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Surveillance and State Control in Ethiopia May 21, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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A small Tigray elite dominates a political system that formally derives its legitimacy from ethnoregional autonomy and representation. This has fueled resentment and discontent in many parts of the country. As a result, the government fears that any space for autonomous civic action could spark further mobilization and unrest, potentially triggering defections within the ruling apparatus.


The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991 as an insurgent coalition intent on transforming Ethiopia’s politics and economy. Over the past two decades, the government’s heavy-handed approach has fostered significant regional and ethnic discontent.

TACTICS

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991 as an insurgent coalition intent on transforming Ethiopia’s politics and economy. Over the past two decades, the government’s heavy-handed approach has fostered significant regional and ethnic discontent. As the EPRDF’s grip on power has weakened, it has moved to further close political and civic space. Two laws adopted in 2009—the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation—decimated the country’s already weak human rights community. The government’s crackdown has also extended to development and humanitarian groups, which have been targeted with burdensome funding regulations and government harassment.

The closing of civic space in Ethiopia has the following key features:

  • Harsh restrictions on foreign funding for civil society organizations working on a wide range of politically related issues.
  • Violent repression of civic mobilization in the name of counterterrorism and anti-extremism.
  • Efforts to bring all independent civil society groups—including development and humanitarian actors—in line with the government’s national development policy.

Civil Society Growth Amid Constraints

A History of Repression

While Ethiopia has a long history of mutual self-help organizations and informal community groups, the formal nongovernmental sector has historically been weak and marked by adversarial relations with the state.407Any autonomy enjoyed by civil society during the reign of emperor Haile Selassie was severely restricted after the Marxist Derg regime assumed power in 1974. State authorities closed down or co-opted almost all independent professional organizations and interest groups, including traditional associations in rural areas. Those organizations that survived state repression focused on providing emergency relief services. However, the famines of the 1970s and 1980s forced the Derg leadership to open the door to international assistance, triggering an influx of foreign NGOs that often relied on local partners to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid.408

Ethiopia’s NGO sector expanded rapidly during the brief period of political liberalization that followed the EPRDF’s ascent to power. As aid flowed into the country to support the political transition, new professional associations and development organizations emerged, as well as a handful of advocacy groups.409 The Ethiopian Teachers Association took an active role in challenging the government’s education reforms. Traditional associations such as the Mekane Yesus church in western Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region added human rights components to their community work, and student activism flourished.410At the same time, most civil society organizations had relatively limited resources and capacity, and their impact on state policy remained marginal. Given Ethiopia’s dire humanitarian situation after years of civil war, many groups continued to focus on service delivery and relief efforts.411 Those that ventured into advocacy typically worked on relatively safe issues such as children’s and women’s rights and operated within existing policy frameworks.412

Continued Government Suspicion

Despite efforts at liberalization, the EPRDF remained suspicious of independent media and civil society. Beginning in the early 1990s, the government sought to bring independent trade unions under EPRDF control by replacing government critics with party loyalists. The Ethiopian Teachers Association and the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions—both of which had been critical of the government’s reforms—experienced sustained harassment. The president of the teachers association was convicted of armed conspiracy in 1996, and the confederation chairman fled the country in 1997. State officials also set up a rival teachers association of the same name that was staffed exclusively with EPRDF supporters.413

The lack of a comprehensive legal framework governing civil society created additional barriers for nongovernmental groups, with some being arbitrarily denied registration for having ostensibly political goals. For instance, the ruling party characterized the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, the country’s most prominent human rights monitoring group, as a partisan political movement affiliated with the Amhara-dominated opposition, rejected its application for registration, and temporarily blocked the organization’s bank account.414 When prominent intellectuals and professionals from Addis Ababa’s Oromo community formed the Human Rights League in 1996, the group’s leaders were promptly arrested for being supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front—although their case never went to trial.415

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the civil society sector as a whole remained vulnerable to state control. Most civil society organizations were led by urban elites and lacked a strong grassroots base. Many did not have a significant presence beyond the capital and in rural areas. This provided fodder for government accusations of parasitism and rent-seeking. Distrust among NGOs also stood in the way of forming sector-specific coalitions and consortiums that could have maximized their outreach and impact. At the same time, the government rarely consulted civil society organizations in its policy formulation processes.416 Beginning in 2003, it began to consider restrictions on foreign funding of civil society organizations, arguing that external funding for political and rights advocacy amounted to illegitimate meddling in the country’s internal affairs.417

Narrowing of Political Space

The 2005 Postelection Crisis

The 2005 election proved to be a turning point for Ethiopian civil society. The run-up to the election witnessed unprecedented displays of political competition and opposition party coordination. Civil society organizations sponsored televised debates on public policy issues and sued the government to be allowed to monitor the polls.418 Early election results indicated that the opposition coalition had made unexpected gains, suggesting a win of more than 180 parliamentary seats. When official tallies indicated that the ruling party had won, the largest opposition coalition refused to concede defeat. They alleged that the ruling party had stolen the election, while the EPRDF claimed that opposition parties had conspired to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means. The ensuing standoff continued for months, with violence erupting between protesters and security forces across the country.419

In this climate of intense polarization, government authorities accused civil society organizations that had monitored the polls and conducted voter education efforts of sparking unrest and inciting violence.420 Even before the election, the government had ordered representatives of highly visible international organizations providing democracy and governance aid to leave the country, including the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. Surprised by the outpouring of opposition support, EPRDF officials concluded that foreign-funded human rights groups and independent media outlets had coordinated with the opposition to undermine the ruling party.421

Yet the EPRDF did not immediately move to impose legal restrictions on civil society. Rather, the clampdown unfolded in two main phases. In the immediate aftermath of the election, the EPRDF was in crisis mode. Its initial efforts centered on quelling opposition protests and consolidating power ahead of the 2008 local elections. Approximately 20,000 protesters and as many as 150 opposition leaders, activists, and journalists were arrested, and numerous independent newspapers and magazines were shut down.422 Two well-known human rights lawyers, Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demisse, were among the first to be charged with conspiracy and incitement to overthrow the government. In 2007, both were sentenced to two and a half years in prison.423

The EPRDF introduced a series of laws that specifically targeted activities that had facilitated widespread popular mobilization during the previous election cycle.

The EPRDF viewed the opposition’s success as an existential threat to its own survival and to the ethnic federation it had constructed. Starting in 2005, the party leadership embarked on a massive party rebuilding effort, investing significant resources in expanding local party structures and bringing the rural population back into the party’s fold.424 It strengthened its control over local administrative units (kebele) that have the capacity to monitor households and restrict access to government services.425 Party membership increased from 760,000 in 2005 to more than 4 million in 2008. The government also passed electoral reforms that ensured the EPRDF’s dominance in the 2008 polls. For example, it drastically increased the number of local council seats, which made it impossible for any but the largest parties to field enough candidates to seize control of the councils. These efforts paid off: in 2008 the EPRDF won virtually all the local council seats. Together with the revival of mass associations and youth cooperatives, these reforms effectively incorporated millions of Ethiopians into EPRDF structures and government organizations.426

Institutionalization of Legal Restrictions

The second phase of the crackdown began as the 2010 general election drew near. Aiming to prevent a repeat of the 2005 crisis, the EPRDF introduced a series of laws that specifically targeted activities that had facilitated widespread popular mobilization during the previous election cycle: independent media publishing, civil society advocacy and monitoring, free public debate, and opposition party coordination. The Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation, passed in December 2008, allowed prosecutors to stop any print publication that threatened national security concerns or the public order—a provision that has been used to target independent newspapers. In addition, the law criminalized the “defamation” of legislative, executive, or judiciary authorities and raised defamation fines to about $10,000.427

In February 2009, the government adopted the Proclamation for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies (referred to hereafter as the Charities and Societies Proclamation), the first comprehensive law governing Ethiopian nongovernmental organizations. While civil society organizations were allowed to contribute to the draft proclamation, they had little meaningful influence over the final version.428 The law imposed a wide range of burdens on civil society. Most important, it divided all civil society organizations into three categories: Ethiopian charities and societies, Ethiopian resident charities and societies, and foreign charities and societies. The first category comprises all NGOs that receive at least 90 percent of their funding from domestic sources, and only these groups are allowed to work on “the advancement of human and democratic rights; the promotion of equality of nations, nationalities and peoples and that of gender and religion; the promotion of the rights of the disabled and children’s rights; the promotion of conflict resolution or reconciliation; and the promotion of the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services.”429 This means that any organization that receives significant outside funding is effectively barred from a wide range of advocacy, peacebuilding, and rights-focused activities. The government justified this provision as necessary to ensure that organizations working on political issues are “Ethiopian in character” and, in an apparent nod to Russia, to prevent “color revolutionaries” from trying to overthrow the regime.430

For many Ethiopian civil society organizations, this provision was devastating. Given the dearth of domestic funding sources, they had relied almost exclusively on external aid. They had few alternative options; the Ethiopian government was unlikely to fund any advocacy efforts or politically related programs. In addition, the proclamation specified that any charity or society could allocate no more than 30 percent of its budget to administrative activities—while classifying an unusually wide range of expenditures as administrative costs.431 As a result, organizations were forced to count basic operational expenses—including staff allowances and benefits, monitoring and evaluation expenditures, and travel and training costs—as administrative overheads, triggering widespread pushback.432

The 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation also had a debilitating effect on civil society and independent media. Like similar legislation around the world, the law includes extremely broad definitions of terrorist activity and material support for terrorism and imposes long prison sentences and even the death penalty for a wide range of crimes.433 The law’s vague language grants authorities the power to prosecute journalists who publish articles about protest movements, armed opposition groups, or any other individuals deemed as terrorist or anti-peace.434 Rights advocates also found themselves at risk of prosecution for carrying out or supporting terrorist acts.435 The law was particularly pernicious given the Ethiopian government’s extensive capacity to monitor citizen communications, including mobile phones and landlines.436 Since coming into force, the law has been broadly applied in criminal cases involving opposition politicians, activists, and journalists, even though credible evidence of communication with or support for terrorist groups is almost never provided. The judicial system lacks the independence and capacity to push back against abusive applications of the law.437

Repression in the Name of National Security

Targeting of Activists for Security-Related Offenses

With this restrictive legal framework in place, government authorities had new tools at their disposal to suppress civic activism and independent media in moments of crisis. Two key patterns have emerged over the past six years. First, the EPRDF has relied on its almost complete control over radio, television, and print media to cast pro-democracy and human rights activists as terrorists and foreign agents, tapping into popular fears of Islamic radicalism, foreign intervention, and ethnic strife. For example, after the U.S. Department of State issued its 2009 Human Rights Country Report on Ethiopia, the state-controlled Ethiopian Television Agency broadcast a three-part series accusing several Ethiopian human rights groups of supplying false information to the U.S. government in exchange for support.438 Media outlets also regularly blame foreign powers and organizations for stirring domestic unrest and use this alleged interference to justify extrajudicial action.439

These prosecutions had a chilling effect on the country’s online activists and remaining independent reporters—at least sixty journalists have fled the country since 2010.

Second, the government has used court proceedings to selectively intimidate and silence high-profile activists, reporters, and civil society leaders, typically based on alleged national security threats. For example, following repeated demonstrations by Ethiopia’s Muslim community against government interference in religious affairs between 2012 and 2014, Ethiopia’s Federal High Court convicted the protest leaders on charges of terrorism and conspiracy to create an Islamic state in Ethiopia.440 In the thirteen months before the 2015 polls—the first to be held following former prime minister Meles Zenawi’s death in 2012—journalists also witnessed escalating harassment by security and judicial officials.441 In April 2014, this campaign culminated in the arrest of three journalists and six bloggers from the Zone 9 blogging collective, who were convicted under the criminal code and the antiterrorism law for having links to banned opposition groups and attempting to violently overthrow the government.”442 In August 2014, an additional six newspapers and magazines were charged with encouraging terrorism, among other charges.443 These prosecutions had a chilling effect on the country’s online activists and remaining independent reporters—at least sixty journalists have fled the country since 2010.444 Security forces have also arrested and detained rights activists and lawyers who defend political prisoners, often without formally charging them with crimes.445

Extension of Rural Surveillance and Control

At the same time, the state’s extensive administrative apparatus has continued to subject citizens in rural areas to threats and detention, creating a pervasive climate of fear. The state’s surveillance capacities at the local level have stifled civic activism and dissent in many places without the need for violent repression.446 The EPRDF has relied on a pre-existing system of local governance that existed under the Derg regime to extend government control. Officially, Ethiopian officials insist that these local-level institutions are voluntary associations formed in regions like Oromia in order to advance rural agriculture and development. However, human rights organizations report that they are often used to monitor citizens’ activities, report incidents of dissent, and selectively withhold government benefits.447Attesting to this dramatic closing of civic and political space, the EPRDF and its affiliates claimed 99.6 and 100 percent of parliamentary seats in 2010 and 2015, respectively. These overwhelming majorities signaled political continuity after the upheaval that followed the 2005 polls and Zenawi’s sudden death, reminding the party’s rank and file that defection was pointless given that the EPRDF still controlled all access to public office.448

Citizens have nevertheless continued to mobilize, as evidenced by the widespread antigovernment protests that broke out in the Oromia and Amhara regions in 2015 and 2016. The government’s response to these outbursts of citizen discontent has been violent suppression: security forces arrested more than 11,000 people over the course of one month and killed at least 500.449 Once again, authorities have claimed that demonstrators are part of banned opposition groups in order to delegitimize the protests. The current state of emergency, declared in October 2016 and extended repeatedly since then, has imposed additional barriers on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression. The implementing directive initially restricted access to and usage of social media and banned communication with so-called terrorist and anti-peace groups as well as contact with foreign governments and NGOs that could affect “security, sovereignty and the constitutional order.”450 It also allowed the army to be deployed across the country for a period of at least six months. The government has blamed human rights groups seeking to document violations by security forces for stirring up unrest and has denounced diaspora groups for spreading misinformation about the government’s response to the protests.451

Support for Mass-Based and Development Associations

In contrast to its crackdown on independent groups, the EPRDF government has encouraged the growth of mass-based and state-supported development associations as a more authentic expression of grassroots activism. While these organizations have traditionally focused on development and service delivery, the government elevated their role with respect to governance and rights advocacy after the 2005 election—just as it began cracking down on independent media and civic activism. Most mass-based associations have their roots in the armed struggle against the Derg regime. For example, the Women’s Association of Tigray can be traced back to the Women’s Committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, established in 1976.452 The structures of these associations typically extend from the national level down to the regional, district (woreda), and village (kebele)levels, providing a wide societal reach. Development associations, on the other hand, are membership organizations that focus on promoting local development in their respective areas of operation.453 In Ethiopia, each regional state has its own development association, such as the Tigray Development Association and the Oromo Development Association.

Both mass-based and development associations generally lack political independence and financial and technical capacity.454 They tend to collaborate closely with sector ministries and bureaus, and government bodies often view them as implementing agencies rather than independent actors that represent the interests of their members.455 For example, owing to their presence in remote rural areas, mass-based organizations have played an important role in recruiting new party members and mobilizing EPRDF support ahead of local and national elections.456 In contrast, the few remaining independent trade unions and professional societies have experienced continued harassment and government interference. For example, the government has refused to register the National Teachers Association, which was forced to hand over its property, assets, and name to the government-aligned Ethiopian Teachers Association. Security agents have subjected the association’s members to surveillance and harassment.457The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, the Ethiopian Bar Association, and the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association have faced similar attacks.

DRIVERS

The Ethiopian government’s efforts to restrict civil society are a function of the EPRDF’s doctrine of revolutionary democracy, state-led development agenda, and struggle for political survival. Despite the party’s control over state institutions, the country’s political structure remains fundamentally fragile. A small Tigray elite dominates a political system that formally derives its legitimacy from ethnoregional autonomy and representation. This has fueled resentment and discontent in many parts of the country. As a result, the government fears that any space for autonomous civic action could spark further mobilization and unrest, potentially triggering defections within the ruling apparatus. The opposition’s unexpected gains in the 2005 election in particular sparked a renewed effort to consolidate party control by eliminating or co-opting alternative centers of power.

The EPRDF’s Ideological Underpinnings

The EPRDF was formed as a political coalition between different ethnic-based liberation fronts that had fought Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military regime. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which had led the insurgency under the command of Zenawi, recognized that transitioning from a rebel movement to a national government would require the support of the country’s many ethnic groups. At the same time, Zenawi sought to preserve the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s highly hierarchical structure. He and his allies were trained in Marxist ideology and rejected liberal democracy as a viable political model to achieve economic and political transformation.458 Instead, they conceived of the EPRDF as a Leninist vanguard party that rules on behalf of the rural masses. While the party adapted to the end of the Cold War by retreating from an explicitly socialist approach, it retained its core—though ambiguously defined—doctrine of revolutionary democracy, which stresses grassroots participation via mass organizations and party cells. Political competition and interest representation occur under the mantle of the vanguard party. As a result, even in the 1990s, the party had limited interest in encouraging the expansion of an independent civil society, which it considered an urban and elite-driven phenomenon with limited transformative potential.

The EPRDF’s pursuit of rapid economic development further reinforced the government’s efforts to extend its control over the civic sphere. The EPRDF came to power with a vision of itself as the only actor that could effectively tackle the country’s underdevelopment. Other societal actors—including civil society—had to be subordinated to the government’s modernization and industrialization efforts. Party leaders viewed development NGOs as opportunists who sought out foreign money to fund their inflated salaries and expenses without serving the public interest. They also blamed them for fostering aid dependence at the expense of long-term development and argued that their funding streams and activities should be subjected to greater government control.459 According to the EPRDF model, the development state not only intervenes in the economy, but “also has a role in guiding ‘appropriate’ citizen behavior and constructing useful social networks” that advance the national development agenda.460 Local kebele and sub-kebele administrative structures have been imposed from above both as tools of development and mechanisms of political control.461 This approach has gone hand in hand with a dramatic expansion of public goods and services meant to ensure continued popular support—particularly in light of growing ethnoregional discontent.462

A Contested Political Settlement

At the core of the EPRDF’s efforts to suffocate independent civil society lies the fear of further antiregime mobilization. Despite the government’s developmental success record, its position of power remains fundamentally fragile, owing primarily to the internal contradictions of the EPRDF regime. After coming to power, the EPRDF instituted a complex system of ethnic federalism that granted an unprecedented degree of political autonomy and representation on the basis of ethnicity. The EPRDF’s ascent was celebrated as the liberation of Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities from decades of centralized rule. The party also formally committed to multiparty elections and political pluralism.

However, these constitutional guarantees have not resulted in an actual decentralization of executive power.463 Instead, the state has become increasingly intertwined with the ruling party, and political and economic power has gradually become concentrated in the hands of a small elite. Ethiopia’s regions are governed by ethnoregional parties that are de facto subordinate branches of the EPRDF—which remains dominated by the ethnic Tigray, who make up only 6 percent of Ethiopia’s total population. Party leaders know that if the EPRDF were to open space for civic mobilization, it could mean the end of Tigray rule. The opposition’s unexpected gains in the 2005 election justified these fears. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, Ethiopia had held regular elections, but the hegemony of the ruling EPRDF was never threatened. The opposition remained divided, and the ruling party used coercive means and its incumbency advantage to prevent rival parties from participating on a level playing field.464 When political space temporarily opened up in the lead-up to the 2005 polls and opposition actors unified, the EPRDF’s grip on power proved to be tenuous. As a result, the EPRDF under the leadership of Zenawi embarked on a de facto restoration of the one-party state.

After having eliminated the immediate threat of the political opposition, the government’s attention turned to civil society and the media. The ruling party’s continued control and legitimacy depends on regulating access to information and channeling civic activism through party and state structures. The fact that civil society organizations had monitored the 2005 elections, conducted voter education efforts, and condemned the security forces’ subsequent crackdown only reinforced the government’s view that advocacy organizations were partisan actors allied with opposition forces and set on upending EPRDF rule. As a result, most civil society organizations were not surprised when the government moved to enact further NGO restrictions ahead of the 2010 polls, even though many had not anticipated just how stifling the legislation would be.465 In sum, the EPRDF has compensated for vulnerabilities of the current political settlement by continuously extending the party’s control over Ethiopian society; any alternative space—whether in the political sphere or in civil society—could potentially emerge as a challenge to its continued authority.466

IMPACT

The political and legal changes introduced between the 2005 and 2010 elections had a profound impact on Ethiopian civil society. The total number of active organizations has shrunk, and many groups have been forced to shift their focus from political and rights-based work to development and service delivery in order to keep receiving foreign funding. As a result, there are very few advocacy and human rights monitoring groups left in the country. Initially, development organizations did not feel affected by the new legal regime. However, government-imposed budget specifications have forced them to abandon certain activities and have hindered the formation and operation of civil society networks and umbrella organizations.

Consequences of the Crackdown

Shrinking of the Human Rights Community

The Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation had a dramatic impact on human rights work in Ethiopia. The circle of active and professional human rights organizations was already small before the laws were passed. These groups, which were mostly established during the 1990s, provided legal aid and civic education, monitored elections and human rights violations, and advocated for the rights of minorities, women, and other vulnerable groups. Many were focused on single issues, such as voter education, religious freedom, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and women’s rights.

The restrictions on foreign funding caused a near cessation of independent advocacy activities.

After the Charities and Societies Proclamation took effect, human rights and conflict resolution organizations faced a stark choice: they could either try to continue their work, which meant they would have to raise 90 percent of their funding from domestic sources, or register as resident charities and shift toward more politically neutral development and relief work. Given the lack of domestic funding sources, the restrictions on foreign funding caused a near cessation of independent advocacy activities. Many organizations opted to change their focus, knowing that they would not be able to sustain their work without international support.467 For example, local and international organizations such as Mercy Corps, Pact Ethiopia, Action for Development, and the Oromia Pastoralist Association abandoned their conflict resolution work and reduced their support for local peace committees.468 Those that lacked the resources and human capacity to retrain their staff and develop new programming shut down their operations altogether. Others fled the country in fear of prosecution under the antiterrorism law.469 The result was a rapid decline in the number of active human rights organizations in the country. Only around 10 percent of the 125 previously existing local rights groups reregistered under the new law.470

Reduced Capacity for Advocacy, Outreach, and Assistance

A small number of organizations—including the Ethiopian Bar Association, the Human Rights and Peace Center, the Human Rights Council (HRCO; previously the Ethiopian Human Rights Council), and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA)—chose to reregister as Ethiopian charities and societies to continue their work. These groups have faced a dearth of domestic funding, which has forced them to scale back their work. While community-based giving is common across Ethiopia, there is no strong tradition of donating to charitable organizations. Organizations have struggled to raise money through membership fees and fund-raising events.471 As noted above, the Charities and Societies Proclamation imposed additional hurdles by giving the Charities and Societies Agency the power to deny or delay any fund-raising or income-generation proposals.472 The law also prohibits anonymous donations, which means that citizens who donate to human rights groups face potential political repercussions.473 To make matters more difficult, the agency froze the bank accounts of both the HRCO and EWLA after the law had been passed, depriving them of their accumulated savings.474

Faced with harassment and funding cuts, human rights organizations had to disband key training and assistance programs. For example, the HRCO had previously conducted human rights education seminars and workshops that aimed to raise awareness of human rights standards among public servants, police officers, and judicial officials. Despite initial skepticism, participation in these workshops was on the rise before the passage of the Charities and Societies Proclamation: in 2009, a total of 1,034 officials took part.475 After the law was passed, the organization’s budget shrank from $351,000 in 2008 to $26,300 in 2011, forcing it to disband the program.476 Another civil society initiative to establish child protection units at police stations was similarly suspended.477 EWLA—the only major NGO advocating for women’s rights and gender equality at the national level—has had to abandon key areas of work. The association had provided free legal aid to more than 17,000 women and established an emergency hotline for women that received 7,332 calls in the first eight months of its existence.478 After the Charities and Societies Proclamation was passed, EWLA was forced to cut 70 percent of its staff, shut down its hotline, and give up most of its public education work, continuing to provide only a small amount of free legal aid using volunteers.479

Reduction in Human Rights Monitoring

It has also become much more difficult for local and international groups to accurately document human rights violations and security force abuses. Before 2009, the HRCO monitored and documented human rights violations through twelve branch offices across Ethiopia. It was the only civil society group conducting extensive field investigations, including in high-risk areas.480 After the enactment of the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, half of the organization’s staff—including the director—left the country in fear of government reprisals. The organization was forced to close nine of its twelve branch offices, which curtailed its ability to effectively collect information and communicate with victims of human rights abuses.481 The number of field investigators decreased from seventeen to four, dramatically limiting the organization’s reach. Increased government harassment makes the work of the remaining investigators more difficult and dangerous.482

International organizations that could complement domestic monitoring efforts have been barred from entering the country or accessing certain regions. The International Red Cross was expelled from the Ogaden region in 2007 for allegedly aiding separatist forces, and Médecins sans Frontières has been denied access to certain areas.483 Ethiopian officials have denied entry to Human Rights Watch researchers and prevented Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (among others) from opening offices in Ethiopia. The government has then used their absence from the ground to deny the legitimacy of their reports.484

Those who tried to systematically collect information faced government surveillance, threats, and repression.

