Monthly Archives: June 2013

Oromos seek justice in Ethiopia

(A4O, June 25, 2013) The Oromo people make up about 40 per cent of Ethiopia’s population, yet face widespread discrimination and have long been targeted by the government.

Over many years, millions of Oromos have fled their homeland to become refugees in other nations. The Oromo people are found largely in Ethiopia, northern Kenya and parts of Somalia.

So what should be done to stop the marginalisation of the Oromos and end Ethiopia’s internal ethnic divide?

Source:http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201306250132-0022854?fb_comment_id=fbc_132416553632038_67136_132717173601976#f1b1d9228

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Ogaden Refugees Fleeing Government Persecution

By Graham Peebles

Many confirmed reports make clear their view that the Ethiopian government has “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population,” constituting “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Voices from Dadaab

The Ethiopian military and paramilitary forces, operating in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, are, it is alleged, carrying out extra judicial killings and gang rapes; falsely arresting and torturing innocent civilians; looting and destroying villages and crops in a systematic attempt to terrify the people. This is the consistent message coming out of the region and from those who have fled persecution and are now in the world’s largest refugee camp, in Dadaab, Kenya. It is a message of government brutality and collective suffering taking place not only the Ogaden but in a number of areas of Ethiopia, including the Amhara region, Gambella, Oromia and the Omo valley. Regime brutality thatGenocide Watch (GW) consider “to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes”.  They call on the EPRDF regime to “adhere to it’s own constitution and allow its provinces the legal autonomy they are guaranteed.”

Around five million people live in the Ogaden (or Somali) region of Ethiopia. Predominantly ethnic Somali’s, mostly pastoralists, they live in what is one of the least developed corners of the world. Ravaged by drought and famine, the region has been the battleground for violent disputes between Ethiopia and Somalia for generations. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), claim the people of the region want self-determination from Ethiopia, a right they have ben fighting for since their formation in 1984. A right enshrined in the 19th Century agreement (enacted in 1948) with Britain, when sovereignty and control of the region was passed to Ethiopia. A crucial proviso, successive Ethiopian governments have conveniently ignored.

With the international media banned by the Ethiopian government since 2007 and with an economic and aid embargo being enforced the region is totally isolated, making gathering information about the situation within the five affected districts difficult. I recently spent a week in Dadaab where I met dozens of refugees from the Ogaden; men, women and children who repeatedly relayed accounts of murder, rape, torture and intimidation at the hands of government forces. Accounts that if true, – and we have no reason to doubt them, confirm reports from among others, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Genocide Watch – who make clear their view, that the Ethiopian government has “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population”, constituting “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

State terrorism

The people, victims of terrible abuse, carry with them the scars, often physical, always psychological, of their horrific ordeal. Listening to their stories and the testimonies of former Liyuu personnel, a clear picture of the systematic approach being employed by the Ethiopian military and Liyuu Police operating within the Ogaden emerges.

Arbitrary killings, rape, torture and destruction of property are the unimaginative preferred tools of terror, ‘use the penis as a weapon against the women’ the men are told, burn villagers homes and steal their cattle, confiscate humanitarian aid-including food and create an intolerable fear ridden environment in which to live. Men joining the Ethiopian military and Liyuu Police, like 25 year old Abdi who arrived in Dadaab in January 2013 and like many was forcibly recruited, are told, “there is no court that can control you, that we were free from the law, enjoy your freedom, they told us.” The methodology of occupation, including extra judicial killing, is made clear,  “we were told to rape the young women… When we went into the rural areas, we were 300 men. When we saw a young mother with children aged from one years old to five years old, we would rape her.”

Soldiers that commit many rapes, murders and robberies, Abdi tells us, are “rewarded and praised. They were given bonuses of around 5000 ETB ($250) as a present, in addition to the salary that was 2000 ($100) ETB a month.”

