the detailed asylum seekers and others, the Sudanese government will be breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary law.
1. Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185) to which Sudan acceded in 2002, Sudan has an obligation not to return a person to a place where they face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides:

No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights. We strongly urge the Government of Sudan to respect the international treaties and obligations it has signed..
RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send appeals to the Republic of Sudan Government officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Arabic, or your own language using the above contact addresses
 Urging the Republic of Sudan Government set free the detainees without any pre condition ,
 Your Concerns at the apprehension and fear of Torture if they return to their home country
 Urging the authorities of Republic of Sudan to ensure that these asylum seekers and refugees are protected depending on the 1951 refugee convention.

This appeal and Urgent action is copied to:

• UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
(particularly for urgent matters) E-mail: tb-petitions@ohchr.org This e-mail address is
being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it,

 UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Suisse.
+41 22 739 8111 (automatic switchboard).

• International Committee of the Red Cross
19 Avenue de la paix CH 1202 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 734 60 01
Fax: +41 22 733 20 57
E-mail webmaster@icrc.org>
• African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia.
Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23 Fax: (220) 4390 764
E-mail: achpr@achpr.org
• U.S. Department of State
Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Email;-TOfcansky@aol.com>Washington, D.C. 20037
Tel: +1-202-261-8009
Fax: +1-202-261-8197
• Amnesty International – London
Tom Gibson
Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Email;- TGibson@amnesty.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots.
You need JavaScript enabled to view it
• Human Rights Watch – New York,
Leslie Lefkow
lefkowl@hrw.org;

Dictatorship and its Evolution: Contrasting Burma with Ethiopia



By Messay Kebede: 

Since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of the opposition to the military rule, Burma’s (Myanmar) political evolution has become an important discussion topic for political observers and analysts. Detecting a promising shift toward democratic opening, Hillary Clinton recently visited Burma and held talks with political leaders. The hope is that, after decades of a dictatorial military rule and deferred promises of democratization, Burma is finally engaging in the serious path of political reforms and transition to democratic government. On the other hand, Ethiopia, which had a fleeting experiment with free and fair elections in 2005, is going through the reverse process of a repressive and dictatorial government whose notable outcome was the holding of an election in 2010 that was anything but fair and free and resulted in the regime claiming 99.66 % of parliamentary seats. The purpose of my analysis is to compare the two countries with the hope of clarifying the reasons why they took divergent political paths and assessing the implications of Ethiopia’s democratic retreat, together with the political options offered to opposition forces as well as to the ruling party.

Many Similitudes

Lest of being accused of comparing oranges with apples, I must begin by showing that the two countries are indeed comparable. Notably, one immediate and weighty counterargument would be to say that the Ethiopian regime has all the characteristics of a civilian government while that of Burma is a military rule, itself the result of a coup in 1958 against the then legitimate civilian government. I grant the difference but also remind that, while open military regimes indeed materialize the hegemony of military elites in the form of a direct or indirect rule––the latter often done through the conversion of military rulers to civilian politicians––there is an intermediate form in which the military elite forms a tight coalition with a ruling civilian elite. My contention is that the latter applies to Ethiopia, there being no doubt that both the history of the TPLF as a guerrilla organization and the privileged treatment that the Meles’s government accords to the military produce a de facto alliance between the civilian leadership and the repressive apparatus of the regime. Since the regime has lost any legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Ethiopians, the use of military and police forces alone ensures its survival.

