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A Call for an End to Ethiopia’s Endless Violence Against Oromo Nation January 13, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Colonizing Structure, Human Rights, Humanity and Social Civilization, Knowledge and the Colonizing Structure. African Heritage. The Genocide Against Oromo Nation, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo Identity, Oromo Nation, Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia, Oromummaa, Self determination, Sirna Gadaa, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, Tyranny, Uncategorized, Warlords.
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The following is an Urgent Action statement from the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA). HRLHA is a nonpolitical organization (with the UN Economic and Social Council – (ECOSOC) Consultative Status), which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. January 12, 2014. Press Release.

In the past twenty-two years, the peoples of Ethiopia and the outside world have witnessed the EPRDF Government’s incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Oromo Nationals from all walks of life in jails, unofficial detention centers and concentration camps simply for allegedly being members or supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and some other opposition political organizations. Due to the inappropriate and inhuman treatments by the government security members, hundreds of Oromos have died, suffered from physical disabilities resulting from tortures, and most of those who were taken to court were given harsh sentences, including life in prison and capital punishments or death penalty. Oromo intellectuals, businessmen, and the members of legally operating Oromo parties (for example, the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM)) have been among the victims of the EPRDF/TPLF Government’s suppressive political system. The most worrisome is that the Oromo youth, who were even born after the EPRDF/TPLF government came to power, have become the major victims of the Government’s brutalities under the same allegations of supporting and/or sympathizing with Oromo opposition political organizations. In the past decade or so, thousands of young Oromo students of universities, colleges, high schools and intermediate academic institutions have been criminalized for allegedly being member or sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front. A lot of them have killed and tortured, and thousands are still languishing behind bars, while thousands others have been banned from being part of any level of educational opportunities; and, as a result, they have become jobless, homeless, etc. Tenth of thousands have fled their homeland and become refugees in neighboring countries.

In the same manner and for the same reasons, the most recent cases of arrests and imprisonments have taken place in Gujjii Zone of Oromia State. According to the HRLHA’s informant in Gujii, more than 45 Oromo nationals have been arrested by the Federal police forces without court warrant at different times since August 25, 2013 to December 2013. This was mainly in the districts of Gorodolo, Girja and Bore of the Gujjii Zone. Most of the victims of these most recent extrajudicial actions have reportedly been taken a detention centre in Negele Town. Victims of this particular operation include members of the legally operating opposition Oromo political party of the Federalist Congress (OFC), as well as high school teachers, students of elementary and high schools, college and university students in various parts of the Gujjii Zone.

According to reports obtained by HRLHA, on August 25, 2013, the federal police arrested 8 college students from Harekello town in Goro-Dola district; and on the following day, police searched houses of many residents of the town without court warrant, and arrested another 3 more people. Among them was a high school teacher called Gobena Gemeda. The alleged reason for the arrest, detention, and search of homes in this particular campaign was the distribution and posting of leaflets in the town with contents condemning the discrimination of the government against the Gujjii Oromos. Among those who were arrested and detained, 6 people, including kedir A/ Bundha, Gobena Gemeda and Shako Bura, were released after a week; while the following five students are still in detention center in Negele Prison, according to the information HRLHA has obtained.

Imprisoned Oromo Nationals
Imprisoned Oromo Nationals
The legally registered Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) officials and cadres, who were genuinely working for their people on behalf of their party, were also accused of allegedly being sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and arrested in Adolla town in Gujjii and in Bule Hora district of Borana Zone. Among them was Mr. Borama Jano, elected parliament member from the districts of Bore and Anna-Sorra. He was arrested on November 15, 2013, and is still detained at Adolla Police Station. Two OFC organizing cadres – Mr. Hirbaayyee Galgalo and Uturaa Adulaa – were arrested in Bulehora Wereda of Borena Zone in December 2013.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) expresses its deep concern over the safety and well-being of these Oromo nationals who have been picked up arbitrarily from different places at different times and are being held at various detention centers. The Ethiopian government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens, who were suspected of supporting, sympathizing with and/or being members of the opposition political organizations. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian official prisons and other secret detention centers.

The HRLHA calls upon the Ethiopia Government to refrain from systematically eliminating the young generation of Oromo nationals and respect all international human rights standards in general, and of civil and political rights of the citizens it has signed in particular. HRLHA demands that the Ethiopian Government unconditionally release those arrested most recently as well as all other political detainees.