Women, like 27-year-old Rohar, tell of arbitrary arrests and torture. Imprisoned with her husband when she was “in the ninth month of pregnancy. We were made to walk for three days and three nights before a bus collected us and drove us for one more day/night to Jijiga.” Detained for two years without charge in Jail Ogaden in Jijiga, Rohar, as most detainees are, was accused of supporting the ONLF and “repeatedly tortured from the very beginning even though I was pregnant. They would tie a rope around the branch of a tree and a noose around my neck, then they would pull on the rope to strangle me. The evidence is still on my body – (she shows me a terribly burn scar on her neck).”  Throughout this time she reports being “raped by groups of soldiers. It used to happen around midnight. I can only remember the first three men who raped me. They would take me out and leave the child/baby in the room with the other women, and bring me back in the early morning.”  Rohar was released when she was no more use to the soldiers after becaming unwell with abdominal pains, caused, she believes, by the repeated rapes. This account, from beginning to end is typical of many women’s experiences.

A divisional commander, now in Dadaab, related how during their three-month training in the Liyuu they were shown demonstrations in “how to rape a woman, and how to break a virgin”. They are carrying out these atrocities in order  “to make the people afraid and to place them under the control of the Ethiopian military, and fundamentally “because there is oil in the region and the government wants the oil for themselves. The military is there to make the people fearful so they won’t support the ONLF.”

Back in the late 19th century, when the region was under British control, oil was suspected to be present in the region, in 1936 under the Italian occupation geological mapping of the Ogaden Basin began by the Italian oil company AGIP. Their records were later used by other companies in early studies of the region and in the early 1940’s oil exploration in the Ogaden basin began.

In 1972 the American company Tenneco drilled a series of wells and found oil and gas. These discoveries mean the region now desperately poor, is potentially the richest area of the country. In 1975 in the wake of the Ethiopian revolution, the company stopped operations and the military junta expelled all foreign companies. In the past fifty years or so it is estimated that 46 wells have been drilled searching for the black gold.

It would appear the Ethiopian government sees the natural resources of the Ogaden as another party asset to add to its burgeoning portfolio. People living within 100 km of oil exploration sites have been displaced, some GW tell us are herded into internally displaced camps, whilst others are simply made homeless. Sharing the view of the Liyuu recruit, the ONLF believes the Ethiopian military intends to secure the resources for the government and exclude local people. The Africa Faith and Justice Network confirms this view, saying: “With the discovery of petroleum leading to exploration missions by foreign companies, the government’s motives [in the region] are questionable.”

Donor neglect and self-interest

Why, In the face of such blatant state criminality, do donor countries – America, Britain and the European Union, who provide between a third and a half of Ethiopia’s federal budget, remain silent. Ethiopia is of course a key strategic ally of America and the west in their fight against extreme Islamic groups, conveniently situated for the Gulf States the US has military bases in Ethiopia from where it launches its unmanned drones into Somalia and Yemen. Add to this the potential oil bonanza in the Ogaden and indeed elsewhere in the country and a toxic cocktail of mixed motives and self-interest starts to ferment.

The EPRDF government, under the premiership of Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, when confronted with accounts of military criminality issues blanket denials and accuses groups such as HRW of political bias and misinformation. Duplicitous and disingenuous, the regime, which own most of the media in Ethiopia, seeks to control the flow of information within and without the country, and hide the atrocities being committed by the military and Liyuu to innocent civilians in the Ogaden and indeed elsewhere. If the government has nothing to hide Mr. Desalegn then open up the region to humanitarian aid groups and international media and allow journalists unrestricted access.

Peace is the number one priority in the Ogaden and for humanity more broadly, and all measures to remove the obstacles to its realization should be made by those working for the people of the region. Discussions held in Nairobi in September 2012 (and I understand set to resume), broke down when the ONLF refused to accept the condition of constitutional recognition asked of them by the government team. This was unfortunate and to my mind ill-judged; better to enter into discussions with an open mind and, once trust is established, begin to make requests and agree compromise than deny the possibility of progress. What should be insisted upon however, is that both the military/Liyuu and the ONLF lay down their arms and agree an unconditional ceasefire, it is hard to see how one can negotiate a long term solution whilst innocent men are being tortured, women raped, children terrified and homes destroyed.