There is more to the matter than the above similarity. Though belonging to different continents and histories, Ethiopia and Burma share many striking similarities. To begin with, not only in a way similar to Burma Ethiopia was subjected to a repressive military rule for an extended period subsequent to a coup that overthrew a civilian government, but also the military rule in both countries was coupled with the implementation of a socialist policy. Just as the Derg traded its initial nationalist platform for a socialist agenda, so too the military junta that ruled Burma announced in 1974 the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

As a result, both countries suffer from a legacy of economic mismanagement imparted by the nationalization of the means of production and the subsequent spread of corruption and lack of accountability. What is more, after the disavowal of socialism, a skewed policy of privatization of state-owned enterprises has led in both countries to the formation of conglomerates owned by ramifications of the ruling parties or their closest cronies. Just as in Ethiopia privatization meant the corrupt practices of passing ownership to extended organs of the TPLF, in Burma, too, denationalization changed state property into the private property of generals or their cronies. Unsurprisingly, the prevention of a healthy and open competition and the drainage of the financial resources by the monopolistic and corrupt practices of the conglomerates failed to improve economic outputs so that real economic progress has remained elusive in both countries.

Another noticeable similitude is that both countries have suffered and still suffer from ethnic quarrels and insurgencies. Like Burma, Ethiopia is an ethnically diverse country with a history of armed insurgencies fuelled by a longstanding grudge against a dominant ethnic group. In Burma, ethnic groups have complained about the dominance of Burmans, who constitute 60% of the population, and the policy of Burmanization that resulted in minority groups being economically and culturally marginalized. We know that the source of ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia is the complaint about the dominance of the Amhara and the policy of Amharization. In the face of ethnic insurgencies, the central state in both countries has assumed the responsibility of defending national unity through the formation of a strong military force.

In terms of ethnic conflicts and their outcomes, there are, however, notable differences. Contrary to Burma, the Amhara dominance was not the hegemony of a majority, since the Oromo ethnic group can claim to be as populous (if not more) as the Amhara, not to mention that today’s dominance of a Tigrean group has plunged Ethiopia into the uncharted course of the ascendency of a minority group. Above all, the military in Burma were able to contain ethnic insurgencies, whereas armed insurgent groups defeated and destroyed the Ethiopian army. The clear outcome of this was that in Ethiopia the military junta lost power and was replaced by a guerrilla elite while Eritrea became independent. But as stated earlier, some such difference does not remove the fact that the TPLF’s rule is the result of one military force replacing another military force.

Most characteristically, the existing regimes in Burma and Ethiopia are similar in the way they react to electoral defeats. Both like to brag about the opening of the political field, which however they are quick to repudiate at the slightest challenge. Thus, in 1990 the military regime in Burma announced the holding of the long promised free election whose outcome was that the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory. The reaction of the military leaders was typical: they refused to hand over power to the victorious party and put Suu Kyi and other leaders under house arrest.

Restarting the opening process, Burma’s military rulers announced in 2003 a seven-step roadmap to democracy that would culminate in the holding of free elections. The promised elections were held in 2010, but which were far from being free and fair since, in addition to the electoral process being marred with widespread frauds and irregularities, the National League for Democracy was banned from participating and its leader still under house arrest. Even so, the ruling junta announced a complete victory by stating that the party representing it, the Union
Solidarity and Development Party, had won 80% of the votes.

We remember a similar scenario in Ethiopia. The relatively free and fair election held in 2005 resulted in the opposition gaining a substantial victory. The reaction of the TPLF was the rejection of the results, the imprisonment of the main leaders of the opposition, and the violent crackdown on protesters. A blatant intensification of repression followed, even as the holding of free elections in 2010 was reaffirmed. The promised elections were held amidst intimidation, repression, and restrictive rules. The ruling party unashamedly claimed to have won 99.66 % of parliamentary seats even if opposition parties and external observers spoke of votes being rigged and voters and candidates being intimidated and harassed.

It should be noted that the upgrading of repressive policy had comparable effects on the opposition forces. In both countries, opposition groups have failed to either force the existing ruling elites into dialogue or ease in any way the repressive policy. This failure has led to fragmentations over the right approach, some opposition groups turning more and more to armed struggles while others prefer to rely on the likelihood of a popular uprising. Thus, powerlessness has resulted in the split within the National League for Democracy, some groups having decided not to boycott the elections and work with the ruling party. Though Ethiopian opposition groups present a different aspect, still the inability to force change on the regime has caused splits and strategic reassessments.

