Ethiopians around the world are organizing protest rallies on June 4, 2012, to help save the historic Waldeba Monastery in northern Ethiopia from being destroyed by the Woyanne junta.
May 31, 2012
What’s yours is mine what’s mine’s my own.
It is a colonial phenomenon, appropriate land for the needs of the colonists and to hell with those living upon the land, indigenous and at home. Might is right, military or indeed economic. The power of the dollar rules supreme in a world built upon the acquisition of the material, the perpetuation of desire and the entrapment of the human spirit.
Africa has for long been the object of western domination, control and usury, under the British, French, and Portuguese of old. Now the ‘new rulers of the World’ large corporations from America, China, Japan, Middle Eastern States, India and Europe, are engaged in extensive land acquisitions in developing countries. The vast majority of available land is in Sub-Saharan Africa where, according to The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues report, ‘The Growing demand for Land, Risks and Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers’ “80 per cent (of worldwide land) –about 2 billion hectares that is potentially available for expanded rain-fed crop production” is thought to be. Huge industrial agricultural centres are being created, off shore farms, producing crops for the investors home market. Indigenous people, subsistence farmers and pastoralists are forced off the land, the natural environment is levelled, purging the land of wildlife and destroying small rural communities, that have lived, worked and cared for the land for centuries. The numbers of people potentially affected by the land grab and its impact on the environment is staggering. The UN in it’s report states “By 2020, an estimated 135 million people may be driven from their land as a result of soil degradation, with 60 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”
This contemporary ‘Land Grab’ has come about as a result of food shortages, the financial meltdown in 2008 and in light of the United Nations world population forecast of 9.2 billion people by 2050, and three main resulting pressures. 1. Food insecure nations – particularly Middle Eastern and Asian countries, seeking to stabilise their food supply. 2. To meet the growing worldwide demand for agro-fuels and thirdly, by the rise in investment in land and soft commodities, such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, corn, wheat, soya and fruit. Often investors are simply speculators seeking to make a fast or indeed slow buck, by ‘Land Banking’, sitting on the asset waiting and watching for the price to inflate, then selling, the Oakland Institute in its report ‘The Great land Grab’ found “along with hedge funds and speculators, some public universities and pension funds are among those in on the land rush, eyeing returns of 20 to as much as 40%”. Land not as home, land as a chip, to be thrown upon the international gambling table of commercialisation.
Chopping trees cutting Costs
As well we know everything and indeed everyone ‘has its price’. Even the people and land of a country, sold into destitution by governments motivated by distorted notions of development, where people, traditional lifestyles and the environment come a distant second to roads, industrialisation and the raping of the land. People too poor to hold on to their dignity, too weak in a world built and run on power and might, to protest and demand justice for themselves and their families and rounded, responsible husbandry for the environment. And the price of land, well as one would expect bargain basement, with 99 year leases the norm and various government incentive packages. In some cases the land is literally being given away, as the Oakland Institute (OI) states in its report ‘The Great land Grab’ “In Mali one investment group was able to secure 1000,000 hectares (ha) of fertile land for a 50 year term for free. Elsewhere “$2.00 a hectare (roughly equal to two Olympic size athletic grounds) is the going rate.” According to The Guardian (21/3/2011) “The lowest prices are in Africa, where, says the World Bank, at least 35 million hectares of land has been bought or leased. Other groups, including, Friends of the Earth say the figure is higher.”
Ethiopia. For sale
The Ethiopian government, through the Agricultural Investment Support Directorate is at the forefront of this African Land Sale. Crops familiar to the area are often grown, such as maize, sesame, sorghum, in addition to wheat and rice. All let us state clearly for export to Saudi Arabia, India, China etc, to be sold within the home market, benefitting the people of Ethiopia not.
The Oakland Institute research “shows that at least 3,619,509ha of land (an area just smaller than Belgium) have been transferred to investors, although the actual number may be higher.” The government claims that the land available for lease is unused and surplus, this is disingenuous nonsense. Large areas of land are in fact already cultivated by smallholders subsistence farmers and pastoralists using land for grazing, all of which are un-ceremonially evicted. Villages are destroyed and indigenous people expelled from their homeland and forced into large scale villagization programmes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its report ‘Waiting Here For Death’ states, “The Ethiopian federal government’s current villagization program is occurring in four regions—Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, and Afar. This involves the resettlement of approximately 1.5 million people throughout the lowland areas of the country—500,000 in Somali region, 500,000 in Afar region, 225,000 in Benishangul-Gumuz and 225,000 in Gambella.” Imposed movement then, often applied with force, in order to provide pristine land, free of any inconveniences to the corporate allies.
Level growing field
There are five areas of prime, fertile land up for grabs. Gambella is the largest where unbelievably a third of the region (around 800,000 hectares) is available. Indian corporations have already snapped up 352,000 hectares (ha) and around 900 foreign investors have so far taken advantage of this giveaway. Afar, The Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region, where 200,000 hectares has been leased or sold, Oromia, where three Indian companies have leased a total of 138,000 ha and Amhara, make up the reduced to clear rail.