As a result of these restrictions, it has become increasingly difficult to undertake independent investigations into human rights abuses and monitor the government’s use of international donor funds.485 This became evident during the recent suppression of antigovernment protesters in Oromia and Amhara. As demonstrations broke out in Oromia in 2015, there were few independent analysts on the ground who could corroborate reports of security force abuses.486 Those who tried to systematically collect information faced government surveillance, threats, and repression. In the summer of 2016, four of the HRCO’s members were arrested and detained, likely because they were documenting the crackdown on antiregime demonstrators.487Government restrictions on Ethiopian NGOs have impeded their ability to prepare and submit parallel reports to international human rights treaty bodies.488 The Ethiopian diaspora has attempted to fill this gap by gathering information remotely through their contacts in the country.489

Faced with criticisms, the Ethiopian government has highlighted its own human rights institution, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which was created in 2000 and has been tasked with monitoring and raising awareness of human rights issues in the country. However, the commission lacks the technical and financial capacity to effectively carry out its mandate. It has yet to publish a single report detailing human rights violations in the country.490 In fact, it has at times been used to counteract the work of independent civil society organizations.491 For example, in 2016, the commission denied allegations made by civil society groups that Ethiopian security forces had used excessive force against demonstrators and declared the government’s response to have been “proportional.”492

Barriers to Election Monitoring and Voter Education

Independent civil society groups have also been forced to strike election monitoring and voter education from their mandates. Ahead of the 2005 elections, civil society organizations conducted civic and voter education efforts across the country. International donors allocated $6.2 million to support a free and fair electoral process, which included $1.6 million for twenty-four Ethiopian NGOs to provide information about the polls to voters.493 The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia initially barred most civic groups from observing the election, but national courts reversed the board’s decisions shortly before the vote. Despite the lateness of the court decision, the HRCO sent out 1,550 observers on polling day to monitor the vote.494

The 2010 and 2015 parliamentary elections occurred in an entirely different context. Ahead of the 2010 polls, independent groups struggled to obtain the necessary accreditation from the electoral board to monitor the elections or conduct voter outreach. For example, the HRCO was asked to remove both election observation and voter education from its statute to reregister with the government.495 The Ethiopian Civil Society Network for Elections, which consisted of twenty-four member groups, was dissolved.496The InterAfrica Group, which played a key role in organizing public debates in the run-up to the 2005 election, had shifted toward other activities and receded from the public eye.497

The Charities and Societies Proclamation encourages mass-based organizations to “actively participate in the process of strengthening democratization and election,” observe the electoral process, and cooperate with electoral organs.498 However, as noted above, these organizations remain closely aligned with the ruling party. The largest authorized domestic election observation group to monitor the 2010 polls, the Consortium of Ethiopian Civil Societies for Election Observation, is a case in point: it found the elections to be free and fair, despite a 99.6 percent victory by the ruling party.499 In contrast, the EU Election Observation Mission stated that the elections fell short of international standards.500Since the 2010 election, the only international observers to monitor Ethiopian elections have been from the African Union. The EU declined to take part after its previous recommendations were rejected by the Ethiopian government.501 Meanwhile, voter education has been taken over by the electoral board, which lacks independence from the government. In 2015, the board launched its voter education campaign just days before the election and limited its efforts to instructing citizens on how to find polling stations and complete their ballots.502

New Constraints for Development Work

Initially, development organizations did not feel particularly affected by the new legal framework.503 A key feature of the Charities and Societies Proclamation is that it treats rights advocacy and development work as distinct areas of activity. While organizations working on issues such as gender equality, children’s rights, and minority protection are prohibited from receiving foreign funding, the same restriction does not apply to development aid and humanitarian organizations. Indeed, the total number of organizations involved in development and service delivery grew in the six years following the enactment of the law.504

However, the government’s new funding rules and the overall shrinking of civic space have nevertheless constrained their work. First, the government’s bifurcation of Ethiopian civil society organizations failed to take into account that many aid organizations over the past few decades have embraced a rights-based approach to development that focuses on the connections between poverty, political marginalization, and discrimination. These groups were forced to abandon their work on national policy questions and shift toward more apolitical and service-oriented activities. The fear of criminal prosecutions for infringements of the NGO law reinforced this trend: many NGOs began practicing self-censorship and refraining from any open criticism of government policies to avoid administrative or legal reprisals.505

Second, the Charities and Societies Proclamation prohibits any organization from spending more than 30 percent of their budgets on administrative costs.506 Government officials justified this provision—what became known as the 70/30 regulation—as a mechanism to ensure that the majority of project funding reaches the intended beneficiaries rather than going toward excessive overhead costs. Yet for many organizations, the government’s expansive definition of administrative overhead meant that they could not comply with the requirement without drastically reducing the scope of their work. Expenses they considered critical to project implementation—such as staff allowances, travel and trainings costs, monitoring and evaluation expenses, and vehicle purchases—suddenly counted as administrative costs. Many organizations noted that spending on vehicles, fuel, and driver salaries was essential to maintaining project sites in remote rural areas. For example, health organizations providing mobile outreach services, trainings for health extensions workers, and clinical mentorship suddenly had to classify all of their core activities as administrative expenses.507 The guideline proved particularly challenging for civil society networks and umbrella groups that aimed to enhance individual member organizations’ influence and shape national policy discussions. Under the new guideline, these networks are no longer allowed to engage in advocacy work and can only finance their work through member contributions.508

Adaptation Strategies

Shift Toward Development and Service Provision Activities

To survive in the new legal and political environment, the majority of Ethiopian civil society organizations have chosen to shift their activities toward technical development and local service delivery work, moving away from any issues that could be construed as politically sensitive. A 2011 survey of thirty-two NGOs conducted by the Taskforce for Enabling Environment for Civil Society in Ethiopia found that 70 percent of development organizations and 44 percent of human rights organizations changed their organizational mandates and activities in order to preserve their access to foreign funding.509

Some organizations were able to simply rebrand stigmatized activities in a way that made them more palatable to government officials. They did so by removing any references to rights or governance from their mission statements, funding applications, and activity reports. Most international organizations successfully reregistered using the same tactic.510 For example, the pre-2010 mission statement of Action Aid’s Ethiopia branch was titled Rights to End Poverty and noted their work with excluded populations “to eradicate absolute poverty, inequality and denial of rights.” In response to the new law, the group changed its mission to ensuring “that poor people effectively participate and make decisions in the eradication of their own poverty and their well-being generally.”511

To survive in the new legal and political environment, the majority of Ethiopian civil society organizations have chosen to shift their activities toward technical development and local service delivery work.

Other groups had to undergo a more radical restructuring process. A significant shift in mandate and programming was feasible only for larger organizations that had sufficient human resources.512 For example, the prominent human rights organization Action Professionals’ Association for the People completely reoriented its mission toward providing socioeconomic services for the poor, producing research, and conducting capacity development activities. The Organization for Social Justice Ethiopia renamed itself the Organization for Social Development and shifted from human rights and voter education to corporate social responsibility. The Ethiopian Arbitration and Conciliation Center stopped providing conflict resolution and arbitration and began focusing on capacity building and judicial training.513

The abandonment of the rights-based focus has had a significant impact on the Ethiopian development landscape. Moving away from the underlying drivers of marginalization, many organizations have ceased their awareness-raising, advocacy, and training activities. For example, NGOs that previously worked on child trafficking, child labor, and juvenile justice had to abandon their focus on children’s rights and focus instead on livelihood improvements and direct support to orphans and vulnerable children.514The Forum on Street Children Ethiopia, which had sponsored child protection units in police stations and trained justice sector officials on children’s rights, ceased its child protection activities at the end of 2010.515Resident charities that have nevertheless engaged in gender equality, children’s rights, and justice sector reform have received official warnings from the government.516 Foreign-funded organizations are also barred from working on women’s rights and gender equality, meaning that they no longer advocate for policy and legal reforms on key issues such as female genital mutilation, unsafe abortions, and childhood marriage.517 On the other hand, those organizations that successfully shifted their work to purely developmental activities have continued to collaborate closely with government agencies at the national and regional levels and maintain fruitful working relationships.518

Compliance and Resistance in Response to the 70/30 Guideline

Adaptation to the 70/30 rule proved to be another significant challenge for the sector. Organizations undertook different measures to ensure their compliance, including cutting down on staff training and salaries, giving up capacity-building and training activities, reducing the frequency of field visits, or refocusing their work on urban or semi-urban areas.519 In addition, many groups had to drastically reduce their expenditures on monitoring and evaluation, which in turn made them less attractive partners for international donors.520 According to civil society representatives working in education, health, gender equality, and food security, the overall impact of the 70/30 directive was a decrease in the quality of service delivery and an inability to meet donor expectations with respect to project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.521

After extensive domestic and international pressure, the government agreed to amend the 70/30 guideline in 2015. The regulation now classifies salaries, transportation costs, and training-related expenses as operational rather than administrative expenses. However, the majority of Ethiopian civil society organizations still struggle to fulfill the requirements. While the Charities and Societies Agency has been slow and inconsistent in enforcing the law, it has repeatedly closed down organizations that have failed to comply. In June 2016, the agency announced that it had shut down more than 200 NGOs over the previous nine months. The announcement followed a new directive imposing additional penalties for noncompliance with the Charities and Societies Proclamation.522 The effort may have been triggered by the Federal Auditor General’s performance audit of the agency, which found evidence of widespread inefficiencies and weak enforcement.523

Working Under the Radar

The few Ethiopian human rights groups that remain active in the country have struggled to survive. Raising local funding has proven particularly difficult. Before the Charities and Societies Proclamation came into force, the HRCO successfully negotiated with its international funders to invest some of the organization’s core funding into a property that could generate rental income for the organization.524 Other groups have organized film screenings or music evenings. However, such efforts have raised only small amounts that fail to cover even basic operating expenses.525 In addition, applications to the Charities and Societies Agency for proposed fund-raising activities have often been met with delays, forcing organizations to cancel planned events.526 As noted above, all active human rights groups have adjusted to the new context by further downsizing their activities and disbanding central areas of work.527

The primary survival strategy has been to carve out space at the local level, with the support of international donors. For example, the EU successfully negotiated exemptions in the government’s restrictive legal framework that allow limited amounts of international funding to flow to Ethiopian charities and societies, in spite of the 10 percent foreign funding limit. While these funding arrangements depend on the approval of Ethiopian authorities, they have ensured the survival of organizations like the HRCO, Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, and EWLA that would otherwise most likely have vanished.528 However, receiving aid through government-approved channels has not protected these groups from harassment by security officials. Most recently, in October 2016, security agents raided an HRCO’s organizational fund-raiser—which had earlier been authorized by government authorities—and briefly detained the organization’s leaders before releasing them with a warning not to criticize the government.529 A number of regional organizations registered with local sector offices have been able to continue their work on gender equality, children’s and disability rights, and the rights of the elderly. For example, the Amhara Women’s Association has continued to focus on gender-based violence and the prevention of female genital mutilation. However, these types of regional organizations tend to have limited resources, which reduces their scope for action.530

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES

Similarly as in the case of Egypt, U.S. and European security interests have constrained Western responses to shrinking civic space in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government’s successful development track record has further complicated international pushback. European and U.S. leaders have primarily engaged in quiet diplomacy rather than public shaming of Ethiopian authorities. They have focused their behind-the-scenes pressure on short-term issues on which they felt tangible progress could be achieved, such as the release of political prisoners. Lastly, they have generally not used overseas development assistance or security cooperation as tools to gain leverage, even though the EU managed to renegotiate assistance modalities to channel limited amounts of funding to embattled civil society organizations.

Competing Economic and Security Interests

International responses to the closing of space for civil society in Ethiopia have to be understood in the context of Ethiopia’s broader relationship to Western donor governments. In recent years, Ethiopia has been one of the largest African country recipients of overseas development assistance, receiving an average of $3.5 billion from international donors.531 However, although the Ethiopian government is highly dependent on external development assistance, Western governments have been hesitant to use this leverage to push back against repressive efforts in the country for several reasons.

First, Ethiopia’s status as a security and counterterrorism partner has made the country relatively impervious to external conditionality. The Ethiopian government has built an international reputation as an anchor of stability in a fragile region.532 The Ethiopian National Defense Forces have a played a key role in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia and served as peacekeepers in the disputed Abyei area between Sudan and South Sudan. From 2011 to 2016, the U.S. military also used an Ethiopian base to launch unmanned aerial vehicles assigned to counterterrorism operations in East Africa.533 The EU, on the other hand, has relied on Ethiopia to stem the flow of migrants from East Africa and the Horn of Africa.534 Western governments fear that heightened pressure could destabilize the Ethiopian government, thereby creating further instability in the Horn of Africa.535Second, Ethiopian leaders have been highly effective at warding off international pressure by highlighting the government’s commitment to economic development and its substantial developmental track record, as well as by threatening to turn further toward China in the event of Western funding cuts. Third, international donors have been unwilling to cut their humanitarian and development assistance out of concern that such a drastic step would only end up hurting the country’s poorest populations, which are already vulnerable to drought and famine.

Behind-the-Scenes Pressure Against the Charities and Societies Proclamation

In 2008, news of the draft Charities and Societies Proclamation triggered international diplomatic pressure behind the scenes. International partners privately lobbied the Ethiopian government to remove some of the law’s harshest provisions. Throughout the drafting process, Western governments showcased an unusual degree of unity and coordination in condemning the law. Delegations from the EU, the United States, and the United Kingdom (UK) expressed their concern over the legislation during high-level meetings with Ethiopia’s prime minister and Ministry of Justice officials.536For example, the assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor traveled to Ethiopia to share U.S. concerns with Zenawi, raising issues such as the 10 percent cap on foreign funding and the limit on administrative overhead.537 However, these efforts did not significantly impact the final proclamation. The government agreed to a few amendments but retained the core features of the law. At the same time, it publicly accused the international community of illegitimate meddling.538

The international reaction to the passing of the law was timid. In a presidential declaration, the EU welcomed the “thorough exchanges of views” it had with the Ethiopian government regarding the law.539 It neither condemned the law nor asked for its repeal. The statement stood in contrast to the EU’s significantly stronger criticism of the 2006 Russian NGO law and similarly repressive legislation passed in Zimbabwe in 2004.540 Moreover, the European Commission simultaneously announced 250 million euros in additional assistance for the Ethiopian government. On the U.S. side, the Department of State issued a public statement of concern.541 Various high-level U.S. officials subsequently raised the issue of the shrinking civic space in meetings with their Ethiopian counterparts, but they rarely addressed the question in public.

Shift to New Funding Modalities

After the law’s passage, Western governments shifted their focus from lobbying to adaptation. The Civil Society Sub Group of the Development Assistance Group—a network of bilateral and multilateral donors established in 2001—set up a monitoring system to track the enforcement of the Charities and Societies Proclamation and collect systematic evidence on the challenges faced by civil society organizations. In addition, the group funded an Adaptation Facility to help Ethiopian civil society groups adjust to the new legal environment.542 The first part of this project was funded by USAID, whereas the second part was funded by a group of donors that included the Swedish International Development Agency, Irish Aid, the Danish and Dutch embassies, and the Canadian International Development Agency and was executed by a local CSO Taskforce.543

The EU also successfully pushed for an exemption from the Charities and Societies Proclamation. Thanks to the Cotonou Agreement—a treaty that obliges EU partner countries to more fully involve nonstate actors in development and policy planning—the EU convinced Ethiopian authorities to label the EU’s Civil Society Fund a domestic funding source. As a result of this exemption, the EU was able to keep funding civil society groups engaged in human rights and advocacy work, which would otherwise have been be barred from raising more than 10 percent of their budget from foreign sources.544 Between 2006 and 2012, the Civil Society Fund dispensed 14.9 million euros in small grants and capacity-building support to more than 250 Ethiopian civil society organizations.545 In 2012, the EU launched a second incarnation of the fund that allocated an additional 12 million euros to Ethiopian NGOs.546 As part of the agreement, Ethiopian government authorities participate in the funding allocation decisions and therefore exercise some degree of control over the process. The program has nevertheless benefited a few organizations working directly on democracy and rights, including the HRCO, EWLA, the Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Associations, and the Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy. In addition, the EU has channeled grants to Ethiopian NGOs through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.547

The U.S. government has struggled to continue its democracy assistance activities in the country. USAID initially continued funding the United Nations Development Program’s Democratic Institutions Program, which provided technical capacity building to Ethiopian governmental institutions, including the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Yet it phased out its support after the Electoral Board denied civil society groups the right to provide voter education ahead of the 2010 elections.548 The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute did not resume their in-country activities after having been expelled from the country in 2005.549 However, the National Endowment for Democracy has continued disbursing small discretionary grants to Ethiopian civil society organizations, including the Vision Ethiopian Congress for Democracy, the Forum for Social Studies, and the Peace and Development Center (see Figure 6).550

Quiet Diplomacy

At the diplomatic level, both the EU and United States continued to address the human rights situation in Ethiopia privately and within the framework of high-level meetings and formal political dialogues with the Ethiopian government. Their efforts centered primarily on monitoring the impact of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and its use against journalists, opposition activists, and religious leaders. U.S. officials raised these issues in meetings of the U.S.-Ethiopian bilateral Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights Working Group.551 EU officials also regularly discussed the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation during its Article 8 dialogues with the Ethiopian government. These dialogues derive their name from Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, which requires the EU and its development partners to “regularly engage” in dialogue about democracy and human rights.552

This type of quiet diplomacy led to little political change. The Ethiopian government adopted a highly formalistic approach to dialogue that provided few opportunities for a genuine debate on governance and human rights. On the EU side, the Article 8 dialogues were hampered by the lack of political engagement by member states and the absence of verifiable human rights benchmarks.553 International lobbying efforts proved most effective when they centered on specific cases, such as the release of political prisoners. For example, U.S. officials privately urged the government to cease the harassment and detention of opposition party supporters, which may have contributed to the release and pardon of a number of opposition leaders and journalists.554 Similarly, the EU expressed strong concern about the fate of the Zone 9 bloggers, who were imprisoned in 2014 and ultimately released in 2015 shortly after Obama’s visit.555

Yet high-level public pressure remained rare, even as the human rights situation in Ethiopia deteriorated further. Several prominent U.S. officials glossed over Ethiopia’s backsliding on democracy in public statements. The former under secretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, caused a small stir among human rights organizations in 2015 when she referred to Ethiopia as “a democracy that is moving forward” and asserted that Ethiopia was willing to “make every election better than the last one in being inclusive” and “[make] sure everybody’s rights are respected.”556Obama faced a similar backlash in 2015 when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia—the same year that the EPRDF claimed to have won all 547 parliamentary seats in a landslide victory. During his visit, Obama called Ethiopia’s government “democratically elected,” seemingly legitimizing the flawed elections.557 While praising Ethiopia as an “outstanding” partner in the war on terror, he privately pressed Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for improvements on human rights and political freedoms.558 Faced with criticism, the Obama administration argued that raising the profile of governance concerns during a high-level meeting would be more effective than sidelining the Ethiopian government.559 As in the case of Russia and Egypt, Obama’s team thus prioritized what they termed “principled engagement” over punitive diplomacy.560

Continued Aid Flows

While the United States and European countries have engaged Ethiopian authorities on democracy and human rights issues in public statements and private meetings, they have not applied any significant financial or economic sanctions to pressure the Ethiopian government to open up political space. U.S. aid to Ethiopia has fluctuated greatly over the years, but it has generally not been subject to conditions relating to democracy and human rights. The Security Assistance Monitor reports that the United States has provided between $300 million and $900 million in economic aid and between $1 million and $25 million in security aid to Ethiopia every year since 2003.561 While Ethiopia’s access to foreign military financing and military education and training funds has been subject to certifications from the secretary of state that Ethiopia has improved along various political indicators, U.S. support for peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and other defense operations is exempt from such certifications.562

In Europe, the Nordic countries and the European Parliament have been the most vocal and public advocates for greater European conditionality toward Ethiopia. In January 2013, the European Parliament passed a resolution imploring the European Commission and other international donors to make military and development assistance to Ethiopia contingent on political reforms, including “the repeal or amendment of the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.”563However, these efforts have translated into few tangible changes in assistance modalities. For example, the EU has never activated Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement to suspend development aid to Ethiopia over democracy and governance concerns.564 After the Ethiopian government’s 2005 postelection crackdown, the EU did cancel its direct budget support to Ethiopia’s national treasury.565 Yet it redirected the funds to the World Bank’s Protection of Basic Services program in Ethiopia, which later came under fire from human rights organizations for enabling the EPRDF’s human rights abuses.566 The EU also approved a “middle-sized” governance incentive tranche—meant to incentivize and reward political reform—even as the country experienced a significant tightening of civic and political space.567 Ethiopia stands out as the only low-income African country other than The Gambia where the European Development Fund has not named democratic governance as a “focal area.”568 Between 2005 and 2014, the EU allocated only 3 percent of its total EU aid to Ethiopia to support governance reform programs.569

The United Kingdom, another major source of economic and military assistance for Ethiopia, has not significantly changed its policy toward Ethiopia since the crackdown on civil society intensified in 2009. In recent years, Ethiopia has consistently been among the top five recipients of British development aid. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, Ethiopia moved up from being the UK’s third-highest aid recipient (313 million pounds) to being the UK’s second-highest aid recipient (388 million pounds), with only Pakistan receiving more aid.570 In the past, UK aid has come under fire for allegedly supporting human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government, as in the case of Mr. O, an Ethiopian farmer who filed a suit against the UK Department for International Development for indirectly funding a “villagization” program in which Ethiopian security forces displaced hundreds of Ethiopian villagers.571

As noted in the introduction, the reluctance to use political conditionality partly stems from donors’ desire to support the Ethiopian government’s development efforts and concerns that increased pressure in the form of financial and development penalties would only hurt the most marginalized and impoverished Ethiopians.572 Donor governments also worry that isolating the Ethiopian government could further increase China’s influence in the country—particularly since the EPRDF already views Chinese investment as an important alternative to Western support.573 They point to existing evidence that democratic conditionality rarely works.574 Moreover, the belief that sustainable democracy in fact requires economic development and political stability remains prevalent among many donors, reinforced by multiple short-term incentives to continue diplomatic and assistance cooperation around counterterrorism and migration management.

Weak Responses to the Current Crisis

The disjunction between Western countries’ aid relationship to the Ethiopian government and concerns over increasing repression in the country became even more apparent during the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on protesters in 2015 and 2016. On the one hand, the frequency of high-level statements and condemnations increased. The European Parliament repeatedly issued strong statements criticizing the EPRDF’s handling of the protests. In January 2016, it passed another resolution calling on the EU to link its development cooperation with Ethiopia to democratic reform commitments and mitigate the “negative impact of displacement within EU-funded development projects.”575 In 2016, the EU delegation in Addis Ababa and various EU member states cosponsored a joint mission to Ethiopia’s Oromia region to conduct field visits, meet with stakeholders, and evaluate the human rights situation of protestors targeted by Ethiopian security forces. Similarly, twelve U.S. senators in April 2016 introduced a resolution condemning the use of violence against protesters and civil society and calling on the secretary of state to review U.S. security assistance to Ethiopia.576

At the same time, U.S. and EU officials have given no indication of a broader policy shift. In November 2015, the EU and Ethiopia signed a Declaration on a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility, which allocates further financial support to the Ethiopian government to manage migration flows in the Horn of Africa.577 On the sidelines of the European Development Days in June 2016, EU leaders and the Ethiopian prime minister signed a joint declaration, Towards an EU-Ethiopia Strategic Engagement, which sets up a comprehensive process of cooperation along shared interests, including counterterrorism, trade, migration and economic development.578 While the initiative includes annual consultations on human rights and governance, it remains to be seen whether they will serve as an effective forum to challenge Ethiopian officials on the shrinking of civic space. After meeting Desalegn in March 2017, the EU’s high representative, Federica Mogherini, did not address the ongoing state of emergency in Ethiopia, and even praised the government’s establishment of a dialogue with the opposition.579 For now, it seems that the EU will continue to embrace quiet diplomacy while refraining from applying public pressure or conditionality, while the new U.S. administration has given no indication of a shift in approach.

NOTES

407 Jeffrey Clark, “Civil Society, NGOs, and Development in Ethiopia: A Snapshot View,” World Bank, June 30, 2000, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/611131468773954100/Civil-society-NGOs-and-development-in-Ethiopia-a-snapshot-view, 1.

408 Clark, “Civil Society, NGOs, and Development in Ethiopia,” 4.

409 Sisay Alemahu Yeshanew, “CSO Law in Ethiopia: Considering Its Constraints and Consequences,” Journal of Civil Society 8, no. 4 (2012): 372.

410 . Ben Rawlence and Leslie Lefkow, “‘One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure’: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia,” Human Rights Watch, March 2010, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/ethiopia0310webwcover.pdf.

411 . Clark, “Civil Society, NGOs, and Development in Ethiopia,” 5–6.

412 . Bahru Zwede and Siegfried Pausewang, eds., Ethiopia: The Challenge of Democracy From Below (Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 2002), 109.