Main Differences

As concerns differences, a notable factor appears in the relations of both countries with the West. Since 1996, Burma is under international sanctions organized by Western countries, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Such is not the case with Ethiopia, since despite widespread violations of human rights, Western governments have been reluctant to economically punish the Woyanne regime, mainly because the regime is considered as an ally in the fight against terrorism and appears as the only stable state in a highly volatile region. However, the difference is somewhat decreased when we note that the international sanctions against the Burmese regime are far from being efficient, given that the sanctions were not strictly enforced and that the two neighboring countries, namely, China and India as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, proved reluctant to support Burma’s economic and political isolation.

Where the difference becomes major is that the military regime in Burma, admitting its undemocratic nature, proposed in 2003 a roadmap that traces out a step-by-step progression to democratic government, which, it is true, many observers found painstakingly slow and unreliable. By contrast, the Woyanne regime has never been sincere enough to recognize its lack in democratic credentials, and so never offered any transitional arrangement on the grounds that Ethiopia is provided with a blossoming democracy since the overthrow of the Derg and the capture of state power by the TPLF. Some such attitude allows the holding of a bizarre discourse in which the regime interprets its crackdown on political dissents, not as an opposition to democracy, but as the defense of the democratic order against nondemocratic forces.

From the above disparity follows the Ethiopian regime’s constant game of deception, which blocks the need for a transitional process and whose consequence is the establishment of a political deadlock cornering many Ethiopians into rejecting the idea of evolution of the regime, thereby giving them no other choice than passivity or the resource to violent methods. Needless to say, to the extent that the impasse deprecates nonviolent opposition, it promises nothing but uncertain outcomes for Ethiopia as well as for those who control power.

Burma’s Incentives for Change

To understand why Burma engaged into a transitional process, it is necessary that we delve into the reasons why the military junta thought that gradual democratization is the best option for all. I have already indicated that the decision to open the political competition was not caused by the pressure of opposition forces. Then, what could impel a well-established dictatorship to open a political system that so durably and efficiently defended its hegemony? It must be said here that analysts differ in their explanation of the change of political direction.
Many observers maintain that the planned democratization is simply a fake promise designed to perpetuate military rule under civilian disguises. Others, however, are more cautious, arguing that there are some compelling reasons for democratization, however slow and unsteady the process may be. For such commentators, economic interests are the driving force behind the timid push for democratization. The first commanding point is the geographical situation of Burma, notably that it is part of a region that is going through an unprecedented economic boom. The realization that Burma, far from participating in the boom, is falling behind is incentive enough for the military to think about change.

The awakening includes the recognition that the dictatorial system in place stifles free and fair competition and encourages corruption and embezzlement, and so stands in the way of economic improvement. A dynamic market economy requires that the political apparatus be unlocked so that excluded and educated people inject their expertise, their dream of prosperity, and their social ambition into the economic system. In other words, political opening became appealing to the ruling junta in Burma, not because of internal threats to the dictatorial system, but because of the understanding that economic progress is conditional on political reforms.

A related incentive to political change toward democratization is the need to lift the economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and international financial institutions. What this means is that, once the military junta had decided to engage the country in the path of economic development, the lifting of international sanctions through slow but palpable political changes became an integral part of the new direction of the country.

Political opening became all the more attractive because of the involvement of many army generals in the sector of private business following the privatization of state-owned enterprises. The corrupt practice of privatization, which favored senior officers, had the unintended consequences of creating a business-military group with some leaning for a healthy private economy. This group of generals, retired or not, was likely to use its influence and power to bring about those changes necessary to accelerate the pace of personal enrichment. Stated otherwise, the fact that many generals privately owned businesses encouraged the gradual shift of their interests from political power to the management of their businesses.

