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The TPLF army continues to cause death and destruction in Oromia December 16, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

 

 


 

‘The TPLF is playing with the souls of Oromo and Somali civilians to ensure its grip onto power. Killing of civilians by any force must be condemned in the strongest of terms possible. As TPLF has pulled its last card of instigating a civil war among different ethnic groups, authorities in all regional states’ in Ethiopia must beef of their internal security to protect all communities. Oromia regional government in particularly must step up protecting of the diverse communities under its jurisdiction. It must continue to set an example by investigating, apprehending and punishing any and all who are involved in instigating and attacking civilians of any background.’

The TPLF army continues to cause death and destruction in Oromia,  

 #CalanqooMassacre, Calii Calanqoo 2ffaa

ኦሮሚያ ዛሬ ግድያና የተቃውሞ ሰልፍ ማስተናገዷን ነዋሪዎችና የክልል ባለሥልጣናት ተናገሩ

በምዕራብ ሐረርጌ ዞን በሐዊ ጉዲና ወረዳ በሁለት ቀበሌዎች ውስጥ የሶማሌ ክልል የታጠቁ ኃይሎች ገብተው ከ80 በላይ የአርሶ አደር ቤቶች ማቃጠላቸውንና እስካሁን ቦታውን ተቆጣጥረው መያዛቸውን የዞኑ የኮሙዩኒኬሽን ጉዳዮች ጽ/ቤት ኃላፊ ተናገሩ። በሌላ በኩል ጋዱሎ በተባለ ቀበሌ ላይ በዚህ የተበሳጩ የሟች ቤተሰቦች የኢትዮጵያ ሶማሌዎችን ማጥቃታቸውን መረጃ እንደደረሳቸው ተናግረዋል።

Political Uncertainty as Protests Spread in Ethiopia

Freedom.Democracy.blog

The TPLF army continues to cause death and destruction in Oromia

A few weeks ago, a contingent of the TPLF military were deployed in Hawi Gudina District of West Hararge without the knowledge of the local administration or providing an explanation on the purpose of the deployment to any of the local authorities. Upon their arrival clashes erupted between the Oromo and Somali armed local militia along the border villages of the Hawi Gudina district. The newly deployed military then arrested several officials of the local administration and businessmen. They also forced the Oromia police contingent stationed there to leave the district. They then gathered Somali residents of Gadulo town ( district capital) and instructed them that they were in danger and forcefully placed them in a warehouse facility.

Two days ago, the newly deployed army members have left unannounced, leaving the Somali civilians in the warehouse where they instructed…

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Prof Al Mariam: ‘My Letter to President Trump Requesting Targeted Sanctions Against the TPLF Regime in Ethiopia’ October 3, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Horn of Africa Affairs, Human Rights, Uncategorized.
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1 comment so far

Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

bishoftu-mascare-2nd-october-2016-fascist-ethiopias-regime-tplf-conducted-masskillings-against-oromo-people-at-irreecha-celebration

My Letter to President Trump Requesting Targeted Sanctions Against the TPLF Regime in Ethiopia

October 2, 2017

Donald Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST PERSONS AND ENTITIES INVOLVED IN THE IRRECHA MASSACRES ON OCTOBER 2, 2016 AND OTHER CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY COMMITTED IN ETHIOPIA 

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing this letter for two purposes. First, I wish to thank you for imposing sanctions[1] on certain senior current and former South Sudan government officials and South Sudanese companies responsible for undermining peace, security and stability in that violence-wracked country.

Second, I am writing to request imposition of similar sanctions against members of the ruling regime in Ethiopia self-styled as the “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front” led and dominated by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an entity listed as a terrorist organization in the Global Terrorism Database[2] (GTD).

The last act of terrorism committed by the TPLF, according to the GTD, was on August 16, 2016[3].

I believe it is fair and proper to give credit where credit is due. While some have claimed the sanctions imposed on South Sudan’s leaders and their accomplices are meager and inadequate[4], I believe the action sends a clear and unambiguous message to all Africans in positions of power that protection of human rights is a central component of an America-first U.S. foreign policy in Africa, a fact that has been underscored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson[5].

I am especially elated to learn the U.S. Treasury Department “will forcefully respond to the atrocities ongoing in South Sudan by targeting those who abuse human rights, seek to derail the peace process, and obstruct reconciliation in South Sudan.” Such a resolute statement goes a long way in reassuring not only the people of South Sudan but also all Africans that the U.S. will not merely talk the talk about being on the “right side of history” but also walk the talk by acting decisively and selectively against individuals and entities engaged in gross human rights violations.

I wish to point out for the record that the sanctions you have imposed in South Sudan are in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s lifting of sanctions against the Sudan in its last week in office.

During his presidential candidacy in 2007, Barack Obama said[6], the “genocide in Darfur [Sudan] is a stain on our souls… As a president of the United States I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.”

In the final week of his presidency, on January 13, 2017, Mr. Obama turned a blind eye to the genocidal Sudanese regime and stood on the “wrong side of history” when he rescinded  sanctions authorized pursuant to  Executive Order 13067[7] of November 3, 1997 and Executive Order 13412[8] of October 13, 2006 related to the policies and actions of the Government of Sudan.

In issuing his rescission of Executive Order 13761[9],  Mr. Obama whitewashed the bloody genocidal crimes of the Sudanese regime by speciously claiming that regime has shown “positive actions over the past 6 months”. The “actions” allegedly included maintaining cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in the Sudan, improving humanitarian access and counterterrorism cooperation.

It is said, “one swallow does not make a summer.” It is incomprehensible to me how Mr. Obama could gloss over and excuse atrocities committed over a period exceeding two decades on mere gestures of good behavior over six months.

What is even more appalling is Mr. Obama’s duplicity and hypocrisy in completely ignoring Sudan’s close ties with North Korea and purchase of weapons from that rogue regime for use in the commission of human rights violations and atrocities. In lifting sanctions against the Sudan, Mr. Obama also conveniently ignored the fact that Sudan has been on the list[10] of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993 and had provided a haven to Osama bin Laden.

Perhaps one should not be surprised by Mr. Obama’s stratagems and sophistry in exculpating those on the “wrong side of history”, as he used to call them. When Mr. Obama visited Ethiopia in July 2015, he unabashedly declared the TPLF regime, which claimed electoral victory by capturing 100 percent of the “parliamentary” seats, as “democratically elected[11].”

In light of Mr. Obama’s double-speak and duplicity on human rights in Africa, I find your recent targeted sanctions against South Sudan and the tenor of your administration’s emerging human rights policy forthright, refreshing and encouraging.

I believe selective and targeted sanctions such as the one imposed against South Sudanese leaders and companies can serve as effective tools of an America-first foreign policy in advancing the cause of human rights globally, and particularly in Africa. Targeted sanctions selectively and purposefully focus on leaders, their family members and supporters, political elites and segments of society known to be directly responsible for human rights violations or in aiding, abetting and giving material support in the commission of such violations. Blanket sanctions are more likely to inflict greater hardship and suffering on the general population, and often those engaged in gross human rights violations find ways to circumvent them. It has been observed that “targeted sanctions” or “smart sanctions” are like “smart bombs”, considerably reducing collateral damage on civilian populations.

I believe in the old saying, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” What is good for South Sudan is good for Ethiopia.

I am requesting that you follow up with targeted sanctions against current and senior members of the “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front” led and dominated by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front and other entities aiding and abetting that regime in the commission of human rights violations in Ethiopia. The evidence of human rights violations supporting targeted sanctions against the TPLF regime is overwhelming, incontrovertible, substantial and compelling.

The Irreecha Massacres of October 2, 2016

On October 2, 2016, troops loyal to the ruling Tigrean Peoples’ Liberation Front opened fire indiscriminately on crowds at a religious festival known as “Irreecha” attended by an “estimated 2 million people[12] in the town of Bishoftu, some 45 miles southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

The TPLF regime reported 52 dead from what it said was crowd “stampede[13] caused by anti-government elements”. In a televised address, the regime’s prime minster blamed the victims for provoking troops into using indiscriminate deadly force.

On October 3, 2016, Freedom House issued a statement[14] on the Irreecha Massacres demanding an independent investigation: “The deaths in Bishoftu occurred because security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a crowd of over a million people celebrating a religious occasion. The government of Ethiopia should allow a truly independent body to investigate the tragedy at Bishoftu as well as security forces’ well-documented record of using excessive force against peaceful gatherings.”

Eyewitness reports including statements by accredited Voice of America Amharic Service program journalists revealed that heavily armed regime troops had taken tactical positions behind the VIP grandstand hidden from direct view of the crowd and suddenly opened live fire on the unarmed and peacefully protesting crowd after the official program could not proceed due to crowd demands and chants against the regime.

On October 8, the TPLF regime declared a “state of emergency” suspending the constitution and instituting martial law under an entity called “Command Post[15]”.

On November 12, 2016, the regime officially reported[16] arresting “11,607 people, including 347 women”. The U.S. State Department in its 2016 human rights report[17]stated, “Many [of the thousands arrested] were never brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime.” The actual number of persons arrested was significantly higher than officially reported. In March 2017, the Command Post “announced that 4,996 of the 26,130 people detained for allegedly taking part in protests would be brought to court.”

An “investigative report” on the Irreecha Massacres released by the regime’s human rights organization in April 2016 rubberstamped the regime’s original position: “The violence happened because the protesters were using guns and so security forces had no other option.”

In its June 2016 report entitled “Such a Brutal Crackdown’: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protest”, Human Rights Watch stated, “security forces in Ethiopia have used excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protests that have swept through Oromia, the country’s largest region, since November 2015.”

On September 19, 2017, Human Rights Watch in its 33-page report entitled “Fuel on the Fire’: Security Force Response to the 2016 Irreecha Cultural Festival” provided details on the regime’s “use of force in response to restive crowds at 2016’s Irreecha.” The report “found evidence that security force personnel not only triggered the stampede that caused many deaths but subsequently shot and killed some members of the crowd.”

Over the past year, the TPLF regime has committed unspeakable atrocities in Northern Ethiopia including Gonder, Wolkait, Bahr Dar and other locations.

The Irreecha Massacres are only the latest in the 26-year sordid history of gross and egregious human rights violation by the TPLF regime in Ethiopia.

On May 16, 2005, one day after the general election, the late leader of the TPLF regime, Meles Zenawi, also declared a state of emergency, outlawed all public gatherings and placed under his direct personal command and control all police, security and military forces in the country. Zenawi personally authorized the use of deadly force against any protesters in the post-election period. As a result, nearly a thousand people were either killed or severely wounded by regime troops. Zenawi subsequently set up an Inquiry Commission. That Commission was forced to go into exile following harassment and threats by the TPLF regime to falsify its findings. In November 2006, that Commission shared[18] its findings with members of the Africa Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. The Inquiry Commission laid the entire blame at the feet of the TPLF regime and rejected their spurious claims and justifications for use of deadly force.

partial list of the names of the victims of the Meles Massacres is publicly available.

list of names of those security, military and police officials directly involved in the post-2005 election massacres is also available. The TPLF regime to date has taken no action against these officials.

In May 2014, troops loyal to the TPLF regime massacred at least 47 university and high school students in the town of Ambo 80 miles west of the capital Addis Ababa. Eyewitnesses reported significantly higher casualties and fatalities than officially reported. Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement[19] condemning the “shooting at and beating [of] peaceful protesters in Ambo, Nekemte, Jimma, and other towns”. According to HRW, the student “protests erupted over the release of the proposed Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan” which would “expand Addis Ababa’s municipal boundary to include more than 15 communities in Oromia” and displace Oromo farmers and residents.

In December 2003, the TPLF massacred hundreds of Anuak people in Gambella in Western Ethiopia. Human Rights Watch documented  that TPLF troops “subjected Anuak communities throughout the region to widespread and systematic acts of murder, rape, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and the destruction of entire villages.” Genocide Watch sent a fact-finding team in Gambella and secured[21]  authentic documents “proving that the Gambella massacres were planned at the highest levels of the Ethiopian government, and even given the code name “Operation Sunny Mountain”. A report[20] by the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program on the Anuak Massacre concluded, “From December 2004 to at least January 2006, the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Forces) attacked and abused Anuak civilians in Gambella region – wantonly killing, raping, beating, torturing, and harassing civilians.”

In 2007, the TPLF regime massacred hundreds of people in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Human Rights Watch in its June 2008 report[22] entitled “Collective Punishment: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region” documented, “Ethiopian troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and their possessions destroyed and risk death.”

The TPLF regime has refused to undertake meaningful and credible investigations into these crimes against humanity despite requests by human rights groups and even the U.N. The TPLF regime has refused entry to all UN special rapporteurs since 2007 to investigate human rights violations in Ethiopia.

The TPLF regime has dismissed and ignored all calls for an independent investigation of the Irreecha Massacres by United Nations top human rights official[23]the African Commission[24], the European parliament[25], and members of United States Congress[26].

The difference between the South Sudanese regime and the TPLF regime on human rights is the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Both regimes are peas in a pod. Thus, what is good enough for the South Sudanese regime is good enough for the TPLF regime.

I believe an America-first human rights policy which employs targeted sanctions to promote human rights, democracy and peace in Africa is not only necessary but also likely to produce outcomes that are consistent with the values and principles of American taxpayers.

Millions of refugees are leaving Africa to come go to Europe and North America because life is hell for them in Africa under brutal and bloodthirsty dictatorships, not merely to seek better economic opportunities. The U.S. can effectively deal with this problem by addressing the root cause of migration out of Africa, namely, brutal and oppressive dictatorships that treat their citizens as slaves and their countries’ treasuries and resources as their private estates. Selective and targeted sanctions aimed at the financial and logistical incapacitation of leaders, political elites and segments of society known to be directly responsible for human rights violations or engaged in aiding, abetting and giving material support in the commission of such violations in Africa is the proverbial two-by-four that will quickly get their attention.

For well over a decade, I have argued without pause that the best way to help Africa is to let Africa help itself. Africa can never be free until African leaders are held to account and forced to abandon the culture of panhandling, which have perfected as an art form. The U.S. must end its aid welfare program to African dictators who siphon off much of that aid and deposit it in their private offshore bank accounts. Your transition team hit the nail on the head when it demndaed answers from the State Department to the following question: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?”

I wish I could definitively answer that question for you. But I can say definitively that to begin the effort to find out “how much of our funding is stolen” in Africa, we must make targeted sanctions a central part of the America-first foreign policy in Africa.

Mr. President, what I am asking is not anything extraordinary. I am merely requesting that you impose the same targeted sanctions you imposed on the leaders, supporters and business entities in South Sudan to the leaders, supporters and business entities responsible for human rights violations in Ethiopia. What is good enough for South Sudan is good enough for Ethiopia.

Mr. President, when Mr. Obama visited Ghana in his first trip to Africa in July 2009, he said, “Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”

The people of Ethiopia and the people of Africa are on tenterhooks to find out if you are going to stand with African dictators or the common people yearning to breathe free.