413 . Abadir M. Ibrahim, The Role of Civil Society in Africa’s Quest for Democratization (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016), 137; and “Ethiopia: The Curtailment of Rights,” Human Rights Watch, December 9, 1997, https://www.hrw.org/report/1997/12/09/ethiopia-curtailment-rights.

414 Zwede and Pausewang, Ethiopia, 110.

415 Siegfried Pausewang and Günter Schröder, “Ethiopia,” in Encyclopedia of Human Rights,ed. David P Forsythe(New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 161.

416 . Zwede and Pausewang, Ethiopia, 109.

417 . Debebe Hailegebriel, “Ethiopia,” International Journal for Not-for-Profit Law 12, no. 2 (February 2010).

418 . Terrence Lyons, “Ethiopia in 2005: The Beginning of a Transition?,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 20, 2006, https://www.csis.org/analysis/africa-notes-ethiopia-2005-beginning-transition-january-2006, 3.

419 Jon Abbink, “Discomfiture of Democracy? The 2005 Election Crisis in Ethiopia and Its Aftermath,” African Affairs 105, no. 419 (2006): 174–99.

420 . Lovise Aalen and Kjetil Tronvoll, “The End of Democracy? Curtailing Political and Civil Rights in Ethiopia,” Review of Political Economy 36,no. 120 (2009): 193–207.

421 Interview with specialist on civil society in Ethiopia, January 9, 2016.

422 Simegnish Yekoye Mengesha, “Silencing Dissent,” Journal of Democracy 27, no. 1 (January 2016): 90.

423 Ibid., 90.

424 . Sarah Vaughan, “Revolutionary Democratic State-Building: Party, State and People in the EPRDF’s Ethiopia,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 5, no. 4 (2011): 633.

425 . Aalen and Tronvoll, “The End of Democracy?,” 203.

426 . Vaughan, “Revolutionary Democratic State-Building,” 634.

427 Mengesha, “Silencing Dissent,” 92.

428 Hailegebriel, “Ethiopia.”

429 . “Civic Freedom Monitor: Ethiopia,” International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), last updated October 27, 2016, http://www.icnl.org/research/monitor/ethiopia.html; and “Ethiopia: Proclamation No. 621/2009 of 2009, Charities and Societies Proclamation,” Federal Negarit Gazeta, February 13, 2009, http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ba7a0cb2.html.

430 Dereje Feyissa, “Aid Negotiation: The Uneasy “Partnership” Between EPRDF and the Donors,” in Reconfiguring Ethiopia: The Politics of Authoritarian Reform,eds. Jon Abbink and Tobias Hagman (New York: Routledge, 2013), 208–9.

431 . “Civic Freedom Monitor: Ethiopia,” ICNL.

432 . Berhanu Denu and Ato Getachew Zewdie, “Impact of the Guideline to Determine Charities’ and Societies’ Operational and Administrative Costs (70/30 Guideline)—Phase III,” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, September 2013, http://esap2.org.et/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Report-10_7030-Phase-III_Sep2013.pdf.

433 . Lewis Gordon, Sean Sullivan, and Sonal Mittal, “Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent,” Oakland Institute, January 2015, 9.

434 “One Hundred Ways,” Human Rights Watch.

435 . Gordon, Sullivan, and Mittal, “Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law,” 9.

436 . Hilary Matfess, “Rwanda and Ethiopia: Developmental Authoritarianism and the New Politics of African Strong Men,” African Studies Review 58, no. 2 (September 2015): 194.

437 Leonardo R. Arriola and Terrence Lyons, “The 100% Election,” Journal of Democracy 27, no. 1 (January 2016): 82.

438 “One Hundred Ways,” Human Rights Watch.

439 “Ethiopia Blames ‘Foreign Enemies’ for Stoking Unrest,” Al Jazeera,October 10, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/ethiopia-blames-foreign-enemies-stoking-unrest-161010100148946.html.

440 . Awol Allo, “Ethiopia Politicizes Courts to Strangle Dissent,” Al Jazeera America,July 10, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/7/ethiopia-politicizes-courts-to-strangle-dissent.html.

441 Shannon Orcutt, “Caught Up in Bitter Contests: Human Rights Defenders Working in the Context of Elections in Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda,” East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Human Rights House, September 2015, https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/09/caught-up-in-bitter-contests-report-on-human-rights-defenders-working-in-the-context-of-elections/, 18.

442 Agence France-Presse, “Ethiopian Bloggers and Journalists Charged With Terrorism,” Guardian, July 18, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/ethiopian-bloggers-journalists-zone-nine-charged-terrorism-ginbot-7.

443 . Orcutt, “Caught Up in Bitter Contests,” 18.

444 Ibid., 19; Mengesha, “Silencing Dissent,” 89; and “Journalism is Not a Crime: Violations of Media Freedoms in Ethiopia,”Human Rights Watch, January 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/01/21/journalism-not-crime/violations-media-freedoms-ethiopia.

445 . Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia,” U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135953.htm.

446 . “‘One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure,’” Human Rights Watch.

447 “Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region,” Human Rights Watch, May 9, 2005, https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/05/09/suppressing-dissent/human-rights-abuses-and-political-repression-ethiopias-oromia.

448 Arriola and Lyons, “The 100% Election,” 85.

449 “Ethiopia Extends State of Emergency by Four Months,” Al Jazeera,March 30, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/ethiopia-extends-state-emergency-months-170330110807086.html.

450 “Legal Analysis of Ethiopia’s State of Emergency,” Human Rights Watch, October 30, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/30/legal-analysis-ethiopias-state-emergency.

451 . See, for example, “Human Rights Watch Encourages Opposition Violence in Ethiopia,” Official Blog of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, October 22, 2016, https://mfaethiopiablog.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/human-rights-watch-encourages-opposition-violence-in-ethiopia-article-drtedros/.

452 Tracking Trends in Ethiopia’s Civil Society (TECS), “Mass Based Societies in Ethiopia: Prospects and Challenges,” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, March 2012, http://www.dagethiopia.org/new/images/DAG_DOCS/TECS_Policy_Brief_MBS_Final_English_2April12.pdf, 16.

453 . Gebre Yntiso, Debebe Haile-Gebriel, and Kelkilachew Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia—Update Mapping,” Ethiopia–European Union Civil Society Fund and Civil Society Support Programme, March 2015, 66.

454 TECS, “Mass Based Societies in Ethiopia,” 23.

455 Ibid.

456 Dupuy, Ron, and Prakash, “Hands Off My Regime!,” 29.

457 Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia,” U.S. Department of State, February 27, 2014, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220113.htm.

458 . Arriola and Lyons, “The 100% Election,” 79.

459 . Feyissa, “Aid Negotation,” 209.

460 Matfess, “Rwanda and Ethiopia,” 186.

461 “‘One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure,’” Human Rights Watch.

462 Meles Zenawi, “States and Markets: Neoliberal Limitations and the Case for a Developmental State,” in Good Growth and Governance in Africa: Rethinking Development Strategies, eds. Akbar Noman, Kwesi Botchwey, Howard Stein, and Joseph E. Stiglitz(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

463 Tobias Hagmann and Jon Abbink, “The Politics of Authoritarian Reform in Ethiopia, 1991 to 2012,” in Reconfiguring Ethiopia, 3.

464 Pausewang and Schröder, “Ethiopia,” 160.

465 . Author interview with specialist on civil society in Ethiopia, January 9, 2016.

466 Feyissa, “Aid Negotiation,” 214.

467 “Stifling Human Rights Work: The Impact of Civil Society Legislation in Ethiopia,” Amnesty International, March 2012, http://files.amnesty.org/archives/afr250022012eng.pdf, 12.

468 Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 43.

469 Author interview with specialist on civil society in Ethiopia, January 9, 2016.

470 Dupuy, Ron, and Prakash, “Hands Off My Regime!,” 15.

471 “The Impact of the CSO Proclamation on the Human Rights Council,” Human Rights Council (HRC), July 2011, https://www.ehrco.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/impact_of_the_cso_proclamation_on_hrco.pdf, 8.

472 . Ibid., 4.

473 . Ibid.

474 . Amnesty International, CIVICUS, and Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Supreme Court Ruling Marks a Further Erosion of Human Rights Work,” joint public statement, Human Rights Watch, October 19, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/10/19/ethiopia-supreme-court-ruling-marks-further-erosion-human-rights-work.

475 “The Impact of the CSO Proclamation,” HRC, 12.

476 . Ibid., 9, 12.

477 . HRC et al., “Joint UPR Submission by the Ethiopian CSO Taskforce: Human Rights Council (HRC), Vision Ethiopia Congress for Democracy (VECOD), Ethiopian Human Rights Service (EHRS), Ye Ethiopia Ye Fiteh Seratoch Ma’ekel (Center for Legal Pluralism in Ethiopia,” UPR Info, September 2013, https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/ethiopia/session_19_-_april_2014/js6_upr19_eth_e_main.pdf, 5.

478 . “Stifling Human Rights Work,” Amnesty International,26.

479 Ibid.,13.

480 Ibid., 24.

481 . “The Impact of the CSO Proclamation,” HRC, 9.

482 Ibid.

483 . Xan Rice “UN Fears Humanitarian Crisis in Remote Ethiopian Region,” Guardian, September 20, 2007, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/sep/20/internationalaidanddevelopment.internationalnews.

484 Addis Standard, “Ethiopia: The Slow Death of a Civilian Government and the Rise of a Military Might,” AllAfrica, January 24, 2017, http://allafrica.com/stories/201701240915.html.

485 Kenneth Roth, “Ethiopia: Development Assistance Group Should Address Human Rights in Ethiopia” (letter to Kenichi Ohashi, Ethiopia country director for the World Bank), Human Rights Watch, December 17, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/17/ethiopia-development-assistance-group-should-address-human-rights-ethiopia.

486 “140th Special Report (Executive Summary),” HRC, March 14, 2016, https://ehrco.org/2016/03/140th-special-report-executive-summary/.

487 “Ethiopia: Civil Society Groups Urge International Investigation Into Ongoing Human Rights Violations,” press release, Amnesty International, August 30, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2016/08/ethiopia-civil-society-groups-urge-international-investigation-into-ongoing-human-rights-violations/.

488 . Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 43.

489 “Ethiopia’s Compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities” (submitted to the 16th Session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, August 15–September 2, 2016), Advocates for Human Rights, http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/ethiopian_-_crpd_-_july_2016.pdf.

490 HRC et al., “Joint UPR Submission,” 2.

491 Addis Standard, “Ethiopia: The Slow Death of a Civilian Government.”

492 . Ibid.

493 “Ethiopia: The 15 May 2005 Elections and Human Rights,” Amnesty International, April 2005, http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/42ae98270.pdf, 6.

494 . “The Impact of the CSO Proclamation,” HRC, 13.

495 . “Stifling Human Rights Work,” Amnesty International,18.

496 . Dupuy, Ron, Prakash, “Hands Off My Regime!,” 16.

497 Addis Standard, “Ethiopia: The Slow Death of a Civilian Government.”

498 . “Charities and Societies Proclamation,” Federal Negarit Gazeta.

499 . “Coalition of Civil Societies Says Ethiopia’s Elections Fair, Democratic,” Xinhua,May 25, 2010, http://en.people.cn/90001/90777/90855/6997960.html.

500 . European Union Election Observation Mission to Ethiopia, “Final Report on the House of People’s Representatives and State Council Elections,” Election Observation and Democracy Support, May 2010, http://www.eods.eu/library/EUEOM%20FR%20ETHIOPIA%2008.11.2010_en.pdf.

501 Marthe van der Wolf, “No Western Observers for Ethiopian Elections,” Voice of America,May 20, 2015, http://www.voanews.com/a/no-western-observers-for-ethiopian-elections/2779335.html.

502 Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia,” U.S. Department of State, April 8, 2011, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154346.htm.

503 Interview with Ethiopian civil society activist, January 9, 2017.

504 Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 14.

505 Barbara Unmüßig et al., “Closure of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Office in Ethiopia,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung, November 29, 2012, https://us.boell.org/2012/11/29/closure-heinrich-boll-foundation-office-ethiopia-democracy.

506 Denu and Zewdie, “Impact of the Guideline.”

507 . TECS, “On CHSOs Engaged in the Health Sector,” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, December 2013, http://www.dagethiopia.org/new/images/DAG_DOCS/TECS_Information_Bulletin_10_CSOs_in_health_sector.pdf.

508 TECS, “Impact of the Proclamation and Guidelines on Consortia (Networks),” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, August 2013, http://dagethiopia.org/new/images/DAG_DOCS/Policy_Brief_6_Consortia_August_2013.pdf.

509 Dupuy, Ron and Prakash, “Hands Off My Regime!,” 16.

510 . Ibid., 17.

511 . Ibid., 18.

512 . Ibid., 11.

513 . Ibid., 18.

514 TECS, “Charities Working With Children,” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, August 2014, http://esap2.org.et/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Policy-Brief-13-Children-August-2014.pdf.

515 Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Ethiopia,” U.S. Department of State, May 24, 2012, https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/af/186196.htm.

516 . Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 43.

517 “Stifling Human Rights Work,” Amnesty International, 22.

518 . TECS, “Charities Working With Children.”

519 Hiwot Getachew Gebreyohannes, “The Challenges and Prospects of ChSA ‘70/30 Guideline’ Implementation on the Performance of NGOs in Ethiopia: A Case Study of Food for the Hungry/Ethiopia (FH/Ethiopia)” (master’s thesis, School of Management Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, April 2016), http://repository.smuc.edu.et/bitstream/123456789/1433/1/Hiwot%20Getachew.pdf, 22–23; and Denu and Zewdie, “Impact of the Guideline.”

520 Berhanu Denu and Ato Getachew Zewdie, “Early Evidence of the Impact of the 70/30 Guideline to Determine Operational and Administrative Costs (Guideline 2/2003 EC) Phase II,” Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, http://www.dagethiopia.org/new/images/DAG_DOCS/Policy_Brief_5_70_30_phase_II_April_2013.pdf.

521 Ibid.

522 Yoseph Badwaza, “Ethiopia: Attack on Civil Society Escalates as Dissent Spreads,” Freedom House, July 22, 2016, https://freedomhouse.org/blog/ethiopia-attack-civil-society-escalates-dissent-spreads.

523 Author interview with specialist on civil society in Ethiopia, January 9, 2016.

524 Ibid.

525 Ibid.

526 . CIVICUS, EHAHRDO and HRC, “Joint NGO Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” CIVICUS, September 16, 2013, http://www.civicus.org/images/CIVICUS_EHAHRDP_HRCO_Joint_Ethiopia_UPR_Submission.pdf, 4.

527 “Stifling Human Rights Work,” Amnesty International,5.

528 . Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Ethiopia”; and Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 76.

529 . “Ethiopia Undermines Financial Support for Human Rights Groups,” Freedom House, October 24, 2016; and interview with specialist on human rights in Ethiopia, November 25, 2016.

530 . Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 69.

531 Luis Flores, “Development Aid to Ethiopia: Overlooking Violence, Marginalization, and Political Repression,” Oakland Institute, 2013, https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/OI_Brief_Development_Aid_Ethiopia.pdf, 1.

532 . Awol Allo, “Ethiopia’s Unprecedented Nationwide Oromo Protests: Who, What, Why?,” African Arguments, August 6, 2016, http://africanarguments.org/2016/08/06/ethiopias-unprecedented-nationwide-oromo-protests-who-what-why/.

533 “US Shuts Down Drone Base in Ethiopia,” BBC, January 4, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35220279.

534 . James Jeffrey, “Europe Pays Out to Keep a Lid on Ethiopia Migration,” IRIN,October 24, 2016, https://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2016/10/24/europe-pays-out-keep-lid-ethiopia-migration.

535 . Interview with specialist on human rights in Ethiopia, November 25, 2016.

536 . Hailegebriel, “Ethiopia.”

537 Alphia Zoyab, “Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid—Ethiopia’s Controversial New Law,” International Affairs Review, December 7, 2008, http://www.iar-gwu.org/node/50.

538 Hailegebriel, “Ethiopia.”

539 “Declaration by the Presidency on Behalf of the EU on the Adoption of the Charities and Societies Proclamation by the House of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” press release, Council of the European Union, January 30, 2009, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_PESC-09-7_en.htm.

540 . Lotte Leicht and Georgette Gagnon, “Letter to the European Union on Their Disappointing Reaction to the Ethiopian NGO Law,” Human Rights Watch, February 10, 2009, https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/02/10/letter-european-union-their-disappointing-reaction-ethiopian-ngo-law.

541 Robert Wood, “New Ethiopian Law Restricts NGO Activities,” press statement, U.S. Department of State, January 8, 2009, https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/01/113692.htm.

542 ICNL, “The NGO Legal Enabling Environment Program (LEEP): Quarterly Programmatic Report, July–September 2009,” U.S. Agency for International Development, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pdacp042.pdf, 3; and Hailegebriel, “Ethiopia.”

543 . Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 14, 48.

544 “About CSF,” Ethiopia–European Union Civil Society Fund, http://csf2.org/?q=content/about-csf; and “Answer Given by High Representative/Vice-President on Behalf of the Commission,” European Parliament, March 9, 2012, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2012-001616&language=EN; “Annual Action Programme 2011 Covered by the Country Strategy Paper 2008–2013 for the European Development Fund in Ethiopia,” Germany Trade and Invest, https://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Content/DE/Trade/Fachdaten/PRO/2011/10/P19726.pdf?v=6; Max Hennion et al., “Evaluation of the Commission of the European Union’s Co-Operation With Ethiopia,” European Commission, January 2012, http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/how/evaluation/evaluation_reports/reports/2012/1301_vol1_en.pdf.

545 “Quarterly Newsletter of the EU Delegation to Ethiopia (July-October 2016),” Delegation of the EU to Ethiopia, November 2, 2016, https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ethiopia/13782/quarterly-newsletter-of-the-eu-delegation-to-ethiopia-july—october-2016_en; and “Supporting Non-State Actors, Building Partnerships,” Ethiopia–European Union Civil Society Fund, http://csf2.org/sites/default/files/CSF%20BROCHURE%20Jun%2021-FINAL.pdf.

546 “About CSF,” Ethiopia–European Union Civil Society Fund.

547 Karen Del Biondo, “Multiple Principals, Multiple Agents: EU and US Democracy Assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, December 2014, http://cddrl.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/del_biondo_1_final.pdf, 19; and Yntiso, Haile-Gebriel, and Ali, “Non-State Actors in Ethiopia,” 55.

548 Ibid., 18.

549 Ibid.

550 “Ethiopia 2015,” National Endowment for Democracy, http://www.ned.org/region/africa/ethiopia-2015/.

551 . “U.S. and Ethiopia Hold 6th Bilateral Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Working Group in Addis Ababa,” press release, U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, March 30, 2016, https://ethiopia.usembassy.gov/pr_2016_20.html.

552 “Answer Given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on Behalf of the Commission,” European Parliament, November 9, 2012, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2012-008050&language=EN; “Answer Given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on Behalf of the Commission,” and European Parliament, March 9, 2012, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2012-001616&language=EN.

553 Federica Petrucci et al., “Thematic Evaluation of the European Commission Support to Respect of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Including Solidarity with Victims of Repression),” European Commission, December 2011, http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/how/evaluation/evaluation_reports/reports/2011/1298_vol1_en.pdf, 49.

554 Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia.”

555 . “Answer Given by Vice-President Mogherini on Behalf of the Commission,” European Parliament, September 11, 2015, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2015-008413&language=EN.

556 “Press Availability by Wendy R. Sherman,” U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, April 16, 2015, https://ethiopia.usembassy.gov/wendy-sherman-foreign-minister.html; “The United States’ Irresponsible Praise of Ethiopia’s Regime,” Washington Post,April 30, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ethiopias-wrong-turn/2015/04/30/e170d29c-ed1f-11e4-a55f-38924fca94f9_story.html; Mohammed Ademo, “US Official Praises Ethiopian ‘Democracy,’ Rest of World Begs to Differ,” The Scrutineer (blog), Al Jazeera America,April 18, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2015/4/18/us-official-praises-ethiopian-democracy-us-begs-to-differ.html.

557 . “Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia in Joint Press Conference,” White House, July 27, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/27/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-hailemariam-desalegn-ethiopia.

558 . Katrina Manson, “Barack Obama Urges Ethiopia to Improve Political Freedoms,” Financial Times, July 27, 2015, https://www.ft.com/content/fcd537c2-346d-11e5-b05b-b01debd57852.

559 . Edward-Isaac Dovere, “Obama Differs From Top Aides Over Ethiopia’s Democracy,” Politico,July 27, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/obama-differs-from-top-aides-over-ethiopias-democracy-120657.

560 . Richard Youngs, “The End of Democratic Conditionality: Good Riddance?,” FRIDE, September 2010, http://fride.org/descarga/WP102_The_end_democratic_conditionality_ENG_set10.pdf, 3.

561 “Security Aid: Ethiopia, 2000–2016,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Ethiopia/1996/2016/is_all/Global.

562 Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, H.R. 2055, 112th Cong. (2011), https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/2055; Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, H.R. 3547, 113th Cong. (2013), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3547; Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, H.R. 83, 113th Cong. (2013), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/83/text; Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, H.R. 2029, 114th Cong. (2015), https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2029/text.

563 . European Parliament, Resolution of 15 January 2013 on EU Strategy for the Horn of Africa, 2012/2026(INI), January 15, 2013, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P7-TA-2013-0006&language=EN&ring=A7-2012-0408.

564 Karen Del Biondo and Jan Orbie, “The European Commission’s Implementation of Budget Support and the Governance Incentive Tranche in Ethiopia: Democracy Promoter or Developmental Donor?,” Third World Quarterly 35, no. 3 (2014).

565 Ibid.

566 “Development Without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia,”Human Rights Watch, October 19, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/10/19/development-without-freedom/how-aid-underwrites-repression-ethiopia; and Helen Epstein, “Why Are We Funding Abuse in Ethiopia?” New York Review of Books, March 14, 2013, http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2013/03/14/why-are-we-funding-abuse-ethiopia/.

567 . Del Biondo and Orbie, “The European Commission’s Implementation of Budget Support and the Governance Incentive Tranche in Ethiopia.”

568 Christine Hackenesch, “Good Governance in EU External Relations: What Role for Development Policy in a Changing International Context?,” Directorate-General for External Policies, European Parliament, July 2016, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/578012/EXPO_STU(2016)578012_EN.pdf.

569 Ibid.

570 . UK Aid Development tracker, https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/; and “Ethiopia Is Top UK Aid Recipient,” Voice of America, February 28, 2011, http://www.voanews.com/a/ethiopia-is-top-uk-aid-recipient-117204413/157544.html.

571 Claire Provost, “Ethiopia’s Rights Abuses ‘Being Ignored by US and UK Aid Agencies,’” Guardian,July 17, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/jul/17/ethiopia-rights-abuses-us-uk-aid-agencies; and David Smith, “’Britain Is Supporting a Dictatorship in Ethiopia,’” Guardian, July 6, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/06/britain-supporting-dictatorship-in-ethiopia.

572 . William Easterly and Laura Freschi, “Why Are We Supporting Repression in Ethiopia?,” New York Review of Books,November 15, 2010, http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2010/11/15/why-are-we-supporting-repression-ethiopia/.

573 . David H. Shinn, “The Evolution of China-Ethiopia Relations,” This Is Africa, March 31, 2015, http://www.thisisafricaonline.com/News/The-evolution-of-China-Ethiopia-relations?ct=true.

574 . Youngs, “The End of Democratic Conditionality.”

575 European Parliament, Resolution of 21 January 2016 on the Situation in Ethiopia, 2016/2520(RSP), January 21, 2016, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2016-0023+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN.

576 “Cardin, Rubio, Colleagues Condemn Ethiopia’s Crackdown on Civil Society,” press release, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, April 20, 2016, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/cardin-rubio-colleagues-condemn-ethiopias-crackdown-on-civil-society-.

577 . “European Union and Ethiopia Sign Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility,” press release, European Commission, November 11, 2015, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6050_en.htm.

578 “Ethiopia, EU Sign Joint Declaration Towards Strategic Engagement,” Ethiopian News Agency, June 15, 2016, http://www.ena.gov.et/en/index.php/politics/item/1495-ethiopia-eu-sign-joint-declaration-towards-strategic-engagement

579 “HRVP Federica Mogherini Meets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegm,” press release, European Union External Action, March 17, 2017, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/22980/hrvp-federica-mogherini-meets-ethiopian-prime-minister-hailemariam-desalegn_en.

End of document
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Why I run: I will continue to protest until the Oromo people in Ethiopia gain their freedom. May 20, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Why I run 


I will continue to protest until the Oromo people in Ethiopia gain their freedom.


 ALJAZEERA ENGLISH, 19 May 2017
Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his wrists in solidarity with the Oromo people after crossing the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics [Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha]
Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his wrists in solidarity with the Oromo people after crossing the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics [Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha]

by 

Feyisa Lilesa is a long-distance runner from Ethiopia and a member of the Oromo people.

My name is Feyisa Lilesa. I am an exiled marathon runner from Ethiopia.

I have not been back to my country since winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games last August. In Rio, as I approached the finish line, I crossed my wrists above my head in solidarity with the men, women and children who have died fighting for their rights and those who are still suffering under the brutal regime in Ethiopia.