One other reason for political overture advanced by some observers is the development of a generational conflict within the military. As the senior officers who established the dictatorial system became old, younger officers aspired to replace them. The best way to avoid generational conflicts that would undermine the unity of the armed forces is to transit to a civilian government, while protecting the interests of the military as well as of the old and retiring guard. A civilian government friendly to the military could be established if the military initiate and control the democratization process. Since the people owe democratization to the military, they would express their gratitude and their recognition of the military as the protector of democracy by favoring the party representing military interests.

Meles’s Kryptonite

Insofar as the Burmese evolution is triggered by the understanding that the establishment of a free market economy cannot come about without political reforms, it provides an important lesson for Ethiopia’s ruling clique. Meles’s government survival depends on its ability to control the repressive forces of the state. This ability, in turn, depends on Meles’s success in keeping the repressive forces materially satisfied and using them in a moderate way, given that an excessive recourse to the violent means of the state to suppress recurring riots caused by economic crises would be troubling to them. These two conditions point to nothing else but the need to realize a steady economic growth in the country. Meles understands this quite well, as evidenced by his flirtation with the idea of developmental state. To quote Addis Fortune, “having rejected democracy, the Revolutionary Democrats only have their ability to deliver economic growth as their source of legitimacy.”

Meles’s dream to bring about a developmental state must confront one undeniable fact: neither the pursuit of one’s interests nor the gratitude and the loyalty or fear of clients, still less moral exhortations, can nurture a sustained achieving drive, alone able to launch Ethiopia in a real path of economic development. A sustained productive appetite requires the challenge of a social system rejecting the ascriptive protection of clients, cronies, and ethnic associates, that is, it demands the exposure of the business community to the constant challenge of a competitive market. And since economic progress is necessary to remove the threat of popular uprisings, it springs to mind that political reforms should be an essential component of the survival strategy of the Woyanne regime.

My guess is that Meles dismisses the idea of political opening because he has in mind the Chinese model of economic growth without democratic opening. Yet, he should realize that the Chinese model is off the table for Ethiopia. To start with, Ethiopia is saddled with conflicts of all kinds, especially with ethnic rivalries, mostly nurtured by the TPLF itself. The proliferation of competing elites representing various ethnic groups places Ethiopia far away from the homogeneous nature of the Chinese elite. One of the consequences of the Maoist class war has been the elimination of elite diversity in favor of a uniformized leadership structure. Such is not the case in Ethiopia where elites have tended to disperse around competing interests, made particularly exclusive by identity politics. Witness even the EPRDF is a coalition of diverse ethnic groups, and so has nothing to do with the monolithic character of Chinese political elite fashioned by decades of ideological uniformity, Spartan alignment, and an internalized sense of hierarchical discipline.

Nothing that resembles even remotely the Chinese uniformization characterizes the formation of modern elites in Ethiopia. The Chinese characteristic of the political class, the military elite, and the bureaucracy being for decades under the control of a disciplined, united, and omnipresent political party is to be found nowhere in Ethiopia. Again, take the EPRDF. In addition to being an alliance of disparate groups, the main uniting force of the political front, namely, the TPLF, assuming that it has been somewhat disciplined, fragmented in 2001. The split and its subsequent developments opened the door to an influx of arrivistes, yes-men, and opportunists of all varieties. The consequence was that recruitments into the political, economic, and bureaucratic elites were based more on loyalty to Meles and his close associates than on ideological commitment and competence. All these people associated with the ruling clan for the unique purpose of personal enrichment through political protection and illicit means. It is therefore a divagation to assume that economic progress can be achieved with so many corrupt, incompetent, and self-serving people infecting the entire political and economic apparatuses.

The Transitional Process

However compelling the need for political opening has become to accelerate Burma’s economic progress and the very interests of the Burmese military, it must not be made to seem that the military are ready to hand over power to an elected body. As already indicated, the democratization process must promote their long-interests, and so must remain under their control for a foreseeable future. How could it be otherwise when we know the corrupt source of their enrichment and the absence of a serious threat to their continued rule? For them, democratization must guarantee, not their marginalization, but their integration into the emerging system and the preservation of their privileged place.