I am betting my bottom dollar that you will stand with the people of Africa and not the dictators who lord over them, as did Mr. Obama.

I will guarantee that you will have 100 million fans in Ethiopia if you institute targeted sanctions against members of the TPLF regime and its cronies involved in gross human rights violations, and win more than a 1.2 billion Africans if you make targeted sanctions a core part of your America-first policy in Africa.

I guarantee it!

Sincerely,

Alemayehu (Al) G. Mariam, M.A., Ph.D., J.D.
Professor and Attorney at Law

Cc: Hon. Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State
Hon. Steven T. Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Hon. Nimrata “Nikki” Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

==========================
[1] https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0152.aspx

[2] http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?perpetrator=2127

[3] http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/IncidentSummary.aspx?gtdid=201608260003

[4] http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/06/u-s-sanctions-south-sudanese-leaders/

[5] https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/05/270620.htm

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEd583-fA8M

[7] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/13067.pdf

[8] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/13412.pdf

[9] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/DCPD-201700026/pdf/DCPD-201700026.pdf

[10] https://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/world/africa/obama-calls-ethiopian-government-democratically-elected.html?mcubz=3&mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=BBE0F6C584580DEF4C73E4D0F43ECE1F&gwt=pay

[12] http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/03/africa/ethiopia-oromo-deaths/index.html

[13] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/ethiopia-stampede-violent-clashes-death-toll-oromia-disaster-bishoftu-protest-more-than-100-a7342951.html

[14] https://freedomhouse.org/article/ethiopia-more-150-dead-after-security-forces-fire-crowd

[15] http://www.ena.gov.et/en/index.php/politics/item/2067-command-post-established-to-oversee-implementation-of-emergency-rule

[16] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/ethiopia-state-emergency-arrests-top-11000-161112191919319.html

[17] https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/#wrapper

[18]http://www.ethiomedia.com/addfile/ethiopian_inquiry_commission_briefs_congress.html

[19] https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/05/ethiopia-brutal-crackdown-protests

[20] http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Ethiopia_2006_Report.pdf

http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html[21]

[22]https://www.hrw.org/report/2008/06/12/collective-punishment/war-crimes-and-crimes-against-humanity-ogaden-area-ethiopias

[23] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-violence-un-idUSKCN10L1SY

[24] http://www.achpr.org/sessions/59th/resolutions/356/

[25] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2016-0023+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

[26] https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hres128/BILLS-115hres128ih.pdf

Statement of International Oromo Lawyers Association In Commemoration Of Irreecha Massacre, 2nd October 2016. September 30, 2017

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

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International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA)  logo

Statement of International Oromo Lawyers Association In Commemoration Of Irrecha Massacre.


It is one year ago that the world witnessed the naked brutality of the TPLF-led Ethiopian regime, when it carried out a large scale massacre against the Oromo people gathered at the annual thanks-giving festival – Ireecha, in Bishoftu, some 45 kilometers, south of the capital.

 

According to reliable information, close to 1000 civilians were killed as a result of combination of stampede and use of life bullets as well as blockade of paths by the security forces. By all accounts, and conclusions by human rights experts, the tragedy was a well-designed and pre-planned government action against the Oromo people, who were already engaged in a year-long peaceful demonstration in the entire Oromia State region, demanding respect for their fundamental human rights.

 

Today, a year later, the government did not carry an investigation nor hold any official accountable for the death of the thousand civilians which resulted from the use of disproportionate use of force. To the contrary, it arrested and detained thousands of Oromo civilians for alleged instigation of disturbances.

 

This year, the festival is going to take place at the usual place following established rituals.  What is now becoming everyone’s worry is that, participants of the festival may try to use the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the way the government addresses, or failed to address at all, their demand for respect for their fundamental rights, which may be used as a pretext by the security forces to react with a force which is disproportional to the demand and the civilian character of the demanding population.

 

That being the case, IOLA would like to join the international community in general and human rights institutes in particular in expressing its deepest concern regarding the possibility of unrest and subsequent harm to the civilian population during this year’s celebration of Ireecha.

 

It therefore demands that the government should:

  1. Take advance measures to put in place all what is needed for the citizens to peacefully celebrate Ireecha as per established ritual and without disturbances by the security forces;
  2. Ensure that security forces use proportionate force needed to maintain law and order;
  3. Take all the necessary security measures to ensure that the physical safety and security of civilians festival-goers is not compromised;
  4. Remind its security forces and give them clear guidance that Ethiopia is bound by the international Covenants and Conventions it had signed and that they should adhere and properly implement the United Nations Basic Principles on the use of Fire Arms.

 

International Oromo Lawyers Association.

HRW: Ethiopia: Exercise Restraint at Upcoming Irreecha Festival. International Inquiry Needed into Deaths at 2016 Event September 21, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Human Rights Watch on Human Rights Violations Against Oromo People by TPLF Ethiopia, Irreecha, Uncategorized.
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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

HRW

Ethiopia: Exercise Restraint at Upcoming Festival

International Inquiry Needed into Deaths at 2016 Event

Human Rights Watch, 19 September 2017

Oromia: Ethiopia’s bereaved families seek justice September 5, 2017

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

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Bereaved families in Ethiopia are demanding justice for 650 anti-government protesters who were killed last year.

They were from the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, and died during a government crackdown on dissent.

Despite repeated government promises that security forces responsible for civilian deaths will be punished, no one has been charged.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reports from Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s life under emergency August 13, 2017

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Ethiopia’s life under emergency
By Nizar Manek, The Hindu,  AUGUST 12, 2017


Military helicopters circled above a crowd of thousands during a festival in Ethiopia’s Oromia region in October last. “Down, down TPLF!” one of those who assembled at Bishoftu town in Oromia shouted into a microphone, referring to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the dominant wing of Ethiopia’s ruling party. Oromia has seen violent protests, which began two years ago after complaints about evictions of farmers to make way for development projects and a lack of autonomy in an authoritarian system. Security forces fired tear gas at the crowd, triggering a stampede in which scores were crushed. Some drowned in a lake. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared emergency rule less than a week later. The same day, defence forces shot a 28-year-old Oromo farmer. Witnesses cited in a report by Ethiopia’s only rights NGO, Human Rights Council, said the farmer was shot because he protested. An Opposition party leader was arrested after he addressed the European Parliament.

Ten-months later, the ruling party has unexpectedly lifted the emergency. Most of the over 20,000 people arrested were released after “renewal training”, while over 7,000 are on trial, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa told Parliament earlier this month. But Oromia is far from being calm. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa has recommended avoiding an area where Oromia and Ethiopia’s Somali regions meet, where intense fighting is going on. Weeks earlier, Information Minister Negeri Lencho, an Oromo, told this reporter that almost 70,000 retailers lodged complaints over a new regional income tax law. “Most of the shops are closed where I live to protest” overvalued tax payments, said a resident of an Oromo town, 20 km from the capital.

‘Torture and murder’

 

The Human Rights Council published its 49-page report online, in Amharic, on May 29. A day later, the state telecom monopoly turned off internet access for almost a week. It documents 22,525 arrests, testimony from 28 former prisoners, six cases of “torture, beatings, and injuries” and 19 murders. Ex-inmates of a prison in the Amhara region, to where the protests spread, testified that prisoners were dunked in a cesspit full of urine; 250 youths were held without charge or trial; up to 100 prisoners were forced to sleep in a room of 10X4 meters; water was given only weekly; and contaminated water exposed them to contagious diseases.

In November, a 12-year-old girl from Ethiopia’s south was beaten and then taken from her house by government forces to a makeshift prison, her father testified. A heavy presence of government forces prevented the Council’s staff from moving freely, people were afraid to testify, and state organs, including police stations and federal prisons, remained deaf to the Council’s efforts at official corroboration, the report says.

The Council says what it documented violates the right to life contained in Ethiopia’s Constitution, as well as the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Convention against Torture, to which Ethiopia has acceded. The report assumes the scope and types of violations are “more than presented. It asks the ruling party to give the UN permission to investigate without restriction. Addis Ababa, however, rejects this, citing “an issue of sovereignty”. Zadig Abraha, deputy government spokesperson, said the report is “politically-motivated”. He pointed to a government-sanctioned inquiry which found that security forces took “proportionate measures in most areas”, saying 669 people were killed last year alone. The government can investigate itself, he added.

Nizar Manek is a reporter based in Addis Ababa, covering African affairs


 

The Economist: Africa’s house of cards: Ethiopia enters its seventh month of emergency rule April 24, 2017

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Its response to the crisis has, therefore, been primarily an economic one. Its top priority is to reduce youth unemployment, of at least 30% in urban areas. It hopes to do so through promoting industrial parks such as the one in the southern town of Awassa, which opened in 2016. It is Africa’s largest and is expected to provide 60,000 jobs. But even the largest industrial parks are still a drop in an ocean of unemployment. And since most of the jobs they provide are low-skilled, they will do little to help the hundreds of thousands of university graduates entering the job market each year. “I’m a graduate in accounting but I work as a hotel cashier,” laments one exasperated Ambo resident.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a 19th-century French historian, argued that the most dangerous time for a bad government is when it begins to reform itself. The EPRDF is not the ancien regime of pre-revolutionary France. But it has taken de Tocqueville’s lesson to heart. It views Ethiopia as a house of cards that might easily topple. So the old model persists: development now, democracy later. 

Africa’s house of cards: Ethiopia enters its seventh month of emergency rule

Development now, democracy later

The Economist

THE three-hour bus-ride to Ambo from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, offers a glimpse into the country’s future. The road is well paved; irrigation ditches and polytunnels criss-cross commercial farmland; electricity lines leap over forested hills. The signal granting access to mobile internet is clear and constant. As the bus pulls into Ambo, a trading centre in Oromia, the largest and most populous of Ethiopia’s nine ethnically based regions, the street is bustling.

But there are signs, too, that not all is well. An army truck rolls down the main road. Federal police surround the entrance to the local university. Unemployed young men playing snooker in bar point at a building across the road: it used to be a bank, but it was burnt down. Three years ago 17 local boys were shot dead by security guards as they protested on the doorstep, the young men say.

Ambo has a reputation for dissent. It was on these streets that protests against authoritarian rule started in 2014 before sweeping across the country. They culminated in the declaration of a six-month state of emergency on October 9th last year.

Students from Ambo University led the charge in opposing a since-shelved plan to expand the capital city into surrounding farmland. Oromo identity is especially powerful here: locals speak angrily about being pushed aside by ethnic Tigrayans, who they say dominate the government despite making up less than 6% of the population.

The country’s leading opposition politician, Merera Gudina—who was charged with inciting terrorism in February and was scheduled to appear in the dock on April 24th—comes from this area. When the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) extended the emergency law for another four months (albeit after watering down its most draconian provisions) on March 30th, it was because of places like Ambo. Hundreds of its citizens have been arrested and subjected to months of “re-education” in military camps. Although stability has more or less returned to Ethiopia there are still young men across Oromia and Amhara, the second-largest region, who talk of protesting once more when the state of emergency is eventually lifted.

Not everyone feels this way. There may have been plenty of raised eyebrows when the prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, told Parliament on March 15th that 82% of Ethiopians wanted the state of emergency extended. But few want a return to disorder, and many admit that further emergency rule might not be so bad. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners in particular recall that businesses—as well as schools—were closed for months during the unrest. “Peace and security is more valuable than anything,” says a weary pharmacist.

Yet the challenge of addressing both the frustrations of angry youngsters and the concerns of anxious property owners is one the EPRDF is struggling to solve. Ethiopia’s economy is still growing at a healthy 7% a year, one of the fastest rates in Africa, even though drought has again hit large parts of the country. Foreign investment, which the government is promoting energetically, has held up surprisingly well. But with political freedom now a thing of the past, the government’s legitimacy rests on it delivering the prosperity it has long promised to all its citizens.

Its response to the crisis has, therefore, been primarily an economic one. Its top priority is to reduce youth unemployment, of at least 30% in urban areas. It hopes to do so through promoting industrial parks such as the one in the southern town of Awassa, which opened in 2016. It is Africa’s largest and is expected to provide 60,000 jobs. But even the largest industrial parks are still a drop in an ocean of unemployment. And since most of the jobs they provide are low-skilled, they will do little to help the hundreds of thousands of university graduates entering the job market each year. “I’m a graduate in accounting but I work as a hotel cashier,” laments one exasperated Ambo resident.

Political reform has been much less of a priority. Only one regional president has lost his job, though many ought to shoulder quite a bit of the blame for the unrest because of poor governance. A cabinet reshuffle in November included some high-profile changes: an Oromo controls the foreign ministry for the first time, for instance. But dialogue with opposition parties has made little progress. They must still ask permission to give a press conference or hold a public meeting. And an expansive anti-terrorism law, which has crimped their activities since 2009, will still be in place even when the last of the emergency provisions are lifted. The government has long promised to tackle corruption, which is the cause of much unhappiness. But there have been no high level prosecutions since October, even though tens of thousands of low-level officials have been sacked.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a 19th-century French historian, argued that the most dangerous time for a bad government is when it begins to reform itself. The EPRDF is not the ancien regime of pre-revolutionary France. But it has taken de Tocqueville’s lesson to heart. It views Ethiopia as a house of cards that might easily topple. So the old model persists: development now, democracy later.


 

Oromia (Ethiopia): Bishoftu Massacre: #IrreechaMassacre: The day that changed the game November 10, 2016

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#OromoProtests image, Addis Standard

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P. 5 – #IrreechaMassacre: The day that changed the game (By Addis Standard staffs)

“I saw people who had fallen inside ditches and deeper pits. I saw people who had no one to pick them up. I saw people suffocated by the smoke of the tear gas”

P.8 – A survivor’s account (By Bekel Atoma Boruu)

“Those who ran to save their lives from the teargas bombs and the gun shots pulled themselves and one another to the nearby 6 meters long ditch in front of the podium. The tear gas bomb thrown at the mass increased the number of people running to the ditch not seeing what is in front of them; besides they were blinded by the heavy smoke from tear gas”

P.10 – Irreecha is sacred! We cannot let them take it away (By Ayantu Ayana)

“I keep asking myself how dare they kill on sacred grounds and on a sacred day. How dare they? All those people muddied and bloodied in their beautiful and colorful clothes. All those lives lost. Should mourning be all we do these days? “

P. 13 – Into the heart of Irreecha: Why is it so important to the Oromo? (Buli Edjeta Jobir, Guest Writer)

“An amazing part of the Irreecha ceremony is its absolute orderliness, the reigning of absolute peaceful aura, the showering of love and mutual respect, the sense of oneness and unity. In all the Irreecha ceremonies recorded over the last two decades, after its first rejuvenation, there has never been a single stampede or injury recorded.”

P. 17 – Irreecha: A defining moment in a hallowed land (By Prof. Ezekiel Gebissa, Special to Addis Standard)

“In 2016, it was clear that the largest gathering of Oromos from Oromia’s all corners would be a scene of expression of anger in the wake of the government’s brutal crackdown of Oromo protests during the preceding ten months.