It was a sign of nonviolent resistance used by protesters in my native Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnic-based states.

Much has changed since my Olympic protest in Rio. I now live and train in exile in the United States. Last February, I was reunited with my wife and two children.

Meanwhile, despite the global spotlight my protest attracted, the killings, imprisonment and harassment of my people by Ethiopian security forces have only worsened.

This is why I continue to protest, after every race and at every media event.

In a few days, the World Health Organization (WHO) member states will elect a new director general at the 70th World Health Assembly. One of the top three candidates is Tedros Adhanom, current special adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister and Ethiopia’s former foreign and health minister. Adhanom is travelling the world discussing human rights (while comically admitting Ethiopia’s record is “not perfect“) as part of his campaign to lead WHO.

Adhanom is one of the chief architects of Ethiopia’s repressive regime. He has been a cabinet minister for more than a decade. In 2015 and 2016, according to human rights organisations security forces killed hundreds of peaceful protesters; the number in my opinion might be more than 1000. Adhanom, then the country’s foreign minister, downplayed the extent of the problem and denounced even the scant international scrutiny of Ethiopia’s human rights record.

In an op-ed last October, Adhanom targeted Human Rights Watch – blaming the New York-based nonprofit and the Ethiopian diaspora for whipping up anti-government protests. Having systematically decimated domestic opposition, the civil society and independent press, this was part of his regime’s attempt to intimidate and silence critics abroad. Like the government he served, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying to shore up international support, Adhanom has turned to PR agencies to whitewash his image.

Adhanom is now travelling around the world hypocritically talking about health as a human right. But when he was health minister, his office refused to acknowledge large cholera outbreaks, which cost many lives. Today Ethiopia is also covering up yet another cholera outbreak, using the euphemism of acute watery diarrhoea.

Adhanom has also been touting his success with Ethiopia’s national Health Extension Program. I have friends who worked as extension workers and know communities that were supposed to benefit from this much-hyped initiative. Particularly in Oromo areas, the services never reached the people who needed them the most.

OPINION: The Oromo protests have changed Ethiopia

In some towns, poorly supplied health centres were built and extension workers with 10th grade education – who had only a year of medical training – were assigned to staff the facilities.

However, the poor training, distance the workers had to travel to get to the satellite offices and the lack of medical equipment and supplies meant the majority still don’t have access to quality health services. Moreover, admission into the programme requires party membership and mandatory political indoctrination.

In other words, Adhanom’s health ministry used the donor-funded health extension programme as a coercive political recruitment tool for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In some cases, people were denied access or were asked to join EPRDF in order to access even the measly services provided by extension workers.

That is not all. Ethiopia has gained international praise for reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. However, in Oromia today, babies often still die in great numbers from preventable diseases like diarrhoea. The true child mortality rate is never recorded since the statistics are falsified with the aim of meeting global development goals and keeping foreign aid coming. This practice has so far escaped international scrutiny given the lack of independent press, organised opposition and robust civil society in Ethiopia.

After years of authoritarian backsliding, Ethiopia is now effectively a military state, ruled by a Command Post that was setup to oversee the country’s now 8-month-long state of emergency, declared in October.

Despite these crimes, there is still an opportunity for Adhanom and the Ethiopian regime to do the right thing.

First, the martial law must be immediately lifted and protesters, journalists, opposition leaders and civil society members must be released from jail. Specifically, Oromo opposition leaders Bekele Gerba, Merera Gudina and their colleagues, must be released without further delay. Authorities must also allow independent investigation, including by UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and assembly, into human rights violations and the killings of protesters.

Second, instead of blaming the diaspora and neighbouring countries for the deepening political crisis, authorities must meet the protesters demands for a free and fair Ethiopia. That entails opening up the political environment and allowing the country’s 100 million citizens to elect their leaders – ending the hegemony of Adhanom’s Tigrayan ethnic group.

Finally, Adhanom – still a special adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister – must withdraw from the election for director general of the WHO and issue a formal apology to the Ethiopian people, the African Union and human rights groups for trying to divert attention from the crimes he and his government have committed over the last two decades and a half.

International civil society groups, the media and WHO member states face a unique opportunity to send a clear message that human rights matter. And perpetrators and enablers of atrocious crimes cannot be rewarded for their complacence in the face of egregious right abuses. Member states must reject Adhanom’s candidacy and demand that Ethiopia stops covering up water-borne diseases and be transparent about its record of child mortality and other key indicators.

I look forward to one day returning home to run across the blood red soil of my homeland. However, until the Oromo people gain their freedom, I will continue to protest in solidarity.  

Feyisa Lilesa is a long-distance runner from Ethiopia and a member of the Oromo people.


 

UNPO: European Parliament Resolution Condemns Crackdown on Civil Society in Ethiopia May 19, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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European Parliament Resolution Condemns Crackdown on Civil Society in Ethiopia

UNPO, 18 May 2o17


 

Photo credit: Antoine Lemonnier via Foter.com CC BY-NC-SA

On 18 May 2017, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Ethiopia, drawing attention to the violent crackdown on civil society in the country and shedding light more particularly on the case of Oromo opposition politician Dr Merera Gudina, still behind bars. The resolution urges the Ethiopian government to end the state of emergency and the restrictions it entails, as well as to stop using anti-terrorism legislation to suppress peaceful opposition. The European Union (EU) High Representative is called to “put pressure on the Ethiopian government” for it to allowan independent investigation into the killings of protesters. The current humanitarian crisis affecting the Ogaden region and beyond is also tackled in the document.

The last eight months have been a synonym of political repression and humanitarian distress for Ethiopia’s most vulnerable peoples and particularly for the inhabitants of Oromia and Ogaden. On 8 October 2016, in response to ongoing protests after the Irrecha massacre of 2 October, during which 600 demonstrators were killed, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency for Oromia. In the following week alone, the Ethiopian authorities had already arrested more than 1,600 people, mainly from the Oromia and Amhara regions. At the end of March 2017, the government announced an extension of the state of emergency by four months.

One emblematic case of the violent crackdown on human rights and civil liberties in the country is the arrest, on 1 December 2016, of Dr Merera Gudina, a high-level Oromo opposition politician, shortly after his return to Ethiopia. In his speech from 9 November in the European Parliament, Dr Gudina had roundly condemned the arrests that followed the institution of the state of emergency. On 23 February 2017, Dr Merera Gudina was charged with terrorism by Ethiopian prosecutors and since then he remains in jail, along with other political leaders, journalists and prominent elders.

Along with a dire human rights situation, the people from the region of Ogaden and beyond face a life-threatening crisis involving a devastating wave of deaths due to a cholera epidemic and famine. Due to this, since November 2016, it is estimated that 2,000 people have died in the remote rural areas of Ogaden.

During the debate that preceded the vote, MEPs raised their concerns over the recent events in Oromia and the overall human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. The text was supported by six parliamentary groups and authored by more than 90 MEPs.

A little bit more than a year after the last European Parliament resolution on Ethiopia, UNPO is glad to see that the MEPs are keeping up their efforts to bring up the plights of the Ethiopian peoples in the hemicycle. More than ever, our organization is committed to pursue its work with its Members, partners and decision-makers to urge Ethiopia to guarantee the protection of the human rights of its citizens, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

You can access the resolution by clicking here.

To watch the video of the plenary debate, please click here.

To read Human Rights Watch’s article on this topic, please click here.


 

HRW: European Parliament Demands Investigation Into Ethiopia Killings. #OromoProtes May 19, 2017

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European Parliament Demands Investigation Into Ethiopia Killings

Resolution Calls for Urgent UN Inquiry Into Protester Deaths and Detention

Global Voices: As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups. #WHA70 May 16, 2017

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As WHO Director-General Election Nears, Ethiopia’s Candidate Is Accused of Cholera Cover-Ups

A Unicef-supported pump in Ethiopia. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In January 2017, when Ethiopia’s candidate for director-general of World Health Organization, Tedros Adahanom, stormed to the top of the final three candidates — beating out six other candidates — it was a high time for Ethiopia’s government.

Although Adahanom had faced ferocious opposition from his fellow citizens, he has largely made it through unscathed, giving a propaganda victory for Ethiopian state media. With his well-funded campaign, Adahanom has traveled to more than 120 countries, and his supporters felt confident that his election is all but a matter of time.

Then on May 13, the New York Times ran a story reporting that a “prominent global health expert” had accused Adahanom of concealing three cholera epidemics from 2008 to 2011 during his tenure as Ethiopia’s health minister. Lawrence O. Gostin made the allegations; he is an informal adviser to one of Adahanom’s opponents in the director-general race, the UK’s David Nabarro, but Nabarro told the New York Times that he had not instructed Gostin to make the accusations on his behalf.

Finally! The @NYTimes calls out @WHO DG candidate @DrTedros for covering up cholera epidemic using the euphemism of Acute Water Diarrhea. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/863525012258656257 

Abebe Gellaw, a prominent Ethiopian journalist in the diaspora, wrote on Facebook that it was only the beginning:

New York Times has a hard-hitting article on Tedros Adhanom. Tedros says it is a “smear campaign”. But the revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot more will come out in the next few days…

A screenshot of the New York Times article on Tedros Adahanom. Click the image to read the story on nytimes.com

The explosive article made Adahanom and his supporters defensive while it created a sense of vindication for his opponents. Adahanom has denied the allegations. A former Reuters journalist who wrote Ethiopia’s cholera outbreak in 2009, however, responded on Twitter that the accusations as detailed in the New York Times story was consistent with what he had seen.

In 2009, when Tedros was health minister, I obtained minutes of an NGO/UN meeting, in which a cholera outbreak was acknowledged.

NGOs, UN and government refused to comment. And UN officials pressured me not to run story. Full story here: http://reut.rs/2pLNcz5 

Photo published for Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera/diarrhoea outbreak hits 18,000 in Ethiopia

Cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases have infected 18,000 people in Ethiopia over the last three weeks in many parts of the country, including the capital Addis Ababa, according to a document seen…

reuters.com

At the time, UN officials regularly complained in private that lack of acknowledgement from govt stopped them getting more aid in.

In responding to the allegations, Adahanom accused Nabarro’s camp of engaging in smear campaign with imperialistic intentions. Pro-government groups took this line of accusation even further, claiming Nabarro is working with Ethiopian opposition groups that are labeled as “terrorists.”

Ethiopia’s semi-official news outlet accuses the current special advisor to the UN Secretary General, Dr. David Navarro with terrorism.

😳 https://twitter.com/abbaacabsa/status/863805131342700545 

Since April 2014, a popular protest movement in Ethiopia has challenged the government, which in turn has responded brutally. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 800 people have died, and thousands of political opponents and hundreds of dissidents have been accused of terrorism. Since October 2016, authorities have imposed some of the world’s toughest censorship laws after it declared a state of emergency.

Now, the tactic of calling opponents “terrorists” has spilled over Ethiopia’s borders and might create blowback for Adahanom as his record is examined critically by international media.

The health ministers of WHO member states will vote for the new director-general on May 23, 2017.

TV Link: Why the Oromo People Are Fleeing Ethiopia April 28, 2017

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 Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

 Ethiopian demonstrators

Ethiopians Fleeing Human Rights Violations Sparked by Land Use Conflict


Tristan MartinSally Hayden TV Link, April 26, 2017

When marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finish line at the Rio Olympics, he crossed his arms above his head in an “X”, a sign of protest against the Ethiopian government’s treatment of his people, the ethnic Oromo.

The champion runner did not return home after the Olympics, fearing for his safety even though the government said he would not be punished.

Feyisa Lilesa
Feyisa Lilesa crosses the finish line of the Men’s Marathon athletics event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 21, 2016. Lilesa crossed his arms above his head as a protest against the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on political dissent. | ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

“[I knew] I would be jailed or killed if not, I would [never be allowed] out of that country and allowed to participate in any international competition or race at all,” Lilesa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I am quite sure those things would happen to me,” he said in a Skype interview from Rio where he has been staying since Monday when the rest of his team mates returned to Ethiopia.

The Oromia region, home to more than 25 million Oromos, has been riven by unrest for months over land rights and allegations of human rights violations.

Lilesa, 26, is one of thousands of Ethiopians estimated by activists to have left the country amid a security crackdown on demonstrations sparked by a conflict over land use policies.

City of Addis Ababa's proposed expansion plan
Map of municipal plans to expand city limits and include some parts of the Oromiya region within the capital city Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch estimated 400 demonstrators were killed by security forces between November 2015 and June 2016 during protests triggered by government plans to include some parts of Oromiya within the capital Addis Ababa’s limits.

Victim shot down during protests
Victim shot down during protests. | Oromia Media Network

Up to 100 people were shot in a single weekend in August when security forces also shut down the internet for 48 hours, according to activists.

Thousands more have been arrested, including the prominent Oromo activist Bekele Gerba, who was taken from his home in December.

The government, which disputes the death toll and says the protests are being staged illegally, stoked by rebel groups and overseas-based dissidents, did not respond to several requests by the Thomson Reuters Foundation for a comment.

Lilesa’s fear of being jailed upon his return home reflects the experiences of other Ethiopians who have spoken out against the government.

In the Greek capital Athens, 26-year-old Muaz Mahmud Ayimoo is staying in a cramped apartment with five other Oromo friends who are traveling with him.

A student from Haro Dumal city in Oromiya, Ayimoo was arrested by authorities and imprisoned for a month last November after he attended several non-violent protests along with fellow students.

Conditions for those detained were wretched and abuse was regular, Ayimoo said.

“They used to take us out one by one, torture us with electricity and beat us badly,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Muaz Mahmud Ayimoo
Muaz Mahmud Ayimoo, a 26-year-old Ethiopian refugee is staying in a cramped apartment in Athens with five other Oromo friends who are traveling with him. | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ayimoo’s family in Ethiopia paid a bribe for his release, later selling everything they had to get him to Europe.

“I can’t go back because I would lose my life,” he said.

Those in Athens are the lucky ones: Ayimoo’s wife and baby girl drowned in April after the boat they were on crossing the Mediterranean from Libya sank, killing hundreds, according to survivors.

“I could hear the screaming of my baby as I fell. I couldn’t save my family,” he said.

Muaz Mahmud Ayimoo shows photograph of his family
Muaz Mahmud Ayimoo shows photograph of his wife and daugther before their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea. | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Other Ethiopians now following the unrest from abroad include the journalists of the Oromia Media Network, a dissident satellite TV channel broadcasting into Ethiopia in the Oromo language from Minneapolis in the United States, a city home to around 40,000 Oromo.

Jawar Mohammed
Jawar Mohammed, executive director of the Oromia Media Network in Minneapolis. | Thomson Reuters Foundation

“We became part of the whole protester story,” said Jawar Mohammed, executive director of the network, which he said is watched by more than 11 million people in the Middle East and Africa at peak times.

Mohammed also regularly posts updates on his Facebook page, with more than 800,000 followers, about the unrest in his homeland.

Abel Wabella, 30, an activist who wrote for Zone9, a blog which focused on social and civic issues in Ethiopia, was imprisoned between April 2014 and October 2015 in what critics say was an attack on press freedom.

“I think the government is not ready for real reform the people are demanding right now. The people are tired of their false promises and will escalate their resistance,” he said.

 

Top image: Like many Ethiopian protesters across the world, women cross their hands during a protest against human rights violations in Ethiophia’s Oromia region, in front of United Nation’s information center in Pretoria, South Africa. | Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


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Fear of Investigation: What Does Ethiopia’s Government Have to Hide? April 21, 2017

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Fear of Investigation: What Does Ethiopia’s Government Have to Hide?

 

In February 2016, an 18-year-old student who I will call Tolessa and two friends took part in their first protest, in Oromia’s East Hararghe zone. As the crowd moved forward, they were met by a line of regional police, federal police and the army. Shortly thereafter and without warning, security forces fired live ammunition into the crowd hitting Tolessa four times. Miraculously he survived. But his two friends were not so lucky.

I first interviewed him in April 2016 for the Human Rights Watch June 2016 report on abuses during the first six months of the Oromo protests. Several days ago, Tolessa got in touch with me again to update me on his condition.

I spoke to him around the time that Ethiopia’s national Human Rights Commission submitted an oral report to parliament on the protests. This was the Commission’s second report to parliament, covering the protests between June and September in parts of Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR regions. The Commission found that 669 people were killed, including 63 members of the security forces, and concluded – once again – that security forces had taken “proportionate measures in most areas.”

While many will focus on the death toll, the commission’s conclusion that the use of force was mostly proportionate and appropriate is in stark contrast to the descriptions of victims like Tolessa, and at odds with the findings of other independent investigators. At this stage, the grounds for the commission’s conclusion are unclear, since no written report has yet been published.

In its first oral report to parliament, in June, the commission similarly concluded that the level of force used by federal security forces in Oromia was proportionate. The written version of this report was only made public this week, 10 months later. In the 92 page English version [134 pages in Amharic] there is no mention of security forces firing on protesters, mass arrests, torture in detention, or any one of a slew of other abuses that have been widely reported.

Instead, the commission largely describes violence committed by protesters as described to the commission members by local government officials, security forces, and elders. It parrots the government’s narrative, making many references to Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) involvement, but never provides any evidence for this allegation. It references interviews with detainees, but otherwise fails to describe the commission’s methodology, including how many protesters, victims, and witnesses its members interviewed.

It’s quite possible that many protesters and victims of security force abuses would not speak to the commission because of the widespread perception that it has no independence from the government. Independence is crucial for any successful national human rights commission, and the Ethiopian institution has failed to meet this bar for many years. I know first-hand that it is not difficult to find protesters willing to share their experiences.

Armed security officials watch as protesters stage a protest against government during the Irreechaa cultural festival in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 02, 2016.

Armed security officials watch as protesters stage a protest against government during the Irreechaa cultural festival in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 02, 2016.

Aside from the commission’s activities, there is no domestic scrutiny of security force abuses. The members of parliament are all from the ruling party and affiliates. The judiciary lacks independence on politically motivated cases. Various courts have consistently refused to investigate mounting allegations of torture from detainees. Harassment, prosecutions, and swathes of restrictions have stifled independent media and nongovernmental organizations. In this situation, the commission and other “independent” institutions like the ombudsmen could play a vital role in scrutinizing abuse by Ethiopia’s security forces, but they too are apparently hamstrung by government influence.

The government consistently tries to frame the protests as the result of lack of “good governance” and youth unemployment. Yet one of the most common slogans heard on the streets of Oromia and Amhara, particularly in the later months of the protests, was a call to respect human rights, stop shooting protesters, and stop imprisoning students. The patterns of abuse documented by several human rights groups in Oromia  during various periods, including the 2005 pre-election period and between 2011-2014 are strikingly similar.  In each case, the government ignored calls for independent investigations, denied the allegations, and claimed they were politically motivated. These longstanding patterns of abuse against those who challenge the government, committed with complete impunity, are key to understanding the levels of anger fueling protests in the streets of Oromia over the last 18 months. And Oromia isn’t the only place in Ethiopia that has experienced serious rights violations by security forces – sometimes repeatedly – without meaningful investigations.

In Gambella, Human Rights Watch documented possible crimes against humanity by the Ethiopian army in 2003 and 2004, including extrajudicial executions, rape, and torture. In the Somali Regional State (SRS), the Ethiopian military committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity between mid-2007 and 2008 during their counterinsurgency campaign against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The government-allied Liyu police have subsequently committed numerous extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and other attacks on civilians in SRS. Instead of permitting independent investigators to come in, the Ethiopian government consistently shuts the door and insists that Ethiopian institutions, such as the Human Rights Commission, can do the job.

I asked Tolessa his view of the commission. He said it’s “just another arm of the government,” and noted that the its head, Dr Addisu Gebregziabher, was previously chair of the National Electoral Board, another body with questionable independence. While the commission’s lack of independence is hardly newsworthy, it does underscore the need for independent, international scrutiny of Ethiopia’s rights record, especially given the government’s dubious claims that the commission’s investigations are credible. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn reiterated this claim during an April 18 interview with the BBC, rejecting calls for a UN investigation into the protests by stating that Ethiopia is “an independent country that can investigate its own cases.” Yet these repeated refusals beg the question: if the security forces acted appropriately, then what is the government trying to hide?

Ethiopia is currently a member of both the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council, which requires it to uphold the “highest standards of human rights.” Yet the government repeatedly rejects efforts to hold it to account, refusing entry to all UN special rapporteurs since 2007, except the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. There are many outstanding requests from these UN monitors – on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others. Recent calls by the United Nations top human rights official, the African Commission, the European parliament, and some members of United States Congress, for international investigations have all been dismissed. The government also avoids judicial scrutiny at the highest level as it is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ethiopia is certainly not alone in disliking international scrutiny of its rights record, yet many countries recognize that there are benefits to cooperation, particularly if there is genuine commitment to transparency, accountability, and improving human rights. Ethiopia’s continuous refusals call into question all of these commitments, instead making clear that it is not willing to stop using excessive force against protesters or torturing dissenters into silence.

Human Rights Watch research in many countries has demonstrated that a decision to ignore atrocities and reinforce a culture of impunity carries a high price, and merely encourages future abuses, which  should concern investors, diplomats, and others concerned about the long-term stability of Ethiopia following almost 18 months of bloody turmoil. An international investigation would be a first important step in ending Ethiopia’s culture of impunity and would send a powerful and overdue message to the Ethiopian government that its security forces cannot shoot and kill peaceful protesters with impunity. And it would send an important message to victims like Tolessa that their pleas for justice are being heard.