Source: http://www.nationofchange.org/ogaden-refugees-fleeing-government-persecution-1371218628

Persecuted ethnic Oromo demand UN protection

(A4O, 20 June, 2013 Cairo, Egypt )- For months, Gutama Gallatobati, a proud farmer and mechanic of Oromo descent languished in an Ethiopian prison over accusations he burned an Ethiopian flag. While inside, guards physically abused him.

Sada Ahmed, a mother of five children and wife of a wealthy husband lived a good life in Ethiopia until she was accused of financially supporting the rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Her husband disappeared in Sudan and she was forced to flee to Egypt.

The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population. However, the minority Tigray government has persecuted the Oromo people, jailing more than 20,000 suspected OLF members. As a result, many have been forced to flee, leaving behind family, friends and jobs.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Thursday, the Oromo who have fled to Egypt are again endangered.

“Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don’t want legal protection, we want physical protection.– Mohamed Zein, Ethiopian journalist

Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia’s goal to build the “Grand Renaissance Dam“.

The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply.

In response to the project, Egypt’s government has reached a new level of bellicose rhetoric. In a televised meeting of key government officials recently, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour suggested Egypt launch air strikes to stop construction of the dam. Others proposed destabilising the Ethiopian government by funding rebel groups.

The Oromo in Egypt are now caught in the middle here and say they’re facing increased hostility from Egyptians.

In response, hundreds of Oromo refugees have staged a sit-in outside the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding safety. They’ve refused to leave, sleeping on the grass outside the building, near leaking sewage from a surrounding apartment complex.

Jeylan Kassim, head of the Oromo Sons/ Daughters Refugee Association, has played a leading role in organising the protests. “We will not leave until the UNHCR will protect us,” he told Al Jazeera.

A heavy silence blankets the Oromo as they sit on scraps of cardboard listening to members of the community discuss in frustration fruitless meetings with UNHCR representatives.

The UN says it cannot provide temporary shelter or food outside the UNHCR building because they do not have authority over the land, nor the resources to supply those camping out for the nearly two weeks.

The UN has offered a phone hotline for refugees to call with their problems, as well as legal assistance.

But the Oromo say this is not enough. “Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don’t want legal protection, we want physical protection,” says Mohamed Zein, a journalist from Ethiopia.

He fled to Egypt after he was falsely accused of providing secret government information to NGO Human Rights Watch and the Eritrean government.

Follow spotlight coverage of the struggling young democracy

The UNHCR acknowledges the situation is a difficult one but says its options are limited. “The outcome is not in your hands. As the United Nations, you don’t get involved in [internal] politics,” says UN press officer Ahmed Aboughazala.

The Oromo in Egypt are united not only by their heritage, but also by a collective sense of uncertainty.

When 33-year-old Gutama Gallatobati arrived in Cairo a month ago, he thought his biggest troubles had been left behind. A week ago, however, his landlord evicted him from his apartment and his belongings were taken. When asked what reason he’d been given, he sighed: “The Nile.”

“They said if you take our water, we will take your blood,” recounted Abdi Harboury, a lanky youth shy to make eye contact.

According to the Oromo community, Abdi was the first person to have been attacked over the dam issue. He was beaten by three Egyptian youth, they say.

Hussein Ahmed, an asylum seeker who has been in Cairo almost two years, admitted he lies when asked about his origins. “I was at the barber and he asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I said Nigeria. I am scared to say I am from Ethiopia.”

Even outside the UNHCR office, the refugees say it is not safe. Ahmed said he was beaten recently, and a woman was groped on her way to find a toilet. They claim the police did nothing to stop the attacks.

Some police officers have told locals passing by that the refugees are not suffering, and are being paid by the American government to protest, the Oromo say. “They protest in the day and then at night they’re paid and many of them leave,” said a young officer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, meanwhile, arrived last Sunday in Addis Ababa to meet with his Ethiopian counterpart in an attempt to find a political and economic solution over the dam issue.

Ethiopia and Egypt agreed to hold further talks on the impact of a huge Ethiopian dam project to quell tensions between the two countries over water-sharing.