HRLHA also calls upon governments of the West, all local, regional and international human rights agencies to join hands and demand the immediate halt of such kinds of extra-judicial actions against one’s own citizens, and release the detainees without any preconditions.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Ethiopian Government and its concerned government ministries and/or officials as swiftly as possible, both in English and Amharic, or your own language:

Gadaa.comExpressing concerns regarding the apprehension and fear of torture of the citizens who are being held in different detention centers, including the infamous Ma’ikelawi Central Investigation Office; and calling for their immediate and unconditional release;

Gadaa.comRequesting to refrain from detaining, harassing, discriminating against Oromo Nationals;

Gadaa.comUrging the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that these detainees would be treated in accordance with the regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners;

Gadaa.comAlso, send your concerns to diplomatic representatives in Ethiopia – who are accredited to your country.

• Office of Prime Minister of Ethiopia
P.O. Box – 1031, Addis Ababa
Telephone – +251 155 20 44; +251 111 32 41
Fax – +251 155 20 30; +251 155 20 20

• Office of Min. of Justice
P.O. Box 1370, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 551 77 75; +251 11 552 08 74
Email: ministry-justice@telecom.net.et


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
(particularly for urgent matters) E-mail: tb-petitions@ohchr.org

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue
P.O. Box 673
Banjul, The Gambia
Tel: (220) 4392 962, 4372070, 4377721 – 23
Fax: (220) 4390 764
E-mail: achpr@achpr.org

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, FRANCE
Tel: + 33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: + 33 (0)3 90 21 50 53

U.S. Department of State
Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Washington, D.C. 20037
Tel: +1-202-261-8009
Fax: +1-202-261-8197
Email: TOfcansky@aol.com

Amnesty International – London
Tom Gibson
Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157
Email: TGibson@amnesty.org

Human Rights Watch – New York
Leslie Lefkow
lefkowl@hrw.org; rawlenb@hrw.org
Tel: +1-212-290-4700
Email: hrwnyc@hrw.org




Outside downtown Hargeisa’s central market

No matter how prosperous Somaliland might become, it’s doubtful that any of that good fortune will trickle down to Hargeisa’s homeless children—young outcasts living completely on their own who are at best ignored and at worst abused and treated like vermin. They are a near-constant presence, crawling around the shadows of alleys and squares in a city where poverty and wealth butt heads on nearly every street corner: shiny new office blocks sit beside ancient shacks, currency traders have set up open-air stands where they display piles of cash, Hyundais brush past donkeys down the city’s sole paved street.

Behind that street is a café that serves up coffee and soup to midmorning breakfasters. This is where I first met Mohamed. “Salam,” he said quietly after I introduced myself.

Mohamed told me that if he sleeps too close to the skyscraper that shields him from the light of dawn, a security guard beats him with an acacia branch until he bleeds. I noticed that he had an old lemonade bottle tucked under his filthy sweatshirt. It was filled with glue, perhaps the only escape he has from his harsh existence. He took huffs every few minutes as he spoke to me: “I could stop. I could definitely stop. But it’s hard… And why?”

According to the Hargeisa Child Protection Network, there are 3,000 to 5,000 homeless youth in the city, most of whom are Oromo migrants from Ethiopia. Around 200 a year complete the voyage through Somaliland and across the Gulf of Aden into Yemen, where they attempt to cross the border to Saudi Arabia and find work; many more don’t make it.

For more than four decades the Oromo have been fleeing persecution in Ethiopia, where they have long been politically marginalized. Mohamed arrived in Somaliland as part of this ongoing migration. Five years ago, he told me, his family made the 500-mile trek from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, to Hargeisa. The Somaliland government claims up to 80,000 illegal immigrants—mostly Ethiopians—reside in its territory. Many of them trickled in through the giant border of Ogaden, a vast, dusty outback on the edge of Ethiopia’s Somali Region (the easternmost of the country’s nine ethnic divisions, which, as the name implies, is mostly populated by ethnic Somalis). Some travel in cars arranged by fixers. Others make the long journey on foot. Almost all won’t make it past the border without a bribe. Given their options, a few bucks for freedom seemed liked the best deal for Mohamed’s family. But after their migration, things only got worse.

A short time after his family arrived in Somaliland—he’s not sure exactly when—Mohamed’s father died of tuberculosis. Quickly running out of options, he left his mother in a border town called Borama to try to eke out a living, working whatever job was available some 90 miles away in Hargeisa.

Instead Mohamed ended up where he is now, wandering around the city with his friends and fellow Ethiopian migrants Mukhtar and Hamza (all three have adopted Muslim-sounding names to better blend into the local population). Their days mostly consist of shining shoes for 500 Somaliland shillings (seven cents) a pop and taking many breaks in between jobs to sniff glue.

On a good day, the boys will combine their meager earnings and pay to sleep on the floors of migrant camps on the outskirts of town, where persecuted people from all over East Africa live in corrugated shanties in the desert. If they don’t shine enough shoes, it’s back to the storm drain. “I live in the walls,” Mukhtar said. “No one knows me.”