Global Journalist: Ethiopia’s State of Emergency & #OromoProtests November 4, 2016

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Global Journalist: Ethiopia’s State of Emergency

Global Journalist, 4 November 2016

CREDIT AP PHOTO


Until recently, Ethiopia has been hailed as an African success story. After a decade of strong economic growth, the country has begun to shed its image as a famine-struck wasteland.

But repression by Ethiopia’s authoritarian government has sparked demonstrations that have led to the deaths of hundreds of protesters this year.

The movement gained worldwide attention at the Rio Olympics when the country’s silver medal-winning marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his wrists above his head at the finish line in a symbol of the protest movement.

On this edition of Global Journalist, we explore the dangerous ethnic tensions fueling the unrest and the government’s effort to silence its critics after declaring a state of emergency.

Joining the program:

  • Tsedale Lemma, editor of the Addis Standard magazine, an Ethiopian magazine forced to stop publication in October
  • William Davison, Ethiopia correspondent for Bloomberg News
  • Birhanu Lenjiso, an Oromo rights activist and former lecturer at Ambo University in Ethiopia
  • Felix Horne, a senior researcher on Ethiopia and Eritrea for Human Rights Watch

Assistant producers: Bryce Arthur, Eloise Speleers, Menchen Xin  Supervising producer: Vera Tan  Visuals editor: Anadil Iftekhar  Audio engineer: Pat Akers Director: Travis McMillen Host: Jason McLure


 

“Open Letter to Government of Ethiopia” From Lotte Leicht, EU Director, Human Rights Watch. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution #Africa November 4, 2016

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Open Letter to Government of Ethiopia From Lotte Leicht, EU Director, Human Rights Watch

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Fascist TPLF security forces  watch as protesters stage a protest against government during the Irreechaa cultural festival in Bishoftu, Oromia (Ethiopia) on October 02, 2016. © 2016 Getty Images


November 4, 2016

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 393
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia


Re: Human Rights Watch Reporting on Ethiopia


Dear Minister,


Human Rights Watch notes the October 22, 2016 blog post of Dr. Tedros Adhanom, then minister of foreign affairs, on the Ministry’s website about our recent presentation to the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights and committee on development and concerns for our research into security force abuses.

Human Rights Watch’s research and recommendations are grounded in international human rights law, including regional human rights treaties. This applies to our research on Ethiopia and the other 90 countries where we work globally. As with all countries, we welcome engaging with Ethiopian government officials regarding our research and recommendations prior to and after we publish findings. Before any major report on Ethiopia is published, we provide a summary of our findings to the government for comment and seek to meet to discuss our findings and recommendations. Our letters and responses received are included in the report or on our website. To date there has rarely been a direct response from the Ethiopian government to our communications.

Because we have not received a response to our research queries or requests for meetings, we cannot exchange information that may illuminate our conclusions, or explain to government officials how we reached our conclusions.

We go to great lengths to corroborate victim accounts and other research findings. As a general practice we make corrections to our reporting when clear and corroborated information contravening our findings comes to light. For your information, our corrections page is at: https://www.hrw.org/corrections.

In most of the contexts in which Human Rights Watch works, we do not make our sources public or reveal identifying details, because those interviewed have genuine fear of reprisals or other security concerns. The safety of those we interview is a primary consideration in everything we do.

In Ethiopia, the government’s harassment and arbitrary detention of individuals providing information to civil society has effectively been codified in the state of emergency directive, underscoring the need for those sources to remain confidential. Detention of individuals providing information to journalists, both domestic and international, has also been previously documented by Human Rights Watch and others.

The decreasing space available for independent voices to express a range of views and to have those voices be heard by the government has contributed to the current human rights crisis in Ethiopia. Recent statements directed toward international organizations who conduct independent, corroborated research is illustrative of this growing intolerance for divergent opinions and perspectives. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch will continue to encourage the government’s feedback on the substance of our research.

Need for an independent investigation

Recent calls for an international investigation reflect the gravity of human rights violations that we and others have documented, but also the lack of a credible, transparent, and impartial national investigation into the abuses that have occurred since November 2015. The June 2016 Human Rights Commission oral report to parliament that largely exonerated the state security forces did not meet basic international standards. No one, including several parliamentarians who have spoken to Human Rights Watch, has seen a written version of the report, which reaches conclusions very different from those of all other organizations who have documented abuses. If a written version of this report exists we urge you to publicly release it. We remain concerned that an impartial international investigation is needed and those implicated in serious abuses be held to account. We have called for such investigations in other contexts, most recently Burundi, South Sudan, and Eritrea – some of which your government was quick to support. The thousands of victims of human rights violations deserve justice and accountability.

The inquiry board set up by parliament to monitor abuses under the state of emergency provides another opportunity to demonstrate impartiality. While the lack of opposition voices on that board raises concerns, it still presents an opportunity to willfully monitor abuses and show that those responsible for serious abuses will be held to account.

We reiterate our desire to meet with representatives of the government in Ethiopia or elsewhere to discuss our research findings, and welcome specific information on your efforts to meaningfully investigate allegations of abuses, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress for victims.

Sincerely,

Lotte Leicht
EU Director
Human Rights Watch

Ethiopia on the brink? Politics and protest in the horn of Africa November 2, 2016

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Ethiopia on the brink? Politics and protest in the horn of Africa

Report  from Relief Web    Peace Direct 02 Nov 2016 View Original


Ethiopia is 12 months in to a political crisis which has seen at least 1,000 people killed. But unless the government introduces significant reforms, it will get worse, says Andrea Carboni.

An unprecedented wave of protests has shaken Ethiopia since November last year. These protests have revealed the fragility of the social contract regulating Ethiopia’s political life since 1991, when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition (EPRDF) overthrew the Derg and assumed power. This tacit agreement between the ruling coalition and the Ethiopian people offered state-sponsored development in exchange for limited political liberalisation. After twenty-five years of EPRDF rule, frustrated with widespread corruption, a political system increasingly perceived as unjust and the unequal gains of economic development, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have now descended into the streets, triggering a violent reaction from the state.

As we enter the twelfth month of the uprising, violence shows no sign of decreasing in Ethiopia. In its efforts to put down unrest, the government has allowed the security forces to use lethal violence against the protesters. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, more than one thousand people are estimated to have died as a result of violent state repression since last November. Thousands of people, including prominent opposition leaders and journalists, have been arrested and are currently detained in prison.

International concern

International institutions and non-governmental organisations have expressed major concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. The UN Human Rights Council called for “international, independent, thorough, impartial and transparent investigations” over the repression in Ethiopia, a request that was swiftly rejected by the government. Ethiopia’s Information Minister instead blamed “foreign elements” linked with the Egyptian and the Eritrean political establishments for instigating the rebellion and arming the opposition.

Rather than stifling dissent, state repression has contributed to escalating protests. Violent riots have increased after the events in Bishoftu on October 2, when a stampede caused by police firing on a protesting crowd killed at least 55 people. In the following days, demonstrators have vandalised factories and flower farms – including many under foreign ownership – accused of profiting from the government’s contested development agenda. An American researcher also died when her vehicle came under attack near Addis Ababa. Although protesters have largely remained peaceful and resorted to non-violent tactics, these episodes of violence raise concerns over escalating trends in the protest movement.

Unrest and repression

The geography of unrest is also telling of the evolving protest cycle in Ethiopia. The protests originated last November in the Oromia region, where the local population mobilised to oppose a government-backed developmental plan which would displace many farmers. The Oromo people, who constitute Ethiopia’s single largest ethnic group,accuse the EPRDF of discriminating against their community, and its local ally, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), as being a puppet in the hands of the Tigray-dominated ruling coalition.

Until mid-July, the unrest had largely remained confined to Oromia’s towns and villages. Local tensions around the northern city of Gondar inaugurated a new round of protestsin the Amhara region, where regionalist demands joined the widespread discontent with state repression. In the following weeks, protests spread further into the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’, the native region of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as local communities began to stage anti-government protests. Episodes of communal violence and attacks against churches have been reported in Oromia as well as in other ethnically mixed areas of the country.

Despite increasing dissent, the government seems unwilling to mitigate its repressive measures. Internet access was allegedly shut down in an attempt to hamper the protest movement, which uses online media and social networks to disseminate anti-government information. On October 9, the government introduced a six-month state of emergency, the first time since the ruling EPRDF came to power in 1991. At least 1,600 people are reported to have been detained since the state of emergency was declared, while the Addis Standard, a newspaper critical of the government, was forced to stop publications due to the new restrictions on the press.

Polarised politics: government and opposition

These decisions notwithstanding, it is unclear how the EPRDF can manage to restore the government’s authority and preserve investor confidence by adopting measures that continue to feed resistance. After pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hailemariam pledged to reform Ethiopia’s electoral system, which currently allows the EPRDF to control 500 of the 547 seats in Parliament. These limited political concessions are unlikely to satisfy the protesters’ demand for immediate and substantial change, since the proposed reform would only produce effects after the 2020 general elections.

According to the opposition, this is the evidence that the Tigray minority, which dominates the upper echelons of the government and the security apparatus, is unwilling to make any significant concessions in the short term. By labelling the opposition’s demands as racist and even denying their domestic nature, the government is leaving little room for negotiation and compromise and risks contributing to the escalation of the protests.

For over a decade, Ethiopia has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Foreign investments – most notably from China – have funded large-scale infrastructure projects, including the recently inaugurated railway to the port of Djibouti.

The on-going unrest is likely to have a negative impact on Ethiopia’s economy, reducing the country’s considerable appeal among foreign investors and tourists. The demonstrations have revealed the growing discontent of the Ethiopian people, and especially of its disenfranchised youth, over the EPRDF’s authoritarian and unequal rule. The EPRDF therefore needs to implement far-reaching reforms and embrace dialogue with the opposition to prevent the current unrest from deteriorating.

VOA: Rights Activists in Ethiopia Report Obstacles at Every Turn. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution October 29, 2016

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A man attends a prayer session at Biftu Bole Lutheran Church during a prayer and candle ceremony for protesters who died in the town of Bishoftu two weeks ago during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 16, 2016.

A man attends a prayer session at Biftu Bole Lutheran Church during a prayer and candle ceremony for protesters who died in the town of Bishoftu two weeks ago during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 16, 2016.

Slow Food: Ethiopia: Repression, land grabbing and hunger. #OromoRevolution #OromoProtests October 27, 2016

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Ethiopia: Repression, land grabbing and hunger


A story told all too often, especially in Africa. Tear gas, rubber bullets, police charges: the State’s answer to public protest. Nor has the latest wave of murders come suddenly or unexpectedly; it is simply the latest in a catalogue of incidents stretching back to last November, when the Ethiopian government first made public its plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into the surrounding countryside, displacing a significant number of farmers. While those plans appear to have been shelved temporarily, the danger is far from over.

On Sunday in Bishoftu, in the Oromia region, just 40km south-east of the capital, the protests grew out of the traditional Irrecha religious festival, where an estimated two million people were gathered. Community elders seen as being allied to the government were prevented from speaking, and the police responded violently, causing a stampede which saw dozens of protestors fall to their deaths from cliffs.

stop killing Oromo People

While in many media outlets, the focus is on ethnic tensions between the Oromo people (the single largest ethnicity in the country) and the Tigrayan minority, this doesn’t give us the full picture. The reality in Ethiopia is one of extreme food insecurity, which has been made worse this year by failed rains, with between 50 and 90 per cent of crops lost in some regions. The government itself estimated that 4.5 million people were in need of emergency food assistance in August, while UNICEF puts the total figure of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the country at over 10 million.

The importance of agriculture to the Ethiopian economy cannot be underestimated: over 80% of the workforce are directly employed in it, and it account for a similar amount of the country’s exports. The desire to increase the latter at the expense of the former threatens to make matters much worse. The government would particularly like to increase sugar production, and has announced its desire to be one of the top-ten sugar producers in the world by 2023. Such plans could mean more mass displacement of indigenous peoples, further exacerbate interethnic tensions and cause further migration out of the country.

One of the drivers in this new direction for the Ethiopian government is Chinese investment, which totals more than $20 billion since 2005. The Chinese-built railway linking the capital to the port of Dijibouti has been built for freight, not passengers: it’s for taking Ethiopian exports out of the country. Making a profit from industrial agriculture will require a large-scale shift in the economy (read: land grabbing), as 95% of agriculture in the country is still run by small-scale family farms, though this figure is being slowly eroded over time as the government seeks to sell off land to foreign investors. As part of its so-called development program, the government has earmarked more than 11 million hectares of land for foreign investment, talking of it as “potential land” as if it were not being currently used by pastoralists.

The government’s official line is that foreign investment will lift the population out of poverty, but the truth is that many will be denied access to their ancestral lands, and forced to work for the new owners in order to stay there. The Ethiopian government has the backing of the UK, the European Union and the World Bank in this endeavor, which the BBC reports will create “100,000 jobs” on two new industrial parks. But at what cost?

oromo-family-farm-coffee-production

At the men’s marathon in the Olympic games in Brazil, the silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head both as he crossed the finish line and again at the medal ceremony, in protest at the government’s actions. “The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed. I raised my hands to support with the Oromo protest.” After the games, Lilesa did not return to Ethiopia, and is seeking political asylum in the United States.

Slow Food believes that the land belongs to the people who work it with love and care. We will continue our work to support small-scale farmers in Ethiopia through our Presidia in the country and 129 gardens helping people to grow their own food, and speak out in support of people who are fighting for their right to live and work the land in peace.

Read more:

The Oakland Institute: Miracle or Mirage? Manufacturing Hunger and Poverty in Ethiopia

Other sources:

Ethiopian Investment Commission

Washington Post: Ethiopia has a lot riding on its new Chinese built railroad to the sea

BBC New story: Refugee criss: Plan to create 100,000 jobs in Ethiopia

UNICEF Document on Humanitarian Requirements in Ethiopia, 2016

Human Rights Watch: Ethiopia: Forced Relocations Bring Hunger, Hardship


UN chief urges Ethiopia to protect rights during emergency. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution October 18, 2016

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UN chief urges Ethiopia to protect rights during emergency

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the Ethiopian government to ensure “the protection of fundamental human rights” following its imposition of stringent rules under its state of emergency.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that Ban has been following developments in Ethiopia “with concern” following the imposition of the state of emergency effective Oct. 8. The new rules announced late Saturday include a ban on any contact with groups that are labeled as “terrorist.”

Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, began protesting almost a year ago. According to human rights groups and opposition activists, hundreds of people have been killed in the past year in protests demanding wider freedoms.

Dujarric said Ban “reiterates his call for calm and restraint and calls for inclusive dialogue to resolve all grievances.”