With the land grab crucially goes water – and the appropriation of this vital resource, both surface and ground water. Investors are allowed to do what they will with the land they lease, this includes diverting rivers, digging canals from existing water sources, building dams and drilling bore holes. The Oakland Institute in its report ‘Land Investment in Ethiopia quotes Saudi Star stating “that water will be their biggest issue, and numerous plans are being established (including the construction of 30 km of cement-lined canals and another dam on the Alwero River).” There are no controls imposed on foreign corporations whatsoever and no payment structure for ‘appropriating’ water is in place. These politically favoured investors are being offered carte blanche. Water supplies in Ethiopia are poor, even in the capital, where irregular mains flow is common in many neighbourhoods. There is water galore 90% of the Nile e.g. flows through Ethiopia, distribution though is inconsistent, maintained to be so some say, the people drained, exhausted and kept firmly in their place.
In Gambella the government in 2011 offered huge areas of land to Bangalore-based food company Karuturi Global for the equivalent of $1.16 per hectare, to lease more than 2,500 sq. km (1,000 sq. miles) of virgin, fertile land for more than 50 years. This cost compared to an average rate of $340 per ha in the Punjab district of India, no wonder then that the CEO of Karuturi described “the incentives available to the floriculture industry in Ethiopia as “mouthwatering,” including low air freights on the state-owned Ethiopian airlines, tax holidays, hassle-free entry into the industry at very low lease rates, tax holidays, and lack of duties,” reports Oakland in its Ethiopia report. Up to 60,000 workers will be employed by Karuturi, who are paying local people less than $1 a day, which is well below the level of extreme poverty set by the World bank. The company will cultivate according to The Guardian 21st March 2011 “20,000 hectares of oil palm, 15,000 hectares of sugar cane and 40,000 hectares of rice, edible oils and maize and cotton… “We could feed a nation here”, says Karmjeet Sekhon, Karuturi project manager. Land and people for a few rupees, cushioned by a cocktail of sweeteners offered by the Ethiopian government, allowing the decimation of the environment and the destruction of lifestyles – generations old. And in a hurry, The Guardian found “the [land] concessions are being worked [by Karuturi] at a breakneck pace, with giant tractors and heavy machinery clearing trees, draining swamps and ploughing the land in time to catch the next growing season. Forests across hundreds of square km are being clear-felled and burned to the dismay of locals and environmentalists concerned about the fate of the region’s rich wildlife.”
Unstable supply of staples
Around five million people in Ethiopia rely on food aid and live with constant food insecurity that will only increase under the land grab bonanza. According to the Oakland Institutes report “commercial investment will increase rates of food insecurity in the vicinity of the land investments” and Open Democracy reports an interview with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, for the Financial Times (7 August 2008), in which he ‘predicted that “large-scale farming could bring some employment, but “not much”. It would not solve the problem of food insecurity.” Intensifying food insecurity is the transfer of vast areas of land used for the cultivation of traditional staples such as Teff to other crops. This is largely responsible for costs of Teff (used to make injera – the daily bread) quadrupling in the last four years. The Guardian (Monday 23 April 2012) reports Friends of the Earth International “The result (of land sell offs) has often been … people forced off land they have traditionally farmed for generations, more rural poverty and greater risk of food shortages” Food security will be realised when local smallholders are encouraged to farm their land, given financial support, machinery and the needed technology, as Oxfam in its report ‘Land Power Rights’ points out, “Small-scale producers, particularly women, can indeed play a crucial role in poverty reduction and food security. But to do so, they need investment in infrastructure, markets, processing, storage, extension, and research.”
Keep development small, for, of, and close to the people in need, and see them flourish.
Land rights, human cost, environmental damage
The land rights of the indigenous people of Ethiopia are, as one would expect somewhat ambiguous. As a legacy of the socialist dictatorship of the 1960s and ‘70s, the government technically owns all land. However there is protection in law for indigenous people. The Ethiopian constitution Article 40, 3 states “Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange. And 4) “Ethiopian peasants have right to obtain land without payment and the protection against eviction from their possession.” And in regard to pastoralists affected by the land sell off, paragraph 5) “Ethiopian pastoralists have the right to free land for grazing and cultivation as well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands.”
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Ethiopia signed in 2007, making it a legally binding document, states in Article 26/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources, which they have traditionally owned, occupied or other- wise used or acquired.” And paragraph 2.”Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.” The declaration also outlines compensation measures for landowners. Article 28/1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.” Paragraph 2. “Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources 10equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”
The law it would appear is clear, implementation and respect for its content is required, and should be demanded of the ruling EPRDF by the donor countries to Ethiopia.
Land and People
People are not being consulted or democratically included in the decisions to transform their homeland. This contravenes the Ethiopian constitution, that states in Article 92/3. “People have the right to full consultation and to the expression of views in the planning and implementations of environmental policies and projects that affect them directly”. Hollow words to those being evicted from their land, like Omot Ochan a villager, from the Anuak tribe whose family has lived in the forest near the Baro river in Gambella for ten generations. Speaking to The Observer Sunday 20 May 2012, he “insisted Saudi Star had no right to be in his forest. The company had not even told the villagers that it was going to dig a canal across their land. “Nobody came to tell us what was happening.” He goes on to say “This land belonged to our father. All round here is ours. For two days’ walk.” Well that was the case until the Government in their infallible wisdom leased some 10,000ha to their friend, the Ethiopian born Saudi Arabian oil multi millionaire, Sheik Al Moudi (In 2011, Fortune magazine put his wealth at more than $12bn) to grow rice for his Saudi Star Company. Omot continued, “two years ago, the company began chopping down the forest and the bees went away. The bees need thick forest. We used to sell honey. We used to hunt with dogs too. But after the farm came, the animals here disappeared. Now we only have fish to sell.” And with the company draining the wetlands, the fish will probably be gone soon, too. Sheik Al Moudi plans to export over a million tonnes of rice a year to Saudi Arabia. To ease relations with the Meles regime and as The Observer states “to smooth the wheels of commerce, Amoudi has recruited one of Zenawi’s former ministers, Haile Assegdie, as chief executive of Saudi Star.”
