Monthly Archives: September 2016
PRESS RELEASE SEPTEMBER 13, 2016
(Advocacy for Oromia, 14 September 2016) The undersigned civil society organizations applaud U.S. Representatives Chris Smith, Keith Ellison and Mike Coffman for introducing House Resolution 861, entitled “Supporting human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”
H.Res.861, introduced today as companion legislation to S.Res.432, addresses the ongoing human rights abuses and political instability in Ethiopia. It condemns the killing and arbitrary arrest of protesters and calls on the Ethiopian government to conduct a full, credible and transparent investigation into the killing and excessive use of force against protesters in the Amhara and Oromia regions. It also urges the Ethiopian government to allow the UN to conduct an independent examination of the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The resolution calls on the U.S. Government to conduct a review of its security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments and to develop immediately a comprehensive strategy to improve good governance in Ethiopia.
We believe that this resolution is a powerful call to action to promote national and international accountability and redress for the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by Ethiopian government security forces during recent protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The resolution adds to efforts by Ethiopians in Ethiopia and around the world to bring about democratic reforms, inclusive governance, and respect for human rights in Ethiopia. By specifically instructing the Department of State and USAID to improve oversight and accountability of U.S. assistance to Ethiopia, the resolution highlights the obligation of donor countries to ensure that aid given to the government of Ethiopia is not used to suppress the legitimate demands of citizens for accountable government and equal representation at all levels of the political structure.
We express our support for this resolution and the intent behind it, which is to focus attention on helping the Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian government find a path forward out of the deepening human rights crisis. We encourage members of the House to support H.Res.861 and urge members of the Senate to support S.Res.432, the companion resolution introduced by Senators Cardin and Rubio in April.
Africa Faith & Justice Network
Amnesty International USA
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars
Ethiopia Human Rights Project
Human Rights Watch
Oromo Advocacy Alliance
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition
(Advocacy4Oromia, 11 September 2016) As Ethiopians prepare to celebrate their New Year and the Muslim feast of Sacrifice, shops in the town of Burayu are shuttered and streets strangely empty amid fresh anti-government protests.
But after months of on-off trouble in the central Oromo region — home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group — this small town close to capital, Addis Ababa, is in virtual lockdown after a call for a general strike against the government’s stance on Oromo demands.
“I’ve never seen the city like this,” said a grocer manning one of the few market stalls still open.
“Police officers came and said we have no right to close our shops and if we close, they’ll close us for good.”
But despite incessant police patrols, most shops have remained shuttered.
“The whole Oromo region is ruled by the military,” said 26-year-old Abdisa, who vows while chatting with a couple of friends that his family’s small cafe will stay shut until the New Year, as agreed by traders.
“This boycott is a way of showing our disagreement with the government,” adds Abdisa, who gives no family name.
The lockdown, he says, is a sign of respect for those killed in the region since November, which rights groups say number in the hundreds.
With security forces readily using live bullets against demonstrators, there have been fewer protests in recent days.
“We don’t want to celebrate the New Year with joy…They’re killing people. We need the killings to stop,” said Falmata, a young jobless university graduate.
And when talk focuses on Ethiopia’s last elections in May 2015, when the ruling EPRDF coalition — in power for a quarter of a century — won every parliamentary seat, Falmata’s anger boils over.
“This result is totally false,” he says.
It was a government decision a few months later to appropriate Oromo lands for an urban development scheme — a decision now rescinded — that raised fears by farmers of expropriation, triggering months of deadly trouble.
“The plan brought a lot of blood, and that blood started everything,” said Falmata.
“We don’t want this regime to continue. It’s ruled by a few people dominated by the TPLF,” he added, referring to the Tigray Liberation Front that overthrew Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorial regime in 1991 but is now also accused of monopolising political power.
The unrest, the first such protests in a decade, has spread to the northern Amhara region.In August, simultaneous protests took place for the first time in the two regions that together account for 60 percent of the country’s people.
The protests were violently suppressed by security forces who opened fire on crowds in several places leaving at least 100 dead, according to rights group Amnesty International.
In Burayu, the main bus station is deserted, with activists stopping all traffic to western Oromo, where the protests have been specially violent.
Civil disobedience appears to be growing in the region, with artists now openly joining the protest movement.
“I am on the side of the people,” popular singer Abush Zeleke said on Facebook. “People choice is my choice. I am not going to perform any concert.”
Local media says around 20 artists have decided to boycott New Year celebrations on Sunday.
Yousuf gave an exclusive interview to Al Bawaba about his plight, which provides a glimpse into the Ethiopian government’s ongoing crackdown on the ethnic Oromo.
With a population of at least 35 million, the Oromo are the largest tribe in Ethiopia. They’ve suffered discrimination at the hands of the ruling Tigray tribe for decades.
The Ethiopian government, which is dominated by the minority Tigray, is a key ally of many Western countries in the “War on Terror.”
Yousuf is from an Oromo Muslim family in the eastern city Harar. He began working as a radio and TV journalist in 2013, covering Ethiopian politics and the Oromo protests that began in November 2015when the government attempted to appropriate Oromo farmland to expand Addis Ababa, the country’s capital.
The government responded to mostly-peaceful demonstrations by beating and arresting people andopening fire on the crowds. Since November, Ethiopian soldiers have killed 500 demonstrators, Human Rights Watch says.
The government has also cracked down on journalists who publish things that go against the party line.
Last year, Yousuf was imprisoned for three months for his coverage of the ongoing Oromo demonstrations.
“As a journalist, I did my professional job, which is reporting,” he told Al Bawaba. “But the government doesn’t like journalists. They want to hide what’s going on in our country. That is why they arrested me. Because I exposed that youth were being imprisoned and killed.”
Yousuf said he was tortured while he was in prison.
Though he was released after three months’ detention, Yousuf said the government tried to arrest him again, which led him to flee the country for neighboring Kenya.
Yousuf said goodbye to his family and took a series of buses with what little money he had to travel from Harar hundreds of miles south to the Kenyan border.
At the border, Yousuf was forced to spend the night in a hotel room while waiting for the crossing to open the next morning. He said the Ethiopian intelligence services were looking for him and others in area hotels, and he had to flee his room and sleep in the street to avoid getting caught.
The next day he crossed in to Kenya, and rode more buses to get from the border to Nairobi. He arrived in Nairobi on Aug. 16, and is now trying to win asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Yousuf said part of the reason the Ethiopian government doesn’t like him is that his father was a supporter of the Oromo Liberation Front, a political party that the Ethiopian government declared a terrorist organization in 2011. Yousuf said his father was imprisoned and killed by government agents in the early 1990s, when Yousuf was only three-years-old.
In August, civil unrest in Ethiopia intensified, as a second ethnic group, the Amhara, joined the demonstrations. Over the course of three days in early August, Ethiopian soldiers killed an estimated 97 people during protests in half a dozen cities around the country.
“Hospitals have been filled by dead and wounded victims,” one witness told Reuters.
The US, which gives millions of dollars in aid to the Ethiopian government every year in exchange for military cooperation in the volatile Horn of Africa, has refused to condemn the government’s massacres, saying only that it was “deeply concerned” with the violence.
Other Western nations, who also use Ethiopia as a military and security partner, have been similarly tight-lipped.
It seems obvious that the inaction of Western powers is perceived by the Ethiopian government ascarte blanche to continue beating, arresting and slaughtering its own citizens.
“Still now the Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources,” Yousuf said.
-By Hunter Stuart
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