 

KP: Ethiopia’s Liyyu Police – Devils on Armored Vehicles: Is the crime in Darfur being replicated in Oromia regional state of Ethiopia? April 10, 2017

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Is the crime in Darfur being replicated in Oromia regional state of Ethiopia?
It is saddening to witness repetitions of similar tragic events in history. Recurrences of such dreadful events can even sound farcical when they happen in a very short span of both time and space. This is exactly what is currently happening in the Horn of Africa.  It is barely over a decade since the height of the Darfur genocide.  One would hope that the international community has been well informed to avoid repetition of Darfur like tragedy anywhere in the world.  However, it is depressing to observe that the Darfur crisis is in the process of being replicated in Ethiopia.
In this piece, I will explain how the scale of the crisis unfolding in Ethiopia’s Eastern and Southern regions (and those brewing up in other regions) can have a potential to dwarf the Darfur crisis.  The Janjaweed militia (in the case of Sudan) and the so-called Liyyu police (in the case of Ethiopia) are the catalysts for the crisis in their respective regions. For this reason, I will focus my analysis on explaining missions and functions of these two proxy militias.
Sudan’s Janjaweed – Devils on Horseback
In order to draw a parallel between the Darfur and Eastern Oromia, it would prove useful to recap the Janjaweed story.  Janjaweed literally means devils on horseback presumably because the Janjaweed often arrived riding horses while raiding and wreaking havoc in villages belonging to non-Arab ethnic groups. The origin of Janjaweed is rooted in a long established traditional conflict primarily over natural resources such as grazing rights and water control among the nomadic Arabized and the sedentary non-Arabized ethnic groups in Chad and Sudan. The Janjaweed militia were initially created as a pan-Arab Legion by the late Mohammed Gadafi in 1972 to tilt power balance in favor of the Arabized people of the region.  The key point to note here is that the origin of the Janjaweed as well as the conflict between Arabized and non-Arabized people in the region long predates the Darfur crisis which started in 2003.
The beginning of the Darfur crisis signified a confluence of the traditional conflict between ethnic groups with another strand of conflict in the region – the wider conflict between Sudanese national army and regional liberation movements, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army. The latter was still fighting to liberate what has now become South Sudan. In 2003, the government of Sudan encountered setbacks in its military operations against JEM and SPLA. In its desperate attempt to overcome failures in military front and also cover up for its planned ethnic cleansing in Darfur, the Al-Bashir government applied divide and rule tactic, thereby merging the two strands of the conflicts into one.  This was accomplished by organizing, training, arming and providing all necessary logistical support to the Janjaweed militia of the Arabized ethnic group in Darfur.  This was how Al-Bashir’s government has engineered ethnic cleansing and undertaken genocide in Darfur with a brutal efficiency, using the Janjaweed as a proxy militia group.  The number of people killed in Darfur was estimated to range between 178,000 to 462,000. Human rights groups have documented staggering number of rapes and mass evictions and destructions of livelihoods of millions of people in the region.
Ethiopia’s Liyyu Police – Devils on Armored Vehicles
“Liyyu” is an Amharic expression to mean “special”, so Liyyu police denotes a “special police”.  If the Janjaweed are devils on horseback, then Liyyu police can be described as demons maneuvering armored vehicles.  It is instructive to examine why, where, and when the regime in Addis Abeba has created Liyyu police.
The Liyyu police was created in 2008 in the Somali People’s Regional State of the ethnically constituted federal government of Ethiopia.  It is important to note that like any other regional state, the Somali Regional State (SRS henceforth) has a regular police force of its own.  But why was a special police required only for SRS?
The key point is to recognize that Liyyu police is nothing but only a variant of the usual proxy politics that has riddled Ethiopia’s political affair during the ruling EPRDF era.  This special force has no separate existence and no life of its own as such but it is just a proxy militia purposely created to cover up for human right abuses that was being perpetrated by Ethiopia’s National Defense Force (ENDF) but also planned to be intensified in its battles against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
The armed wing of ONLF, the Ogaden National Liberation Army (ONLA), has been engaged in armed conflict with ENDF for many years. This conflict reached a turning point in April 2007, when the ONLA raided an oil field and killed 74 ENDF soldiers and nine Chinese engineers.  This was followed by frequent clashes between ONLA and ENDF. The conflicts have led to gross human rights violations in the region at a scale unheard before. In its report of early 2008, the Human Rights Watch accused the ENDF for committing summary executions, torture, and rape in Ogaden and has called for donors to take necessary measures to stop crimes against humanity.
In an article entitled “Talking Peace in the Ogaden: The search for an end to conflict in the Somali Regional State (SRS) in Ethiopia”, author Tobias Hagmann observes that the creation of Liyyu police is essentially “indigenization of confrontation”.  In other words, the government in Ethiopia established Liyyu police to create a façade that human rights violations in Ogaden and its neighboring regional state are “local conflicts”. This was done pretty much in similar fashion with Sudanese government that resorted to countering freedom fighters in Darfur through the Janjaweed militia.  However, unlike the Janjaweed which were already in place, the government in Ethiopia had to assemble the Liyyu police from scratch, applying doggy recruitment methods, including giving prisoners the choice between joining Liyyu police or remaining in jail. The founder and leader of Liyyu Police was none other than the current President of SRS, Abdi Mohammed Omar, known as “Abdi Illey”, who was security chief at the time.
The size of Liyyu militia is estimated to have grown considerably over the years, currently standing at approximately around 42,000. However, any debate over the size of Liyyu police is essentially a superfluous argument, given that there is a very blurred line between ENDF and Liyyu police.  After all, it requires an expert eye to distinguish between the military fatigues of the two groups. It has been proven time and again that ENDF soldiers often get engaged in military actions disguised as Liyyu police by simply changing their military uniform to that of Liyyu police. In fact, it is a misnomer to consider Liyyu police as a unit separately operating with different military command structure within the Ogaden region.  For all intent and purposes, if we ignore niceties, the Liyyu police is a battalion of Ethiopia’s army operating in the region.
Fomenting Inter-Ethnic Conflict
Liyyu police is a special force with a dual purpose.  The first purpose has already highlighted Liyyu as a camouflage for atrocities being committed by ENDF in the SRS, to relegate such atrocities to a “local affair”, as if it is internal conflict between Somalis themselves.
Liyyu’s second purpose is to aggravate the already existing traditional conflicts between Somalis and Oromos over pasture and water resources.  ONLA in Ogaden and Oromo Liberation Army, OLA (the military wing of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front – OLF) have frustrated the Ethiopian army for decades.  While OLA has had support all over Oromia, it has traditionally been most active in Eastern and Southern Oromia – Oromia’s districts bordering with the SRS.
Therefore, the EPRDF government realized that it could ride on existing traditional conflicts through a proxy militia to fight two liberation fronts. This was carbon copy of how things were done in Darfur, indicating how dictators learn from each other. Except that the EPRDF had to create Liyyu police from scratch, it acted in similar fashion with the way the Bashir government used the Janjaweed militia in Darfur.
Oromo and Somali herdsmen have traditionally clashed over grazing and water resources but such conflicts have always short-lived due to effective conflict resolution mechanisms practiced by local elders on both sides. These conflict resolution systems have evolved over centuries of peaceful coexistence between the two communities. The EPRDF government’s divide and rule strategy has long targeted to change this equilibrium, and exploit the existing conflict to its advantage.
Conflicts have traditionally arisen when herds arrived at water holes, leading to confrontations as to whose cattle get served first, essentially a conflict over “resource use”, rather than “resource ownership”. Conflicts flare up often among the youth but they were immediately put under control by the elders. Besides, each side are equally equipped with simple tools such as traditional sticks or simple ammunitions, so there has always been power equilibrium.  But the regime sought an effective means of aggravating these conflicts by transforming them in to a permanent one.
Such manipulation of the situation was done essentially in two ways.  First, supplying deadly modern military equipment, training and military logistics to Liyyu police, thereby destabilizing the existing power balance. Second, and critically, by changing the nature of the conflict from “use rights” to “ownership” of the resource itself.  The conflicts were engineered to be elevated from clashes between individual members of communities to that between Somali and Oromo people at a higher scale.
The seeds for conflicts were sown in the process of redrawing borders along adjacent districts of the Somali and Oromia regional states. In this process, the number of contested Kebeles, the lowest administrative units in Ethiopia, were made to suddenly proliferate.  Over a decade ago, the number of such contested kebeles already escalated to well over 400. In order to resolve disputes between the two regional states, a referendum was held in October 2004 in 420 kebeles along 12 districts or five zones of the Somali Region. The outcome of the referendum was that Oromia won 80% of the disputed kebeles and SRS won the remaining kebeles.  Critically, regardless of the outcome, severe damage was already done to durable good-will in community relationships due to purposeful manipulation of the process by the regime in Addis Abeba before, during and after the referendum.
Once the referendum results were known, all the dark forces bent on divide and rule needed to do was to nudge the Somalis to claim that the vote were rigged during the referendum and hence they should aim to get their territory back by other means, that is to say by force and the Liyyu police was created to do the job.
Since it came into existence, Liyyu’s operations have often overlapped but with varying degrees of intensities across its dual-purposes.  During its first phase, Liyyu police focused on operations within Somali region. These operations had much less to do with fighting ONLA but raiding villages and drying up popular support base of the ONLF, in the process committing gross human rights violations at a massive scale. Human rights organizations have widely documented arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, rapes, tortures and ill-treatment of detainees in the region.
Over the years, however, Liyyu’s operations have increasingly focused on the second pillar of the proxy militia’s mission – cross border raids into Oromia.  However, Liyyu’s frequent raids into Oromia have not received enough attention from human rights organizations and hence atrocities committed by this proxy militia on Oromo communities over a decade or so has not been well documented.  The authorities in Addis Abeba, who have purposefully sown seeds of conflict to aggravate traditional clashes, have often deliberately misreported Liyyu Police raids as “the usual fights” between Oromo and Somali herdsmen but nothing could be further from the truth.
In a desperate attempt to gain popular support from the Somali people, the Liyyu police military adventures have been conducted in the name of regaining territory the SRS lost to Oromia during the referendum of 2004.  The evidence one could adduce for this is that every time Liyyu Police encroached into Oromia and occupied a village, they would immediately hoist the Somali flag as a sign of declaring that territorial gains.  The proxy militia has done so after attacking and killing large number of civilians and displacing thousands of households in numerous districts in Eastern Oromia: Qumbi, Mayu Mulluqe, Goohaa, Seelaa Jaajoo, Miinoo. Liyyu Police overrun the town of Moyale in Southern Oromia resulting in the death of dozens of people and forcing tens of thousands to flee to Kenya. It was reported that during an attack on Moyale town in Southern Oromia “the 4th army division [of ENDF] stationed just two miles outside the town center watched silently as the militia overrun the police station and ransacked the town. Then the militia was allowed safe passage to retreat after looting and burning the town while administrators of the Borana province who protested against the army complacency were thrown to jail.”
Alliances and Counter-Alliances
The Oromo Peaceful protests erupted on 12th November 2015 and then engulfed the nation, spreading to all corners of Oromia like a forest fire.  Oromo Protests ignited Amhara resistance, and then ended up with Oromo-Amhara alliance.  It became commonplace to see solidarity slogans on placards carried by protestors both in Amhara and Oromia. It should be noted that Oromo and Amhara population constitute well over two-third of Ethiopia’s population. It was historical acrimony and rivalry between these two dominant ethnic groups which provided a fertile ground for the divide and rule strategy so intensely practiced by the current regime which is dominated by the TPLF, the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front. The Tigre ethnic group account for less than 6% of Ethiopia’s population.
The Oromo-Amhara solidarity sent shock waves among the Tigrean ruling elites.  The Oromo Protest, Amhara Resistance and other popular protests elsewhere in Ethiopia exposed the fake nature of the coalition in the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF). It has always been an open secret that EPRDF essentially means TPLF (the Tigrean People Liberation Front). The remaining parties, especially the OPDO (Oromo People’s Democratic Party) was cobbled up in haste from prisoners of war when TPLF was approaching Addis Abeba to control power by ousting the military junta back in 1991. However, even the so-called OPDO – lately joined by the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) – felt empowered by the popular protests in their respective regions sending a clear sign that TPLF was about to be left naked with its garbs removed.
Now that the Tigreans realized that they cannot reply on dividing Oromo and Amhara any more, they resorted to another variant of divide and rule – fostering alliance between minorities to withstand the impending solidarity between the two majority ethnic groups. This strategic shift was elucidated by two most senior TPLF veterans, Abay Tsehaye and Seyoum Mesfin, in their two-part interview conducted (in Amharic) with the government affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation. The TPLF-dominated-EPRD’s new strategy was to present the Oromo-Amhara coalition as a threat to the minority ethnic groups, such as Tigre and Somali.  The regime has already experimented pitting minority against majority at different scales: Tigreans against the rest of Ethiopians at national scale, Somali against Oromo at regional scale, and many more similar fabricated divisions at regional and local levels in many communities across Ethiopia.  What is new is the fact that these two relatively separate strands are explicitly brought together and extensively implemented at national scale.
In addition to the interview cited above, one can adduce more evidences to illustrate the new machination by the Tigre and Somali political and security alliance.  For instance, there was an incidence in which Amhara popular uprising caused some ethnic Tigreans to get relocated from the Amhara regional state. What happened next raised eyebrows of many observers: Abdi Mohamoud Omar, SRS President who rules his people with iron fist, declared his cabinet’s endorsement to “donate 10 million birr for displaced innocent Ethiopian people [Tigreans] from Gondar & Bahir Dar cities of the Amhara regional state”.
Further evidence regarding the maneuvering of minority alliance with deadly intent comes from Aigaforum, a TPLF mouthpiece. In an article entitled “Liyyu Police: The Savior”, the website came up with the following jumbled up assertion: “they [Liyyu Police] are from the people and for the people of Somali region; to protect the honor and dignity of their own people and overall Security of the region, and Ethiopia at large. This special force has a mandate primarily to protect the people of [the] region, to secure and stabilize the aged conflict in Somali region of Ethiopia.  This Special force is not like a tribal militia from any specific clan or sub-clan in the region, rather they are holistic and governmental arms —who are well screened, registered and recruited from kebeles and woredas and trained [as per the] standards [of] Ethiopian military training package and armed with modern military equipment. Besides being regional state special forces; they are part and parcel of Ethiopian arm[y].”
In an overzealous effort to glorify the devilish proxy militia, aigaforum inadvertently exposes TPLF by admitting that actually Liyyu Police is part and parcel of the national army, a fact the TPLF politicians have never admitted in public.
Towards full-scale atrocity?
The alliance between Tigre elites and Abdi Mohammed Omar’s cabinet got manifested in the transformation of Liyyu police’s mission from sporadic military excursions to full scale invasion of Oromia. This started by deploying Liyyu police in Oromia to attack and disburse peaceful protestors. For instance, based on eye witness accounts Land-info reported that starting from January 2016 Liyu Police was being used against Oromo demonstrators in many locations, including in Dire Dawa and Bededo.
By the third quarter of 2016, popular protests did not only intensify but literally covered most parts of the country.  However, protests that were inherently peaceful were transformed into confrontations between the protestors and the security forces because the latter have already mowed down the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians during the previous months.  In a desperate attempt to hang onto power, the TPLF dominated regime enacted a State of Emergency (SoE) on October 8, 2016.
An essential component of the SoE is securitization of many regions and transport corridors in Ethiopia.   Particularly, Oromia, the birth place of the latest popular protest, was literally converted into a “high security prison” and Oromos were effectively “put under house arrest”.  Oromia’s regional government was made redundant, being replaced at all levels by Military Command Posts, a form of local and regional government by a committee of armed officers. This was exactly the way it has been for the most part of the previous two decades except that the SoE signaled a temporary move to direct control by the military, abandoning the all too familiar indirect controls through puppet civilian parties such as OPDO.
Soon after the SoE was enacted, Abdi Illey declared an all-out war and the Liyyu Police was unleashed on all fronts along the Oromia and SRS boundary, stretching over a total of close to 1200 km. According to information from the Oromia Regional State, the 14 districts affected in the latest wave of Liyyu Police invasion are: Qumbi, Cinaksan, Midhaga Tola, Gursum, Mayu Muluqe and Babile in East Hararghe; Bordode in West Hararghe; Dawe Sarar, Sawena, Mada Walabu and Rayitu in Bale; Gumi Eldelo and Liban in Guji; and Moyale in Borana.  It is highly significant to note that there is at least 500 km “as the-crow-flies” distance between Qumbi (extreme North East) and Moyale (extreme South West).  Therefore, the sheer number of districts affected, the physical distances between them, and the simultaneous attacks at all fronts indicate that Liyyu’s latest invasion of Oromia is a highly sophisticated and coordinated military adventure which can only be understood as planned by the TPLF-dominated regime’s military central command.
The SoE was enacted with explicit intention of laying information blackout all over Ethiopia, particularly in the highly securitized Oromia Regional State.   For this reason, it is difficult to obtain reliable estimates on victims of Liyyu’s invasion of Oromia.  Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been receiving reports that dozens of casualties have been, including many civilians in Oromia but “[R]estrictions on access have made it difficult to corroborate details.” Locals indicate that Liyyu police have so far killed large numbers of civilians.  Oromo civilians have given up with the hope of getting any meaningful protection from ENDF, given that by now it has become an open secret that the latter is complicit in the invasion.  Consequently, in a desperate act of survival, Oromos have organized a civilian defense force.  Based on incidents of confrontation between Liyyu Police and Oromo civilian defense force around 23rd February 2017 in Southern Oromia, the Human Rights League for Horn of Africa (HRLHA) reported about 500 people were killed, over 200 injured.  If so much destruction has happened in a few days and few districts, then it is possible to imagine that wanton destructions must have been happening during several months of Liyyu police’s occupation in all districts across the long stretch along the Oromia-Somali region boundaries.  Opride, an online media, reported: “Mothers and young girls have been gang raped, according to one Mayu resident, who spoke to OPride by phone. He said the attacking Liyu Police were fully armed and they moved about in armored vehicles brandishing machine guns and other heavy weapons. They stole cattle, goats, camels and other properties.”
Publicity and Accountability
When it comes to publicity and awareness, Darfur and Eastern Oromia can only be contrasted.  Although it did not lead to avoiding large-scale atrocities, the international community got involved in the case of Darfur at much early stage of the crisis.  On the contrary, it is well over a decade now since Abdi Illey’s Liyyu police began rampaging in Ogaden as well as Oromia but the international community has chosen to turn a blind eye to the regional crisis, which has gained momentum and now nearly getting out of control.
Perhaps the reason gross human rights violations by Liyyu Police has been ignored or tolerated by the international community lies in the fact that some donors have been directly implicated in financing and supporting the paramilitary group. For instance, the British Press has repeatedly accused DFID for wasting UK tax payer money on providing training to the Somali Liyyu Police.  Similarly, there are evidences to suggest that the notorious proxy militia has also been funded by the US government.  It is no wonder then that the UK, US, and the rest of the international community have ignored for so long the unruly Liyyu Police’s military adventures in Ogaden and Oromia.
Last week, the HRW released a report entitled Ethiopia: No Justice in Somali Region Killings. This report is timely in raising awareness of the general public as well as drawing the attention of authorities in the UK and the US, who are most directly implicated with financing the militia group.  However, I would hasten to add that what has been lacking is the political will to act and curb the activities of Liyuu police.  Starting from 2008 the HRW has released numerous similar reports but this did not stop the atrocities the paramilitary group is committing from escalating over the years.
The HRW’s report asserting that “Paramilitary Force Killed 21, Detained Dozens, in June 2016”, indicates that the report is anchored on an incident that happened in SRS about ten months ago.  Although the focus of the report was on the particular incident in SRS, it has also highlighted Liyyu Police’s latest atrocities in Oromia.  As indicated in the report, the SoE related movement restrictions means the HRW had to release the report on the incidence in SRS with ten months delay.  Clearly, HRW and other human rights organizations could not undertake any meaningful independent assessment on the damages caused by the latest invasion into Oromia.  The point here is that while HRW has been grabbling with conducting inquiries into a case in which dozens of people were killed or detained in SRS in mid-2016, Liyyu police has killed and abducted hundreds in Oromia since the start of 2017.
The TPLF dominated EPRDF regime in Addis Abeba has long started sowing the seeds of divide and rule strategy coupled with deliberate acts of fomenting conflicts between different communities.  The motivation is pretty clear –it is an act of survival, a minority rule can sustain itself only if it turned other ethnic groups against each other.  The case of Liyyu Police and its latest invasion of Oromia fits into that scheme.
If not addressed timely and decisively, Liyyu Police’s invasion of Oromia has a potential to turn into a full-blown atrocities that is likely to dwarf what happened in Darfur. Clearly, the tell-tale signs are already in place. Genocide Watch, the international alliance to end genocide, states that “Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.) Sometimes organization is informal (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or decentralized (terrorist groups.) Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings.”
In Ethiopia, this situation on the ground is rapidly changing and it requires an urgent response from the international community.
By J. Bonsa (PhD)

Realeted:-

press-statement-on-oromo-massacre-by-ogaden-liyu-militia-final-feb-02-2017-issued-by-sidama-national-liberation-front-snlf-executive-committee

Why Is Western media ignoring ongoing atrocity in Ethiopia? April 7, 2017

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Ethnic Oromo students rally together as they demand the end of foreign land grabs marching with placards on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2014. Image: FlickrCC

She spoke to me with tears in her eyes describing the calculated execution of her own people. Even though Atsede Kazachew feels relatively safe as an Ethnic Amharic Ethiopian woman living inside the United States, she is grieving for all her fellow ethnic Ethiopians both Amharic and Omoro who have been mercilessly killed inside her own country.

“There is no one in the United States who understands,” outlined Atsede. “Why? Why?” she asked as her shaking hands were brought close to her face to hide her eyes.

The Irreecha Holy Festival is a hallowed annual celebration for North East Africa’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo people. Bringing together what has been counted as up to two million people, who live near and far away from the city of Bishoftu, the Irreecha Festival is a annual gathering of spiritual, social and religious significance. It is also a time to appreciate life itself as well as a celebration for the upcoming harvest in the rural regions.

Tragically on Sunday October 2, 2016 the event ended in what Ethiopia’s government said was 55 deaths but what locals described as up to 700 deaths and casualties.

“The Ethiopian government is engaged in its bloodiest crackdown in a decade, but the scale of this crisis has barely registered internationally…,” outlined UK Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) David Mepham in a June 16, 2016 media release published by the International Business Times.

“For the past seven months, security forces have fired live ammunition into crowds and carried out summary executions…” added Mepham.

So what has the U.S. been doing about the present crisis situation in Ethiopia?

With a long relationship of diplomacy that spans over 100 years beginning in 1903, that builds up the U.S. to consider Ethiopia as an ‘anchor nation’ on the African continent, corrupt politics and long range U.S. investors in the region are an integral part of the problem. All of it works a head in the sand policies that pander to the status of the ‘’quid pro quo’.

Spurred on by what locals described as Ethiopia military members who disrupted the gathering by threatening those who came to attend the holiday event; the then makeshift military threw tear gas and gun shots into the crowd. The voices of many of those who were present described a “massive stampede” ending in numerous deaths.

“This has all been so hard for me to watch,” Atseda outlined as she described what she witnessed on a variety of videos that captured the ongoing government militarization and violence in the region. “And there’s been little to no coverage on this,” she added. “Western media has been ignoring the situation with way too little news stories.”

“Do you think this is also an attempt by the Ethiopian military to commit genocide against the ethnic Omoro people?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered. The Amharic and the Omoro people have suffered so very much over many years, outlined Atsede. Much of it lately has been about government land grabs, on land that has belonged to the same families for generations, Atsede continued.

The details on the topic of apparent land grabs wasn’t something I knew very much about in the region, even though I’ve been covering international news and land grabs in Asia Pacific and China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region along with the plight of global women and human rights cases for over a decade.

JONATHAN ALPEYRIE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
One lone woman stands out surrounded by men during her march with Ethiopia’a Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a national self-determination organization that has worked to stop atrocity against rural ethnics inside Ethiopia beginning as far back as 1973. Today the Ethiopian government continues to classify the OLF as a terrorist organization. In this image the look on this unnamed woman’s face says “a-thousand-words.” Image: Jonathan Alpeyrie/Wikimedia Commons

Numerous ethnic women living inside Ethiopia today in 2017 are attempting to work toward peace in the northern and southern regions of Ethiopia as they continue to witness the destructive crackdown of the government against rural farming communities.

Under conditions of internal national and border conflict, ethnic Ethiopian women can often face increased stress under forced relocation, personal contact with unwanted violence including domestic abuse and rape, and discriminatory conditions for their family and children that can also affect conditions causing food insecurity and loss.

Increasing land grabs play an integral part of high levels of stress for women who normally want to live with their family in peace without struggle. But corruption on the leadership levels inside Ethiopia are encouraging land acquisitions that ignore the needs of families who have lived on the same land for centuries.

As Ethiopia’s high level business interests continue to be strongly affected by insider deals under both local and global politics the way back to peace is becoming more and more difficult.

Even foreign government advocacy agencies like the World Bank, DFID, as well as members of the European Union, have suffered from ongoing accusations of political pandering and corrupt practices with business interests inside Ethiopia.

With the release of the film ‘Dead Donkeys / Fear No Hyenas’ by Swedish film director Joakim Demmer the global public eye is beginning to open widely in understanding how land grab corruption works inside East Africa. With a story that took seven years to complete the film is now working to expand its audience through an April 2017 Kickstarter campaign.

“Dead Donkeys / Fear No Hyenas was triggered by a seemingly trivial scene at the airport in Addis Ababa, six years back. Waiting for my flight late at night, I happened to see some tired workers at the tarmac who were loading food products on an airplane destined for Europe. At the same time, another team was busy unloading sacks with food aid from a second plane. It took some time to realize the real meaning of it – that this famine struck country, where millions are dependent on food aid, is actually exporting food to the western world,” outlined film director Demmer.

It’s no wonder that anger has spread among Ethiopia’s ethnic farming region.

“The anger also came over the ignorance, cynicism and sometimes pure stupidity of international societies like the EU, DFID, World Bank etc., whose intentions might mostly be good, but in this case, ends up supporting a dictatorship and a disastrous development with our tax money, instead of helping the people…,” continued Demmer in his recent Kickstarter campaign.

“What I found was that lives were being destroyed,” added Demmer in another recent March 28, 2017 interview with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute. ”I discovered that the World Bank and other development institutions, financed by tax money, were contributing to these developments in the region. I was ashamed, also ashamed that European and American companies were involved in this.”

“Yes. And yes again,” concurred Atsede in her discussion with me as we talked about big money, vested interests and U.S. investors inside Ethiopia, including other interests coming from the UK, China, Canada and more.

As regional farmers are pushed from generational land against their will, in what has been expressed as “long term and hard to understand foreign leasing agreements”, ongoing street protests have met numerous times with severe and lethal violence from government sanctioned security officers.

Ironically some U.S. foreign oil investments in the region vamped up purchasing as former U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken showed approval of the Dijbouti-Ethiopia pipeline project during a press meeting in Ethiopia in February 2016.

In April 2017, as anger with the region’s ethnic population expands, Ethiopia has opted to run its government with a four month extension as President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu announced a continuation of the “State of Emergency.”

“How long can Ethiopia’s State of Emergency keep the lid on anger?” asks a recent headline in The Guardian News. Land rights, land grabs and the growing anger of the Oromo people is not predicted to stop anytime soon.

The ongoing situation could cost additional lives and heightened violence say numerous human rights and land rights experts.

“The government needs to rein in the security forces, free anyone being held wrongfully, and hold accountable soldiers and police who used excessive force,” said Human Rights Watch Deputy Regional Africa Director Leslie Lefko.

“How can you breathe if you aren’t able to say what you want to say,” echoed Atsede Kazachew. “Instead you get killed.”

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AI: ETHIOPIA TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT: License to torture March 29, 2017

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A license to torture

Seyoum Teshome is a professor at a university in Ethiopia and writes to fight the spread of fear that has engulfed his country as a result of an increasingly repressive administration. In September 2016, Seyoum was arrested and charged with incitement to violence against the state. In this blog, he describes the treatment of prisoners in one of Ethiopia’s rehabilitation centres, where he was detained further to his arrest. Thousands of Ethiopians like Seyoum have been arrested and tortured in rehabilitation centres since the state of emergency was imposed in October 2016.

It was around 6:30 am on 30 September 2016 when I was rudely awakened by loud knocks on my door and someone shouting out my name. Peeping through the keyhole, I saw around 10 local police officers. Some of them were staring at the door while others were guarding the corridor.

I said to myself, “Yap! At last…here you go, they have come for you!”

One of them asked if I was Mr Seyoum Teshome to which I replied in the affirmative. They said they wanted to talk to me for a moment, so I opened the door. They showed me a court warrant which gave them permission to search my house. The warrant indicated that I had illegal weapons and pamphlets to incite violence against the government.