Until it gets resolved, however, the Oromo who fled persecution in Ethiopia say they will continue to face threats to their safety in Egypt.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2013/06/201361711365644208.html

THOUGH BATTLE AHEAD: THE BATTLE WE OROMOS CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE

“Saying that our [Oromo’s] own very survival, as a people, is under threat is understatement. We are tittering on the edge of the abyss … The bitter truth is one has to fight for one’s own survival … The battle we are forced to engage in is a decisive one.”
                                                           – Gumaa Guddaa*

The Oromo are peace-loving people. Unfortunately, that does not take you anywhere in this nasty world we live in. No nation was ever liberated through letter writing to the UN Secretary General or the President of the U.S.A. No any number of press releases, any amount of false propaganda of non-existent military action or any number of radio stations will do it either. The bitter truth is one has to fight for one’s own survival. Fighting for survival will require sweat, tears and blood. A great deal of it, too. It does also mean going to the mountains and the bushes. Most of the time, it actually involves paying the ultimate sacrifice of giving your own life for the survival and success of your group.

Looking back on the long and proud history of our nation, we witness Oromos have always risen to the challenges of their time. For instance, when the northerners pushed them south in the 15th century, the Oromo devised the Oromo cavalry and strong military philosophy, and fought back. Today, we must do the same. As the current Abyssinian colonial regime tightens its grip on Oromia, time is growing short. We must demand our political leaders speak the truth and offer decisive leadership. We must also individually and collectively offer the leaders real practical support in terms of fundraising, volunteering and providing material contribution. Above all, we have to individually ask ourselves the purpose of our being on planet earth. Be prepared to die for our freedom, if need be. They say, it is better dying standing on your feet than living on your knees.

Saying that our own very survival, as a people, is under threat is understatement. We are tittering on the edge of the abyss, and it is mostly the problem of our own making. We must know the greatest threat to our survival is our own apathy. Working in tandem with our apathy is also the mere fact that the enemy facing us today is brutal beyond imagination. We need a collective vision to pull ourselves back from the edge. The vision and dream of living as free people once again, as we did for thousands of years. Vision alone is not enough. Achieving it requires collective effort.

Economic exploitation of Oromia has become second to none. The so-called foreign investors exploiting Oromian mineral wealth are causing irreversible damage to our precious environment. The Tigreans have unfettered free access to Oromian green and fertile land. They even destroy a UNESCO-registered tropical forest with impunity. Watch this recent documentary in which the regime itself boasts about destroying Yayu forest. The thieves have the audacity to claim that the local population gave them the land without any demand for compensation. Why would subsistence farmers give their livelihood away to a company? It is adding insult to an injury. Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvdqRnIsUtA

Oromo families are uprooted up and down the country to make way for the ‘investors.’ Just recently, more than one thousand households have been displaced without any compensation as their land was sold to a foreign company in search of gold and precious earth metals in Ghimbi district in Wallaga, experience repeated all over Oromia time and again. One thing is clear. Oromos have not given their land to the Tigreans for free in support of the regime’s policy as it is being claimed by TPLF. How come a society ends its own existence by its own choice? Nothing is furthest from the truth. It seems TPLF’s propaganda chief has taken the leaf out of Gorge Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The human rights abuse by the TPLF regime is immeasurably severe, too. Disappearances of innocent Oromos without trace over the past 20 years run into tens of thousands. Long-term imprisonments in secrete detention camps and the regime’s torture chambers have become commonplace, and we are no more shocked when we hear mass arrests here and there. We have developed tolerance to bad news all together. Thousands of these Oromo political prisoners are children and women. Rape against Oromo women is unspoken taboo, but the Tigrean regime uses rape and pillage as cruel weapons of war. Today, Oromo women are the most endangered group without any protection. They are sold in their droves to modern-day slavery across the Middle East. Oromo refugees have no protection in neighboring countries. They are threatened with being returned back to the hands of the killers. Watch: http://youtu.be/DHs7rkUXS74

When the survivors tell us about their ordeal in the hands of the regime’s security agents, their plea falls on deaf ears. Our heroin sisters have attended our academic annual conferences and laid it out bare with their testimony bravely and courageously. Hearing it, our men become enraged for a brief moment, but do not make long-term strategic tangible effort in directing their anger in the direction of solution-seeking.