Though they fled Ethiopia to escape persecution, the Oromo migrants often endure even worse treatment in Hargeisa. The first time I met Mohamed’s friend Hamza he was plodding through the crowd at an outdoor restaurant, offering shoe shines in the midday sun. An older man dressed in a cream apparatchik suit like a James Bond villain sitting next to me shouted at the child, who cowered, turned, and ran away. “Fucking kids,” he said to me in perfect English. “God can provide for them.”

Mohamed poses for the camera while Ibrahim takes a hit from a glue bottle behind him.

Mohamed poses for the camera while Ibrahim takes a hit from a glue bottle behind him.

Reports by the local press on Hargeisa’s growing homeless- youth population have done nothing to help the kids’ reputation. The authorities have told journalists that street kids are the city’s gravest security threat amid a backdrop of tables covered with gruesome shivs, shanks, and machetes supposedly confiscated from the wily urchins. “The grown-up street children have become the new gangsters,” local police chief Mohamed Ismail Hirsi told the IRIN news agency in 2009.

Officials are similarly apathetic to the notion of helping the young migrants get out of their rut, likely because Somaliland and Somalia are already dealing with enough horrific humanitarian crises without having to worry about another country’s displaced people—in 2012, the number of Somalis fleeing their own country topped a million.

Somaliland boasts “a vibrant traditional social-welfare support system,” according to its National Vision 2030 plan—a grand scheme unveiled in 2012 that aims to continue to improve the region’s standard of living. The plan also acknowledges that “there are, however, times when vulnerable groups such as street children, displaced people, young children, and mothers are excluded from traditional social safety nets [and] the government… has a responsibility to intervene.” So far, the only evidence that the government intends to follow through with the plan is a struggling 400-capacity orphanage in Hargeisa. Unsurprisingly, government officials in Somaliland refused repeated requests for comment on this issue or any other issues pertaining to this article.

At the Somaliland government’s last count, in 2008, the region’s population was 3.5 million, but with so many people flooding in from the south and Ethiopia each year, it’s impossible to say how many hundreds of thousands more live there now. It’s hard to assign all the blame to the burgeoning nation’s embattled and overwhelmed authorities; there’s simply no room and too few resources to think too deeply about glue-addicted kids roaming the streets.

One claim that the government can’t make is that these kids have chosen to live in squalor; for them, there are no viable alternatives. Somaliland offers no government-funded public education—schools are generally run by NGOs, and other private groups rarely accept Oromo children as students. Even if they did, enrollment would be a nightmare because the vast majority of these kids are without identification, homes, or relatives living nearby. They’re often left on their own to scratch out an existence in a city that hates them and offers them next to nothing.

Ismail Yahye, who works for the Save the Children campaign, used to be a Somaliland street kid himself. He despairs at the pipe dreams they are fed before relocating from Ethiopia—many leave home believing the rumors about how life is so much better in Somaliland.

“The main reasons they come here are for economic prosperity and job opportunities,” he said. “They pay bribes at the border and come by foot. They can’t return. They’re trapped.”

The Hargeisa Child Protection Network reports that 88 percent of the city’s homeless children have suffered some form of sexual abuse or harassment. All of the boys I met denied having been raped or abused during their time on the streets, but my fixer told me he strongly believed that they were too ashamed and scared to admit to any such incidents.

In this very unfriendly and inhospitable city, a Somali American named Shafi is one of the few residents who goes out of his way to help the kids. In another life, Shafi was a drug dealer in Buffalo, New York, a job that landed him in prison before he cleaned up his act and decided to return to the city of his birth to do good. Now he provides Hargeisa’s street urchins with the occasional meal, helps them organize games of soccer or basketball, and finds safe places where they can stay at night. But he is only one man and knows he can’t save them all. Most still end up sleeping in the drains, left to die of starvation or diseases like tuberculosis and typhoid fever. “I’ve carried quite a few dead children through these streets,” he told me.

Many kids earn small amounts of cash doing menial tasks like shoe-shining and washing cars. Others find work running alcohol, which is illegal in the Muslim state. If you ever find yourself at a party in one of Hargeisa’s sprawling, plush villas, chances are the gin in your gimlet was smuggled into the country by a kid who sleeps in a gutter.

It was with Shafi’s help that I was first able to meet Hargeisa’s Oromo children. He told me the best place to find them was around the convenience stores they visit daily to buy fresh glue. On our first attempt and without much searching, Shafi and I found a couple of kids who appeared to be homeless hanging out in an alley near a school. We spoke with them for a bit, and when I felt that everyone was comfortable I pulled out my camera. Before I could take their photos, a guy who said he was an off-duty cop appeared out of nowhere. He approached us, shouting at me in gravelly Somali and quickly confiscating the bottles of glue from the kids.