Accused without evidence

After searching my entire house and despite finding no signs of the said items, they arrested and took me to a local police station. They also carried off my laptop, smartphone, notebooks and some papers. Confident that they hadn’t found the items mentioned in the court warrant, I was certain of my release. However, three hours later, I found myself being interrogated by a local public prosecutor and two police investigators. The interrogation eventually led to the commencement of a legal charge.

I was scheduled to sit a PhD entry exam on 2 October 2017 at Addis Ababa University, something I had been working towards for a very long time. Throughout the interrogation, my pleas for the case to be hastened so that I wouldn’t miss the rare opportunity to pursue a PhD course fell on deaf ears. My colleagues had provided a car and allowance fee for a police officer to go with me to the university so that I could sit the exam. This is a standard procedure. Yet on that day, they were not willing to lend me a hand. I was stuck in pre-trial detention due to Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and missed my chance.

Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.
Seyoum Teshome

The day before my arrest, I had given an interview to Deutche Welle-Amharic radio station about the nation-wide teachers meeting where I commented that, in Ethiopia, expressing one’s own opinion could lead to arrest, exile or possibly death. Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.

On 3 October 2016, I was presented in court. I was accused of writing articles and posts on social media sites aiming to incite violence against the government. In addition to the two notebooks and papers they had taken from my house, the investigator had also printed 61 pages of the 58 articles I posted on the Horn Affairs website that year. In total, they brought more than 200 pages of written and printed writings as evidence to support their allegations. I denied all the charges.

Another court session was scheduled in 10 days to allow the police to conclude their investigations. The 10 days lapsed and the police requested an additional seven days to complete their investigations on me while denying me bail.

On 20 October 2016, a jury found there was no evidence to support the police department’s claims. I thought the matter was over but I was immediately accused of contravening the State of Emergency that had been declared on 9 October 2017. A piece of paper with some writing on it was presented as evidence to support the charge.

Barely survived

The Police initially took me to Tolay Military Camp and later transferred me, together with others arrested, to Woliso Woreda Police Station in central Ethiopia, outside Addis Ababa.  We were shoved into a 3×5 metres squared detention room where we joined more than 45 other people already there. It was very hard to find a place to sit. I survived suffocation by breathing through a hole beneath the door. After that terrible night, I was taken back to Tolay where I stayed until 21 December, 2016 – 56 days after my arrest.

Access to food in the first 20 days was limited. We were made to walk while crouching with our hands behind our heads. We also walked barefoot to and from the toilet and dining areas. Due to this treatment, three of my fellow detainees suffered cardiac arrest. I don’t know whether or not they survived. I also heard that a woman’s pregnancy was terminated.

Every day, a police officer came to our room and called out the names of detainees to be taken for the so-called “investigation.”  When they returned, the detainees had downtrodden faces and horrible wounds on their backs and legs.  Waiting for one’s name to be called was agony.

The healing wound on the back of Seyoum’s leg after being beaten with wood and plastic sticks while in detention.

It took eight days before my name was finally called. I sat in front of five investigators flanked on either side by two others. While I was being interrogated, detainees in another room were being beaten. I could hear them crying and begging their torturers to stop.

Moved by what I had witnessed, I decided to secretly gather the detainees’ information. It didn’t take long before I was discovered by the authorities. On a hot afternoon, they came to my room and called my name. A group of investigators ruthlessly began beating me, to the point where I fainted three times. The beatings were unbearable so I finally confessed to collecting information in the camp. The chief investigator was then called in so that I could also confess to him.

Undeterred

By then, I had gained enough strength to renounce my earlier confessions which angered   the Chief Investigator very much. He drew a pistol and threatened to kill me for making a fool out of them. I stretched turned around and spread my arms wide.  Then, I said, “Fear of death doesn’t make me confess against myself! Go ahead, shoot!”

Amazingly, the commander ordered me to go to my room and take a shower. I didn’t believe it. I still don’t. I quickly ran off. I was released a little over two weeks later.

Though I finally left Tolay, those memories and emotions are still with me. Though I am still afraid of another arbitrary arrest and being sent back to prison, what I fear more is the totalitarian state that complete denies freedom. . While there, I told myself that, if I made it out, I would raise international awareness on the government’s outrageous treatment of prisoners.

I will continue to do so as long as Tolay exists.

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NEWS ANALYSIS: TOURISM IN PROTEST-RIDDEN ETHIOPIA IS HURTING; REVIVING IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN UNVEILING A LOGO March 28, 2017

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NEWS ANALYSIS: TOURISM IN PROTEST-RIDDEN ETHIOPIA IS HURTING; REVIVING IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN UNVEILING A LOGO

Fitsum Abera, Addis Standard, 27 March 2017


Last week on March 22, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who also chairs the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council, officially introduced the Amharic version of Ethiopia’s new tourism logo ‘Ethiopia, Land of Origins’. It is now called Midre Kedemt in Amharic.

The Prime Minister unveiled the Amharic version of the new logo while attending the fourth regular meeting of the Council, which was established three years ago in March 2014 along with the Ethiopian Tourism Organization. Reason? To transform the country’s ailing tourism industry.

A sign of urgency to reboot the country’s tourism industry plagued by, among others, poor tourism infrastructure and absence of meaningful coordination, both the Council and the Organization were established following a regulation issued by the Council of Ministers (CoM) in August 2013.

The ups and downs

Tourism in Ethiopia has been witnessing an increasing- if modest- growth since the country officially opened its doors to foreign tourists in 1963.  According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the most significant dip in the number of foreigners visiting Ethiopia happened during the 17 years in power of the military Derg regime from 1974 to 1991.  Since then, following the coming into power of the incumbent in 1991, the numbers have shown a steady growth from 64,000 to 750,000 during the 2014/15 fiscal year.

That was until November 2015, when anti-government protests that would grip the country throughout 2016 first started, an unexpected turn of an event both the Council and the Organization seemed not prepared to handle.

“That [the time the protests began] was when we started to notice the difference,” says a tour operator who requested anonymity.  “More and more clients began asking questions about security as the [protests] got international press coverage. Pretty soon the low season was upon us and the number of tourists plummeted as we [feared]. But we didn’t expect that more than 95% of our bookings for the high season would end up being canceled.”

The high season in Ethiopia typically starts in September, when the main rainy season is over; and it ends around February when it becomes too hot to take tourists to famous destinations such as the Danakil depression.

Encouraged by the steady inflow of tourists before the start of the protests, our source invested in two 4WD cars. “We bought two cars towards the end of the last fiscal year,” he explained. “We borrowed money from a bank and invested some from our own accounts. But there are no tourists now and we can’t even rent the cars to business tourists coming to Addis Abeba. We don’t know what to do. We are just paying rent, maintaining a small staff and hoping for the best at the moment.”

Although order seemed to have returned following the declaration of the current state of emergency in October last year, and “we are getting more requests now than before, it is not enough to maintain our business,” our source worries. “If things continue at this rate, we will be forced to close down. We picked a bad time to expand our business.” He also said most of their clients come from abroad after communicating with them via the internet, which suffered its own share misfortune as the country shut down internet following protests. Walk in and domestic clients account only for less than 2% of their total bookings, he said.

His frustrations are shared by many tour and travel companies that joined the market recently. Not only tour operators but those working in the transport sector were affected as well, according to Getnet Asefa, a freelance driver/guide. Getnet, who used to make an average 500birr (around $21) per day as a freelance guide, says he is now considering a change in career. “Last year at this time, I worked at least 4 days a week,” he says, “Now getting tourism work has become very difficult. Some of my friends have started working as taxi drivers. At this point, we don’t know what is going to happen next and that is scary.”

Embassy travel warnings aren’t helping the matter, either. The United States traveling warning, issued in Dec. 2016, and the United Kingdom foreign travel advice, updated most recently in Jan. 2017, are still in effect. In fact, the only country that has lifted its travel ban is Germany. But even that excludes traveling to North Gondar, an area located in a region where most tourist detestations are found.

The effect is also felt among tour and travel agencies that on the surface seemed to be doing well. “We are concerned that the company won’t survive this year,” says Yenealem Getachew, managing director of Horizon Ethiopia Tour and Travel plc. “We don’t expect to be reimbursed for our losses. But we do have many commitments. For example, we have to pay profit tax at the end of the year. Some of us have bank loans. When you have a debt to service, that is the first thing you want to take care of. If you can’t do that, you start to lay off employees.”

Yenealem said his company has asked the government for help but they “still haven’t got a response. I think they are more concerned about companies with physical damage. They don’t seem to grasp that without clients we tour operators get nothing.”

In late Oct. 2016, Ethiopia Ministry of Culture and Tourism, MOCT, has established a command post to assess the damage the industry sustained as well as to ensure the “safety of tourists”. “We went to see the damage caused by the protesters,” Tewedros Derbew, Tourist Services Competence and grading directorate director at the ministry and head of the committee, told Addis Standard. “We called the owners for a meeting to discuss how to help them as well as to offer moral support. We have now sent a report to the investment commission detailing their losses. We have also distributed questionnaires to tour operators but we haven’t received their responses yet.”

Tewedros admits “the industry has been severely affected. There is no question about that.” But contrary to the actors in the industry say, he insists “no tour and travel company was forced or threatened to close down or let go of its employees because of it.”

The opposite of…

In late 2015, around the same time the protests began, MOCT announced that it wanted to “triple the number of foreign visitors, to more than 2.5 million, by 2020”, and make Ethiopia become one of Africa’s top five tourist destinations.

In a stark difference to what the actors in the industry and several reports say in post-protest Ethiopia, in a January 2017 report to the house of people’s representatives, Hirut Woldemariam, the new minister at the ministry of culture and tourism, reported that despite the current state of emergency 300,000 tourists have visited the country during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, generating $872 revenue to the country.

But as in every sector, data for this sector is prepared by the government itself. If one goes by Hirut’s numbers above for example, more tourists have visited Ethiopia during its turbulent year than in its years of peace. In Oct. 2015, one month before the start of the protests, the same ministry said that during the 2014/15 fiscal year, 750,000 tourists have visited Ethiopia, fetching in $2.9 billion income to the county. That figure is close to the $3b the government expected to earn from the industry by the end of its first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in 2015.

Other hurdles

In Oct. 2016, Lonely Planet has rated Ethiopia 10th out of the “Top Ten Countries to visit in 2017.” But, that announcement seemed to contribute little when it comes to shaking off Ethiopia’s image in the aftermath of the widely reported yearlong protests.

“Image is everything for a country’s tourism sector,” one expert says. “We had just managed to overcome decades of bad publicity caused by famines and violent regime changes. [As of late] Ethiopia had been named one of the emerging tourist destinations. The country’s overall infrastructure was getting better. Then this [the protest] happens. It will take a long time to recover from the effects of the unrest. It is difficult to predict just how long.”

Other issues many tour operators cite in relation to the decline in tourism are the substandard services and accommodations, inadequate maintenance given to tourism infrastructure and destinations, and the lack of communication between tour operators and government agencies.

“Take Lalibela for example. It looks exactly the way it did 10 years ago but the entrance fee has increased,” says Yenealem. “Our hotel bookings are dropped with little to no notice when there are big events like Epiphany in Gondar. The local guides monopolize any work to be done on the sites [including] increasing entrance and guide fees at will and they chase away anyone who refuses to have a guide.”

Lots of plans

In addition to the five-year plan by the MOCT, in September 2016, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has handed over Ethiopia’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) 2015-2025 to the then minister of tourism and culture, Ayisha Mohammed Mussa. It targets to lift the number of international visitors to five million in the year 2025. The projected income from the industry to increase from ETB14.197 billion in 2012 to ETB180 billion in 2015. The corresponding number of jobs in the tourism sector will increase from 985, 500 to 4.8 million, according to the document.

As part of its several initiatives to revive the industry, as of last week, the Ethiopian Tourism Organization is organizing a series of workshops in several cities in North America including New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

ETO has also recently signed, for an undisclosed amount of money, an agreement with New York-based CornerSun, a tourism marketing and public relations firm to “represent and promote Ethiopia” to travel trade and media throughout the United States and Canada. Since it was formed in 2014, the organization, led by an industry veteran Solomon Tadesse, has spent more time and resource to promote Ethiopia by participating in various fairs and exhibitions outside the country.

With all that said and all the inconsistencies considered, however, tour operators worry that the number of tourists visiting Ethiopia will continue falling short than both the five year plan by the ministry and ECA’s STMP have anticipated.

Last week and this week, while Solomon Tadesse, along with a group of hotels as well as tour and travel company owners, is doing a three-city roadshow in the Americas, some tourists who want to take chances to visit Ethiopia signed onto Lonely Planet’s online forums to complain about complicated visa requirements at Ethiopian embassies abroad and a steep rise in domestic flight fare by the state monopoly, Ethiopian Airlines, an indication that beyond the protest-tainted image the industry is facing as of late tourists are also dealing with other problems that are equally urgent; but problems that are less the focus of the endless plans to revive the sector, including a new logo. AS 

IFEX: The police brutalities resulted in several deaths: A death toll of 150 was recorded in Ethiopia, 32 in DRC and one in Mali. March 24, 2017

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In this photo taken on 2 October 2016, Ethiopian soldiers try to stop protesters in Bishoftu, Ethiopia
In this photo taken on 2 October 2016, Ethiopian soldiers try to stop protesters in Bishoftu, Ethiopia

AP Photo


This statement was originally published on africafex.org on 21 March 2017.


A total of 183 deaths were recorded from July to December 2016 following clashes between protestors and security agents in three countries – Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali.

In each of the three countries, security agents used excessive force to disperse protestors who were demonstrating against specific issues in their respective countries. The police brutalities resulted in several deaths. A death toll of 150 was recorded in Ethiopia, 32 in DRC and one in Mali.

To date, not one security agent has been prosecuted for any of the killings in the three countries.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the many violations perpetrated against protestors, journalists and media organisations in Africa as reported in the maiden edition of the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report by the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) compiled for the period July to December 2016.

The periodic Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa Report is an intervention by AFEX that seeks to monitor and report on FOE violations (including violations against freedom of assembly and association) and other developments in Africa for the timely intervention by appropriate stakeholders.

Over the six-month period, 63 incidents of violation were recorded in 19 countries across the African continent. State security apparatus were the main perpetrators of the violations. Together, they were responsible for 57 percent (36) of the 63 violations.

State security agents were not only responsible for the killing of the 183 protestors in the three countries; they were also the perpetrators of all 19 incidents of arrests and detentions in 10 of the 19 countries covered in the report. in addition, five out of six media organisations were shut down by state security agents.

State officials were also found to be perpetrators of media and FOE rights violations both online and offline. Of the 63 violations, 10 were carried out by/on the orders of state officials. Thus, state actors were generally the main perpetrators of the various violations reported in the Freedom of Expression Situation in Africa report.

Sadly, only seven out of 63 recorded violations received some form of redress actions.

For the full report on the types of violations cited, other perpetrators, the 19 countries monitored and the targets of the violations, click here.


 

Ethiopia: List of Fascsit TPLF Military and Intelligence officers involved in planning and commanding the Somali region Liyu Police mercenary paramilitary conducting genocide against the Oromo People March 19, 2017

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List of TPLF Military and Intelligence officers involved in planning and commanding the Somali region Liyu Police mercenary paramilitary


1. Col. Gebremedihin Gebre, Shhinelle Zone Coordinator and deputy commander of Somali Special Forces
2 Col. Fiseha, chief of intelligence of somali regional government, specializing particularly in Oromos and Oromia issue, also heads and supervises Fefem zone security
3. Col. Gitet Tesfaye , coordinates and leads disputed borders issue and security
4. Major Desalegn Haddish, Babile front intelligence chief
5 Major Abraha Sisay, heads training of mercenaries and somali recruits at Bobas training center
6 Brigadier General Hadgu Belay, advisor to the president of Somali region on security and organizational affairs on security at regional government level
7 Col. Gebretensae, heads and coordinates Somali militias organization Oromo mercenaries working with the TPLF officials
1. Lieutenant Hassan Ali, former member of defense forces of Ethiopia, now commands a Liyu Police unit consisting 120 members at attacking Erer district( wereda)
2. Captain Mohammed Ibrahim, with a unit of 120 members at Babile front( WEREDA)
3 Sergeant Usman Mohammed, Garalencha district
4 Sergeant Jibril Ahmed spies on Oromo militia in Gursum district, to Fafam direction
5 Sergeant Mohamed Usman, Raqe, Meyu Muluke areas military operations
6 Sergeant Fuad Aliyi, Chinaksen district
* The Liyu Police and Somali region militia are organized in 26 regiment each consisting up to 500 personnel.


 

Oromo-Somali Solidarity Forum Press Release March 16, 2017

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Oromo-Somali Solidarity Forum Press Release
Date: 16th of March, 2017    Ref: OSSF/01/17


For immediate release


Since November 2016, i.e., for the last five months, the murderous Liyu Police forces, commanded by the President of the Somali Regional State, have been undertaking border raids and attacks against civilians in the Oromia region, in the process killing and displacing many people. The attack is launched on five Oromia zones and 14 districts bordering the Somali region. At least 200 civilians have been killed and many others injured in the attacks according to reports. These senseless attacks were ordered by the TPLF as part of its strategy to weaken the popular uprising underway in Oromia against the minority ruling clique. TPLF has been trying to portray the conflict it maneuvered between the brotherly Somali and Oromo peoples as a dispute between the two regions over the ownership of border towns and localities, a dispute that has been settled through public referenda in 2005/6. The two neighboring ethnic groups have co-existed peacefully for centuries and have a culture of resolving disputes through established traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. Without the sinister hands of the TPLF, this conflict would not have even started. TPLF is hiding in plain sight and should understand that such mischief will not absolve it from the crimes it continues to commit against both the Oromo and Somali people.

The atrocities committed by the Liyu Police did not start with defenseless Oromos. These merchants of death and destruction have been terrorizing their own Somali people for the last ten years at the behest of their TPLF masters. They have committed numerous grave human right violations inside the Somali region and even as far beyond as Somalia with gruesome executions, rape, and burning of villages being their distinctive trademarks.

We at the Oromo-Somali Solidarity Forum hereby condemn this TPLF-engineered reckless conflict which led to the bloodshed of our brotherly peoples. We urge the brotherly Somali and Oromo peoples to stand in solidarity and deny the TPLF the pleasure of achieving the division and animosity it aspires to sow between our people. The ongoing conflict is not a war between Oromos and Somalis. It is a proxy war orchestrated by the TPLF against Oromos through the Liyu Police which is an auxiliary instrument of repression by the desperate minority regime. United, we will overcome TPLF’s 26 years of oppression and mayhem.

Victory to the oppressed Oromo and Somali people!

With profound regards!
Oromo-Somali Solidarity Forum

Addressed to: All Ethiopians, Oromos, Somalis and the international press

Representative signatories:
 Geresu Tufa
 Mohamed Hassan
 Najat Hamza
 Nagessa Oddo Dube
 Jemal-Dirie Kalif
 Jawar Mohammed
 Abdullahi Hussein
 Dahabe M. Abdella
 Tibebu Sime
 Hadi Luqman
 Girma Gutema
 Solomon Ungashe
 Tsegaye Ararsa
 Gadissa Abrahim
 Eda’o Dawano
 Latu Bushan
 Aman Maldewo
 Endiris Negewo

HRW: US: Stand Up for Ethiopians as Government Stifles Protests, Jails Journalists Human Rights Watch Statement on Ethiopia to US Congress March 10, 2017

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US: Stand Up for Ethiopians as Government Stifles Protests, Jails Journalists

Human Rights Watch Statement on Ethiopia to US Congress

HRW, 9 March 2017


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Human Rights Watch Statement to US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, members of the Subcommittee: thank you for holding this important hearing on the current situation in Ethiopia and for inviting me to testify. I am pleased to be a part of it.

Ethiopia is a country of dual realities. Visitors and diplomats alike are impressed with the double-digit economic growth, the progress on development indicators, and the apparent political stability. But in many ways, this is a smokescreen: many Ethiopians live in fear. The current government – the only one since 1991 – runs the country with an almost complete grip on power, controlling almost all aspects of political, public, and even much private life. Pervasive telephone and online surveillance and an intricate network of informants allow the government to quickly curb any threats to its control; it silences critical voices through the use of arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions. These actions also prevent critical and divergent views as many who may be impacted by these harsh policies fear repercussions.

Ethiopia remains among Africa’s leading jailors of journalists. If you are or you seek to be an independent Ethiopian journalist you must choose between self-censorship, harassment, and possible arrest, or living in exile. The government blocks websites critical of the authorities and sometimes blocks the internet completely. Independent radio and television stations are regularly jammed. In short, the state tightly controls the media landscape, making it extremely challenging for Ethiopians to access information that is independent of government perspectives. As a result, Voice of America, which broadcasts in three Ethiopian languages, has become an increasingly important source of information for many Ethiopians but the government has, at times, obstructed its broadcasts as well.

Independent civil society groups face overwhelming obstructions. The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation has made obtaining foreign funding nearly impossible for groups working on human rights, good governance, and advocacy. Leading members of the human rights movement have been forced to flee abroad and many organizations have stopped working on human rights and good governance to avoid problems.

There have also been serious restrictions on opposition political parties. This led to the ruling coalition in the May 2015 election winning 100 percent of the seats in the federal and regional parliaments. This is despite evident anti-government sentiments in much of the country, as the protests would later illustrate. Arbitrary dentition of members and supporters, politically motivated criminal charges, and restrictions on financing ensures that opposition parties are constrained and largely ineffective.

The state systematically ensures that many of the country’s 100 million citizens are dependent on the government for their livelihoods, food security and economic future. It controls the benefits of development including access to seeds, fertilizers, jobs, health care, and humanitarian assistance, even when funded by the US or other donors. While US-funded development assistance contributes to much-needed poverty reduction efforts, it also adds to the repressive capacity of the government by bolstering Ethiopians’ reliance on the government for their livelihoods and ultimately for their survival.

There is no evidence that the ruling party rigs elections – they don’t need to. The population’s dependence on the ruling party and the limits on opposition parties leaves many citizens, particularly in rural areas, little choice but to support the ruling party come election time. As one farmer in the Amhara region told me in July 2014, “we do not like this government, but we always vote for them. We have to because we get our seeds and fertilizer from them. During times of drought, we get food aid from them. If we don’t vote for them, we can’t eat.” He went on to tell me about his neighbor who voted for the opposition in the 2010 election and shortly thereafter was denied food aid, was denied treatment at a government health clinic, and eventually was displaced from his land for an investment project run by a government cadre.

The justice system provides no check on the government. Courts have shown little independence during politically charged trials. Many opposition politicians, journalists, and activists have been convicted under the repressive 2009 anti-terrorism law and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Acquittals are rare, credible evidence is often not presented, and trials are marred by numerous due process concerns. Mistreatment and torture are common in Ethiopia’s many places of detention. Just two weeks ago, Dr. Merera Gudina , the chair of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a legally registered political opposition party, was charged with “outrages against the constitution.” A former fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Merera joins many other senior opposition leaders currently facing politically motivated criminal charges. Among those presently standing trial is OFC deputy chairman Bekele Gerba. Prosecutors included as ostensible evidence of his crimes a video of Bekele at an August 2016 conference here in Washington, DC, where he spoke of the importance of nonviolence and commitment to the electoral process. Like Merera, he has been a moderate voice of dissent in a highly polarized political landscape.

This begs the question: what avenues are left in Ethiopia to express dissent, to question government policies or to voice concern over abusive practices and how can the United States help strengthen free expression and association rights in Ethiopia?

I speak to you to today 16 months after large-scale and unprecedented protests started in Ethiopia’s largest region of Oromia in November 2015, spreading to the Amhara region in July 2016. Ethiopian military forces and police cracked down on these largely peaceful demonstrations, killing hundreds and detaining tens of thousands. The protests were a predictable response to the systematic and calculated suppression of fundamental rights and freedoms.

On October 2, the protest movement took a devastating turn. In Bishoftu in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, security forces mishandled a large crowd at the Irreecha cultural event causing a stampede that killed scores of people as they fled security forces. In the days that followed, angry mobs of youth destroyed government buildings and private property. Ethiopia was on the brink of chaos. One week after the Irreecha tragedy the government announced a state of emergency that remains in place. It prescribed sweeping and vaguely worded restrictions on a broad range of actions undermining rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly. It goes far beyond what is permissible under international human rights law and signaled a continuation of the militarized response to the expression of grievances. While the state of emergency has halted both the destruction of properties and the protests themselves, underlying grievances remain. No one should deny there are serious risks that more unrest could occur.

Since imposing the state of emergency, the Ethiopian government has repeatedly committed publicly to undertake “deep reform” and engage in dialogue with opposition parties to address grievances. In short, the authorities are saying the right things. But the only changes the government has made so far are largely cosmetic and fall dramatically short of the protesters’ calls for the protection of basic human rights.

The continuation of the state of emergency – furthering crushing the space for free expression and divergent views of governance – is not conducive for the open dialogue that is needed to address Ethiopia’s ongoing crisis. The government announced that it arrested over 20,000 people since the state of emergency began, although there has been little corroboration of these numbers, which could be higher. These mass arrests along with politically motivated trials of key opposition leaders, reinforces the message that the government is continuing along the path of suppressing dissent by force and not engaging in genuine and meaningful dialogue with opposition groups.

