ethiopiantimes

June 17, 2012

Ethiopa: Relatives blame ethnic cleansing on Azeb Mesfin

Filed under: Azeb Mesfin — ethiopiantimes @ 9:59 am
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Two close relatives of Azeb Mesfin have made damning allegations that she betrayed her roots and played a key role in ethnic cleansing and atrocities committed against the people of Welkait Tegede

Chalachaw Abay and Goshu Gebru, who are related to Meles Zenaw’s wife on her mother’s and father’s side respectively, said in an exclusive interview with ESAT that she actively facilitated TPLF’s illegal annexation of Welkait Tegede, which was historically part of North Western Gondar. The two condemned their relative for changing her identity from Amhara to being part of the TPLF’s high command that has committed unspeakable crimes, torture, killings and ethnic cleansing against her own people.

Chalachew and Goshu told ESAT that Azeb, whom they referred to as corrupt and greedy, is a highly polarizing figure even within her own family, which has split between her opponents and supporters. The majority of her family members hold Azeb in contempt as a result of her part in the suffering of her own people, they claimed.

According to them, since she joined the mafia group of the TPLF and fell under the spell of Sibehat Nega and Meles Zenawi in late 1970s, she has turned into a monster that wrecked the poor people of Welkait Tegede, who were forcefully annexed and assimilated into Tigray in early 1990s.

“No wonder that Azeb made such a dramatic change of identity having joined the inner circle of Sibehat and Meles, the most crooked people within the TPLF,” Goshu said. He said that tens of thousands of Welkait Tegede’s Amaharas have been tortured, killed, disappeared and were forced into exile.

The two relatives of Ethiopia’s reviled “First Lady” also disclosed that many of her close relatives have disowned her and feel ashamed of her. “At the end of the day, Azeb has committed heinous crimes and must be held accountable,” they said.

Azeb Mefin, widely referred to as the First Lady of Corruption, is a member of the most powerful TPLF group, a nine-member executive committee. Azeb also heads TPLF’s multi-billion dollars business conglomerate, the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray. Azeb is dogged with allegations of corruption, graft and abuse of power since her days as head of Mega Enterprises, which went bust under her leadership.

The fresh allegations of crimes against humanity made by her own relatives will undoubtedly haunt her even after her inevitable departure from the pinnacle of power.

June 5, 2012

Human rights violations intensify in Afar region of Ethiopia

Filed under: Afar,Azeb Mesfin,EPRDF,Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 8:38 am
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The conflict between Afars the Tigray People�s Liberation Front (TPLF) led government has been intensified during the last few months. The core issue of this disagreement is related to forced eviction of the pastoralists and the aggressive land grabbing investment policy.

 

The regime has continued its military repression, harassment and intimidation of the civilians as they refuse to submit and leave their homes to sugarcane plantation project owned by an Indian company. Hence, in many part of the Afar region a well-orchestrated and systematic human rights abuse has become a daily pattern. The recent strategy used by the regime is to instigate internal and external conflict in the Afar region and thereby use its military to silence the civilian resistance against the illegal land grabbing policy.

In the north of the Afar Region, resource potential has been a serious issue at stake. Among others a huge Salt source of Amole, Salt block of Assale area, has been a well-known commercial item between Afars and Tigray peoples. This has been also a huge tax revenue source for the administration in the region. Throughout the history the Assale area is administratively situated within Brahle.

However, lately the increasing economic significance of the Assale attracted much attention of the TPLF affiliated investors, who are effectively lobbying to control the area. Currently, the regime is being diverting the Salt rich area of Assale to Afdera district � another Salt rich area currently solely exploited by those Tigrean investors.

The Barahle district administration has rejected the arbitrary decision of diversion of the Salt rich area to Afdera. However, the regime deployed its Military on the border area of Afdera and Barahle in order to implementits diversion plan. The Barahle district called for elders and mass meeting of 750 people to divert the conflict.

These elders led meeting is repelled by the regime and over 6 district leaders including the Head, Ali Osman, removed from their position in administration of Barahle and are kept at house arrest in Mekele.The local community is fretful about that this deadlock gradually could lead to army-led confrontation, where the Afars the two districts are positioned to fight each other. The conflict concerns about 70 000 inhabitants combined into two districts.

The other serious confrontation is taking place along the Awash Valley in Rumaytoabout 3 km west of Aysaita. The regime arbitrarily assigned this area for a Sugarcane plantationproject. Local population is removed by force and forests are cleared by over 20 bulldozers day and night. The local community called for a self-defense to protect the forest and the land, because they have no other place to go.

The regime has placed a huge army around the Rumayto people and nobody is allowed to move in or out of the area. The ecological and forest destruction is clear where the rain forest is destroyed. The armyof the regime threatens to clear the forest by force but the confrontation is at sight. The confrontation concerns about 50 000 inhabitants in the localities.

In search of land for investment along the Awash Valley, the regime is allowing the neighboring Issa contrabandist not only to claim part of Afar Regional territory but also to inspire their claim and oversee their recurrent raids against the Afars along the Middle Awash Valley. As late as yesterday, June 2nd these raided was carried on a feeder road project at a place called BaareytainAmibara district at Zone three. The project wasimplemented by Afar Regional government.