The Tigrean led Abyssinian colonial regime has even bigger surprise in store for us, just in case you did not know. Few warning shots have already been fired in our direction regarding their ambition of reducing the Oromo population size and the Oromian landmass. It seems that they have two-pronged approach. First is to squeeze Oromia from the peripheries, in the west by Gumuz, and in the east and south by Somali tribes. For example, listen to the following radio broadcast by an Oromo journalist concerning the recent ethnic cleansing in the east: http://youtu.be/kGqup3dsTSI.

The irony is that these villages (both in the west and east) from where now the enemy is uprooting our people at will were former OLF stronghold and liberated areas, and our own military bases for many years. Lives were given and blood was spilt to liberate them from Ethiopian and Somali colonial forces in the first place. How did this happen to us? Where did we go wrong to let it happen?

The second strand of the regime’s strategy is to eliminate Oromos from cities like Finfinne, Jimma, Dire Dhawa, etc. Their main target is Finfinnee in particular. As you will know, there is already an exclusion zone around Finfinnee. The Oromo have been removed under pressure without any compensation. Tigreans are being settled in Finfinnee en mass. Once they become the majority, the regime will declare it part of Tigray special zone after ‘referendum.’ This will threaten the territorial integrity of Oromia directly.

So, what sort of battle is going on? Simply put, it is a battle between an expanding colonial power and a people fighting for their survival. At this juncture, the colonizer has the upper hand, albeit until the giant awakens. I am afraid, tragically on the other side, we, the Oromo, are not yet fully alerted to the gravity of the danger facing us. One has to focus on the Oromo elites in particular to understand the depth of the malaise. Conscious educated Oromos are in the minority. It could be safely argued that the vast majority of the ‘educated’ class is ethiopianized at its core. Some confuse liberation of Oromia with democratization of Ethiopia. It appears this group is irrecoverably inflicted by collective amnesia. It is comical to listen to the self-appointed ‘founders’ and their followers. Some of them claim they have acquired the highest level of education known to mankind. But, you cannot help but wonder, what sort of education leads to amnesia?

What defies logic is that the recidivist type of Oromo ‘educated’ class has completely forgotten or chosen to ignore history altogether. Let us help them. Anyone who has a rudimentary grasp of the history of Ethiopian empire will know what happened to Gobana Danche, Haile Fida, Marara Gudina, Nagaso Gidada, and Bulcha Damaksa to mention but few.

The battle we are forced to engage in is a decisive one, nonetheless. History teaches us that the Aborigines were once the majority in Australia. So were the Indians in North America (Canada and USA), and the Incas in South America. Another example that could be contemplated here is South Africa. The black South Africans are only the majority in number. If the Tigreans become successful in their dream, they will try to change the current educational and economic apartheid, and the slow genocidal acts into an accelerated war of attrition against the Oromo people.

The battle we must fight decisively needs to be multifaceted. We have to take on the Abyssinians in the field of commerce, education, science and technology and defeat them. More importantly, the battle will not be won through the ballot boxes but bullets, I am afraid. The prospect is neither for the fainthearted nor for the half-hearted pretenders. It requires total dedication and being ready to sacrifice your life. You must be ready to lead by example. You ought to know the nature of the struggle, what is at stake, your enemy, your friends and above all the rule of the game, too. There are some who suggest that the struggle for independence of Oromia and democratization of Ethiopia could be reconciled. Forgive me; these are two mutually exclusive projects. I am not convinced that a good number of us have the grasp of what we mean when we say the Oromo struggle, not only in terms of its enormity, but its true meaning, too.