 

Human Rights Watch: Anger Boiling Over in Ethiopia Declaration of State of Emergency Risks Further Abuses. #OromoProtests October 15, 2016

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Anger Boiling Over in Ethiopia


Declaration of State of Emergency Risks Further Abuses

Felix HorneSenior Researcher, Horn of Africa,   Human Rights Watch, 11  October 2016,


On October 9, the Ethiopian government declared a country-wide six-month state of emergency. It has been a bloody year for Ethiopia, and the past few weeks have been no different.

Scores of people – possibly hundreds – died in a stampede on October 2 in Bishoftu, Oromia region, fleeing security force gunfire and teargas during the annual Irreecha harvest festival, important for the country’s 40 million ethnic Oromos. This was the latest lethal crackdown by the government, which has suppressed hundreds of protests across Oromia that grew out of opposition to development plans around the capital, Addis Ababa, last November.

Protestors run from tear gas launched by security personnel during the Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

Protestors run from tear gas launched by security personnel during the Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. © 2016 Reuters

While the vast majority of those protests have been peaceful, anger boiled over last week after the deaths at Irreecha. In Oromia, protesters attacked government buildings and private businesses perceived to be close to the ruling party, setting some on fire.

Now, under the state of emergency – declared on state television – the army will be deployed country-wide. Intensifying the military’s role in responding to the protests is sure to fuel the escalating anger in Oromia.

From the hundreds of interviews Human Rights Watch has carried out with protesters, witnesses and victims since the protests began, it is clear that each act of brutality by the military – the same military now tasked with restoring law and order – further emboldens the protest movement.

The government’s announcement indicates that it does not intend to reverse course, away from the use of force and towards engagement with communities about their grievances. Instead it seems determined to use force to suppress free expression and peaceful assembly.

Until Ethiopians can voice their views about critical issues such as development and governance, anger and frustration will likely continue, plunging the country into further uncertainty and possibly toward an even more dire and irreversible human rights crisis.


 

Oromo lawyers group on #IrreechaMassacre, statement October 11, 2016

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Oromo lawyers group on #IrreechaMassacre, statement


International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA)

12711 Mankato Street NE Blaine, MN 55449 USA
Email: iola@oromolawyers.org
Website: http://www.oromolawyers.org
Phone: +1 571 331 83 30


UPDATE: IOLA Press Statement Regarding the Irreechaa Massacre of October 2016

October 7, 2016

On the 2nd of October 2016, Ethiopian security forces shot live ammunition into the massive crowd (estimated in millions) and fired tear gas during the Irreechaa Festival, the Oromo͛s thanks giving day. As we now understand, in a matter of 30 minutes, hundreds of unsuspecting celebrant͛s were killed and thousands have suffered severe injuries and mental trauma. According to the statement from the opposition political party, The Oromo Federalist Congress, up until the 3rd of October 2016, the death toll has passed 678. This figure has continued to increase and the number of those injured is not yet accounted for.

The Oromo͛s have been celebrating Irreechaa for many years peacefully, but it has never entertained such a tragedy. This year͛s festival was in fact different from the previous ones on several grounds. There was unusually massive security presence from the start. The hills behind the stage and surrounding lake were all occupied by heavily armed forces. Several armored vehicles were pointing their warheads at the crowd and gunship helicopter was deployed. As the Oromo Protest (#OromoProtests) and disagreement with the government continued, political cadres from the ruling party were assigned and took central stage at this event. Given the continued protest and ongoing killings, such gross disrespect of the revered Irreechaa ceremony by the government cadres further infuriated the mass who continued to chant slogans.

According to the information available to us, the Irreechaa celebration was going peacefully with a visible sign of protests, until the police started firing tear gas followed by live ammunition in the direction of the people. Gunship helicopter flew overhead simultaneously to create the deadly havoc, confusion and panic. According to eye witness account of Mr Milkessa Midega (Lecturer at Dire Dawa University), ͞When the gunfire started, and tear gases rained, everyone was shocked but the wave of crowd had little options to access the exit road. Even the narrow exit itself was near the gorge. To make an already bad situation worse, the deep gorge was covered by bushes, which means people could not even see the hole in front of them, and since the gunfire came from the opposite direction (left side of the stage), the festival goers had no choice but to run toward the cliff. This suggests that the military strategically devised the scheme knowing full well that those who run away to escape bullets being fired from behind would be finished in the gorge and ditches. This is why many in the country and those of us who were there believe the Irreechaa massacre was deliberately executed.”

According to Milkessa ͞The closing of the wider exit road on the left side and firing on a panicked crowd from the direction of the safest and more visible exit cannot be a simple case of recklessness. It was deliberately planned to absolve the government of responsibility and might have saved the military some bullets. It͛s a cold, calculated and inhumane military decision.͟ Several other eye witness account, intelligence reports, photo and video evidences also confirms similar pattern of events. According to some intelligence reports, the killing was conducted with the direct order of the higher Intelligence command officials.

This tragic event took place at a time of massive crackdown on peaceful Oromo protesters all over Oromia. The protest has claimed the lives of more than five hundred people, (according to some estimated the figures have passed over 1000) in less than eleven months. The protest is still going on. Being subjected to an unprecedented economic, political and social marginalization, and singled out for harsh systematic repression; the Oromo people have been peacefully demonstrating and demanding for the respect of their fundamental human, social, economic and political rights.

The protests and subsequent human rights violations is in fact not limited to the Oromo region. The Gambella, Sidama, Amhara, Somalia and Konso people͛s have peaceful protested to air their grievances and demand for respect of various legitimate rights. But almost in all occasions the government responded with mass killing, displacement and imprisonments.

In one out of thousands of recent incidents, one mother whose child was was killed by the ͚Agazi͛ forces were bitten for refusing to sit on her Childs dead body in town of Dambi Dollo (Oromiya region). The right to life as a core and one of the few non-derogable rights among the long list of human rights are enshrined in International Covenants to which the Ethiopian government is a party. As a signatory of these Covenants, it is bound to do all necessary steps to fulfill its obligations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Parliament demanded a neutral investigation in to the Oromo Protests killings but TPLF led EPRDF government has so far refused to fulfill by its obligations.

As the tense atmosphere remains and the cycle of violence continues, IOLA calls up on:

1) International community for the establishment of International investigating commission into the Irreechaa killings and these happened during the entire Oromo Protest, and bring those responsible to justice;

2) The Ethiopian government to immediately let the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly and other specialized UN human rights experts to visit Ethiopia to report on these situations. We respectfully ask the UN Security Council to ensure this step is carried out by the Ethiopian government.

3) The Government of Ethiopia to release all political prisoners and ensure the rule of law, in which Freedom, Equality and Justice are uncompromised;

4) The Government of Ethiopia to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Union Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and association;

5) The Ethiopian government to stop suppressing the free flow of information, including by jamming media broadcasts, blocking of communication services and harassing media, including through intrusive surveillance programs, and facilitate access throughout Ethiopia for independent journalists and human rights monitors; IOLA would also like to reiterate its readiness to support any constructive initiatives in this regard. update-on-iola-press-statement-regarding-the-irreechaa-massacre-of-october-2016-click-here-to-read-pdf

The Executive Board of International Oromo Lawyers Association

Note:
International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA) is a non-profit, nonsectarian and non-politically professional association, registered in the United States.

UN: Ethiopia: UN experts call for international commission to help investigate systematic violence against protesters. #OromoProtests October 10, 2016

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Ethiopia: UN experts call for international commission to help investigate systematic violence against protesters

GENEVA (10 October 2016) –United Nations human rights experts today urged the Ethiopian authorities to end their violent crackdown on peaceful protests, which has reportedly led to the death of over 600 people since November 2015. They further called on the Government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and the violence used against peaceful demonstrators.

“We are outraged at the alarming allegations of mass killings, thousands of injuries, tens of thousands of arrests and hundreds of enforced disappearances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard. “We are also extremely concerned by numerous reports that those arrested had faced torture and ill-treatment in military detention centres.”

“In light of the lack of progress in investigating the systematic violence against protesters, we urge the Ethiopian Government to allow an international independent commission to assist in shedding light on these allegations,” they stated.

The human rights experts highlighted in particular the 2 October events in Oromia, where 55 people were killed in a stampede.

“The deaths in the Oromia region last weekend are only the latest in a long string of incidents where the authorities’ use of excessive force has led to mass deaths,” Mr. Kiai said noting that peaceful protests in the Ahmara and Konso Wereda regions have also been met with violence from authorities.

“The scale of this violence and the shocking number of deaths make it clear that this is a calculated campaign to eliminate opposition movements and silence dissenting voices,” he added.

The UN Special Rapporteurs voiced particular concern over the use of national security provisions and counterterrorism legislation – the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation 652/2009 – to target individuals exercising their rights to peaceful assembly.

“This law authorises the use of unrestrained force against suspects and pre-trial detention of up to four months,” Ms. Callamard noted while warning that many of the killings could amount to extrajudicial executions. “Whenever the principles of necessity and proportionality are not respected in the context of crowd control, any death caused by law enforcement officials is considered an extrajudicial execution,” she stressed.

The Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances urged the authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of those disappeared and emphasized that” all allegations of enforced disappearances must be thoroughly and independently investigated and perpetrators held accountable”.

Ethiopia’s current wave of mass protests began in the Oromia region in November 2015, in response to the Government’s ‘Master Plan’ to expand Addis Ababa’s boundaries, which would lead to the displacement of Oromo farmers. In Konso Wereda, the protests started in mid-December 2015 after the annexation of Konso into the Segen Area Peoples Zone. Protests later spread to other areas of the country, including the Ahmara region.

“Curtailing assembly and association rights is never the answer when there are disagreements in a society; rather, it is a sign of the State’s inability to deal with such disagreements,” Mr Kiai said. “Suffocating dissent only makes things worse, and is likely to lead to further social and political unrest.”

The experts underlined the urgent need to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the violence. A group of UN experts made a similar call* in January 2016, which went unheeded, they noted.

Mr. Kiai, Ms. Callamard and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances call has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, Victoria Lucia Tauli-corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez and the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Roland Adjovi.

(*) Check the experts’ January statement: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16977&LangID=E

ENDS

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Ethiopia:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ETIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Marion Mondain (+41 22 91 79 540 /freeassembly@ohchr.org).

To view this press release online, visit:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20663&LangID=E

 

Emergency Declared in Ethiopia but the decree means nothing to those who have lived with inhumanity worse than death. October 9, 2016

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In its total lawlessness, the regime had left no right unviolated be it bluntly or systematically. It is because of this that in terms of what rights it limits or what new power it confers on the executive, this declaration is inconsequential. There is nothing it changes on the ground. The resistance was happening while a full military rule organized by a Command Post chaired by the Commander-in-Chief himself was already in place. In the name of taking a “merciless and definitive” measure on protestors, the army and its Agazi Regiment, the Regional Special Forces, the Federal Police, the States’ Police Forces, Prison officials, and the Local Militia have all taken ultimate measures on civilians, children, mothers, and the elderly. They have applied the most barbaric methods of execution, massacre, torture, and abuse.


Emergency Declared in Ethiopia but the decree means nothing to those who have lived with inhumanity worse than death.

Tsegaye R Ararssa
9 October 2016.

14516615_1704863616502865_4754458393033099742_nThis morning, Ethiopians woke up to the news that the Council of Ministers of the Federal Government has passed an emergency decree that may last for the coming six months. The official text of the Decree is not yet published in the official legal communicator, the Negarit Gazetta. (As it has now become customary, it may never be published at all; the regime does what it wants to do nonetheless.) That it is so declared today is announced to journalists by the Prime Minister in Cabinet on the state television. The Prime Minister spoke in order to announce the decision to journalists as the primus inter pares, the first among equals, in the Cabinet. The reason given by the Prime Minister for issuing the declaration is that there is a breakdown of law and order that threatens the safety of citizens and the integrity of the constitutional order.

To the peoples of Ethiopia, especially to those who have been under military rule for the last one year and more (without any fact that necessitates it or any law that warrants it), the decree makes no practical difference in their ‘lives’. As such, the decree has little significance, if any.

The people have seen the worst face of repression. Killing, maiming, mass arrest, arbitrary detention, public torture, dispossession, eviction, dislocation (because of loss of houses and job and domicile), and much worse. They have seen burning of prisoners alive (in Qilinxo, Ambo, Gonder, Angereb, Debretabor, Zuway, etc). They have seen towns set on fire and razed down (in Konso). They have seen detainees poisoned (in Sabbataa). They have seen massacres on a sacred ground (Irrechaa) that was turned virtually into a killing field (Horaa Arsadii). They have seen children shot dead right in front of their moms (in Wallaggaa, in Arsi, in Harargee, and everywhere else).

Every day, those that are alive have lived under ‘the shadow of death.’ They have seen the regime mobilize one group of people against the other and lose loved ones and their means of livelihood as a result. They have seen snipers shoot young people in market places, in school compounds, and in the privacy of their homes. In short they have seen it all. So, what new thing they haven’t already seen is this emergency decree going to bring about? The answer given by almost everyone is a resounding “NOTHING!”

But while we are at it, it is important for us to ask what it means to declare a state of emergency in Ethiopia. What exactly is a state of emergency? When is it proper? Who declares emergency? What is the procedure? What is the implication for rights and for the exercise of power by the regime? Why is it declared now? What new thing is the regime planning to do under the guise of the emergency decree?

In what follows, I explore these questions in the light of the Ethiopian constitution (although no law, constitution or otherwise, has ever meant anything in Ethiopia). The key provision that regulates the mode, procedure, consequences, and implications of emergency declaration is article 93 of the Constitution.

 

What is emergency declaration? And when is it necessary?

Emergency decree is a decree of extraordinary situation. It is a law of abnormal times. It is a way of creating ‘legal illegality’ in a constitutional-political order invoking necessity on the ground of actual or impending war, crisis in law order, natural disasters, or break out of epidemics. It is a regime of exception-making through which the state is authorized to do what it cannot lawfully do under normal circumstances. Through emergency laws, a state is empowered to exercise special powers justified on the ground that the exigencies of political life has become so terrible that it demands a special set of measures.

According to the Ethiopian constitution (art 93(1)(a)), emergency is declared when there is:

  1. a) external invasion;
  2. b) a breakdown of law and order that cannot be managed through ordinary law-enforcement mechanisms;
  3. c) natural disaster; or
  4. d) epidemic.

One can see from the above that special measures that have to be effected through emergency decree are said to be necessary in times of war, crisis of public order, natural catastrophe, or the spread of contagious disease or plague that threatens the population.

According to the announcement of the Prime Minister, the cause of the emergency declaration today is the complete breakdown of law and order which has threatened the constitutional order. This is of course a concession on his part to the fact one can easily observe on the ground since the re-emergence of the #Oromoprotests on 12 November 2015.

Throughout the year Oromia—where military rule is imposed–has been completely ungovernable. Konso has also been ungovernable for the last eleven months. After July 2016, when the Amhara resistance broke out in Gonder, the Amhara region also became ungovernable by the regime thereby necessitating a military rule to be imposed there, too.