Traditional land rights for people who have lived on the land in Gamabella and elsewhere for centuries are being ignored and in a country where all manner of human rights are routinely violated, legally binding compensations are not being paid.
Government drafted lease agreements with investors state the Meles regime will hand over the land free of any ‘encumbrances’ – people and property that means, anyone living or using the land to graze their livestock or pastoralists moving through. The Independent 18th January 2012 reports “Ethiopia is forcing tens of thousands of people off their land so it can lease it to foreign investors, leaving former landowners destitute and in some cases starving.” The Government says any movement is voluntary and not enforced, a clear distortion of the facts. HRW in their report confirms the government’s criminality “mass displacement to make way for commercial agriculture in the absence of a proper legal process contravenes Ethiopia’s constitution and violates the rights of indigenous peoples under international law.”
A price worth paying it would seem, to the Ethiopian government and those multi nationals appropriating the land, seeing a market and capitalizing on the countries need for dollars. Desperate in a world propelled by growth to maximize the value of every so called asset, even if it means prostituting the land, sacrificing the native people and destroying the natural environment.
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May 30, 2012
Minnesota Anuak community reacts to new outbreak of attacks, killing, disappearance in Ethiopia and South Sudan
How is an entire Minnesota community supposed to cope when every person in that community, all at the same time, must cope with the recent violent death or the sudden, suspicious disappearance of a mother or father, a brother or sister, a relative or friend?
This was the urgent question of a May 26 St. Paul gathering of 150 Minnesotans who are members of the Anuak tribe of Ethiopia and South Sudan.
A recent outbreak of widespread killing, rape, torture and disappearance of members of Ethiopia’s Anuak tribe, of whom nearly 2,000 live as refugees in Minnesota today, is sending the Anuak of this state into a controlled panic of worry, urgent meetings and frenzied actions on behalf of loved ones who are ensnared in an outbreak of a vicious ethnic cleansing of the Anuak tribe back home.
“Psychologically, it is killing us,” said Magn Nyang, an Anuak who lives in Spring Lake Park. “People are very depressed and angry. We are trying to figure out, what can we do?”
At the St. Paul gathering, which was held in a meeting hall above the Fasika Ethiopian restaurant on Snelling Avenue, and in meetings at churches, meeting halls and living rooms around the state, Anuak are gathering these days to respond to the crisis.
The cause of the violence — detailed in a recent documentary aired on PBS’ Lehrer News Hour, and in a Human Rights Watch Report — is a massive forced relocation of 70,000 Anuak and other indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands in Ethiopia, to make way for mega-farms being created by foreign investors from Saudi Arabia, India, China and other nations.
A handful of armed Anuak rebels have fought the relocations by ambushing Ethiopian soldiers, which in turn has prompted Ethiopian troops in the Anuak lands to seek vastly disproportional revenge by killing, torturing and “disappearing” innocent Anuak.
Politically active Anuak have met in recent weeks with the staffs of Senator Al Franken and Representative Michelle Bachmann, urging them to bring all possible influence, through the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa or through U.S. government aid programs, on the Ethiopian government to stop the bloodshed.
“We are writing you with a sense of the utmost urgency on behalf of our friends and families in our homeland,” the Gambella Relief Organization, a Minnesota group, wrote to Sen. Franken in a recent letter detailing dozens of recent cases of the murder, rape and disappearance of Anuak in Ethiopia, at the hands of government soldiers.
One Anuak group in Ethiopia, the Gambella Democratic Movement, recently published an article on the Minnesota-based web site Gambella Today, saying that the group’s “military wing” recently killed several Ethiopian soldiers in battle.
The article, written in English in Minnesota on behalf of an Ethiopian Anuak rebel named Ngeli Opiew, vowed that “unless the terms of the land grab in Gambella are reversed in favor of Gambella people, there won’t be peace in the region.” The article promised the rebels “will fight to stop the sale of Anuak land to foreigners and for the return of displaced Anuaks to their ancestral lands.”
Akuthi Okoth, an Anuak from Stillwater, has taken an entirely different approach in response to the crisis. Working with other Anuak women, she started a daily telephone conference call whose members share their stories and fears for their relatives who are in danger, or who have died, and ask for the prayers of the others on the call. Up to 80 Anuak from Minnesota and around the world participate on the call.
“Most of us work during the day, so it’s difficult to get together physically,” Okoth said. “There isn’t one of us who doesn’t have a loved one who has been affected. It is so sad, and we are so sad, so sad. So we pray.”