The Ethiopian government’s responses to all of these abuses have been consistent. The allegations are routinely denied without meaningful investigation, the government claiming they are politically motivated, while simultaneously restricting access for independent media and human rights investigators. In a report to parliament last June, the Ethiopia Human Rights Commission, a government body, concluded that the level of force used by federal security forces was proportionate to the risk they faced from protesters. This is contrary to all available evidence, including that contained in the US State Department’s recently released Human Rights Country Report for Ethiopia. No one has seen a written version of the Commission’s report that would justify such a conclusion.

While we are speaking today about the lack of accountability over the brutal crackdown in Oromia and Amhara regions over the last 16 months, Ethiopians in other regions have also been victims of serious abuses, most often without any meaningful investigations by the government. For example, Human Rights Watch documented possible crimes against humanity committed by the Ethiopian army in 2003 and 2004 in the Gambella region. There was no credible investigation into the extrajudicial executions, rape, and torture. In Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State, the Ethiopian military committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity between mid-2007 and 2008 during their counterinsurgency campaign against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The Liyu police, a paramilitary force formed in 2008 that reports to the president of the Somali Regional State, have been implicated in numerous extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and attacks on civilians accused of backing the ONLF. No meaningful investigations have been undertaken into any of these alleged abuses in the Somali Regional State.

International scrutiny of Ethiopia’s rights record has also been lacking despite its June election to the UN Security Council, and its membership on the UN Human Rights Council – which requires it to uphold the “highest standards of human rights” and cooperate with UN monitors. Ethiopia has refused entry to all UN special rapporteurs since 2007, except the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. There are outstanding requests from the special rapporteurs on torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly, among others. In total, 11 UN Special Rapporteurs have outstanding requests for access to Ethiopia.

Despite abundant evidence of serious and growing repression by the Ethiopian government, particularly since the 2005 election, the US government has been a muted critic. Quiet diplomacy proven ineffectual and has coincided with the dramatic downward spiral in human rights and a serious constriction of political space that has led to the crisis Ethiopia is in today. It is time for a new US approach to Ethiopia in which Congress can play a leadership role in seeking a more balanced policy and requiring more deliberate oversight as it has done in other countries in crisis, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt.

As a starting point, members of Congress should speak out strongly and publicly against abuses by the Ethiopian government. House Resolution 128 and the resolutions introduced last year are steps in the right direction and contain many important elements. While non-binding, they are impactful because they let the Ethiopian government know there are repercussions for brutality against their own citizens – brutality that undermines US priorities in the Horn of Africa, including security, development, and economic growth. These partnerships are dependent on long-term stability in Ethiopia. Opposition to the ruling party’s repressive rule – as witnessed in the last 16 months – is a glaring indication that Ethiopia’s governance model marked by lack of respect for basic rights, is incapable of ensuring that stability.

International legitimacy is very important to the Ethiopian government – it wants to be a key player on the international stage and condemnation of its human rights record contradicts that image. So consistent, sustained and vocal pressure is critical.

It is crucial that the US makes it clear that if Ethiopia is going to remain a strong US partner it needs to open up legitimate political space and allow for critical voices to be heard. To begin with, members of Congress can and should call for the release of all political prisoners, including those like Bekele and Merera who should be part of any credible dialogue between the government and opposition parties. Members of Congress should also call for the release of all journalists unjustly jailed and call for the repeal or substantial amendment of repressive laws used to stifle critical voices. Any meetings with the Ethiopian ambassador to the US should include these points, as should any meetings with other Ethiopian officials, whether in DC or elsewhere. As the FY18 budget process gets underway, US support to the Ethiopian government should be conditioned on making progress in these and other areas of concern.

Members of Congress should use available opportunities to tell Ethiopia to stop hiding its own human rights record from international scrutiny. As a member of both the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, Ethiopia should cooperate fully with UN special mechanisms, in particular the rapporteurs on peaceful assembly and torture.

As expressed in House Resolution 128, members of Congress should reiterate the call of the UN high commissioner for human rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and others for an independent international investigation into the crackdown in Oromia and Amhara regions. Such action will send a powerful message to the Ethiopian government that its security forces cannot shoot and kill peaceful protesters with impunity. It will also send an important message to the victims and families, that their pleas for justice are being heard.

I’ll close by saying that I am aware of concerns expressed by some in the administration – and even here in Congress – that a more public stance on Ethiopia’s domestic situation might undermine the bilateral partnership between Addis Ababa and Washington – including cooperation on development, security and peacekeeping. But the United States has often underestimated its own leverage and been overly cautious as a result. Some of Ethiopia’s international partners have made strong public statements in the last year and these statements have not undermined their strategic partnerships. Far from it. The US may need Ethiopia – but Ethiopia needs the US too. The US should send a strong signal of support to the many Ethiopian citizens and Ethiopian Americans who seek the protection of their rights, greater political space, and democracy but whose fight for dignity and freedom has been crushed time and again through brutal force.

Thank you.


Related articles:

Terrence Lyons, Testimony for hearing entitled Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia

Seenaa Jimjimoo, Testimony for hearing entitled Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia

Tewodrose Tirfe, Testimony for hearing entitled Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia

Abaguya Ayele Deki, Testimony for hearing entitled Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia

Yoseph Tafari, Testimony for hearing entitled Democracy Under Threat in Ethiopia

Why fascist TPLF Ethiopia’s regime waging a proxy war on the Oromo through the Liyu Police? March 9, 2017

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Why is Ethiopia waging a proxy war on the Oromo through the Liyu Police?

By: Nadhii G. Hawaas


This article explores the raison d’être for why the Neo-Agazians – the king makers in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a.k.a. the present-day rulers of Ethiopia – have adopted a non-intuitive strategy of waging a war of attrition against the Oromo through a notoriously brutal proxy, the ill-reputed Liyu Police of the Somali region; whilst they were rather widely expected to reassess their current policy and attempt to pacify Oromia – a state that has been the epicenter of a historic and heroic popular opposition against the government in the last three years. In my opinion, here are some of the primary reasons.

Why is Ethiopia waging a proxy war on the Oromo through the Liyu Police?

The obsession to smoke out and defeat the Oromo Liberation Army:

TPLF’s general disposition and military escapades over the last twenty five years, would lead a neutral analyst to the conclusion that it is obsessed, more than anything else, with the goal of dismantling the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and its army. As a result of this fixation, Afaan Oromo has earned the unique distinction of becoming Ethiopia’s “language of prisons”, and Oromia has turned into the killing field of the Horn of Africa, where all sorts of human rights abuses are the norm. TPLF’s various military adventures in the Horn of Africa – from its various illegal military interventions in

(Ayyaantuu) -Somalia to its regular incursions into Kenya, as well as its so-called peacekeeping missions in south Sudan – are all motivated by what appears to be a preoccupation to deny the Oromo liberation army (OLA) a base of operation. These military adventures have been carried out without due regard for the cost in human lives, but they have allowed the regime to stay in power by weakening its greatest homegrown threat which comes in the form of OLA.

There is no doubt that the OLF has been downgraded, partly as a result of these actions by the TPLF and the resulting geo-political outcomes. The OLA has diminished in size and effectiveness from its heyday in the late 1980’s, when it was able to engage two formidable opponents – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Ethiopian army in the west, and the latter in the east and the southeast – and thrive at the same time. TPLF’s strategic maneuver and direct military interventions in the neighboring countries contiguous to Oromia in the last two decades should thus be seen in light of its fixation to deny its strategic nemesis, the OLF, a military base of operation – an objective in which it has succeeded to a great extent, thus far.

But, judging by events that have transpired in Oromia in the last three years, particularly in 2016, it appears that the OLF has adapted to these difficult geo-political circumstances and could be poised to take on the TPLF more vigorously than before. Notwithstanding the misguided efforts by some in the diaspora to hijack the Oromo Protests, there are clear signals that the protest movement is orchestrated by the OLF. This development has shaken the regime to its core, from which it is likely not going to able to recover. The Oromo Protests have put the TPLF in unfamiliar territory, forcing it to react to facts on the ground its adversary has set in motion. Albeit at tremendous cost to Oromo lives, round one of this phase of the conflict between the OLF and the TPLF was decisively concluded with the latter substantially degraded politically and economically, if not militarily yet, invigorating the former substantially. Therefore, the ground work seems to have been laid for round two and perhaps the decisive stage of this phase of the conflict; and judging by its current activities, the TPLF is mightily worried (as it should be) about the likely outcomes.

One of the dangerous policies the TPLF is pursuing currently to foil what is shaping up to be a historic faceoff between its forces and Oromo freedom fighters, is to unleash the notorious Somali region paramilitary group on peaceful Oromo citizens in the east, the south and the southeast. In my opinion, the main purpose of this move is to provoke OLF fighters to come out of the woodwork, as it were, in order to engage them militarily before more recent events have a chance to solidify in ways that will benefit the combatants. Based on certain signals that are out there, the OLF might have succeeded in embedding its forces in certain communities in Oromia, and it would be reasonable to assume that the TPLF wants to flush these Oromo fighters by goading them into battles of its choosing. It is a clever move, but it doesn’t appear that the OLF is taking the bait.

Why is Ethiopia waging a proxy war on the Oromo through the Liyu Police?

The best defense is a good offense:
The principle of “the best defense is a good offense” has successfully been employed in many areas of life that are guided by strategic interactions between two or more actors. Whether it is sporting competitions, competitions for market, or more consequential human conflicts such as wars, players that prevail are often times those that strike first and knock their opponents off their game plan, forcing them to react. Successful war generals and strategic thinkers – including George Washington, Mao Zedong, Machiavelli and others – have utilized this principle with remarkable success.

The TPLF has used this adage throughout its existence – both in the military and the political arenas – initially against the fearsome Dergue, and later on against all opposition parties, including the OLF. In all the engagements I personally witnessed closely, for instance, the TPLF always seemed to relish the initiative to attack – often with surprising speed and agility – forcing its opponents to scramble to assume defensive positions, denying them opportunities to launch their own attacks. The surviving members of Dergue’s armed forces could speak more competently than I can about the efficacy of TPLF’s famed Qorexa tactics in the battle field.

With the OLF adapting to the aforementioned difficult geo-political realities in the Horn of Africa, and OLA likely getting deeply rooted in Oromia, the TPLF appears to have lost the strategic edge it has worked so hard to achieve and maintain. The Oromo Protests have exposed its weaknesses so unmistakably, sending a clear signal to potential partners or enemies, big or small, that the “dogs from Tigray” might have just been neutered and may not have potent bites anymore. Notice the most recent political developments in Somalia, South Sudan, the European Parliament, and even some corners of the US government – developments that mark that the ground has begun shifting from under the TPLF. Therefore, with no obvious OLF military camp it can attack, and a realization setting in among its senior ranks that its strategic opponent might have regrouped enough to start putting some non-trivial points on the board; the TPLF is undertaking unprovoked military aggressions against Oromo civilians in the east, the southeast, the south, and the west via its proxy paramilitary units, certain that the oppressive system it has built over the years cannot be sustained if it is perceived to have lost its mojo. Thus, its latest move is most likely a desperate attempt to send a signal to its friends and foes that it is in control and still calling the shots.

Attempting to ingratiate to the Oromo a Trojan-Horse named the OPDO:

One of the remarkable outcomes of the Oromo Protests was that it annihilated the intricate and oppressive state structure the TPLF had built in Oromia using the so-called Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), an outfit that was created by TPLF to rule and exploit the Oromo. The TPLF doesn’t stand a chance to rule Oromia without the OPDO serving the purpose for which it was invented. To reinstitute its tentacles throughout Oromia, therefore, the TPLF is employing a number of obvious and subtle strategies including the following: launching different initiatives meant to seduce the unemployed youth; promoting a few “educated” Oromo individuals to positions of power; and most importantly, undertaking moves that might ingratiate the OPDO to the Oromo. Lemma Megersa – the shiny-new telegenic puppet of the regime– is assigned a role of play-acting as the second coming of Tadesse Birru on TV, although he is little more than a pawn in a game being conducted behind his back against his own people.

If implemented properly, the unfolding strategy of unleashing the Liyu police on the Oromo would also contribute to the objective of endearing the OPDO to the Oromo to a certain extent. Here is a two-sentence script for this play: The TPLF invades the Oromo by using its proxies just enough to rile up the Oromo from coast-to-coast; then boom, the OPDO comes to the rescue, turning – contrary to reason and logic – into a “legitimate” Oromo organization that can protect the interests of its constituents. Arguably, this drama has thus far played out as planned by its authors, considering how many Oromo activists have fallen for this cruel scheme. Just because they uttered nationalistic soundbites on state TV, some members of the so-called Caffee Oromiyaa are being promoted as defenders of Oromo national interests by individuals who should know better, indicating that the Neo-Agazians might have achieved some of their short term objectives by making the OPDO an acceptable alternative to a segment of our traumatized population. The Oromo national trauma must be so deep that many mistake the enablers of their abusers for their saviors.

Breaking the thriving morale of the Oromo:

Events that have transpired in the last three years in Oromia – particularly the well-orchestrated massacre at the Irreechaa festival on October 2, 2016 and the ethnic cleansing operations being carried out against the Oromo of Hararge, Bale, Guji, Borana, and some parts of Wollega – are well-designed operations by TPLF aimed at, among other things, breaking the thriving morale of the Oromo and checking the rising tide of Oromo nationalism. The TPLF has always banked on riding Oromo nationalism that it believed could be manipulated at will to exploit Oromo resources, and utilized to engage in a campaign against the traditional and historical nemesis of Tigray – the Amhara elites. When this strategy failed – with the Oromo taking a heroic stand to challenge its monopoly of power and exploitation of their resources; and the Oromo and the Amhara showing some signs of solidarity, even if tactically – it resorted to a war of attrition against the Oromo, foolishly thinking that that would break the thriving morale of the Oromo and put the genie back in the bottle.

For those capable of discerning the zeitgeist in contemporary Ethiopia, however, the writing on the wall is unmistakable: Oromo nationalism has prevailed against all odds – thanks to the sacrifices of countless precious Oromo children – and will continue to develop at a pace determined largely by the dialectics within Oromo society. No amount of treacherous designs by the current rulers of Ethiopia, or the ill-will of those who wish to dismantle it, can derail it from its current auspicious trajectory.

Avenging for the loss it has sustained politically, diplomatically, and financially due to Oromo Protests:

As stated earlier, the Oromo Protests have inflicted heavy losses – politically, diplomatically, and financially – on the TPLF from which it will never recover. Although this is not how smart strategic players are supposed to conduct themselves in high-stakes political games, I can’t put it beyond the realm of possibility that avenging for these losses might just be one of the motivating factors for the dangerous course the TPLF has chosen recently. To the extent that the Neo-Agazians are disposed towards having a sense of entitlement to the political and economic power they are currently enjoying undeservedly (there are plenty of evidences indicating that this might be the case), their lashing out against the Oromo – a nation that has effectively foiled their long-term objective of developing Tigray at the expense of Oromia – should not be unexpected.

In summary, the TPLF is a severely wounded entity that is running out of options faster than most so-called experts of the Horn of Africa anticipated. There will not be any measure it will not pursue in order to stay in power for as long as it is feasible. For now, Abay Tsehay and co. are using Abdi Iley and his UK-financed killing-squads as a “Hail Mary pass” to see if that could extricate the TPLF out of its desperate situation. The OLF is expected to execute its game plan with discipline, focusing on the real prize, disregarding the white noise coming out of the diaspora in the virtual space.


Related:

Bob Zimmer, Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, Canada has expressed solidarity for #OromoProtests.

US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor : Ethiopia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 March 4, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

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Ethiopia: The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.


Ministriin Dhimma alaa Yunaayitid Isteetis Gabaasa Mirga Dhala Namaa Haaraa Baase

U.S. Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016

 


Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds and injuring many more. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained. This included persons detained under the government-declared state of emergency, effective October 8. Many were never brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported and presented to parliament a summary of its report. The EHRC counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted that security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. On August 13, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters. In October the prime minister stated the deaths in Oromia Region alone “could be more than 500.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to Oromia and Amhara regions, which the government refused. Following dozens of deaths at a religious festival in Bishoftu on October 2, groups committed property damage. On November 9, international NGO Amnesty International reported more than 800 persons were killed since November 2015.

The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.

Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest, detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention; a weak, overburdened judiciary subject to political influence; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; a lack of participatory consultations and information during the implementation of the government’s “villagization” program; restrictions on civil liberties including freedom of speech and press, internet freedom, academic freedom and of cultural events, and freedom of assembly, association, and movement; interference in religious affairs; only limited ability of citizens to choose their government; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs; violence and societal discrimination against women; female genital mutilation/cutting; abuse of children; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities, persons based on their gender identity and sexual orientation, and persons with HIV/AIDS; societal violence including violence based on ethnicity, property destruction, and the killing of security force members; and limits on worker rights, forced labor, and child labor, including forced child labor.

Impunity was a problem. The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous reports the government and its agents committed arbitrary and unlawful killings. Security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. A March 14 report from the independent Ethiopian NGO Human Rights Council (HRCO) covering 33 districts in Oromia from November 2015 to February 20 described more than 100 extrajudicial killings. On June 10, the government-established EHRC reported to parliament that it counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The EHRC did not publicly release its report. On August 13, HRW estimated security forces killed more than 500 protesters.

On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to demonstrations in major cities and towns across the Oromia and Amhara regions. Political opposition groups reported government forces killed more than 90 protesters in Oromia. The Amhara regional government reported seven deaths; other sources reported more than 50 were killed in Amhara Region.

b. Disappearance

Individuals reportedly arrested by security forces as part of the government’s response to protests disappeared. In a June report on the government’s response to Oromo protests, HRW reported hundreds of persons were “unaccounted for” including children.

Due to poor prison administration, family members reported individuals missing who were in custody of prison officials, but whom the families could not locate.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the constitution and law prohibit such practices, there were reports security officials tortured and otherwise abused detainees.

In its June report, HRW reported security force members beat detainees, including minors. Security force members used wooden sticks, rubber truncheons, and whips to do so. According to the report, several students stated they were hung by their wrists and whipped, four said they received electric shocks to their feet, and two had weights tied to their testicles. Several female detainees reported security force members raped them. The report stated, “Most of the individuals interviewed by HRW who were detained for more than one month described treatment that appeared to amount to torture.”

Mistreatment reportedly occurred at Maekelawi, official detention centers, unofficial detention centers, police stations, and in Kilinto federal prison. There were reports police investigators used physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions in Maekelawi, the federal crime investigation center in Addis Ababa that often held high-profile political prisoners. Interrogators reportedly administered beatings and electric shocks to extract information and confessions from detainees. HRW reported abuses, including torture, that occurred at Maekelawi. In a 2013 report, HRW described beatings, stress positions, the hanging of detainees by their wrists from the ceiling, prolonged handcuffing, pouring of water over detainees, verbal threats, and solitary confinement. Authorities continued to restrict access by diplomats and NGOs to Maekelawi, although some NGOs reported limited access.

The United Nations reported that during the year (as of December 20) it received one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against Ethiopian peacekeepers for an incident alleged to have occurred during the year. The allegation, against military personnel deployed to the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, was investigated by the Ethiopian government and found to be unsubstantiated.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and in some cases life threatening. There were reports that authorities beat and tortured prisoners in detention centers, military facilities, and police stations. Medical attention following beatings reportedly was insufficient in some cases. Prisoners died in fires.

The country had six federal and 120 regional prisons. During the state of emergency, effective since October 8, the government announced detention centers in Awash, Ziway, and Dilla and stated suspects could be detained at various police stations in Addis Ababa. There also were many unofficial detention centers throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons were also detained in military facilities, local administration offices, and makeshift government-owned sites.

A local NGO supported model prisons in Adama, Mekelle, Debre Birhan, Durashe, and Awassa; these prisons had significantly better conditions than those in other prisons.

Pretrial detention often occurred in police station detention facilities, where conditions varied widely, but reports indicated poor hygiene and police abuse of detainees.

Physical Conditions: Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults. Prison officials generally separated male and female prisoners, although mixing occurred at some facilities.

Severe overcrowding was common, especially in prison sleeping quarters. The government provided approximately nine birr ($0.40) per prisoner per day for food, water, and health care, although this amount varied across the country. Many prisoners supplemented this amount with daily food deliveries from family members or by purchasing food from local vendors. Other reports noted officials prevented some prisoners from receiving food from their families. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional ones. Prisoners had only limited access to potable water. Water shortages caused unhygienic conditions, and most prisons lacked appropriate sanitary facilities. Many prisoners had serious health problems but received little or no treatment. There were reports prison officials denied some prisoners access to needed medical care. In 2012 the Ministry of Health stated nearly 62 percent of inmates in jails across the country experienced mental health problems due to solitary confinement, overcrowding, and lack of adequate health-care facilities and services.

The June HRW report on government response to Oromo protests stated detainees reported overcrowding, inadequate access to food and water, and solitary confinement, including in military camps. The report stated men and women were not held in the same cells in most locations, but children were detained with adults.

Fires in prisons occurred in Gondar in December 2015, in Ambo on February 19, in Debretabor on September 1, and, on September 3, at Kilinto Prison where at least 23 inmates died.

Visitors of political prisoners and other sources reported political prisoners often faced significantly different treatment compared with other prisoners. Allegations included lack of access to proper medication or any medical treatment, lack of access to books or television, and denial of exercise time. In at least one case, when such complaints were openly raised in a court of law, the presiding judges referred the complaints to the prison administration, which had already refused to look into the complaints.

Administration: Due to the lack of transparency regarding incarceration, it was difficult to determine if recordkeeping was adequate. There were reports prisoners mistreated by prison guards did not have access to prison administrations to complain. Prisons did not have ombudspersons to respond to complaints. Legal aid clinics existed in some prisons for the benefit of prisoners, and at the regional level had good working relations with judicial, prison, and other government officials. Prison officials allowed detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Courts sometimes declined to hear such complaints.

The law permits prisoners to have visitors. According to the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP), a lawyer is permitted to visit only one client per day, and only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Authorities allegedly denied family members access to persons charged with terrorist activity. There were also reports authorities denied the accused visits with lawyers or with representatives of the political parties to which they belonged. In some cases police did not allow pretrial detainees access to visitors, including family members and legal counsel.

After the September 3 fire in the federal prison at Kilinto, attorneys reported visitation for several prisoners was restricted to closely prison visits by family members only. Conversations could not touch on subjects such as trials, politics, and allegations of abuse. This was reported in the prisons in Kilinto, Shewa Robit, and Ziway. These restrictions also applied to political prisoners.

Officials permitted religious observance by prisoners, but this varied by prison, and even by section within a prison, at the discretion of prison management. There were allegations authorities denied detainees adequate locations in which to pray. Prisoners could voice complaints regarding prison conditions or treatment to the presiding judge during their trials.

Independent Monitoring: During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons throughout the country as part of its normal activities. The government did not permit access to prisons by other international human rights organizations.

Regional authorities had allowed government and NGO representatives to meet with prisoners without third parties present. By September such allowances were severely curtailed, however. Prison officials reportedly denied access to prisoners for civil society representatives and family members, including in undisclosed locations. The government-established EHRC, which is funded by parliament and subject to parliamentary oversight, monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. An NGO continued to have access to various prison and detention facilities around the country.

Improvements: The government constructed two new prisons.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the state of emergency regulations allowed law enforcement to arrest and detain individuals without a court warrant. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest and detention related to protests. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, professors, university students, musicians, businesspersons, health workers, journalists, children, and others. Security forces went door-to-door after protests to conduct arrests and arbitrarily detained opposition party members and supporters, accusing them of inciting violence.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Federal Police report to the Office of the Prime Minister and are subject to parliamentary oversight. The oversight was loose. Each of the nine regions has a state or special police force that reports to regional civilian authorities. Local militias operated across the country in loose and varying coordination with regional and federal police and the military. In some cases these militias functioned as extensions of the ruling party. The military played a significant role in responding to the protests. The constitution provides for the military to perform duties assigned to it under a state of emergency.

Impunity remained a serious problem, including impunity for killings of and violence against protesters. The internal mechanisms used to investigate abuses by federal police were not known. On June 10, the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported to parliament on the protests, stating it confirmed 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate force there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The commission did not publicly release its report. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into abuses by local security forces, such as arbitrary detention and beatings of civilians.

The government continued to support human rights training for police and army personnel. It continued to accept assistance from NGOs and the EHRC to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum by including more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The constitution and law require detainees be brought to court and charged within 48 hours of arrest or as soon thereafter as local circumstances and communications permit. Travel time to the court is not included in the 48-hour period. With a warrant, authorities may detain persons suspected of serious offenses for 14 days without charge and for additional and renewable 14-day periods if an investigation continues. The courts allowed security officials to continue investigations for more than 14 days without bringing formal charges against suspects.