Who issues the Declaration of Emergency?

The necessity of such a decree is assessed and acted upon by the Council of Ministers (COM). But the COM is not the only institution that has a sole authority on the management of emergency situation. The power to declare emergency is shared between the Executive and the Legislature. According to art 93(2), owing to the urgency associated with emergency, the declaration may be issued unilaterally by the COM but it should be presented to the parliament within 48 hours if the parliament is in session. If the parliament refuses to approve it, the decree will be dead on arrival. If the parliament approves it by a 2/3rd majority vote, it becomes effective for up to six months from the date of declaration.

If the emergency happens in the season when the parliament is not in session—like it is the case now—the decree must be submitted to the parliament within fifteen days. This may necessitate calling a special or extraordinary meeting of the parliament. Without the approval of the parliament, no emergency decree can be effective. In other words, emergency power is shared between the two institutions, the executive (COM) and the legislature (HPR). The former has the power to generate the emergency bill and the latter has the power to approve or reject the decree submitted to it by the former.

The How of Emergency Declaration: Procedure

The process is activated when the COM decides to have such a decree after duly assessing the situation. If exceptional measures are found to be:

  1. a) necessary; and
  2. b) not preventable through any other measures.

Thus, the COM must demonstrate that there is a serious crisis in public order that it could not otherwise control through the activation of ordinary law-enforcement mechanisms. Once this is demonstrated, the decree is submitted to the Parliament for approval. On approval by parliament, it becomes the law of exceptional times. When it is duly approved by the parliament, the parliament establishes an Emergency Inquiry Board that supervises the humane treatment of all persons arrested in the course of enforcing the emergency (art 93(5)). The Board ensures the accountability of the executive for its measures taken during the emergency season.

What does Emergency entail? What are its consequences?

The declaration of emergency confers special powers on the executive. It empowers them to take measures necessary and proportional to avert the danger. Often, the executive is given latitude to suspend some constitutional rights as may be necessary to protect public peace and order. The usual candidates are rights such as freedom of assembly, demonstrations, movement, etc, which can be suspended for a limited period of time.

However, these powers are not open-ended. There is a limit to what the Executive can do. In particular, its actions are circumscribed by constitutional provisions that are non-derogable. The provisions relating to the right to life, freedom from torture and all forms of cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment or punishment, equality and non-discrimination, etc are often seen as universally inviolable under any circumstance. This emanates from the principle of sanctity of human life, human dignity, and fundamental equality in worth of all human beings.

In art 93 (4)(3)), these non-derogable provisions are five: art. 1 (the provision that has to do the nomenclature of the country and the system it denotes); art. 18 (the provision on the right to freedom from cruel, inhumane, and degrading punishment or treatment such as torture); art 25 (the provision on the right to equality and non-discrimination); art 39(1) (the provision on the right to self-determination including secession); and art 39(2) (the provision on the right to language, culture, and history). Curiously, the right to life (under arts 14 and 15) is not in the list of rights that cannot be suspended or limited during situations of emergency. Given the weight given to other structures such as the federal democratic republican structure and the name that denotes it; or to right of nations to self-determination; the absence of the right to life, the most fundamental of all human rights, in this list must be an oversight.

Why now? What Motivated the regime to Issue this declaration?

What is the point of this declaration? What new measures are to be taken other than those “merciless” measures that were being taken throughout the year? What rights are to be newly suspended and/or limited because they have been left unviolated thus far?

As we all know, the regime has virtually banned all forms of demonstrations, political meetings, associations, etc for a long time. We know that there is no press freedom in the country. Ethiopia is one of the top four jailers of journalists in the entire world. Arbitrary killing, mass arrests, detentions, tortures, discrimination, have been a matter of routine practice throughout the 25 years tenure of the regime, only exacerbated now in the context of the open mass revolt in the last couple of years.

The regime has always been confrontational with religious groups because it routinely and unscrupulously interferes with their freedom of religion.

Demanding the right to self-determination as per the constitution automatically renders one a terrorist because apparently, in EPRDF’s book, the right to self-determination is already exercised by all. As a result, identity is securitized, i.e., it is handled as a matter of threat to national security.

The right to one’s distinct language—e.g. the right to a choice of script—is routinely violated, a striking example being the regime’s denial of the right of the Erob people of Tigray Region to adopt a Latin script for their language.

In its total lawlessness, the regime had left no right unviolated be it bluntly or systematically. It is because of this that in terms of what rights it limits or what new power it confers on the executive, this declaration is inconsequential. There is nothing it changes on the ground. The resistance was happening while a full military rule organized by a Command Post chaired by the Commander-in-Chief himself was already in place. In the name of taking a “merciless and definitive” measure on protestors, the army and its Agazi Regiment, the Regional Special Forces, the Federal Police, the States’ Police Forces, Prison officials, and the Local Militia have all taken ultimate measures on civilians, children, mothers, and the elderly. They have applied the most barbaric methods of execution, massacre, torture, and abuse. Surely novelty will elude them in this regard. They have practised abuses that the world’s ghastliest torture centres and killing fields have witnessed in history.

The only question that remains now is why the regime issues this declaration now? What do they want to achieve? There are two possibilities: 1) to give a retrospective legal cover to atrocities they have been perpetrating so far and to exculpate the more extensive barbaric measures they are preparing to take in a last vindictive act just before they vacate power; and 2) to terrorize the public into temporary silence during which time they will dismantle major infrastructural facilities and move to the home base of the TPLF core of the regime. These possibilities are mere speculations, of course, but these are speculations that are hardly without reasons rooted in the conduct, words, and attitudes of the key figures in the regime.

 

UN Human Rights Briefing Note on Ethiopia October 8, 2016

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UN Human Rights Briefing Note on Ethiopia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Geneva,    7 October 2016

UN Human Rights Office of the High Commission

There has been increasing unrest in several towns in the Oromia region, south east of Addis Ababa, since last Sunday when many people died after falling into ditches or into the Arsede lake while apparently fleeing security forces following a protest at a religious festival in the town of Bishoftu. The protests have apparently been fuelled in part by a lack of trust in the authorities’ account of events as well as wildly differing information about the death toll and the conduct of security forces. We call on the protestors to exercise restraint and to renounce the use of violence. Security forces must conduct themselves in line with international human rights laws and standards.

There is clearly a need for an independent investigation into what exactly transpired last Sunday, and to ensure accountability for this and several other incidents since last November involving protests that have ended violently.

Instead of cutting off access to mobile data services in parts of the country, including in Addis Ababa, we urge the Government to take concrete measures to address the increasing tensions, in particular by allowing independent observers to access the Oromia and Amhara regions to speak to all sides and assess the facts. In August this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to the regions to enable the Office to provide assistance in line with Ethiopia’s human rights obligations. We again appeal to the Government to grant us access.

We are also concerned that two bloggers, Seyoum Teshoume and Natnael Feleke, the latter from the blogging collective Zone 9, were arrested this week. Feleke and a friend of his were reportedly arrested for loudly discussing the responsibility of the Government for the deaths at last Sunday’s Irrecha festival in Oromia. There have also been worrying reports of mass arrests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. We urge the Government to release those detained for exercising their rights to free expression and opinion. Silencing criticism will only deepen tensions.


 

Human Rights Watch: Q&A: Recent Events and Deaths at the Irreecha Festival in Ethiopia October 8, 2016

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Q&A: Recent Events and Deaths at the Irreecha Festival in Ethiopia

Security officials watch as demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, on October 2, 2016.

Security officials watch as demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, on October 2, 2016.

The following questions and answers are critical to understanding recent events inEthiopia. Responses are written by Felix Horne, senior Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch. The Human Rights Watch analysis of the situation is informed by 15 interviews with people who witnessed and lived through the events of October 2, 2016, as well as hundreds of other interviews with people caught up in violent government responses to protests across Ethiopia in the past year.

  1. What is Irreecha and what happened on Sunday, October 2 during Irreecha?
  2. The government said 50 people died, while the opposition says 678. Why is there such a disparity in the numbers?
  3. Did security forces violate international laws or guidelines on the use of force in Irreecha?
  4. Why is an independent, international investigation important? Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to investigate?
  5. How has the government responded to the October 2 deaths in Bishoftu?
  6. What are protesters telling Human Rights Watch about the government response to the protests and about what they want now?
  7. What should the government be doing?
  8. What should Ethiopia’s key international allies, such as the US, UK and EU, do to help ensure improved human rights in Ethiopia?
  1. What is Irreecha and what happened on Sunday, October 2 during Irreecha?

Irreecha is the most important cultural festival to Ethiopia’s 40 million ethnic Oromos who gather to celebrate the end of the rainy season and welcome the harvest season. Millions gather each year at Bishoftu, 40 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa.

This week, people spoke of increased tension after year-long protests in Oromia. There was an increased presence of armed security forces in Bishoftu compared to previous years.

The government attempted to have a more visible role in the festivities this year. The government and the Abba Gadaas, the council of Oromo traditional leaders, held extensive negotiations about the arrangements for the festival. At the festival, tensions within the massive crowd built when government officials appeared on stage and even more so when the current Abba Gadaas were not present on stage. Instead, a retired Abba Gadaa who is perceived to be closely aligned with the government took to the stage.

A military helicopter flying low overhead increased public concern about the government’s intentions, according to witnesses. Eventually, a man went on stage and led the crowd in anti-government chants. The crowd grew more restless, more people went on stage, and then security forces fired teargas and people heard gunshots.

The security forces have used live ammunition while confronting and attempting to disperse numerous public gatherings in Oromia for almost a year. As Human Rights Watch has  documented in many of those protests, teargas preceded live ammunition, so when the pattern seemed to be repeating itself at Irreecha, panic very quickly set in. People ran and fell into nearby ditches, while others were trampled in the ensuring chaos.

  1. The government said 50 people died, while the opposition says 678. Why is there such a disparity in the numbers?

The Ethiopian government makes it extremely difficult to investigate these types of incidents. The government limits independent media and restricts nongovernmental organizations, both domestic and international, so that currently no one has had the access, expertise or impartiality necessary to determine a precise, credible death toll. Making things worse, over the last few days, the government has restricted internet access, as it has done intermittently throughout the protests.

Based on the information from witnesses and hospital staff Human Rights Watch has spoken to, it is clear that the number of dead is much higher than government estimates. But without access to morgues and families who lost loved ones, and with many people unwilling to speak for fear of reprisals, it is impossible to come up with a credible total. Anecdotal reports from some hospital staff indicate high numbers of dead, but they are also under pressure to keep silent. There are numerous reports of medical staff not being permitted to speak, or being pressured to underreport deaths. They may also have had limited access to the bodies. During the last 12 months, Human Rights Watch hasdocumented several arrests of medical staff for speaking out about killings and beatings by security forces, or in some cases for treating injured protesters.

All of this underscores the need for independent international investigation to document who died and how they died in Bishoftu on October 2.

  1. Did security forces violate international laws or guidelines on the use of force in Irreecha?

As a crowd-control method, teargas should be used only when strictly necessary as a proportionate response to quell violence. International guidelines, such as the United Nations Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, stipulate that the police are expected to use discretion in crowd control tactics to ensure a proportionate response to any threat of violence, and to avoid exacerbating the situation. Police should exercise restraint when using teargas in situations when its use could cause death or serious injury.

The witnesses all said the crowds were not violent, but they were clearly protesting against the government. Witnesses said they believed security forces fired guns into the crowd in addition to in the air but there is thus far no corroborated evidence of people hit by gunfire – but restrictions on access make it impossible to say for sure.

Based on the information Human Rights Watch has, it appears that the security forces’ use of force was disproportionate. To the extent that this force was used to disperse protests rather than in response to a perceived threat posed by the crowds, it may also have constituted a violation of the rights to free expression and assembly. The research leads us to the conclusion that the security forces’ disproportionate response triggered the stampede that resulted in so many deaths.

  1. Why is an independent, international investigation important? Isn’t it the government’s responsibility to investigate?

Yes, ideally the Ethiopian government should investigate. In the past, it has conducted investigations into alleged abuses by security forces that were neither impartial nor credible. Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission presented an oral report to parliament in June about the protests over the last year, saying the security force response was in all cases proportionate to a threat posed by demonstrators. That conclusion is contrary to the findings of Human Rights Watch and other independent groups that have looked into recent events. It is very clear that security forces consistently used live ammunition to disperse protests, killing hundreds of people. The government’s findings have further increased tensions, underscoring concerns protesters have voiced about lack of justice and accountability.

The lack of credibility of government investigations into the brutal crackdown and the scale of the crimes being committed are a compelling argument for the need for an independent, international investigation into those events and the events on October 2. Ethiopia’s international allies should be pushing hard for this.

Despite growing calls from the EU and from the UN’s most important human rights official, the government has strongly resisted the calls for international investigations. The government has a history of resisting outside scrutiny of its rights record. Access has been requested by 11 special procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2007, and all were refused except for the special rapporteur on Eritrea. On one hand the government wants to play a leadership role on the world stage, as seen in its membership on the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council; but on the other it has resisted any international involvement in its own affairs.

  1. How has the government responded to the deaths in Bishoftu?

The government has been blaming “anti-peace elements” for the deaths, which continues to increase the people’s anger throughout Oromia. The government should instead allow an independent investigation and then acknowledge and ensure accountability for any abuses committed by its security forces. It should also demonstrate a commitment to respecting human rights by creating a forum to listen to protesters’ grievances in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia. The protesters say that this is about rights denied: security force killings, arrests and torture, economic marginalization, and decades of grievances. Recent protests and the ensuing violence are not about social media trouble makers, or interference from neighboring Eritrea, as the government often contends when abuses come to light.

  1. What are protesters telling Human Rights Watch about the government response to the protests and about what they want now?

Over the last year, protesters have often told me that each killing by security forces increased their anger and determination. And the fear that was very present in Oromia and elsewhere in Ethiopia is dissipating. Some protesters say they feel they have nothing left to lose. I hear from one man each time he is released from detention. He has been arrested four times during the protests, including once when he was held in a military camp. He says he has never been charged with any crimes, has never seen a court room, and has been beaten each time he has been detained. He told me that in the military camp, soldiers stripped him down to his underwear, hung him upside down and whipped him. His brother was killed in a protest, his father arrested, and two of his closest friends have disappeared. I asked him why he keeps protesting despite the risks, and he said: “We have nothing else to lose. Better to go down standing up for our rights than end up dead, disappeared, or in jail.” I hear similar statements from many protesters, particularly the youth.

While the last year’s protests have been largely peaceful, more and more people are telling me that approach has run its course, that when you protest lawfully and peacefully and are met with bullets, arrests, and beatings, and little is said or done internationally, there is little incentive to continue that approach. Bekele Gerba, a staunch advocate for non-violence and deputy-chairman of the main registered opposition party in Oromia, is in detention and is on trial under the antiterrorism law. Treating those who advocate or engage in non-violent acts as criminals or terrorists sends a very dangerous message.