Aduk Okway, an Anuak woman from Rochester, has asked for prayers recently for her brother, who she says was beaten by Ethiopian troops and has been missing for a month. “We don’t know if he’s in jail or killed,” Okway said. “He has a knife wound jn his stomach and his front teeth are broken. My heart and my whole body is hurting with my brother missing. I am crying out so the Ethiopian government will leave our land.”
The Anuak refugees in Minnesota originally came to this state because the Ethiopian government, which came to power in a 1991 coup, began ethnically cleansing their tribe almost immediately with periodic massacres in which uniformed soldiers simply marched into Anuak villages and started shooting men and boys and raping women.
The bloodiest of these pogroms took place on December 13, 2003, when more than 200 Ethiopian soldiers killed 426 Anuak men execution-style in the town of Gambella, the largest town in Anuak territory. As verified by journalists and in later, lengthy reports by Human Rights Watch and other groups, the uniformed soldiers systematically went house-to-house in Gambella, calling out the names of the men who were the educated leadership of the Anuak tribe. They told the men to run and then shot them in the back.
This carnage directly struck the Anuak diaspora communities around the world, and their broader host cultures, including in Minnesota, where most Anuak refugees outside of Africa have have settled. This state, with its roughly 2,000 Anuak, has the world’s largest diaspora population of the tribe.
Because the Anuak tribe is tiny, numbering only 100,000 or so, every Anuak living in Minnesota has close family members or friends who died in the 2003 massacre, or were driven to live as penniless refugees in neighboring Sudan or Kenya as a result.
The recent surge of ethnic cleansing has had a similar result, causing thousands of Anuak to flee across the borders of Sudan and Kenya for safety.
“This problem is affecting the economy of Minnesota, because every Anuak here is sending money back to their friends and family in Ethiopia and Kenya,” said Gilo, a resident of Gambella who asked that his last name not be used because his wife and children remain in Ethiopia and could be targeted as a result.
At a dinner meeting at the Ramada Plaza motel in Minneapolis last week, attended by around 40 Anuaks and native Minnesotans gathered to discuss the crisis, Gilo noted that the Anuak diaspora, as small as it is, has become divided over the best way to deal with the crisis in Ethiopia.
Some Anuak groups in Minnesota favor striving for dialog with the Ethiopian government, as impossible as that may seem; while other Anuak focus on creating coalitions with other Ethiopian minority groups and tribes to pressure the government; while others actively support the Anuak rebels fighting to repulse Ethiopian troops.
Every December 13 since 2003, memorials are held around the state to remember those Anuak who perished in the massacre.
Even if they were originally airlifted to begin life in other states, most Anuak eventually make their way to live in Minnesota.
“The Anuak consider Minnesota to be their safe haven,” said Akuthi Okoth. “People here give you a big smile from far away. They treat you like you belong. It’s a state that really cares about education and family. The kids feel safe here. It’s home.”
May 28, 2012
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The Ethiopian world-class athlete and celebrity, Haile Gebrselassie, is facing criminal prosecution for a charge of unlawful enforcement of right. The court ordered his arrested appearance due to his failure to appear on the date set for the first hearing of the charge.
In the charge brought to the Federal First Instance Court, Yeka District, on April 26, 2012, by federal prosecutor Terhas Gebre-egzabher, he was accused of changing the door lock on one of the rooms of his Haile Building, in order to vacate a company that was using the room under a rental agreement.
Upon receiving the charge, the Second Criminal Bench of the Court summoned the track star to appear on May 18, 2012, to begin the hearings. Haile’s failure to appear on this date led the judge to order for him to be apprehended and be brought before the court on June 6, 2012.
The changing of the lock that led to the accusation of the legendary athlete, who has also managed to become a prominent businessman, took place after Haile & Alem International Plc and its tenant, Addis Abeba Car Purchase, Sales, & Rental Plc, had a serious disagreement over the termination of their contract.
Addis Abeba Car Purchase, Sales, & Rental Plc is owned by its managing director, Addis Degefu, and his family members. It started out with a capital of 200,000 Br and now has attained 20 million Br, according to Addis.
The two sides signed a five-year rental contract on March 24, 2010, made effective, retrospectively, as of December 1, 2009. They had agreed on a monthly rent of 6,900 Br, which was subject to bilateral modifications after the expiration of a one-year period.
The disagreement occurred when Haile & Alem International Plc wanted its tenant to vacate the room, which is refused. The refusal led to Haile’s company taking the case to a Court claiming the car dealer’s failure to pay the rent at the agreed times. The court rejected the claim on October 26, 2011, for lack of evidence.
“The claim was made improperly, for the plaintiff failed to explain that the defendant did not perform in accordance to the contract,” the court stated when rejecting the claim. “There is no reason to enforce the termination of the contract.”
By the time Haile allegedly broke the lock on December 3, 2011, to have it replaced his appeal to the Federal High Court was still pending. Haile & Alem International Plc vacated the building following the February 20, 2012, ruling of the Federal High Court, which reversed the decision of the lower the court and ordered the tenant to leave.
However, the federal prosecutor treated the breaking of the lock by the athlete as a criminal act and sued Haile for arbitrary action to enforce his right by his own means contrary to the law.
Haile will face a simple imprisonment of one year or less or a fine of not more than 5,000 Br, if found guilty of committing the crime he is charged with.
