Daily Archives: September 7, 2017

Freemuse calls on Ethiopian authorities to drop charges against Oromo artists

Photo: Seenaa Solomoon in ‘Ramacii Rincice’ video/YouTube

Ethiopian authorities charged seven artists – musicians and dancers – with terrorism in late June 2017 for producing and uploading “inciting” political songs and videos, according to media reports. Freemuse is concerned about the charges and the continued erosion of freedom of expression in Ethiopia, especially of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in the country.

Freemuse is also alarmed by the wide latitudes Ethiopian authorities have taken during the recently lifted ten-month-long state of emergency put in place in response to protests stemming from the government’s plan, announced in 2014, to expand capital city Addis Ababa into farm lands in the Oromia region, the country’s largest region and home to the Oromo people.

“What is happening in Ethiopia is not a spin off from the recent protests and uprising, but rather is about a government clampdown on the artistic community in general and of Oromo artists in particular. We call on national authorities to drop the charges on the seven artists and protect all peoples’ right to freedom of expression, including expressions critical of governments,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.

The seven artists – Seenaa Solomon, Elias Kiflu, Gemechis Abera, Oliyad Bekele, Ifa Gemechu, Tamiru Keneni and Moebul Misganu – were arrested in December 2016 and held in Maekelawi Prison, which Global Voices reports is notorious for its torture practices. Misganu had been arrested before in 2014 in connection to student protests in Oromia and was released in 2016.

More recently, the BBC reported that Ethiopian police stopped the formal launch of singer Tewodros Kassahun’s, who performs as Teddy Afro, latest album without any official reason, preventing event organisers from entering the venue and demanding a permit. His new album, released in May, has become Ethiopia’s fastest selling album and topped Billboard’s world album chart.

Additionally, his Ethiopian New Year’s Eve concert scheduled for 11 September this year was cancelled for the third consecutive year, according to non-profit Music in Africa Foundation.

Teddy Afro is no stranger to controversy as he first drew negative attention from authorities in 2005 when he released his third album which contained songs critical of the government that became anthems for protest movements.

In 2008, he was imprisoned for a hit-and-run accident in a case that he claims was politically motivated and was released in 2009, after serving 18 months of a two-year sentence.

Freemuse has registered over the years several attacks and forms of harassment on Oromo artists, including the imprisonment, beatings and forced exile of artists, as well as the banning of music and shutdown of studios.

Read more about the state of freedom of expression for Oromo people in Ethiopia here

Source: Freemuse

The Tale of Two Militia: Janjaweed vs Liyu Police

Today, the Liyu Police invaded Miesso district and injured elementary school kids by throwing a hand grenade on them. When Oromia Police responded in defense, the Ethiopian Military appeared to disarm and arrest them. Just like the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese National Force, Liyu Police and the Ethiopian Defense Forces are attacking the innocent Oromo. As we speak, operation is still there and the worst is yet to come.

Since 1956, Sudan has been ravaged by war. In Darfur, the war has led to ethnic cleansing on a massive scale during the peak years of the war, 2003–2005, in which more than 300,000 Darfuri civilians have been killed and and approximately 3 000 000 people were forcibly exiled, an event in which both the government and the local militia conspired the killings.

The Sudanese government provided incentives in the form of payment and access to loot, as well as promises of access to land and administrative power. Sudanese officials also identified key tribal leaders from the northern Riziegat to coordinate the recruitment: Sheikh Musa Hilal, a leader of the Um Jalul clan of the Mahamid, became the lynchpin for recruitment of militias in northern Darfur. Since June 2003, he has become emblematic of the role of the militia forces in the attacks on civilians and the impunity conferred upon them by the Sudanese government.

The worst atrocities are committed by the Um Jalul of Musa Hilal because historically they have tensions with the Fur and Zaghawa. They’re all camel herders, not cattle herders, and they have no respect for farmers, they have a superiority complex and they need their camels. When the war started, the Sudanese government asked Musa Hilal to be the leader of the Janjaweed.

In 2007, an version of Jajaweed militia was established in Ethiopia’s Ogaden Region. It was created and led by Abdi Mohammed Omar (“Abdi Illey”), the current president of Somali Regional State, who was then the regional security chief, with direct order from Meles Zenawi. At first, many thought Liyu Police was created to counter the growing ONLF fighters insurgency mostly after the events of April 2007, in which the rebel groups attached the Chinese Oil company operating in Ogaden.

For the time both Meles and Abdi Illey succeeded in abating ONLF’s further advance, but the mission of Liyu Police didn’t stopped there. After Meles died in 2012, Abdi Illey had been organizing the most aggressive force by recruiting thousands of youth from his loyal clan. Now, there are forty five thousand strong paramilitary forces operating in Ogaden committing heinous crime against innocent civilians. The Liyu police have frequently been implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and violence against people in the Somali region, as well as in retaliatory attacks against local communities, according human right watch report.

Since December 2016, credible reports have emerged of Liyu police incursions into the neighboring Oromia region covering 24 districts and more than 200 localities bordering Somali – Oromia Region. This aggressive force have been conducting extrajudicial killings, looting properties and displacing thousands and tens of thousands of innocent Oromo from their ancestral land.

Reports have been emerging that the Ethiopian defense forces deployed around the border are helping Liyu Police by disarming local Oromo militias and Oromia Police. Evidences found from eyewitnesses and from killed military Identity Card indicated that men from defense forces have engaged in the random attacks and TPLF military Generals are supervising the operations of Liyu Police. With such operations more 1,500 innocent Oromo have lost their lives, thousands forcely displaced and property have been looted.

Today, the Liyu Police invaded Miesso district and injured elementary school kids by throwing a hand grenade on them. When Oromia Police responded in defense, the Ethiopian Military appeared to disarm and arrest them. Just like the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese National Force, Liyu Police and the Ethiopian Defense Forces are attacking the innocent Oromo. As we speak, operation is still there and the worst is yet to come.

 By Lammii Beenyaa