The demand for self-rule does not emanate from lack of democracy in Ethiopia. The driver for independence is something quite different, something more grandeur; more scared that demand for democracy. Britain was democratic when the USA fought and won its independence. Today, Scotland is on the verge of a referendum for independence from Britain. Our detractors need to understand that even if Ethiopia becomes democratic, Oromia will push forward for independence. In fact, these Oromos, who have gone native, will also make the battle ahead tougher than anyone else as they blur the line between the Abyssinians and us.

In conclusion, the sooner we wake out of sleepwalking towards extinction the better. We have to stop deluding ourselves that Ethiopia can be democratized. Then again, democracy or not, aspiration for independent republic of Oromia is already woven into our collective unconsciousness and will never die. Even if we deny it, the genie is out of the bottle, and there is no going back. Whether we choose to go down fighting or allow the enemy to decide our fate, there is no doubt the way ahead is tough and bloody. Thus, let us defend Oromia with all our might and fight to the last man for our freedom, if need be.

* Gumaa Guddaa: gumaguda@yahoo.com

South Africa: sanctuary at a price

(Summary report of  Oromia Support Group Report 49) Fifty-eight Oromo and two Ogadeni refugees from Ethiopia were interviewed in Johannesburg, Alexandra township and Randfontein, in Guateng province, and in Kinross and Evander, Mpumalanga province, in October and November 2012. The refugees reported serious abuse in Ethiopia and hazardous journeys to South Africa.

The 60 interviewees corroborated previous reports of extraordinarily high rates of torture in places of detention in Ethiopia. 26 (43%) had been tortured-58% of the men and 26% of the women. Of the 38 who had been detained, 68% reported being tortured. All had been severely beaten. 76% of detained men and 54% of detained women were tortured.

Reported conditions of detention in Ethiopia were atrocious. Torture was routinely practised in military camps, prisons, police st ations and unofficial places of detention. Methods included arm-tying (falantis), severe enough to cause nerve damage; flaying of the soles of the feet (bastinado); mock execution; whipping; immersion of the head in water and other forms of asphyxiation; walking and running on gravel, barefoot or on knees; suspension by the wrists or ankles; stress positions; sleep deprivation by flooding cells; drenching and other exposure to cold; electrocution; suspension of weights from genitalia; and castration.

Previous reports of high mortality rates among detainees in military camps, especially Hamaresa in E. Hararge, were corroborated by former detainees. In addition to the many who were killed or died in detention, the interviewees reported 91 killings of family and friends. These included 21 summary executions, some of which were public. Interviewees also reported 18 disappearances, ten of close relatives.

Only two of 13 women former detainees were raped in custody, considerably less than the 50% in previous reports, but this probably reflects the small size of the sampled population. Another interviewee was raped in her home by a government official and then in Kakuma camp, Kenya, by an Ethiopian security agent. Three interviewees reported rape of others in Ethiopia, including the multiple gang-rape of a 14 year-old in the Ogaden, who was strangled to death after ten days by the soldiers who raped her.

Although almost all of the abuses were justified by state actors on the basis of victims’ involvement with the Oromo Liberation Front, only half of the interviewees had ever had any personal or family association with the organisation.

Only three were themselves involved after the OLF left government in 1992.

Travellers to South Africa were at risk of abuse,including rape, by people-smugglers. Several deaths were witnessed during dangerous and harsh journeys lasting up to 12 months, during which migrants were often short of food and water. Detention in unsanitary, severely overcrowded conditions, especially in Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi, for up to five months, was experienced by 18 interviewees (21 episodes). Deportation and attempted deportation was reported by four.

Making a living in South Africa, although legal, is difficult and dangerous. The majority of interviewees work or have worked in township tuckshops, which are frequently subject to armed robbery and xenophobic attacks. At least five Oromo died in tuckshop attacks in 2012 alone. On average, each tuckshop is robbed every 5-6 months. Several organised racist attacks against tuckshops were reported and xenophobic threats, direct and via distributed leaflets, were recorded.

Violence and robbery on the street is common. One young woman was raped on her way to work one Sunday morning, in central Johannesburg, a few days before interview.

The South African government appears unenthusiastic in tackling xenophobic violence and, at best, ambivalent in honouring its responsibilities to refugees, according to international law and its own constitution. It has failed to address the ubiquitous high level of violence.