The means to ensure the above result is to place restrictions on the democratization process such that the military still command a political leverage that gives them assurance against political exclusion. In effect, the 2008 Constitution reserves 25 percent of legislative seats and all government posts associated with defense and security to the members of the military. In addition, the Constitution allows autonomy to the military in their own affairs, just as it puts them in charge of the protection of the Constitution, security, and unity of the country.
No mistake about it, the military still have extensive power and the political opening allows anything but a fair and free contest. Nonetheless, compared to the Woyanne regime, it has the advantages of clarity and the avoidance of deception and betrayal of one’s own Constitution, such as it happens to Meles’s government every time it transgresses the promised respect of the democratic rights of all Ethiopians. Above all, the Burmese Constitution has the advantage of promising a gradual democratization while the Woyanne’s attitude of denying rights permitted by the Constitution blocks political evolution, giving Ethiopians no other option than violent uprisings.
Granted that good reasons exist to characterize the transition process set by the military as nothing but a sham, a disguised means to preserve the status quo, the fact remains that other Asian countries have progressed into multiparty systems after decades of military or civilian dictatorships. All these countries have started with slow and incremental reforms whose effect was to create a growing middle class that became interested in supporting deeper economic reforms and political changes.

It is worth noticing here that opposition forces in Burma have evolved toward the acceptance of a transitional phase and abandoned their “full democracy now or nothing” approach by participating in the electoral contest of 2010, despite the many restrictions imposed by the military. Most significantly, after her release, Suu Kyi admitted the need for a transitional phase when she said: “I don’t want to see the military falling. . . . I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism.” Even if we assume that the military want to consolidate their power rather than to support democratization, it is undeniable that the opening of the political system and the participation of opposition forces can lead to gradual change reconciling the interests of the military with those of the nation.

Contrary to what is in gestation in Burma, the Woyanne retractions of democratic rights as a result of election defeat in 2005 creates nothing but a deadlock and a further deterioration of the political and economic life of the country. The only way out is political opening, as shown by the evolution of the Burmese military rulers, who came back to political opening after effecting a similar crackdown on the winning opposition party. The lesson that the Woyanne should learn is that the retraction of democratic rights is a recipe for economic mismanagement and stagnation and hence is not even in line with their own long-term interests.

The initiation of political opening is, moreover, the best way to argue for and make acceptable the setting of some rules to avoid a total loss of power. The deal should be the opening of the political system in exchange for some guarantees against marginalization, which is exactly what the military in Burma have proposed. Everything is possible in due time, and the Woyanne regime should use its hegemony to do what is possible instead of using its power to repress the opposition. The good usage of power is not repression, but the implementation of reforms that have the long-term outcome of integrating its own sectarian interests into the national interests. Since this process of integration is the sure way of avoiding revolutionary uprisings, which sound the end of reformism in favor of the overthrow of the existing regime, my question is: Why wait until things get out of hands with animosity reaches a boiling point even as solutions able to reconcile all interests can be worked out?

Opposition parties as well as the ruling party should know that their goals must be based on what is achievable. To do otherwise is to raise problems that they cannot solve for the simple reason that solvable problems are those that already implicitly contain their solutions. To project goals that do not contain their solutions is to plunge into a destructive utopianism, as illustrated by the mistakes and subsequent demise of the Ethiopian leftist forces after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974. Meles’s government cannot stifle the deep discontent of Ethiopians and the challenge of opposition parties; as things stand now, the latter (I am speaking of those committed to a nonviolent strategy) cannot force the ruling party to play the game of fair and free election. What remains but that which protrudes as reasonable and feasible by default, namely, the path of mutual accommodation.

Source;   http://nazret.com/blog/index.php/2011/12/22/dictatorship-and-its-evolution-contrasting-burma-with-ethiopia?blog=15

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