  1. What should the government be doing?

It seems clear that force will not suppress the protesters’ movement and has in fact emboldened it. When the government is willing to tolerate the free expression of dissent, allow peaceful assemblies, and engage in a genuine dialogue with protesters, it will help to end this crisis.

Most of the several hundred protesters interviewed in depth over the past year have a lengthy list of people close to them who have been arrested, killed, or disappeared, in addition to their own trauma. Older people have similar lists going back many years. Ethiopia needs accountability to rebuild trust with its citizens. The government has had numerous chances to make concessions and address protesters’ concerns. At those times when it has done so, as in January when it cancelled the master plan that ignited the initial protests, the action was taken far too late and done in a way that protesters did not consider credible.

In terms of immediate steps, the government should permit peaceful protests, ensure that no protests are met with excessive force, release those arbitrarily detained, and address grievances including ensuring respect for freedom of assembly, expression and association. This is what we have heard from the hundreds of protesters we have interviewed in the last year.

  1. What should Ethiopia’s key international allies, such as the US, UK and EU, do to help ensure improved human rights in Ethiopia?

For too long Ethiopia’s major international partners have not adequately raised serious concerns about the complete closure of political space in Ethiopia that has led to an inability to express dissent. At this point they need to take urgent action to ensure that the situation does not further spiral out of control. They should push for an independent international investigation. They should push for those arbitrarily detained to be released. And they should reiterate in the strongest way that lawful peaceful protests should be allowed to occur without the threat of bullets and mass arrests. They have leverage, and they should use it more effectively.
For more background:

On Ethiopia’s general human rights situation, see 2016 World Report on Ethiopia

On the human rights abuses during the Oromo protest, see “Such a Brutal Crackdown”(2016)

On Ethiopia’s repressive media environment, see “Journalism is Not a Crime” (2015)

On the history of abuses in Oromia, see “Suppressing Dissent, Human Rights Abuses and Political repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region” (2005) and Amnesty International’s 2014 report

On torture in Ethiopia, see “They Want a Confession”

On the need for an international investigation into the crackdowns, see “Ethiopia’s Bloody Crackdown: The Case for International Justice”

More Reading

Indian Professor in Ethiopia: An Appeal to the International Community about Human Rights Situation. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution October 8, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

 

When public protest in a peaceful and democratic way, no warnings, no lotty charge, no water shelling, no tear gas, but directly shooting by the police of government on the chest or head of the public. I wonder how the government kills its own people?

It is certainly racist government or fascist government where TPLF police are brutally killing the Oromo people. Under the cover of so many hidden and pseudo reasons, the Ethiopia Government is misleading the entire international community, I believe.

When people were brutally killed by the Ethiopia government, like a Hitler govt, why the international Humanitarian organizations are keeping silent. The international community and Human right organisations must come forward to assess the facts without any prejudices.

 

bishoftu-mascare-2nd-october-2016-fascist-ethiopias-regime-tplf-conducted-masskillings-against-oromo-people-at-irreecha-celebrationmilitary-grade-humvee-inside-the-civilian-perimeter-at-the-2nd-october-2016-irreecha-festivalin-bishoftu-why-was-the-soldieed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacrphoto-of-the-aerial-force-deployed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacreirreechamassacre-2nd-october-2016-fascist-tplf-ethiopias-regime-conducted-mass-killings-against-peaceful-oromo-people-celebrating-irreecha-thanksgiving-at-bishoftu-horaa-harsadii-oromiaethiopia-regime-conducted-mass-killing-at-irreecha-cultural-festival-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-oromia-irreeechamassacre-p1


Indian Professor in Ethiopia: An Appeal to the International Community about Human Rights Situation

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An appeal to International community on the pathetic situation of human rights violation against Ethiopian Oromo people.

 

An appeal to International community on the pathetic situation of human rights violation against Ethiopian Oromo people.

I am an Indian, worked as a professor for about 5 years since 2011. All these days, I never felt that Ethiopia is a democratic country. I never saw any kind of freedom to the public in Ethiopia. The government is running against the principles of democracy. I felt it as totally dictatorship government with autocratic policies.

They conduct elections for name sake to elect their nominees only. For name sake that is for the sake of international funds from UN, UNDP, US and EU.  They named their constitution as Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it is totally autocratic government. As senior professor, I was surprised to note that how the US, UN, EU and UNDP are kept silent where there is no freedom for the people, killing the people who ever raise their voice for freedom, no transparent news media, control over internet and telecom media and no support from the government to protect public against hunger and poverty, but brutal killings that to massacre killings. Public are living similar to the refugee camp of some other enemy country.

When public protest in a peaceful and democratic way, no warnings, no lotty charge, no water shelling, no tear gas, but directly shooting by the police of government on the chest or head of the public. I wonder how the government kills its own people?

It is certainly racist government or fascist government where TPLF police are brutally killing the Oromo people. Under the cover of so many hidden and pseudo reasons, the Ethiopia Government is misleading the entire international community, I believe.

When people were brutally killed by the Ethiopia government, like a Hitler govt, why the international Humanitarian organizations are keeping silent. The international community and Human right organisations must come forward to assess the facts without any prejudices. It is very hard to know that how the human beings are killed by other human beings on political revenge, that too how the government kills its own people brutally.

As an economist, well known to White House and Obama governance bureau, I have a question how the international community praises the growth of the GDP in Ethiopia, by ignoring the extent of free funds received by the Ethiopia from international community, that too when there is no transparent performance assessment of any kind at any level across the Ethiopian governance.

It is very clear that all the funds received from the international community are diverted to maintain the excessive police force rather than to the public welfare. I saw the people at rural areas who are suffering for piece of bread and piece of cloth, where there are no incidences of visiting to those areas by the government and its representatives.

I saw at several government offices in Ethiopia saying that ” Ethiopia need not answer to any foreign country”. I am surprised, how they can say like that when they are enjoying huge foreign funds for the development of their country. Definitely every foreign country giving funds to Ethiopia in any manner has a right to ask its performance on the development of people and related human rights.

I expect that an independent investigation is to be counseled immediately and all kinds of funds to Ethiopia government from international community must be stopped until the investigation reports are analyzed on the facts.

African Arguments: Ethiopia: How popular uprising became the only option. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution October 8, 2016

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Ethiopia: How popular uprising became the only option

In theory, the Oromo and Amhara are well-represented by parties in government. But they have never been perceived to have either legitimacy or autonomy.

The government claims 52 people were killed in the Irreecha celebrations, but the opposition puts the figure much higher.

The government claims 52 people were killed in the Irreecha celebrations, but the opposition puts the figure much higher.

When Shibiru Amana heard gunshots ring out near his home in the town of Mandi on 26 September, he immediately rushed outside where he saw people clamouring for safety and kids running for their lives. Across the commotion, he later told VOA Afaan Oromo, Amana spotted a young boy lying lifeless on the ground. He mustered up the courage and took a few steps towards him. It was his younger brother Lidata.

Lidata, who was just 15 years old, had been shot in the torso. His transgression had been shouting a few anti-government slogans at a gathering on the eve of the Meskel holiday.

A week later, enormous numbers of people from all corners of the Oromia region descended on the town of Bishoftu to celebrate Irreechaa, an annual Oromo thanksgiving festival. When some began to protest, security officers responded by firing tear gas and live ammunition, according to witnesses and videos that later emerged on social media.

The crowed was packed between a lake and treacherous terrain, and in the panic that ensued, many died. The government reported that 52 died. Human rights groups say several hundreds were killed. Meanwhile, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) put the death toll at a huge 678.

The ongoing wave of protests in Ethiopia was initially triggered in November 2015 by a development plan that would have expanded the capital Addis Ababa into neighbouring Oromia towns. This plan was eventually suspended, but the protests amongst the Oromo people continued and have since spread to over 200 towns and been joined by Amhara demonstrators too. The government has often responded by sending in security forces that have engaged in deadly violence, leading to the deaths of over 600 people, according to rights groups, and over 1,000, according to activists.

[Ethiopia’s unprecedented nationwide Oromo protests: who, what, why?]

While some of these killings in Oromia have been carried out by regional police, it is notable that much of the security response has been conducted by the federal police and army. As Amana explained, “I wanted to ask the police officers why they killed my brother but they speak a different language”.

Under Ethiopia’s system of ethnic federalism – comprising of nine states and two chartered cities – significant powers are devolved to regional authorities, including the right to establish a state police force and maintain public order within the region. The federal army is only permitted to intervene at the request of the Oromia regional government.

However, the reality is that much of this devolved autonomy only exists in theory, and the fact that federal forces have been deployed reportedly without the express request of the Oromia government speaks to its lack of sovereignty.

Indeed, for the last 25 years, politics has been controlled by the four-party ruling coalition known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). This alliance includes the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). But its lead partner is the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

This latter party’s base represents just 6% of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, but TPLF elites have long dominated the country’s political and economic spheres and kept a hold on key posts such as defence, intelligence and foreign affairs.

It is partly anger at these inequalities that is driving protests in Oromia and Amhara. The government has largely denounced these demonstrators and used force, but it also recently announced it would evaluate the performance of its regional parties and engage in the necessary reforms of them to address the people’s concerns.

“Deep reform”?

In 2001, the year Lidata was born, the Ethiopian government also faced the need for an internal upheaval. A struggle for power within the TPLF had just concluded and the faction led by then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had come out on top. A major purge of his opponents in government soon followed.

OPDO’s leaders had been indecisive in declaring their loyalties during the factional fight and were largely sidelined. Negasso Gidada, former president of Ethiopia and chair of the OPDO, was suspended along with other senior leaders. Meanwhile, Kuma Demeksa, an OPDO central committee member and president of the Oromia region, was removed and later replaced by Juneydi Saaddo, a new technocrat on the block.

In times of crisis and internal party strife such as these, there was nothing Meles enjoyed more than conducting a highly charged meeting (‘gimgema’) in which participants engaged in criticism and self-criticism. Those from the OPDO reportedly engaged in a frantic admission of guilt.

15 years on from this – and four years since Meles’ death in 2012 – today’s widespread protests have forced senior leaders in the TPLF and EPRDF to resurrect their ideologue’s penchant for reform. These recent changes have been spoken about under the banner ofTilq Tehadiso, which is Amharic for “deep reform”, and are supposed to “tackle rent-seeking” and “root out nepotism”. But the reality is that the exercise has been, at best, a cosmetic reshuffle.

At worst, it has been used to usher in an even more confrontational approach to the protests. In its September 2016 party congress, for instance, the OPDO replaced its chair and vice-chair with Lemma Megersa, a former Security Chief for the region, and Workneh Gebeyehu, a former Director-General of the Federal Police Commission. This shift is widely believed to have been choreographed by the TPLF, and the combined intelligence and law enforcement expertise of the two new leaders will be of immediate value to the government. According to Jawar Mohammed, a US-based Oromo political activist, the move is an attempt to “further militarize the administration in Oromia”.

Indeed, early evidence suggests the new leadership is taking a more ruthless approach. Weeks after the change of guard, crackdowns have intensified in parts of Oromia, leading scores if not hundreds such as Lidata to lose their lives. “That’s the closest I have ever been to a war,” Bayesa Abera, who has attended every Irreechaa celebration for the past 10 years, said of events earlier this week. “I am lucky to be alive today.”

Neither the cause nor the solution

The OPDO is not the only Oromo political party in Ethiopia, but thanks to the TPLF, it has developed a sense of near invincibility over its competitors in the region since the 1990s.

According to insiders, the TPLF masterminded the very creation of the OPDO in 1989 in order to pit them against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a group with which its relations were deteriorating. The TPLF struggled to encourage the formation of this new OPDO party, however, and reportedly had to call upon on Oromo-speaking prisoners of war to make up its members. From its early days, OPDO officials were widely referred to disparagingly as ‘maxxanne’, Oromo for freeloader.

In 1992, the now banned OLF, a more potent symbol of Oromo nationalism, finally withdrew from the transitional government in acrimonious circumstances, and since then, the TPLF has ensured that its OPDO ally has completely dominated in the region. As a Human Rights Watch report from 2005 noted, “From top to bottom, the OPDO has had a near-total monopoly on political power in Oromia since 1992”.

Two Oromo opposition parties – the Oromo National Congress (ONC) and Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) – did manage to enter the political fray when they won seats in the 2005 elections. But they were constantly undermined to prevent them from mounting a real challenge to the OPDO’s supremacy. This strategy of restricting political space to opposition parties culminated in the 2015 elections in which the OPDO officially won all 537 seats in the regional state council and all 178 seats allocated to the region in the federal parliament.

The OPDO’s loyalties have thus always been with the TPLF, and when men and women across Oromia have been gunned down, no OPDO official has had the courage to condemn excessive use of force. Juneydi Saaddo, a former ODPO cabinet minister who is now in exile, explained recently in an interview that those in government fear reprisals if they speak out against TPLF dominance, and confessed that the OPDO has never been able to shake off its subservient status.

[Behind the Ethiopia protests: A view from inside the government]

For the protesters in Oromia therefore, the OPDO possesses neither legitimacy nor autonomy, and any reshuffle of its leadership is considered as inconsequential as the party itself. The overwhelming belief is that its leaders are handpicked by the TPLF puppet-masters, and the new generation of Oromo youth – known as the ‘Qeerroo’ – have seen that it is business as usual after the latest reform. As Jawar Mohammedargued following the change of guard, “the OPDO is neither the cause nor the solution for the political crisis”.

Over the past year, Oromo protesters have been calling for genuine representation in government, an end to the dominance of a single ethnic group, respect for democratic and human rights, an end to indiscriminate killings and repression, and the cessation of marginalisation and evictions of Oromo from their ancestral lands. These are issues that far exceed the powers of the OPDO.

A Luta Continua

Over the past few months, the Amhara have joined the protests and there have been shows of unprecedented solidarity with the Oromo, united in their shared grievances. This is a significant development. Together, these two ethnic groups make up more than two-thirds of Ethiopia’s population, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s most urgent and perhaps toughest job now is to halt or reverse this growing trend.

[“The blood flowing in Oromia is our blood too”: Why Oromo-Amhara solidarity is the greatest threat to the Ethiopian government]

Former strongman Meles Zenawi long managed to avoid this situation by stoking historical antagonisms in order to create perpetual mistrust between the two groups. He effectively drilled this trick into his disciples too, including current Communications Minister Getachew Reda, who in a recent interview, bluntly admitted that “the alliance between the two…is clear evidence that the government has failed to do its job”.

But Prime Minister Hailemariam, a former technocrat hailing from Ethiopia’s southern region, has proven less politically cunning than his predecessor. His attempts at employing the old divisive tactics, even mimicking Meles’ language and gestures at times, have failed as solidarity between the Amhara and Oromo has grown both within Ethiopia and in the diaspora. When the state TV recently unearthed and aired old footage of Meles expounding on the “narrow nationalism” and “chauvinism” of the two groups, it highlighted Hailemariam’s comparative lack of skill in delivering effective propaganda.