(Nairobi) – An Ethiopian government-backed paramilitary force summarily executed 10 men during a March 2012 operation in Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region. Detailed information on the killings and other abuses by the force known as the “Liyu police” only came to light after a Human Rights Watch fact-finding mission to neighboring Somaliland in April.
On March 16 a Liyu police member fatally shot a resident of Raqda village, in the Gashaamo district of Somali region, who was trying to protect a fellow villager. That day, men from Raqda retaliated by killing seven Liyu police members, prompting a reprisal operation by dozens of Liyu police in four villages on March 16 and 17. During this operation the Liyu police force summarily executed at least 10 men who were in their custody, killed at least 9 residents in ensuing gunfights, abducted at least 24 men, and looted dozens of shops and houses.
“The killing of several Liyu police members doesn’t justify the force’s brutal retaliation against the local population,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Liyu police abuses in Somali region show the urgent need for the Ethiopian government to rein in this lawless force.”
The Ethiopian government should hold those responsible for the killings and other abuses to account and prevent future abuses by the force.
Ethiopian authorities created the Liyu (“special” in Amharic) police in the Somali region in 2007 when an armed conflict between the insurgent Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the government escalated. By 2008 the Liyu police became a prominent counterinsurgency force recruited and led by the regional security chief at that time, Abdi Mohammed Omar (known as “Abdi Illey”), who is now the president of Somali Regional State.
The Liyu police have been implicated in numerous serious abuses against civilians throughout the Somali region in the context of counterinsurgency operations. The legal status of the force is unclear, but credible sources have informed Human Rights Watch that members have received training, uniforms, arms, and salaries from the Ethiopian government via the regional authorities.
Human Rights Watch spoke to 30 victims, relatives of victims, and witnesses to the March incidents from four villages who had fled across the border to Somaliland and who gave detailed accounts of the events.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on the evening of March 16 the Liyu police returned to Raqda following the clashes with the community earlier in the day that left seven police force members dead. The next morning, March 17, the Liyu police rounded up 23 men in Raqda and put them into a truck heading towards Galka, a neighboringvillage. Along the way the Liyu police stopped the truck, ordered five randomly selected men to descend, and shot them by the roadside. “It was three police who shot them,” a detainee told Human Rights Watch. “They shot them in the forehead and shoulder: three bullets per person.”
Also on March 17, at about 6 a.m., Liyu police in two vehicles opened an assault on the nearby village of Adaada. Survivors of the attack and victims’ relatives described Liyu police members going house to house searching for firearms and dragging men from their homes. The Liyu police also started shooting in the air. Local residents with arms and the Liyu police began fighting and at least four villagers were killed. Many civilians fled the village.
After several hours the Liyu police left but later returned when villagers came back to the village to bury those killed earlier that day. Fighting resumed in the afternoon and at least another five villagers were killed. The Liyu police took another four men from their homes and summarily executed them. A woman whose brother was a veterinarian told Human Rights Watch: “They caught my brother and took him outside. They shot him in the head and then slit his throat.”
For five days Liyu police also deployed outside Langeita, another village in the district, and restricted people’s movement. The Liyu police carried out widespread looting of shops and houses in at least two of the villages, residents said.
Human Rights Watch received an unconfirmed report that following the incidents local authorities arrested three Liyu police members. However it is unclear whether the members have been charged or whether further investigations have taken place.
The Ethiopian government’s response to reports of abuses in the Somali region has been to severely restrict or control access for journalists, aid organizations, human rights groups, and other independent monitors. Ethiopia’s regional and federal government should urgently facilitate access for independent investigations of the events by independent media and human rights investigators, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions.
“For years the Ethiopian government has jailed and deported journalists for reporting on the Somali region,” Lefkow said. “Donor countries should call on Ethiopia to allow access to the media and rights groups so abuses can’t be hidden away.”
Liyu Police Abuses, March 2012
Summary Executions and Killings
Human Rights Watch interviewed witnesses and relatives of the victims who described witnessing at least 10 summary executions by the Liyu police on March 16 and 17. The actual number may be higher.
On March 16 in Raqda, a Liyu police member shot dead Abdiqani Abdillahi Abdi after he intervened to stop the paramilitary from harassing and beating another villager. Several villagers heard the Liyu police member saying to Abdiqani, “What can you do for him?” and then heard the shot.
The shooting ignited a confrontation between the Liyu police and the local community. The nine Liyu police who were deployed in Raqda then left via the road to the neighboring village of Adaada. A number of Raqda residents, including members of Abdiqani’s family, took their weapons, went after the Liyu police, and reportedly killed seven of them in a confrontation that followed.
The next morning, on March 17 at around 11 a.m., the Liyu police selected five men from a group of 23 men they had detained in Raqda and were taking towards Galka village in a truck. The Liyu police forced the five men to sit by the roadside and then shot them. Another detainee described what happened:
In between Galka and Raqda they stopped the truck. There were four other Liyu police vehicles accompanying the truck. This was around 11 a.m. They told five of us to get out of the lorry. They [randomly] ordered five out – none in particular. The man standing near the lorry ordered them to “Kill them, shoot them.” It was three police who shot them. They shot them in the forehead and shoulder: three bullets per person.
Another detainee saw the five being shot in the head and said the Liyu police threatened the remaining detainees, saying, “We will kill you all like this.”