Xenophobia is fuelled by local leaders and politicians in order to bolster their popularity and power.

The refugee determination process is thoroughly corrupted and meaningless. Refugee status is virtually sold as a commodity.

Whereas refugees are able to make a living in South Africa better than elsewhere on the continent, this is at a price. The violence which is characteristic of everyday life in the country is particularly likely to impact on the poor and the immigrant.

A vibrant civil society stands in bright contrast to the ANC government and is a hopeful sign that prosperity and tolerance may eventually prevail in South Africa.

South Africa: sanctuary at a price

(A4O, June 8, 2013) According to the Oromia Support Group 4498 extra-judicial killings and 1010 disappearances of civilians in Ethiopia has been reported. Hundreds of thousands have been placed in illegal detention, where torture is routine and rape is commonplace.
OSG,  a non-political organisation which attempts to raise awareness of human rights violations in Ethiopia,  also compiled its 49th annual report  based on  information obtained from Oromo and Ogadeni refugees in South Africa in October and November 2012.
According to the report, fifty-eight Oromo and two Ogadeni refugees from Ethiopia were interviewed in Johannesburg, Alexandra township and Randfontein, in Guateng province, and in Kinross and Evander, Mpumalanga province, in October and November 2012. The refugees reported serious abuse in Ethiopia and hazardous journeys to South Africa.
The 60 interviewees corroborated previous reports of extraordinarily high rates of torture in places of detention in Ethiopia. 26 (43%) had been tortured-58% of the men and 26% of the women. Of the 38 who had been detained, 68% reported being tortured. All had been
severely beaten. 76% of detained men and 54% of detained women were tortured.
Reported conditions of detention in Ethiopia were atrocious. Torture was routinely practised in military camps, prisons, police st ations and unofficial places of detention. Methods included arm-tying (falantis), severe enough to cause nerve damage; flaying of the soles of the feet (bastinado); mock execution; whipping; immersion of the head in water and other forms of asphyxiation; walking and running on gravel, barefoot or on knees; suspension by the wrists or ankles; stress positions; sleep deprivation by flooding cells; drenching and other exposure to cold; electrocution; suspension of weights from genitalia; and castration.
Previous reports of high mortality rates among detainees in military camps, especially Hamaresa in E. Hararge, were corroborated by former detainees. In addition to the many who were killed or died in detention, the interviewees reported 91 killings of family and friends. These included 21 summary executions, some of which were public. Interviewees also reported 18 disappearances, ten of close relatives.
Only two of 13 women former detainees were raped in custody, considerably less than the 50% in previous reports, but this probably reflects the small size of the sampled population. Another interviewee was raped in her home by a government official and then in Kakuma camp, Kenya, by an Ethiopian security agent. Three interviewees reported rape of others in Ethiopia, including the multiple gang-rape of a 14 year-old in the Ogaden, who was strangled to death after ten days by the soldiers who raped her.
Although almost all of the abuses were justified by state actors on the basis of victims’ involvement with the Oromo Liberation Front, only half of the interviewees had ever had any personal or family association with the organisation. Only three were themselves involved after the OLF left government in 1992.
Travellers to South Africa were at risk of abuse,including rape, by people-smugglers. Several deaths were witnessed during dangerous and harsh journeys lasting up to 12 months, during which migrants were often short of food and water. Detention in unsanitary, severely overcrowded conditions, especially in Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi, for up to five months, was experienced by 18 interviewees (21 episodes). Deportation and attempted deportation was reported by four.
Making a living in South Africa, although legal, is difficult and dangerous. The majority of interviewees work or have worked in township tuckshops, which are frequently subject to armed robbery and xenophobic attacks. At least five Oromo died in tuckshop attacks in 2012 alone. On average, each tuckshop is robbed every 5-6 months. Several organised racist attacks against tuckshops were reported and xenophobic threats, direct and via distributed leaflets, were recorded.
Violence and robbery on the street is common. One young woman was raped on her way to work one Sunday morning, in central Johannesburg, a few days before interview.
The South African government appears unenthusiastic in tackling xenophobic violence and, at best, ambivalent in honouring its responsibilities to refugees, according to international law and its own constitution. It has failed to address the ubiquitous high level of violence.
Xenophobia is fuelled by local leaders and politicians in order to bolster their popularity and power.