From Hailemariam’s first day in office, it has been clear that the TPLF still calls the shots. In fact, it is believed that his very survival strategy is to play second fiddle to gain approval from the TPLF hierarchy. But if protests continue, he could end up as a sacrificial lamb.

However, one thing the PM may take encouragement from is the fact that despite the turmoil facing the country, support from key Western allies hasn’t wavered. The US government in particular has shown little interest beyond penning half-heartedstatements of concern, reluctant to criticise a partner it sees as a force for stability in a volatile region and a major ally in its War on Terror.

In this configuration, the Ethiopian government has barely had to project even the semblance of democracy for Western diplomats to continue singing its praises. For instance, when US President Barack Obama paid a visit to the country in July 2015 – just two months after the ruling party and its allies won 100% of seats in parliament amidst accusations of intimidation and fraud – he described the government as “democratically elected”. The killing of hundreds of protesters since then has done little to shift this position.

The events of the last 11 months – and the responses from the Ethiopian government and its allies – have shown that Ethiopia’s protesters must take it upon themselves to define their destiny and bring an end to their peripheral role. Indeed, this seems to be the position that demonstrators in both Oromia and Amhara have willingly adopted, aware that as the two largest ethnic groups in the region, the success of their struggle lies in their ability to galvanise the public to rally and create links of solidarity with others who share their grievances. External actors can facilitate, but not replace, this process.

But this struggle goes on. At the funeral of Lidata, just one of many who have lost their lives at the hands of security forces, friends and family said their eulogies to celebrate his life and grieved that it had been so tragically cut short. A whole community gave him the send-off that he deserved, with mourners chanting pro-freedom slogans, of which one particularly stood out. Qabsoon itti fufa, or Oromo for A Luta Continua”.

Michael C. Mammo is studying for his PhD at the University of Birmingham. He is a former Ethiopia correspondent for Inter Press Service and Spanish News Agency (EFE). He tweets at @mcmammo.


 

BBC: Are Ethiopian protests a game changer? #OromoProtests October 7, 2016

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Are Ethiopian protests a game changer?

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha in Ethiopia - 5 October 2016Image copyrightREUTERS

Political protests which have swept through Ethiopia are a major threat to the country’s secretive government, writes former BBC Ethiopia correspondent Elizabeth Blunt.

For the past five years Ethiopia has been hit by waves of protest, not only by formal opposition groups but also Muslims unhappy at the imposition of government-approved leaders, farmers displaced to make way for commercial agriculture, Amhara communities opposed at their inclusion in Tigre rather than the Amhara region and, above all, by groups in various parts of the vast Oromia region.

In the most recent unrest in Oromia, at least 55 people died when security forces intervened over the weekend during the annual Ireecha celebrations – a traditional Oromo seasonal festival.

The Oromo protests have continued long after plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa’s boundaries to take in more of the region were abandoned earlier this year. And in the last few months groups which were previously separate have made common cause.

Map of protests and violence in Ethiopia in 2016

In particular, Amhara and Oromo opposition has coalesced, with both adopting the latest opposition symbol – arms raised and wrists crossed as if handcuffed together.

The picture of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa making this gesture while crossing the finish line at the Rio 2016 went round the world, and photographs from the Ireecha celebrations in Bishoftu show the crowd standing with their arms crossed above their heads before police intervention triggered the deadly panic.

Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa making a Oromo protest gesture at the OlympicsImage copyrightAFP
Demonstrators chant slogans during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016
Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHis style of protest was also seen at the festival

The ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has some solid achievements to show for its 25 years in power, in terms of economic development and improved health and education, especially for the rural poor.

But what it has not been able to do is manage the transition from being a centralised, secretive revolutionary movement to running a more open, democratic and sustainable government.

‘Inflaming anger’

In theory, Ethiopia has embraced parliamentary democracy, but such hurdles are put in the way of potential rival parties that there are currently no opposition members of parliament.

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters during Irreecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe security forces have been accused of using excessive force to quell unrest

The EPRDF has in theory devolved a good deal of power to the country’s ethnically based regions, but time and again regional leaders have been changed by central government.

Ethiopia’s constitution allows freedom of speech and association but draconian anti-terrorism laws have been used against those who have tried to use those freedoms to criticise the government.

It is now clear that these attempts to hold on to control in a changing world have misfired.

Just as attempts to dictate who should lead the Muslim community led to earlier protests, reports from Bishoftu town, where the 55 died, say that anger spilled over on Sunday because of official attempts to control which Oromo leaders were allowed to speak at the event.

The overreaction of the security forces then turned a protest that might have gone largely unnoticed into a major catastrophe, inflaming anger in Ethiopia itself and causing growing concern abroad.

And so the cycle continues, and every time protests are badly handled they create more grievances, and generate more anger and more demonstrations.

Photo taken on February 20, 2014 shows a farmer winnowing a dried teff crop to separate seeds from stalks at Ada village in Bishoftu town, Oromia region of Ethiopia.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMany Ethiopians rely on agriculture for their livelihood
A woman from the Hamar tribe makes traditional coffee in Ethiopia's southern Omo Valley region near Turmi on September 20, 2016.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionCoffee is a major export earner

The US government is among those who have expressed concern at the deteriorating situation. Its Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, met Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn during the UN General Assembly last month.

She urged him to be more open to dialogue, to accept greater press freedom, to release political prisoners and to allow civil society organisations to operate.


Ethiopia’s ethnic make-up

  • Oromo – 34.4%
  • Amhara – 27%
  • Somali – 6.2%
  • Tigray – 6.1%
  • Sidama – 4%
  • Gurage – 2.5%
  • Others – 19.8%

Source: CIA World Factbook estimates from 2007


“We have encouraged him to look at how the government is addressing this situation,” she said after the meeting.

“We think it could get worse if it’s not addressed – sooner rather than later.”

Oromo PM hopes dashed

The latest reports from Ethiopia show why concerted opposition from Oromia is such a potential problem for the government.

The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, and they have a long-standing grievance about the fact that despite this they have never controlled the political leadership.


More on Ethiopia’s unrest:

Oromo mourners in Ethiopia - December 2015Image copyrightAFP

Amhara domination, under Ethiopia’s former military government and emperors, was replaced by Tigrean leadership following the overthrow of long-serving ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.

Meles Zenawi, who played a key role in the rebellion to overthrow the Mengistu regime, took power, serving as president and later as prime minister.

When he died in 2012, the Oromo hoped it would be their turn to rule, but his chosen replacement, Mr Hailemariam, came from the small Welayta ethnic group in the south.

Meles Zenawi (C) greets supporters as he arrives on May 23,2010 to cast his vote at a polling station in Adwa, 900 kms north of the capital Addis Ababa.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMeles Zenawi was in power from 1991 until his death in 2012

Not only are the Oromo numerous, their region is large and more productive than the densely populated highlands.

It produces a lot of Ethiopia’s food, and most of its coffee, normally the biggest export earner.

The sprawling region encircles Addis Ababa, controlling transport routes in and out of the city.

For a government so worried about loss of control, big Oromo protests are a serious threat indeed.

Oromo religious organizations on the Irreecha Massacre October 6, 2016

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The following is a statement from Oromo religious organizations: Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society, Oromo Muslim Association of North America, Oromo Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Minnesota and United Oromo Evangelical Churches (UOEC).


Public statement of Oromo religious organizations on the killing and injuries that took place at the Irreecha festival in Bishoftu on October 2, 2016

Dear my Friend,

Peace of the Lord be with you.

In repose to the tragic events unfolding in Ethiopia, the Oromo religious organizations: Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society, Oromo Muslim Association of North America, Oromo Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Minnesota and United Oromo Evangelical Churches (UOEC), have issued the attached public statement to express our grave sadness by the irresponsible killing and injuries that took place at the Irreecha festival in Bishoftu over the weekend, where thousands of people gathered here for the annual thanksgiving. The report that government’s troops and a helicopter gunship had opened fire, driving people off a cliff and into a lake, for entirely peaceful expression opinion, is beyond our comprehension.

We mourn the loss of precious lives and express our deep condolences to the families of the deceased.

In this Association, we have also made it clear that Ethiopia is heading toward unrecoverable human tragedy, only because of the irresponsible action of the Ethiopian government and absolute disregard for human life and dignity. We call on the Ethiopian government for an immediate corrective action, and the international community to take tangible direct involvement to save the nation from further loss of the human life, and serious national and regional destabilization, which is not in the interest of all concerned.

I want to encourage and comfort you all with a quote from Martin Luther King, and the scripture, that we should not lose sight with this tragic event, and not to be swept up into simple bitterness, but only work for a united action.

“Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all … Violence ends up defeating itself.” Martin Luther King

“Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” Prov. 22:8

This evil government is paving a way for its demise, but we should be united and resolved more than ever to endure with the powerless majority, with one voice: advocating for justice, freedom, liberty, democracy now or never!

Peace and many blessings,

Rev. Gemechu Olana

 

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The genocidal massacres of Oromos at the Irreechaa Fesival: The lies of the Tigre-led Ethiopian government October 6, 2016

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The genocidal massacres of Oromos at the Irreechaa Fesival: The lies of the Tigre-led Ethiopian government


The University of Tennessee


photo-of-the-aerial-force-deployed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacremilitary-grade-humvee-inside-the-civilian-perimeter-at-the-2nd-october-2016-irreecha-festivalin-bishoftu-why-was-the-soldieed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacr

On October 2, 2016, the Tigre-led Ethiopian regime massacred more than seven hundred Oromos and injured hundreds more at Irreechaa, the Oromo national holiday of thanksgiving held in Bishoftu in which millions had gathered. During the Irreecha festival, Ethiopian security forces shot live ammunition into the crowd and fired tear gas, although they claimed that the lives lost were due to a stampede. Western media have joined in this claim, spreading inaccurate information about the tragic events of this day. However, Oromo victims know what happened to them and they are telling their truth. They have used videos, pictures, and social media to release accurate information.

The victims say that the Tigre-led government used live bullets, tear gas, helicopter gunships, armored cars, and snipers to terrify and kill Oromo children, elderly, women and other sectors of the Oromo society that had gathered to celebrate Irreecha. During the holiday, many young Oromos had chanted anti-government slogans to show support for Oromo Protests, a protest movement that has been taking place since November 2015. Although the holiday festival had this political moment, the massacre of hundreds of people on this day was an inhumane violation of one of the most sacred rituals of the Oromo.Irrechaa is a sacred holiday of peace and a celebration of culture, and the Ethiopian regime continues to push the limits of its inhumane violent practices.

For a quarter of a century, the Tigre-led regime has targeted Oromo mosques, churches and Galma (the house of Oromo indigenous religion) and killed hundreds of Oromo religious leaders who have expressed their Oromummaa (Oromo identity, culture, and ideology) through their religions, language, clothing, and other activities. The regime, mainly representing the interests of the Tigre, 6% of the Ethiopian population, has been committing heinous abuses and violence against the Oromo people, the largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, and others, since its coming to power. Furthermore, in the process of transferring Oromo land and other resources to Tigre colonial elites and their collaborators, the regime has also targeted Oromo activists, politicians, students, and farmers who oppose its discriminatory and terrorist policies.

It is estimated that more than one million Oromos have been killed and thousands of Oromos have been suffering in prisons and secret concentration camps. Oromos who have been released from these prisons and concentration camps have exposed how Oromos are tortured, castrated, blinded, incapacitated, killed, and infected with HIV in various prisons and concentration camps. Also, hundreds of prisoners have perished due to the lack of adequate food, clothing, healthcare and other essential services. All these criminal acts have been committed on the brightest and conscious elements of the Oromo society. Unfortunately, the financial, military and diplomatic support of big powers has contributed to these genocidal and terrorist policies and practices for twenty-five years.  Still these big powers refuse to take practical actions to stop the regime from its criminal acts. While giving lip service, these powers have continued to provide material support to the regime.

Currently, the Oromo people are determined more than ever to establish their political destiny. Despite continuous violent crackdowns and heinous massacres such as that at Irreecha, they continue to protest peacefully and raise their voices to challenge the Ethiopian regime’s oppressive anti-Oromo policies. Tigre colonial elites and their collaborators have somehow convinced themselves that continuing and escalating violence against unarmed and peaceful civilians is their answer to controlling and quieting a people who are determined to struggle for their rights, sovereignty, and freedoms. The reaction from the Oromo has instead been more protests and more outrage at the Ethiopian regime’s inhumanity.

The Oromo, the Amhara, the Somali, the Konso, the Sidama, the Gambella and others need to join the Oromo protest movement to remove the Tigre-led terrorist and genocidal regime. Learning from the failures of the last two decades, the Oromo movement must rebuild its national organizational capacity and form an alliance with all peoples that are suffering from Ethiopian state terrorism, genocide, and war on the principles of national self-determination and an egalitarian multinational democracy.

 

Ethiopia: Moments Before & Aftermath of the Irreechaa Massacre in Bishoftu Against Oromos October 6, 2016

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Ethiopia: Moments Before & Aftermath of the Irreechaa Massacre in Bishoftu Against Oromos

By Finfinne Tribune and Gadaa.com  Onkoloolessa/October 4, 2016

The following video shows two segments: one is the moment immediately before the Ethiopian government’s security forces opened fire at the Oromo Irreecha participants who gathered around the main stage in millions – some voicing their protests peacefully; the stage is situated in front of Hora (Lake) Arsadi, which is the sacred ground where millions of Oromos come to every year to pay tribute to Waaqa, the Supreme spiritual power equivalent to God.

Secondly, immediately after the gunshots, the area around the stage is seen to have been evacuated massively and swiftly as millions run away from the gunshots — as a consequence, hundreds ran into their untimely deaths as they slipped into ravines around the lake. The government’s sniper gunshots were accompanied aerially with military helicopters (not shown on the video, but see photo below) – which entered the civilian perimeter to further escalate the situation. And, on the ground, military-grade Humvees were deployed (seen on the video) straight into the main stage area to drive Oromo Irreechaparticipants into the ravines.

These remain unanswered:
1) who gave the order to deploy the military as a response to the peaceful protest at the Irreecha festival;
2) the swiftness (fastness) with which the military responded (within minutes of the breakout of the peaceful protests) does initiate the question: was this a pre-planned massacre? Why was the military staged near the civilian festival?

Photo of the aerial force deployed against Oromo Irreecha participants:
photo-of-the-aerial-force-deployed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacre

Military-grade Humvee inside the civilian perimeter at the 2016 Irreecha festival (why was the soldier’s face covered with a bandanna?):
military-grade-humvee-inside-the-civilian-perimeter-at-the-2nd-october-2016-irreecha-festivalin-bishoftu-why-was-the-soldieed-against-oromo-irreecha-participants-on-2nd-october-2016-bishoftu-massacr

 


 

VOA: Ethiopia Protests Continue Despite Call for Calm. #OromoProtests #Bishoftu Massacre October 6, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

#OromoProtests: “We want our own government and those in the current government don’t represent us. They are incompetent to administer us and we want them to leave power.”