“He called you a pedophile,” Shafi translated, adding that it would benefit me to reimburse the boys for their stolen solvents.

After the cop left, one of the boys grew somber. “I hope I stop using,” he said. As he spoke I noticed the painful sores etched across his face. “I just miss my family. I haven’t seen them in years. I’m alone and no one helps me.”

The stigma that surrounds these children is such that even those trying to help them are treated with suspicion—as are reporters hoping to tell their story, as I found out the hard way one night while Shafi and I were trying to track down Mohamed and his friends.

It was a typical breezy fall evening, full of the usual scenes: men sipping tea and debating loudly, women and children hustling soup and camel meat, a mess of car horns cleaving the air. Shafi was sure the kids were nearby, but that didn’t mean much because they usually try to remain hidden so as not to cause a scene.

It didn’t take much time to spot Hamza’s tattered bootleg Barcelona soccer jersey peeking out from behind the edge of a wall. As we approached, more kids appeared from behind parked cars and emerged from alleys, and some even popped out of a nearby storm drain. Within minutes more than two dozen homeless children had surrounded us, clamoring for cash and posing for pictures. An empty square in the middle of town had suddenly transformed into a glue-sniffers’ agora.

Our time with the kids didn’t last long. A couple minutes later an old man who was lounging outside a nearby café decided he’d had enough, sprung to his feet, walked over to us, and began hitting me and the kids with his walking stick.

Some of the children scattered. Others stayed, presumably with the hope that holding out for the payout from the Western journalist would be worth the licks. In a surreal moment, as the old man continued to swing his stick and scream, one boy, who said his name was Hussein, walked over and, huffing on his glue pot, told me about his hopes and dreams. “I want to be a doctor,” he said, staggering about and staring straight through me. “Sometimes I dream when I get hungry. But there’s no food here, no help. I expected a better life. I don’t now. But sometimes, I wish.”

Just then, a scuffle broke out—the old man had lured a couple of his friends into the argument, and they came to the collective decision to grab me and smash my camera. Shafi and my driver, Mohammed, struggled to hold them back.

Two cops arrived on the scene soon after the scuffle. Instead of punishing the old man for attacking the kids and trying to destroy my camera, they dragged me off to a festering cinder-block carcass covered in graffiti that serves as the local jail.

“You cannot photograph the children without their permission,” the more senior cop said, pointing to my camera. “They do not want you to photograph them.”

Shafi translated as I tried to explain to the policeman that that the kids were clearly desperate forsomeone to be interested in their plight, and that they were even posing for pictures. That’s when I stopped, realizing that the subject wasn’t up for debate. It was clear that writing about or photographing these street children was taboo.

In the end, I compromised by deleting most of the photos I had taken and then sat in a corner of the jail while my driver, Mohammed, and my captors read one another’s horoscopes outside the gates.

A couple hours later I was released. Mohammed was waiting for me outside, and he immediately pulled me aside to tell me something that I had already accepted the moment I entered the jail: my reporting on the children had come to an end.

Mohammed looked unnerved. “We can leave now, Insha’Allah… The kids thing is over. They are invisible.” http://danieltadesse.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/outcome-of-persecution-in-ethiopia-3000-to-5000-oromo-homeless-kids-in-hargeisa/

In its January 6, 2014  Urgent Action and Appeale, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)  has also expresses its deep concern about the safety of civilians in South Sudan – who have been trapped in the conflict zone between the government troops and the opposition group militia led by former Vice President Riek Machar- since mid-December 2013. The original conflict broke out between President Salva Kiir’s SPLA government forces and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar around the strategically located town of Bor on December 15, 2013; it quickly spread out from Bor to the north to Unity State and south to the Central Equatoria State, where the capital city, Juba, is located.

Since the conflict broke out, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed and more than 300,000 displaced according to reports by HRLHA’s informants in Juba. Social services and basic necessity supplies for communities are almost paralyzed while tribal tensions and localized conflicts are on the rise.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa calls upon the United Nations (UN), African Unity (AU) and sub-regional organizations to work together to halt the current crisis and rescue the youngest country before it escalates into an uncontrollable civil war. The HRLHA also calls upon the two opponents to resume immediate direct talks to resolve their differences thorough negotiation. http://gadaa.com/oduu/23816/2014/01/12/hrlha-on-south-sudan-immediate-action-needed-to-rescue-the-youngest-country-from-collapse/

 A meeting on Human Rights Situation in Ethiopia took place at the House Commons, UK.

Copyright © Oromianeconomist 2014 and Oromia Quarterly 1997-2014. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.


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