The same day the Liyu police summarily executed four men in Adaada, where they had carried out house-to-house searches that morning. In all four cases multiple witnesses described the victims as unarmed and in custody when they were shot, either in the neck or head, shortly after having been dragged from their homes.
Witnesses described the summary execution of a veterinarian. The Liyu police dragged him from his home and shot him in the head, but when they realized that he was not dead, they slit his throat. The veterinarian’s middle-aged sister told Human Rights Watch:
They entered the home and asked where the man responsible for the home was. There were seven of them. They caught my brother and took him outside. They shot him in the head and then slit his throat. After killing him, they asked my niece where her father’s rifle was, but she could not find the keys and they hit her on the back of the shoulder with the butt of a gun.
Witnesses also told Human Rights Watch that a teenage boy was dragged from his uncle’s home, taken nearby, momentarily interrogated, and then shot. One witness heard him reciting a prayer before being killed. His body was left on the ground near a trash dump. A third victim, an elderly man, was taken from outside his home, interrogated for a short time, and then shot while standing. Several witnesses heard him pleading with the police to spare his life. The fourth victim was also taken from his home and shot shortly after.
At least nine other men were killed by the Liyu police in Adaada, but the circumstances of their deaths are unclear. There was armed resistance to the Liyu police attack, and some of the nine may have been armed. However, according to witnesses, the Liyu police shot several men, in the upper body and head, who were trying to escape. Two men fleeing were reportedly run over by Liyu police vehicles.
Abductions, Torture, and Ill-Treatment
During the house searches in Adaada, the Liyu police abducted a number of village men and tortured and mistreated several people, including at least three women.
An Adaada resident, one of the first to be taken from his home on the morning of March 17, described to Human Rights Watch his treatment by the Liyu police:
They entered and told my wife to shut up. Four men entered the house with four waiting outside. They came over to me and took me. They also took the gun from my house. They hit me with the butt of a gun and took me to a small river near my home. They tied a belt around my neck. I lost consciousness. They threw me in a berket [small water hole] that was 15 meters deep and then they threw branches over me. There was mud in the berket. I managed to climb up when I woke up.
The Liyu police seriously beat at least three women during house searches in Adaada. A young woman said that Liyu police members who had entered her home beat her after she told them that her husband was absent: “They said I was lying, they kicked me and crushed my head with the back of the gun. I had some injuries in my kidney. I lost a tooth.”
Three men who had been abducted in Raqda on March 17 told Human Rights Watch they were each detained for nine days. During the first 24 hours they were without water. For four days the Liyu police drove them around in an open truck between villages and towns in an apparent attempt to hide them from local residents, and possibly also from federal authorities.
During the first four days of their detention they were beaten by the police with sticks and gun butts. On at least two occasions the paramilitaries guarding them threatened to execute them. However, disagreements among the Liyu police on how to proceed apparently saved the men’s lives. One former detainee told Human Rights Watch:
We were driving around different villages and some of the police said they should release us because the federal government will give them problems, they will discipline us, as we have committed a crime. Others said, “Let us kill all 24.” There were different ideas among the police.
After four days in the truck they were detained for at least another four days out in the sun near the village of Langeita, where they received only minimal food and water. After that the Liyu police took them to Gashaamo, where they were released on March 25 as a result of negotiations between the regional government and clan elders.
Residents of Adaada and Langeita described widespread looting of property, food, and money from shops and houses by the Liyu police. Six villagers who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that their own houses, belongings, and property had been looted on March 17.
A 45-year-old woman from Langeita said that the Liyu police moved around the village in groups of five to seven and entered 10 stores. Two or three would enter a shop and steal shoes, clothes, drinks, and food. Two women said they could not return to their villages because they had lost all their property.
Reports from local authorities in neighbouring Somaliland suggest that discussions have taken place between clan elders from the affected villages and the regional authorities to negotiate a solution to the situation. None of the local residents who spoke with Human Rights Watch had current plans to return to their homes.
Ethiopia’s Somali region has been the site of a low-level insurgency by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) for more than a decade. The ONLF, an ethnic Somali armed movement largely supported by members of the Ogaden clan, has sought greater political autonomy for the region. Following the ONLF’s April 2007 attack on the oil installation in Obole, which resulted in the deaths of 70 civilians and the capture of several Chinese oil workers, the Ethiopian government carried out a major counterinsurgency campaign in the five zones of the region primarily affected by the conflict.
Human Rights Watch’s June 2008 report of its investigation into abuses in the conflict found that the Ethiopian National Defense Force and the ONLF had committed war crimes between mid-2007 and early 2008, and that the Ethiopian armed forces could be responsible for crimes against humanity based on the patterns of executions, torture, rape, and forced displacement.
These abuses have never been independently investigated. Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry initiated an inquiry in late 2008 in response to the Human Rights Watch report, but that inquiry failed to meet the basic requirements of independence, timeliness, and confidentiality that credible investigations require. The government has repeatedly ignored calls for an independent inquiry into the abuses in the region.
Since the escalation of fighting in 2007 the Ethiopian government has imposed tight controls on access to Somali region for independent journalists and human rights monitors. In July 2011 two Swedish journalists who entered the region to report on the conflict were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 11 years in prison under Ethiopia’s vague and overbroad anti-terrorism law.