Ethiopia Protests Continue Despite Call for Calm

 VOA, October 05, 2016  By Salem Solomon

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FILE — Demonstrators chant slogans and flash the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia.


Ethiopia is observing an official mourning period for more than 50 people killed during a crackdown and stampede at an ethnic cultural festival in the Oromia region Sunday.At the same time, the country is seeing a continuation, possibly an escalation, of the anti-government protests that sparked the violence.

Hundetu Biratu took part in a protest that turned deadly Monday in Dembidolo, a town in southwestern Ethiopia. She told VOA that her brother was shot and killed during the demonstration.

“We were taking my brother to the hospital. A bullet pierced his neck and exited through his ears. They fired tear gas and I fell. When I got up they shot me on my thighs and I fell,” she said.

Mulatu Gemechu, assistant deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said other protests took place Monday and Tuesday across eastern and western Oromia. He said clashes broke out in Sendefa, a town in central Ethiopia, as mourners returned from a funeral for a mother and a child who died in Sunday’s pandemonium.

The Oromia Police Commission deputy commissioner, Sori Dinqa, told reporters that protesters in the region are destroying property, burning cars and targeting government offices.

oromoprotests-gesture-at-irreecha-2016-the-thanksgiving-festival-of-the-oromo-people-in-horaa-harsadii-bishoftu-town-oromia

Demonstrators protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia. More than 50 people were killed in the violence.

“There are continued and sporadic efforts to block streets, disturb the peace and burn administrative buildings. Our police are continuing to prevent that. We want the people to condemn the uprising and discourage people from taking part in these acts,” he said.

But few people appear to be heeding his call.

A witness in Alem Gena, a town in central Ethiopia, said a funeral service for victims turned into an anti-government demonstration. He said no one was killed but anger in his area is running high.

“We want our own government and those in the current government don’t represent us. They are incompetent to administer us and we want them to leave power,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons.

Questions about the stampede

Official tallies put the death toll from Monday’s violence at 52, while Desalegn Bayisa, general manager of the Bishoftu Hospital, told reporters 55 people had been killed. Opposition members and activists, however, place the number of people who died in the hundreds.

Bayisa said the hospital also treated more than 100 injured people.

Advocacy groups such as Freedom House blamed some of the deaths on security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition at festival attendees.

Questions about safety precautions are also being asked of the organizers of the festival, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to a location that includes a lake and deep ditches.

FILE -- People assist an injured protester during Irrechaa, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia.

FILE — People assist an injured protester during Irrechaa, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia.

“It’s amazing really. There seemed to be no preparation or planning about how to manage the flows of people,” said William Davison, a reporter for Bloomberg News who attended the event and said there were no barriers between the people and the ditches.

“To make those mistakes given the high likelihood of a protest and a government response just seems sort of criminally negligent to me,” Davison added.

Stifling dissent and criticism

Free speech advocates say the government was attempting to silence critical voices even before the festival.

Seyoum Teshome, a prominent Oromo blogger and lecturer at Ambo University, was arrested on October 1 in Wolisso, 110 kilometers from the capital of Addis Ababa. His house was searched and the police confiscated his computer according to local reports.

“My attempts to reach him via his phone ended unsuccessfully. May he stay safe,” wrote Befekadu Hailu, another blogger, on his Facebook page.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a group advocating for the safety of journalists, condemned the arrest and called on the government to release Teshome without delay or conditions.

It is “deeply disturbing as it comes against a backdrop of government moves to stifle protests and criticism,” CPJ’s deputy director Robert Mahoney said.

“We want to see any pending charges or charges they might try to pursue dropped,” Kerry Paterson, the senior advocacy officer for CPJ’s Africa program told VOA. “The chilling effect that occurs as a result of arresting people doesn’t just hurt the individual journalist who gets arrested. It hurts all Ethiopia.”

What’s next?

Analysts see no end in sight to the ethnic tensions roiling Ethiopia.

Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa Movement, a group that advocates for good governance, said protesters do not feel the promise of Ethiopian federalism, in which all regions are supposed to have a degree of self-governance, has been realized.

“I don’t see it ending anytime soon,” he said of the widespread anger. “I think a lot of this resentment and a lot of this discord that we are seeing is because the highly intrusive, highly repressive central government has not allowed those basic democratic avenues to be opened up. They have not allowed the Oromo people in particular to exercise and to demonstrate their basic rights that are enshrined in the country’s own constitution.”

Adane Tilahun, the chairman of the opposition All Ethiopian Unity Party, said that to begin the healing process from this week’s events, the government needs to recognize the killings were unjustified, apologize, and offer compensation to the families of the victims.

Tilahun also called on international actors and human rights groups to put pressure on the Ethiopian government in order to establish an independent investigation into the deaths.

VOA reporters Tujube Hora and Solomon Kifle contributed to this report.


 

Aljazeera: Oromo protests: Ethiopia unrest resurges after stampede October 6, 2016

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Oromo protests: Ethiopia unrest resurges after stampede

Bloggers arrested, internet shut down periodically, and foreign firms attacked as anti-government protests continue.

File: A man at a funeral holds up the portrait of Tesfu Tadese Biru, a construction engineer killed in Bishoftu [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Often violent protests in which rights groups say hundreds of people have been killed by security forces have flared again in Ethiopia, with a US citizen among the latest deaths.

Protests reignited in the Oromia region – the main focus of a recent wave of demonstrations – after at least 55 people were killed in a stampede at the weekend, which was sparked by police firing tear gas and warning shots at a huge crowd of protesters attending a religious festival.

Fifty-five is the official death toll given by the government, though opposition activists and rights groups say they believe more than 100 people died as they fled security forces, falling into ditches that dotted the area. Ethiopian radio said excavators had to be used to remove some of the bodies.

 Are Ethiopia’s Oromo being repressed?

The anti-government demonstrations started in November among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the second most populous group. Though they initially began over land rights they later broadened into calls for more political, economic and cultural rights.

Both groups say that a multi-ethnic ruling coalition and the security forces are dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up about six percent of the population.

The government, though, blames rebel groups and foreign-based dissidents for stoking the violence.

Staff at the California-based UC Davis university  confirmed the identity of the US citizen as Sharon Gray, a postdoctoral researcher of biology, who had been in the Horn of Africa nation to attend a meeting.

The US embassy said she was killed on Tuesday when stones were hurled at her vehicle on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where residents said crowds have attacked other vehicles since the stampede.

The embassy did not give further details or a precise location for the incident.

Foreign firms attacked

News of Gray’s death came as foreign-owned factories and equipment were damaged in the protests. Demonstrators in Oromia say farmland has been seized to build foreign factories and housing blocks.

On Tuesday, crowds damaged a factory run by Turkish textile firm Saygin Dima and the BMET Energy cable plant, which also has Turkish investors, officials from firms in the area said. Both plants are in the Oromia area.


READ MORE: The ‘Ethiopia rising’ narrative and the Oromo protests


A third of the Saygin Dima plant in Sebeta, 35 km (20 miles) southwest of Addis Ababa, was destroyed by fire, General Manager Fatih Mehmet Yangin said.

“A large crowd attacked the factory,” he said, adding three vehicles were also destroyed.

Yangin said a flower farm nearby was also attacked. The Oromia Regional Administration said vehicles and some machinery at a plant owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Cement were vandalised.

Oromia has been a focus for industrial development that has fuelled Ethiopia’s economic growth, but locals say they receive little compensation when land is taken by the government.

The death toll from unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators over the past year or more runs into several hundred, according to opposition and rights group estimates. The US-based Human Rights Watch says at least 500 people have been killed by security forces.

The government says such figures are inflated.

Ethiopia criticised over lack of press freedom

The attacks will cast a shadow over Ethiopia’s ambition to draw in more investment to industrialise a nation where most people rely on subsistence farming, and have been struggling with a severe drought in the past two years or so.

The government has been building new infrastructure, including an electrified railway connecting the capital of the landlocked nation with a port in neighbouring Djibouti, which was inaugurated on Wednesday.

At least seven foreign-owned flower farms in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, another area where protests have flared, were damaged in political violence at the start of September.

Bloggers arrested

Rights groups and opposition politicians accuse the government of excessive force in dealing with demonstrations, crushing opponents and stifling free speech.

WATCH: What is triggering Ethiopia’s unrest?

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) called on authorities on Tuesday to free Seyoum Teshoume , a blogger critical of the government, who writes for the website Ethiothinktank.com. CPJ said he was reported detained on October 1.

Another blogger who has expressed support for the protests, Natnael Feleke, was arrested on Tuesday, according to a blogging collective of which he is a member. Natnael was previously arrested in 2014 and released after more than a year in prison when charges against him were dropped.

There were also reports that the internet had been shutdown periodically over the last two days.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but the government says it only detains people who threaten national security and says it guarantees free speech.

The opposition failed to win a single seat in a 547-seat parliament in a 2015 election and had just one in the previous parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera News And Agencies



Related Article from Financial Times 

 

Ethiopians chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu © AP

Ethiopian anti-government protesters are escalating attacks on foreign investors as anger grows over the regime’s crackdown on demonstrations, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Activists torched a Turkish textile factory and attacked a mine owned by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, damaging trucks and machinery on Tuesday, days after more than 50 people were killed when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protests at a religious festival. The US embassy in Addis Ababa said an American woman died on Tuesday when her vehicle was struck by rocks thrown by Ethiopians on the outskirts of the capital.

The violence comes after a wave of protests this year that were originally triggered over a land dispute in the Oromia region of central and southern Ethiopia. They have since escalated into broader demonstrations against the autocratic government and spread to other regions, threatening the stability of one of Africa’s best-performing economies.

Addis Ababa has responded with force — activists accuse security forces of firing live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators and say hundreds have been killed in the protests.

Washington has called the government’s approach to the unrest “self-defeating,” while the EU on Wednesday called for the authorities to address the “wider aspects of the grievances”.

Activists and analysts say the attacks on foreign companies are becoming increasingly co-ordinated.

More than two dozen foreign companies, including flower farms and other agribusinesses have suffered millions of dollars in damage in recent weeks, according to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based consultancy.

Juan Carlos Vallejo, co-owner of Esmeralda Farms, pulled out of the country after his business was attacked several weeks ago.

“Right now, everyone is really scared,” he said. “We never expected something like this to happen. I don’t think anyone is going to want to invest here any more.”

Ethiopia has been one of Africa’s star performers, recording 10 per cent annual growth and attracting tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment over the past decade thanks to a carefully planned, state-led development and industrialisation policies.

But it is also a tightly controlled society, with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front — which has governed with an iron grip since 1991 — and its allies controlling all the seats in parliament.

Dissent is swiftly repressed and the political opposition was severely weakened by a government crackdown — during which scores of people were also killed — after disputed 2005 elections.

“We have made clear that Ethiopia’s prosperity depends on the ability of its government to maintain a stable and predictable investment climate and to expand political space,” a western diplomat said.

The current protests began in Oromia region last November over plans to expand Addis Ababa into Oromo lands. The initiative was shelved but the government’s aggressive response to the protests saw them spread to northern areas, which are dominated by the Amhara ethnic group.

Both the Amhara and Oromo are frustrated by the political dominance of the Tigray minority, which makes up 6 per cent of the 100m population, analysts say. The Oromo and Amhara comprise some two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Awol Allo, an Ethiopian law lecturer at Keele University, said foreign investors were being targeted because “they are seen as the source of legitimacy for the government”.

“The government has to attract foreign investment to keep the economy growing and has to provide land and services cheaply,” he said. “People are taking out their anger on investments by foreigners to undermine the government.”

The government has sought to play down the protests, blaming overseas agitators and criminal elements.

Analysts say the Tigray-dominated regime has maintained its grip in part by keeping the larger ethnic groups divided. But they add that now the Oromo and Amhara have united in their opposition to the government, it will be hard for the authorities to appease them without making significant concessions.

However, Rashid Abdi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said some ministers, and the Tigray-controlled military, are loath to do this.

“The protests have now reached a serious level, a different scale,” he said. “We should not exaggerate and say the government is going to keel over tomorrow, but it portends future trouble unless they get a grip. What’s worrying is that so far they haven’t.”

Afar People’s Party: Condolences and Solidarity message to Bishoftu Massacre October 5, 2016

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Condolences and Solidarity message to Bishoftu Massacre

 


 October 4, 2016


Afar People’s Party is dismayed by the mass killing of our Oromo brothers in Bishoftu, while celebrating the Irrecha seasonal holyday. This act of state-terror and coward action on civilian population is a testimony for that the Woyane regime is falling apart and the situation is getting out of its control. It’s time to make sense of the causes, the causes that people are scarifying their lives for all over the country. Many heroic Ethiopians have been killed, prisoned, tortured and driven from their homes because they merely voiced their grievances and said No to social injustice and said Yes for human dignity.

In this trying time our hearts are bleeding and our souls are mourning with all families who lost their beloved ones. Afar People’s Party would like to express its solidarity with all Ethiopian people in general and with our Oromo brothers in particular.

Since its control of power, the EPRDF/TPLF regime has been systematically dismantling every aspects of societal institutions to create fertile ground for its divide and rule policies. The paradox is that those who have been killed repeatedly are civilians not armed opposition groups.

  • For instance, since 2005 Ethiopian have been massacred when they protested to protect their votes from being snatched;
  • Our Muslim brothers were killed and prisoned and tortured when they say “listen to our voices” and respect our religious freedom and demanded to restrict state interference in religious affairs;
  • Ethiopians were massacred in Gambela to give land for foreign investors;
  • Ethiopians were massacred and villages were burned in Ogaden when people asked for full-fledged federal arrangement;
  • Ethiopians were massacred in Gonder/ Wolkait/ Bahirdar/ Konso/ Sidama/ Konnaba/ Sawne/ Gawani etc., when they demanded that one’s identity should be determined by a group or individual but not by the state;
  • Ethiopians are massacred, prisoned and displaced in Afar because of they protested against land grabbing, territorial claims and marginalization;
  • Ethiopians were massacred in every corner of Oromia and now while celebrating the traditional ceremony of Errecha; and the list can continue…

The question is now, how long shall we wait and see while such gross human rights violations and crime against humanity are committed in daily basis? We believe that it’s our responsibility to accomplish the dreams and aspiration of many fallen brothers and sisters and we can only achieve that when we are united against the tyrannical regime.

  • We condemn all forms of barbaric acts and convey our condolences to those families who lost their beloved ones.
  • We call up on all Ethiopians to unite for lasting peace, justice, freedom and peaceful coexistence among Ethiopian.

Together we can make it happen !

Afar People’s Party


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Bishoftu Massacre: Ana Gomez, MEP, Statement at European Union regarding the mass killings conducted by fascist Ethiopia’s regime (TPLF) at Irreecha Oromo National Cultural celebration event in Bishoftu, Oromia where over 4 million people congregate on 2nd October 2016 October 5, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistEU

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