The refugee determination process is thoroughly corrupted and meaningless. Refugee status is virtually sold as a commodity.
Whereas refugees are able to make a living in South Africa better than elsewhere on the continent, this is at a price. The violence which is characteristic of everyday life in the country is particularly likely to impact on the poor and the immigrant.
A vibrant civil society stands in bright contrast to the ANC government and is a hopeful sign that prosperity and tolerance may eventually prevail in South Africa.
Here is the full report of the OSG 49th Report: south-africa-june-2013

Egyptians attack Oromo refugees as the Nile crisis deepens

(A4O, June 7, 2013) Many Oromo refugees  in Cairo were beaten, denied police services, and subsequently charged extra for medical care on the evening of Thursday 6th June 2013 in retaliation for Ethiopia’s diversion of the Nile River, according to locals.

oromocairo“Our friend was beaten seriously by a group of Egyptian youth and he was nearly killed,” wrote Abdulkadir Noor Gumi, a Cairo-based community activist, in an appeal letter sent to media outlets. “He was beaten by chain, metal, and stick…he had a head injury and other injuries on his body.”

Thursday’s attack in Cairo on an unnamed Oromo national, the second incident in the last week, underscores the grave threat facing Ethiopian refugees living in Egypt. Many of these refugees left Ethiopia fleeing repression and fear persecution if they return home. Several hundred UNHCR-recognized Oromo and other refugees of Ethiopian origin reside in Egypt, according to community estimates. Activists report the situation remains tense and have urged all persons of Ethiopian and Oromo origin to stay in their houses until the situation stabilizes, if ever.

Following Thursday’s incident, Egyptian police refused to take down the report of what transpired saying that the attack was deserved.

“The policeman who was writing the report aimed [a gun] at me…saying that we deserved to be killed,” said Gumi in an email recounting his traumatic experience.

Their troubles did not end there.

“After that we were referred to a hospital to do some check up for our injured friend,” Gumi continued. “In the hospital, we found the same issue, we are asked our nationality for record, we were told that ‘you are going to divert our Nile and you have to pay more for hospital.’”

Even after paying double the amount of normal fees for seeing a doctor, according to Gumi’s report, other patients in waiting room told them, “you deserve[d] it,” after learning their nationality.

The Oromo Community in Cairo is holding a peaceful demonstration in front of UNHCR and is asking all concerned individuals to reach out to Egyptian authorities on their behalf.

Here is an appeal letter sent to media outlets: https://advocacy4oromia.org/media/press-release/an-appeal-letter-from-cairo-based-oromo-community/

Oromia Support Group Australia asks for quick intervention

(Advocacy4Oromia, 2 June 2013) — OSG Australia says troubled relations between Ethiopia’s government and the Oromo people constitute a serious obstacle in the country’s path to stability and prosperity.

@osg12According to OSG Australia statement, the Ethiopian government’s recent history has been plagued by ethnic conflict and protracted conflicts with government forces, particularly in Oromia and neighboring regions.

Although it has recently started getting some Oromo media attention, for the past 3 years the ongoing invisible war carried out on Oromo, in the Aniya area, massively affected the local people.

By prompts of the Ethiopian government authorities continuing an irritating war launched by Benishangul-Gumuz armed group on Oromo civilians in East Wollega zone that displaced hundreds from their life now counting its half a decade.

The continuing killings of hundreds of Oromo civilians in Eastern Oromia the heavily armed forces labelled Ogaden Special Police and backed by Ethiopian government invaded the area and continuing killings of hundreds of Oromo innocent civilians.

In 2011-2012 the massacre of hundreds of Oromo people, in Moyale Southern Oromia, by the Ethiopian military forces is evidence that shows the brutality of the government.

For more information:OSGA Statment – 1st June 2013