Gashaamo district, where the March 2012 events took place, is in Dhagabhur zone, one of the five affected by the conflict. However, it was not an area directly affected by fighting in previous years, and is largely populated by members of the ethnic Somali Isaaq clan, who are not generally perceived to be a source of support for the ONLF.
May 27, 2012
WASHINGTON DC,6 Rajab/27 May (IINA)-The First Hijrah Ethiopian-American Muslim community in the Washington metropolitan area is gravely concerned about the Ethiopian government’s forceful imposition of a religious sect which violates the constitutional rights of its citizens freedom of worship.
According to Al-Jazeera Arabic, ESAT broadcast, and many other local Ethiopian news outlets, the Ethiopian government has admitted to the killing of five Muslim citizens, among whom was a six year old child. Immediately after the killings, hundreds of Muslims were rounded and sent to jail outside of the Assasa town in the Oromia region. The mass arrests continued as authorities went house to house rounding up women and sending them to prisons far away from their home towns. According to locals, there have been an estimate of 247 individuals arrested with the majority being citizens between the ages of 9 and 19 years old.
Medias such as Al-Jazeera and ESAT have also been covering the peaceful protest of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian Muslims. For the last three months, they have been protesting throughout the country, demanding an end to the government’s meddling in their religious affairs. The protesters have remained peaceful although the government has completely disregarded their constitutional rights by forcefully imposing the “Ahbash” sect on the Muslim population.
Therefore, the Ethiopian-American Muslims of the Washington metropolitan area announces its plan to stage a mass protest on May 31st, 2012. The protest is a show of support to the peaceful struggle of the Muslims in Ethiopia as well as a condemnation of the violent government repression against them. Among the invited speakers are Muslim and Orthodox Christian leaders as well as different community representatives.
May 26, 2012
Woyane dictatorship in Ethiopia fails to keep the press away from the muslim revolt and cover up the truth
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian authorities briefly detained a journalist for Voice of America (VOA) and his translator as he covered a dispute between Muslims and the government in the capital Addis Ababa, the U.S. broadcaster said on Saturday.
Peter Heinlein and translator Simegineh Yekoye were arrested after leaving a meeting about the dispute at a mosque on Friday afternoon and released without charge the following morning, VOA said.
“We were interrogated by a police officer who told us that we had engaged in illegal reporting. They say that this is a problem area that we had gone into, and that reporters had no business going in there,” Heinlein was quoted as saying in an online VOA report.
The pair were released after a U.S. embassy official visited the prison where they were being held, VOA said.
Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters Heinlein was arrested after failing to identify himself to police and officials.
Groups of Muslims have been holding protests in Ethiopia accusing the government of interfering in religious affairs by promoting an Islamic movement that opposes ultra-conservative ideology and rejects violence.
Media watchdogs have accused Addis Ababa of using national security as an excuse to crack down on its press – a charge the government dismisses.
Critics point to a 2009 law under which anyone convicted of publishing information that could induce readers to commit acts of terrorism could be jailed for up to 20 years.
More than 10 journalists have been charged under the law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Earlier this year, two Swedish journalists were sentenced to 11 years in jail for entering the country illegally and aiding a rebel group. The two have sought clemency rather than appeal, which they hope will lead to a quicker release.
(Reporting by Kumerra Gemechu; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
May 25, 2012
VOA’s Peter Heinlein investigates wreckage from the “Black Hawk Down” incident near Mogadishu, Somalia, Aug. 13, 2011. (VOA Photo/G. Joselow)
A Voice of America reporter has been detained in the Ethiopian capital while trying to cover a demonstration Friday.
Witnesses to the arrest said that reporter Peter Heinlein and his translator Simegineh Yekoye were detained while seeking to interview protesters during a Muslim demonstration following Friday prayers in Addis Ababa.
Another Western reporter said there was a heavy police presence at the demonstration and that he also was stopped by police and told to leave the area.
Tom Rhodes, East Africa spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said he understood that Heinlein was accused of acting “unprofessionally and illegally.” Rhodes said a government spokesman accused Heinlein, who is married to a Danish diplomat, of improperly using a diplomatic vehicle and refusing to show media accreditation.
Rhodes added that the accusations seemed at odds with Heinlein’s reputation as a highly professional journalist who has worked for VOA since 1988.
“However, I would add that Peter Heinlein is a veteran reporter, an experienced and professional broadcaster, so personally I find it rather hard to believe that someone like Heinlein would be reporting unprofessionally,” Rhodes said.
In a formal statement from its headquarters in Washington, VOA said, “The safety and welfare of our reporters is our utmost concern and we are working to gather more information about Mr. Heinlein’s status.”
The statement said VOA is in touch with the U.S. Department of State seeking more information and that it is urging “Ethiopian authorities to allow Mr. Heinlein to carry out his journalistic responsibilities without interference.”
Heinlein reported last week on rising tensions between the government and Ethiopia’s Muslim minority, which has held a series of demonstrations to protest what the community sees as government interference in Islamic affairs.
The CPJ quoted Minister of Government Communications Bereket Simon saying officials wanted to speak to Heinlein about his “unobjective” reporting on the Muslim issue. Bereket did not say whether Heinlein has been formally arrested or charged.