In this confrontation more than 10 Afarswere killed and some more injuries were reported. The raid said to have supported by Issa Special Forces and also in turn backed by Djibouti government. Both the Regional and Federal governments are watching the incidents without any preventive action.

Finally, the Awash River which is a life line of the southern Afar for water sources is being curtailed by Dam and diversion so that people have no alternative water sources. Afar Human Rights Organisation is concerned about both the short- and long term consequences of the ill planned and non-inclusive economic policy of the regime, and the Afar civilians are already paying the heavy toll. Therefore,we call:

  • On international community to give a serious attention to the suffering of Afar people.
  • On the regime in Addis Ababa to stop harassing and killing of civilians
  • On to observe and investigate the case of those who are affected and lost their lives
  • On to sendthe Red Cross and other relief agencies to visit the area.
  • To investigate the human rights violations inside these areas!

For further information, e-mail: ahro2006@hotmail.com

June 4, 2012

Ethiopian soccer fans in SA turn into anti-Zenawi protesters

Filed under: Azeb Mesfin,Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 9:46 am
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RUSTENBURG, South Africa — More than one thousand flag-waving Ethiopians used the June 3 World Cup qualifying soccer match against South Africa at Royal Bofokeng stadium to express their anger towards the brutal iron hand rule of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The drama started during the rendition of the national anthem as the vociferous and enthusiastic Ethiopian crowd heckled and jeered the TPLF-inspired anthem and loudly sang the patriotic “Ethiopia yegna Memekia,” much to the confusion of the players.

The Ethiopians then turned their attention towards the less than 30 TPLF cadres who were waving the TPLF flag and the South African security personnel watched in amazement as the marauding anti Zenawi crowd confiscated the flag.

As the match got under way, the TPLF cadres cut a lone figure at the eastern stand of the magnificent World Cup stadium. The match was as dramatic.

Spurred on by the patriotic crowd, the Ethiopian national team players dished out one of the most amazing displays of one touch soccer in a very long time.

Playing as a lone striker, the diminutive and tigerish Saladin Said showed his more illustrious South African internationals how soccer should be played.

On the 27th minute of the first half, Saladin dispossessed Getafe defender Shepo Masilela, turned Totenham Hotspur defender Bongani Kumalo inside out, and hit a screamer past the hapless Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Kune.

Saladin then ran straight to the Ethiopian crowd and celebrated his breath-taking goal in traditional Ethiopian folk dance.

After the goal, Bafana pushed hard for the equalizer but the Ethiopian defense marshalled by Tafese Tsegaye stood firm.

Young goalkeeper Sisaye Bassa also pulled off some great saves to frustrate the South Africans.

Although Bafana had equalized in the second half, at the final whistle, the South African players were seen rolling on the ground in agony as the Ethiopian national team players celebrated [the equalizer away from home] with the anti-Zenawi refugees.

ethiomedia

Censorship: Ethiopia Introduces Deep Packet Inspection

The Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation, which happens to be the sole telecommunication service provider in Ethiopia, has deployed or begun testing Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of all Internet traffic. We have previously analyzed the same kind of censorship in China, Iran, and Kazakhstan.

Reports show that Tor stopped working a week ago — even with bridges configured. Websites such as https://gmail.com/, https://facebook.com/, https://twitter.com/, and even https://torproject.org/ continue to work. The graphs below show the effects of this deployment of censorship based on Deep Packet Inspection:

An analysis of data collected by a volunteer shows that they are doing some sort of TLS fingerprinting. The TLS server hello, which is sent by the Tor bridge after the TLS client hello, never reaches the client. We don’t know exactly what they are fingerprinting on, but our guess is that it is either the client hello or the server hello. An illustration can be found in this network flow diagram.

Thanks to Philipp Winter and George Kadianakis for helping me analyze the data. If you have more information about the censorship in Ethiopia, please email help@rt.torproject.org.

May 30, 2012

Minnesota Anuak community reacts to new outbreak of attacks, killing, disappearance in Ethiopia and South Sudan

By Douglas McGill, TC Daily Planet
May 30, 2012

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

Ethiopia: ‘Special Police’ Execute 10

  • Refugee women and children in Somaliland who fled their homes in Ethiopia as a result of a “Liyu police” operation, April 2012.
    © 2012 Ben Rawlence/Human Rights Watch
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The killing of several Liyu police members doesn’t justify the force’s brutal retaliation against the local population. The Liyu police abuses in Somali region show the urgent need for the Ethiopian government to rein in this lawless force.
Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director

(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.

Looting
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.

Background
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

USA/Ethiopia: Ethiopian-American Muslims to protest against Zenawi government on May 31

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.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said he is concerned about signs of growing “extremism” in the country.

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 Reporter Detained in Ethiopia

Filed under: Azeb Mesfin,Ethiopia,Meles Zenawi — ethiopiantimes @ 10:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 

May 24, 2012

Ethiopia Muslims Tortured Over Ahbashism

Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00
Ethiopia, Muslims, torture, Islam

Ethiopian Muslim activists are reporting torture and abuses by security forces over growing opposition to Ahbashism campaign. (File photo)

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.

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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.

Torture

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.

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