Aid agencies are calling for more food assistance for areas in southern and northeastern Ethiopia where erratic rains have adversely affected the mid-February to May ‘Belg’ crop.
ETHIOPIA: Poor rains prompt calls for more food assistance
ADDIS ABABA, 25 May 2012 (IRIN) – Aid agencies are calling for more food assistance for areas in southern and northeastern Ethiopia where erratic rains have adversely affected the mid-February to May `Belg’ crop.
“We have a very significant shortage of food in much of [the] `Belg’ season dependent areas of the country particularly in SNNPR, [Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region]” Mike McDonagh, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ethiopia, told IRIN.
Other affected areas include parts of the northeast in the Amhara, Oromia and Tigray regions.
The `Belg’ harvest, which accounts for up to 40 percent of annual food production in some areas, is expected to reduce in 2012 due to the late onset and below-average performance of the mid-February to May rains, which were 2-8 weeks late.
“The situation is of concern and is being monitored closely,” said Judith Schuler, spokesperson of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Ethiopia, adding that the number of food-insecure people could increase.
At present, an estimated 3.2 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, down from a peak of 4.5 million during the 2011 Horn of Africa drought. Revised figures are expected in mid-July.
WFP requires US$183 million by the end of 2012, to support 2.5 million of the 3.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance.
The situation in SNNPR, which borders Kenya and South Sudan, is of particular concern.
The `Belg’ crop harvest there accounts for 35-40 percent of production, with root crops, mainly sweet potatoes, contributing 50 percent of the harvest in some districts. But the extended dry period had resulted in an almost total failure of the crop – and others such as haricot beans, potatoes and maize, which were expected to fill the food gap between March and June – according to the government’s latest (May) Early Warning and Response analysis.
Aid agencies say a lack of sufficient recovery time after the 2011 drought could aggravate the situation for vulnerable households whose assets and other coping mechanisms were depleted.
Already, the number of malnourished people is rising, said OCHA’s McDonagh.
According to OCHA, close to 90,000 children, pregnant women and nursing mothers in SNNPR alone are moderately malnourished at present, and the number is increasing.
“March was worse than February, April was worse than March and we expect May to be worse than April,” said McDonagh. “So it gets worse for a period and then maybe around July and August… it could reduce again.”
“We need general rations, what we call relief food. We need more supplementary food. We need therapeutic foods and we need also inputs such as seeds.”
The number of severely malnourished children in therapeutic feeding programmes is increasing, with earlier and greater increases than in 2011, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit.
For example, from January to February, admissions to the programmes increased by 15.3 percent and went up a further 27 percent from February to March. The March to April figures are not available.
According to Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture, the agriculture and health ministries are monitoring the food insecurity situation.
“Irregularity in rainfall seasons resulting [in] problems of such [a] kind is not a new thing to us,” Mitiku said. “We faced it last year and a year before that and we are managing it so far… The country has enough resources and mechanisms in place to deal with it this time, though.”
May 24, 2012
ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Muslim activists are reporting torture and abuses by security forces over growing opposition to an alleged government campaign to indoctrinate the community with Ahbashism campaign.
“An Ethiopian activist died after being tortured by electric shock and inhumane acts by government security forces,” villager Ibrahim Nuseyra told OnIslam.net.
He said a female activist, Firdaws, died last week after being tortured by security forces after attending a meeting called for by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (Majlis).
The meeting, led by Federal Affairs Minister Dr Shiferaw Tekelemariam, was attended by only three members, including Firdaws.
|Ethiopia Muslims Eye Vote to Replace Ahbash|
Ibrahim said the female activist left the meeting after the Ethiopian minister insulted the Muslim Provincial Committee and branding its members as “terrorists”.
As she drove her car back home, the activist was reportedly kidnapped by security forces and taken to an unknown location.
“They tortured her with electric shock and beaten her in an inhumane way,” Ibrahim said.
The activist was later placed at her home gate.
“When her family and villagers got her at the gate, she was neither able to speak nor stand or move,” he said.
“Everyone couldn’t believe what was happening, we were crying, we knew nothing about what to do,” Ibrahim recalled.
She was later taken to hospital and sent to Saudi Arabia for a proper medical treatment.
“But she died in hospital due to severe injury and nervous system damage,” Ibrahim said.
The villager said that the mother of the dead Muslim activist was also kidnapped by security forces.
Muslims say that the torture of activists was not the first incident in Ethiopia.
“Three weeks before, another Ja’efer mosque Muslim lady preacher was kidnapped after her preach on the way back home,” Ahmed Sulayman, another activist, told OnIslam.net.
She “was tortured and beaten before being brought back on the street.”
Last month, seven Muslims were killed by security forces in Assasa town in Arsi province of Oromiya regional.
Ethiopia’s Muslims have taken to the streets in the past weeks to protest government’s interference in their religious affairs.
Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Majlis to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called “Ahbash”.
The government of Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi has put the Ahbash in charge of the religious affairs of Ethiopia’s Muslims.
Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.
Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an “indoctrination program” in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend “religious training” camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.
Founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari, Ahbash are seen by the West as a “friendly alternative” to Wahabi ideology, which the West sees as extreme and militant.
Muslims say Ahbash imams are being brought over from Lebanon to fill the Majlis and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.
Ethiopian Muslims are estimated at 30 million, making up nearly 35 percent of the country’s 90 million population.