Under the ATP police may request to detain persons without charge for 28-day periods, up to a maximum of four months, while an investigation is conducted. The law permits warrantless arrests for various offenses including “flagrant offenses.” These include offenses in which the suspect was found committing the offense, attempting to commit the offense, or just completing the offense. The ATP permits a warrantless arrest when police reasonably suspect a person has committed or is committing a terrorist act.

The law prohibits detention in any facility other than an official detention center; however, local militias and other formal and informal law enforcement entities used an unknown number of unofficial local detention centers. As part of the government’s response to the protests, persons also were detained in military facilities.

A functioning bail system was in place. Bail was not available for persons charged with terrorism, murder, treason, and corruption. In most cases authorities set bail between 500 and 10,000 birr ($22 and $444), which most citizens could not afford. The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel but only when cases went to court. There were reports that while some detainees were in pretrial detention, authorities allowed them little or no contact with legal counsel, did not provide full information on their health status, and did not allow family visits. There were reports officials held some prisoners incommunicado for weeks at a time, and civilians were also placed under house arrest for an undisclosed period of time.

The constitution requires authorities under a state of emergency to announce the names of detainees within one month of their arrest. In practice, the names of those detained under the state of emergency were generally announced. The names were not always made available within 30 days and civilians were not always able to locate the rosters of names of those imprisoned.

Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities regularly detained persons arbitrarily, including protesters, journalists, and opposition party members. There were thousands of reports of arbitrary arrest by security forces in response to protests. The March 14 HRCO report listed 84 individuals under “illegal detention,” with four having subsequently been released.

On March 8, authorities detained 20 students from Addis Ababa University and charged them under the criminal code with inciting the public through false rumors, holding an illegal demonstration, and encouraging the public to disobey the ATP. On August 1, the Federal First Instance Court acquitted nine of the students and reduced the charges against the 11 others, whose trial continued at year’s end.

The government continued to arbitrarily arrest journalists and those who express views that oppose the government (see section 2.a.). On March 3, federal police temporarily detained a foreign correspondent, a freelance journalist, and their translator near Awash Town. Police reportedly took their phones and identification cards and then escorted them back to Addis Ababa. On March 4, authorities released them without giving any explanation for their detention.

In December 2015 police arrested and detained former Blue Party spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye. On May 4, the federal attorney general charged Yonatan with incitement of terrorism through posts under a pseudonym on Facebook, citing article 4 of the ATP. The court hearing the trial changed the charges to article 6, which pertains to encouragement of terrorism and carries a lesser sentence. Yonatan’s trial continued at year’s end.

There were developments in the case of three individuals detained in March 2015 at Bole International Airport while on the way to Nairobi. In mid-November a court reduced the charges against Omot Agwa Okwoy to the criminal code and dropped the charges against Ashinie Astin Titoyk, and Jemal Oumar Hojele, who were both released.

Pretrial Detention: Some detainees reported being held for several years without charge or trial. The percentage of the inmate population in pretrial detention and average length of time held was not available. Lengthy legal procedures, large numbers of detainees, judicial inefficiency, and staffing shortages contributed to frequent trial delays. The state of emergency regulations allow authorities to detain a person without a court order until the end of the state of emergency.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for detainees to be informed of the nature of their arrest. It also provides persons accused or charged of a crime the ability to appeal. During the year there were no reported cases of a court ruling that a person was unlawfully detained. The law does not provide for persons who are unlawfully detained to receive compensation.

Amnesty: In September, in keeping with a long-standing tradition of issuing pardons at the Ethiopian New Year, the government released more than 12,000 prisoners, including prisoners convicted under the ATP such as Abubeker Ahmed Mohamed and other members of the Muslim Arbitration Committee. Of those, 757 were released from federal prisons and more than 11,000 from regional prisons.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary. Although the civil courts operated with a large degree of independence, criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to political influence. The constitution recognizes both religious and traditional or customary courts.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

By law accused persons have the right to a fair public trial “without undue delay”; a presumption of innocence; the right to legal counsel of their choice; the right to appeal; the right not to self-incriminate; and the right to present witnesses and evidence in their defense, cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and access government-held evidence. In practice, however, detainees did not always enjoy all these rights, and as a result, defense attorneys were sometimes unprepared to provide an adequate defense. Defendants were not always presumed innocent, able to communicate with an attorney of their choice, provided timely free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, or provided access to government-held evidence. Defendants were often unaware of the specific charges against them until the commencement of their trials. There were reports of detainees being subjected to torture and other abuse while in detention to obtain information or confessions.

The federal Public Defender’s Office provided legal counsel to indigent defendants, but scope and quality of service were inadequate due to the shortage of attorneys, who in some cases may individually handle more than 100 cases and many more individual clients at the same time. Numerous free legal aid clinics, based primarily at universities, provided services. In certain areas of the country, the law allows volunteers, such as law students and professors, to represent clients in court on a pro bono basis.

Many citizens residing in rural areas had little access to formal judicial systems and relied on traditional mechanisms for resolving conflict. By law all parties to a dispute must agree to use a traditional or religious court before such a court may hear a case, and either party may appeal to a regular court at any time. Sharia (Islamic law) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims if both parties agree to use a sharia court before going to trial. Sharia courts received some funding from the government and adjudicated a majority of cases in Somali and Afar regions, which are predominantly Muslim. Other traditional systems of justice, such as councils of elders, continued to function. Some women stated they lacked access to free and fair hearings in the traditional court system because local custom excluded them from participation in councils of elders and because of strong gender discrimination in rural areas.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

The number of political prisoners and detainees at years’ end was not known. The government detained journalists and political opposition members.

Police arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of recognized political party the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others in November and December 2015. On April 22, the attorney general charged them under the ATP. Authorities reportedly mistreated Bekele and others, including denying adequate medical care and access to visitors, including legal counsel. Their trial continued at year’s end.

Police arrested other leaders and members of political parties during the year, including Merera Gudina on November 30 (see also section 3, Elections and Political Participation, Political Parties and Political Participation).

There were further updates in the cases of 10 persons including opposition party leaders and others whom police detained in 2014. On May 10, the Federal High Court sentenced Zelalem Workagegnehu to five years and four months in prison, Tesfaye Teferi to three years and 11 months, and Solomon Girma to three years and seven months in prison. The other two defendants in the same trial, Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu, were acquitted and released on April 15. Separately, the prosecution appealed the August 2015 Federal High Court acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, Daniel Shibeshi, Abraha Desta, and Abraham Solomon. On December 2, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s acquittal of Habtamu Ayalew, Yeshiwas Assefa, and Abraham Solomon but remanded to the High Court the cases of Daniel Shibeshi and Abraha Desta.

There were also developments in cases of the Zone 9 blogging collective. In October 2015 the Federal High Court acquitted Natnael Feleke, Atnaf Berahane, Abel Wabella, and Soleyana Shimeles Gebremichael (in absentia) and reduced the charges against Befekadu Hailu. The prosecution’s appeal of the acquittals continued at the Supreme Court, and the Federal High Court continued to hear the trial of Befekadu Hailu. On October 4, Natnael Feleke was arrested again. He was later released on bail and charged with “inciting the public through false rumors” in relation to having made critical remarks regarding the government during a private conversation at a restaurant. On November 11, authorities arrested Befekadu Hailu again. On December 21, he was released without charge.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The law provides citizens the right to appeal human rights violations in civil court. Citizens did not file any such case during the year.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law generally requires authorities to obtain court-issued search warrants prior to searching private property, however, after the state of emergency, prior court approval for searches was suspended. In an amendment to the state of emergency provisions, security officials had to provide a reason, an official identification card, and be accompanied by someone from the community before conducting a search. The law also recognizes exceptions for “hot pursuit,” in which a suspect enters premises or disposes of items that are the subject of an offense committed on the premises, and when police have reasonable suspicion evidence of a crime punishable by more than three years of imprisonment is concealed on or in the property and that a delay in obtaining a search warrant would allow the evidence to be removed. Moreover, the ATP permits warrantless searches of a person or vehicle when authorized by the director general of the Federal Police or his designee or a police officer has reasonable suspicion a terrorist act may be committed and deems a sudden search necessary.

Opposition political party leaders and journalists reported suspicions of telephone tapping, other electronic eavesdropping, and surveillance, and they alleged government agents attempted to lure them into illegal acts by calling and pretending to be representatives of groups–designated by parliament as terrorist organizations–interested in making financial donations.

The government reportedly used a widespread system of paid informants to report on the activities of particular individuals. Opposition members, journalists, and athletes reported ruling party operatives and militia members made intimidating and unwelcome visits to their homes and offices and intimidated family members. These included entry into and searches of homes without a warrant.

There were reports authorities dismissed opposition members from their jobs and that those not affiliated with the EPRDF sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get employment (see section 3, Political Parties and Political Participation).

Security forces continued to detain family members of persons sought for questioning by the government.

The national and regional governments continued to implement the policy of Accelerated Development (informally known as “villagization”) plans in the Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’, Oromia, and Somali regions, which might include resettlement. These plans involved relocation by regional governments of scattered rural populations from arid or semiarid lands vulnerable to recurring droughts into designated communities closer to water, services, and infrastructure. The stated purposes of accelerated development were to improve the provision of government services (health care, education, and clean water), protect vulnerable communities from natural disasters and attacks, and change environmentally destructive patterns of shifting cultivation. Some observers alleged the purpose was to enable large-scale leasing of land for commercial agriculture. The government described the program as strictly voluntary. The government had scheduled to conclude the program in 2015, but decided to continue it.

International donors reported assessments from more than 18 visits to villagization sites since 2011 did not corroborate allegations of systematic, grave human rights violations. They found delays in establishing promised infrastructure and inadequate compensation. Communities and families appeared to have agreed to move based on assurances from authorities of food aid, health and education services, and land; some communities were moved before adequate basic services such as water pumps and shelter were in place in the new locations. Follow-up visits suggested the government had done little to improve consultations with affected communities, and communities were not fully informed when consenting to cede their rights for land projects.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, however the state of emergency regulations included restrictions on these rights. Authorities harassed, arrested, detained, charged, and prosecuted journalists and others perceived as critical of the government, creating an environment of self-censorship.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The state of emergency regulations contained several prohibitions that restricted freedom of speech and expression and resulted in detention or disappearance of numerous independent voices. The regulations prohibited any covert or overt agitation and communication that could incite violence and unrest (interpreted to include the popular Oromo protest sign of raising crossed arms over one’s head), any communication with designated terrorist groups or antipeace forces, storing and disseminating text, storing and promoting emblems of terrorist groups, incitement in sermons and teaching in religious institutions to induce fear or incite conflict, speech that could incite attacks based on identity or ethnicity, exchange of information by any individual with a foreign government in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security, and any political parties from briefing journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermines sovereignty and security. Individuals self-censored as a result of these prohibitions.

Authorities arrested, detained, and harassed persons for criticizing the government. NGOs reported cases of torture of individuals critical of the government. The government attempted to impede criticism through intimidation, including continued detention of journalists and those who express critical opinions online and opposition activists, and monitoring of and interference in activities of political opposition groups. Some feared authorities would retaliate against them for discussing security force abuses. Authorities arrested and detained persons who made statements publicly or privately deemed critical of the government under a provision of the law pertaining to inciting the public through false rumors.

Press and Media Freedoms: The state of emergency prohibited listening to, watching, or reporting information from Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network.

Independent journalists reported problems using government printing presses. Access to private printing presses was scarce to nonexistent.

In Addis Ababa, nine independent newspapers and magazines had a combined weekly circulation of 70,711 copies. Four independent monthly and biweekly magazines published in Amharic and English had a combined circulation of 21,500 copies. State-run newspapers had a combined circulation of 85,500 copies. Most newspapers were printed on a weekly or biweekly basis, except state-owned Amharic and English dailies and the privately run Daily Monitor. Addis Standard magazine temporarily suspended the print edition of its publication soon after the state of emergency was declared.

Government-controlled media closely reflected the views of the government and ruling EPRDF. The government controlled the only television station that broadcast nationally, which, along with radio, was the primary source of news for much of the population. Six private FM radio stations broadcast in the capital, one private radio station broadcast in the northern Tigray Region, and at least 19 community radio stations broadcast in the regions. State-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation had the largest broadcast range in the country, followed by Fana Radio, which was reportedly affiliated with the ruling party.

The government periodically jammed foreign broadcasts. The law prohibits political and religious organizations and foreigners from owning broadcast stations.

Violence and Harassment: The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists. As of mid-December, at least 12 journalists remained in detention.

In December 2015 police detained Fikadu Mirkana, who worked as news anchor and senior reporter for Oromia State TV. He was released in April.

In December 2015 authorities detained journalist Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of a web-based opposition-affiliated newspaper. On May 19, authorities charged him with terrorism and his trial continued at year’s end.

The trial of two journalists affiliated with Radio Bilal whom authorities arrested in February 2015 and charged with terrorism continued at the Federal High Court.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Government harassment caused journalists to avoid reporting on sensitive topics. Many private newspapers reported informal editorial control by the government through article placement requests and calls from government officials concerning articles perceived as critical of the government. Private sector and government journalists routinely practiced self-censorship. Several journalists, both local and foreign, reported an increase in self-censorship, especially after the October 8 implementation of the state of emergency. The government reportedly pressured advertisers not to advertise in publications that were critical of the government.

National Security: The government used the ATP to suppress criticism. Journalists feared covering five groups designated by parliament as terrorist organizations in 2011 (Ginbot 7, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the OLF, al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab), citing ambiguity on whether reporting on these groups might be punishable under the law.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government restricted and disrupted access to the internet. It periodically blocked social media sites and internet access in areas of Oromia and Amhara regions, especially during protests. At times the government blocked access throughout the country. There were credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. State-owned Ethio Telecom was the only internet service provider in the country.

On June 7, parliament passed the Computer Crime Proclamation. There were concerns its provisions were overly broad and could restrict freedom of speech and expression. This included, for example, a provision that provides for imprisonment for disseminating through a computer system any written, video, audio or any other picture that incites violence, chaos, or conflict among people, and another provision that provides for a prison sentence for intimidation.

In July officials blocked social media sites for days across the country until the national school examination concluded. The government stated blocking these sites was necessary to provide for an “orderly exam process.” In May the national exams were reportedly leaked on social media, causing the government to postpone the exams.

On August 6 and 7, the government imposed a nationwide internet blackout.

The state of emergency regulations included prohibited agitation and communication to incite violence and unrest through the internet, text messaging, and social media.

Starting in early October, the government shut down mobile access to the internet in Addis Ababa, most parts of Oromia Region, and other areas. Wired access to several social media and communication sites were also denied. These included social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, news websites such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, and many other sites, including foreign university homepages and online shopping sites such as Amazon.

The government periodically and increasingly restricted access to certain content on the internet and blocked numerous websites, including blogs, opposition websites, and websites of Ginbot 7, the OLF, and the ONLF, and news sites such as al-Jazeera, the BBC, and RealClearPolitics. Several news blogs and websites run by opposition diaspora groups were not accessible. These included Ethiopian Review, Nazret, CyberEthiopia, Quatero Amharic Magazine, and the Ethiopian Media Forum.

Authorities monitored telephone calls, text messages, and e-mails. Authorities took steps to block access to Virtual Private Network providers that let users circumvent government screening of internet browsing and e-mail. There were reports such surveillance resulted in arrests. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 11.6 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.

In March 2015 Citizen Lab, a Canadian research center at the University of Toronto, reported on attempts in 2014 to infect the computers of U.S.-based employees of ESAT with spyware. ESAT is a diaspora-based television and radio station. According to Citizen Lab, its research suggested involvement of the government and that the attacker may have been the Ethiopian Information and Network Security Agency.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government restricted academic freedom, including student enrollment, teachers’ appointments, and curricula. Authorities frequently restricted speech, expression, and assembly on university and high school campuses. The state of emergency regulations prohibited strikes in educational institutions and closing them or damaging property, gives authorities the power to order educational institutions to take measures against any student or staff member who violates the prohibitions in the regulations, and provides law enforcement the authority to enter educational institutions and take measures to control strikes or protests.

The ruling party, via the Ministry of Education, continued to favor students loyal to the party in assignment to postgraduate programs. Some university staff members commented that students who joined the party received priority for employment in all fields after graduation.

Authorities limited teachers’ ability to deviate from official lesson plans. Numerous anecdotal reports suggested non-EPRDF members were more likely to be transferred to undesirable posts and bypassed for promotions. There were reports of teachers not affiliated with the EPRDF being summarily dismissed for failure to attend party meetings. There continued to be a lack of transparency in academic staffing decisions, with numerous complaints from academics alleging bias based on party membership, ethnicity, or religion.

A separate Ministry of Education directive prohibits private universities from offering degree programs in law and teacher education. The directive also requires public universities to align their curriculum with the ministry’s policy of a 70/30 ratio between science and social science academic programs. As a result the number of students studying social sciences and the humanities at public institutions continued to decrease; private universities focused heavily on the social sciences.

Reports indicated a pattern of surveillance and arbitrary arrests of Oromo university students based on suspicion of their holding dissenting opinions or participation in peaceful demonstrations. According to reports there was an intense buildup of security forces (uniformed and plainclothes) embedded on university campuses preceding student protests, especially in Oromia, and in response to student demonstrations.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; the state of emergency regulations, however, prohibited demonstrations and town hall meetings that did not have approval from the command post, the entity that oversees the state of emergency. The government did not respect freedom of assembly and killed, injured, detained, and arrested numerous protesters throughout the year (see also sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., 1.d., and 1.e.). The majority of protests were in Oromia and Amhara regions. On August 13, HRW reported an estimate that security forces killed more than 500 protesters since November 2015. On January 21 and October 10, UN experts called on the government to end the “crackdown on peaceful protests.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights requested access to the regions, which the government did not provide. On November 9, Amnesty international estimated at least 800 had been killed.

On August 6 and 7, security forces reportedly killed approximately 100 persons in response to simultaneous demonstrations in major cities and towns across Oromia and Amhara regions (see section 1.a).

On October 2, dozens were reportedly killed at a religious festival in Bishoftu. Security forces’ response to agitation in the crowd, including the use of teargas and firing into the air, reportedly led to a stampede that left many dead. On October 7, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation and urged the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts highlighted the October 2 events and urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and violence used against protesters since November 2015. The government-established EHRC conducted an investigation into the incident. The results of that investigation were unknown.

Prior to the state of emergency, organizers of public meetings of more than two persons or demonstrations had to notify the government 48 hours in advance and obtain a permit. Authorities could not refuse to grant a permit but could require the event be held at a different time or place for reasons of public safety or freedom of movement. If authorities determined an event should be held at another time or place, the law required organizers be notified in writing within 12 hours of the time of submission of their request. After the state of emergency, prior-issued permits were deemed invalid.

Prior to the state of emergency, the government denied some requests by opposition political parties to hold protests but approved others. Opposition party organizers alleged government interference in most cases, and authorities required several of the protests be moved to different dates or locations from those the organizers requested. Protest organizers alleged the government’s claims of needing to move the protests based on public safety concerns were not credible. Local government officials, almost all of whom were affiliated with the EPRDF, controlled access to municipal halls, and there were many complaints from opposition parties that local officials denied or otherwise obstructed the scheduling of opposition parties’ use of halls for lawful political rallies. There were numerous credible reports owners of hotels and other large facilities cited internal rules forbidding political parties from utilizing their spaces for gatherings. Regional governments, including the Addis Ababa regional administration, were reluctant to grant permits or provide security for large meetings. After the state of emergency, the prohibition on unauthorized demonstrations or town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. For example, members of at least one opposition political party reported they were prevented from having a four-person meeting.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government severely limited this right (see sections 3 and 5).

The state of emergency and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate (see also section 5). The prohibitions relating to communication and acts that undermine tolerance and unity resulted in self-censorship of reports and public statements. The prohibition on unauthorized town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. The prohibition on exchanging information or contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations and others.

The state of emergency regulations also prohibited any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.”

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO) law bans anonymous donations to NGOs. All potential donors were therefore aware their names would be public knowledge. The same was true concerning all donations made to political parties.

A 2012 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, “The enforcement of these (the CSO law) provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively.”

International NGOs seeking to operate in the country had to submit an application via the country’s embassies abroad, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then submitted to the Charities and Societies Agency for approval.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

Although the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the state of emergency regulations restricted internal movement. The government also restricted freedom of internal movement and foreign travel.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. At times authorities or armed groups limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate in areas of insecurity, such as on the country’s borders.

In-country Movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited diplomats from travelling more than 25 miles outside of Addis Ababa without prior notification to and approval from the command post. The government lifted this restriction in early November. Security concerns forced a temporary halt of deliveries of food and other humanitarian assistance in limited areas in Amhara and Oromia regions.

Foreign Travel: A 2013 ban on unskilled workers travelling to the Middle East for employment continued. The ban did not affect citizens travelling for investment or other business reasons. The government stated it issued the ban to prevent harassment, intimidation, and trauma suffered by those working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, as domestic employees.

There were several reports of authorities restricting foreign travel, similar to the following case: On March 23, National Intelligence and Security Service officials at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa prevented Merera Gudina, chairman of the OFC, from departing the country. On June 15, Merera was permitted to leave. Authorities arrested him on December 1.

Authorities restricted travel of persons in the Zone 9 case. For example, authorities confiscated blogger Zelalem Kibret’s passport in November 2015 and prevented him from boarding his international flight. Airport security officials said he could not leave the country because he had previously been arrested. Authorities returned Zelalem’s passport on June 1, and he was later permitted to travel abroad.

Exile: As in past years, citizens including journalists and others remained abroad in self-imposed exile due to fear of government retribution should they return.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 684,064 IDPs between August 2015 and August, including protracted and new cases, many of them due to the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon. This was an increase compared with previous years.

Of the IDPs, 397,296 were displaced by flooding and conflict while 188,244 were displaced due to the effects of the drought related to El Nino. Another 33,300 were displaced due to resource-based competition. Most of those affected by El Nino returned to their places of origin.

IOM estimated 657, 224 individuals were considered “protracted IDPs,” meaning they lacked durable solutions such as local integration, internal resettlement, or return to home. The reasons for protracted displacements included interclan and cross-border conflict, natural disasters, political or community considerations in IDP resettlements, and lack of resettlement resources. Of these IDPs, 283,092 resided in Somali Region; 148,482 in Afar; 144,295 in Oromia; 47,950 in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region; 13,245 in Amhara; 2,290 in Dire Dawa; and 2,055 in Harar. An additional 15,815 individuals displaced by flooding were still on the move and thus could not be attributed to any one region.

IOM reported in August 41,316 individuals or 7,844 households were internally displaced in Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions, due to conflict and flooding. From August 24 through mid-September, approximately 8,000 individuals moved from Amhara Region to northwestern Tigray Region. Many of the IDPs cited as the reason for their departure recent conflicts in the region and a generalized sense they could be targeted because of their ethnicity (Tigrayan). The federal government allocated six million birr ($266,361) to Tigray Region for the IDP response. The funds were distributed among Hemera, Axum, Mekele, and Shire, which were the towns with the greatest IDP influx. The largest volume of arrivals was in Shire, which received 2.6 million birr ($115,423) of the region’s total. The federal government established a committee led by the Tigray Regional Agriculture Department to seek permanent integration options for the IDPs.

The IOM estimated an April 15 attack in Gambella Region by Murle ethnic group from South Sudan displaced more than 21,000 individuals (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).

The government, through the Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector (DRMFSS), continued to play an active role in delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Federal and local DRMFSS officials coordinated with IOM and its partners in monitoring IDP populations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The state of emergency regulations prohibited entering the country without a visa.

According to UNHCR, the country hosted 743,732 refugees as of August. The majority of refugees were from South Sudan (281,612) and Somalia (254,277), with others from Eritrea (161,615), Sudan (39,317), and other countries. There were 1,554 registered Yemeni asylum seekers.

UNHCR, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, and humanitarian agencies continued to care for Sudanese arrivals fleeing from conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile State, averaging 1,500 new arrivals per month, according to UNHCR. The government also extended support to asylum seekers from South Sudan, mostly arriving from Upper Nile and Unity states. Persistent conflict and food insecurity prompted the flow of South Sudanese refugees into the country; there were an estimated 2,712 arrivals during August.

Eritrean asylum seekers continued to arrive. Approximately 23 percent were unaccompanied minors. Many who arrived regularly departed for secondary migration through Egypt and Sudan to go to Europe and other final destinations.

Freedom of movement: The state of emergency regulations prohibited leaving refugee camps without permission from an authorized body. The government continued a policy that allowed some Eritrean refugees to live outside a camp. The government gave such permission primarily for persons to attend higher-education institutions, undergo medical treatment, or avoid security threats at the camps.

Employment: The government does not grant refugees work permits.

Durable Solutions: The government welcomed refugees to settle in the country but did not offer a path to citizenship or provide integration. The government supported a policy allowing some refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihoods. Refugee students who passed the required tests could attend university with fees paid by the government and UNHCR.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political ProcessShare

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The ruling party’s electoral advantages, however, limited this ability.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In May 2015 the country held national elections for the House of People’s Representatives, the country’s parliamentary body. In October 2015 parliament re-elected Hailemariam Desalegn prime minister.

In the May 2015 national parliamentary elections, the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 seats, giving the party a fifth consecutive five-year term. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the vote. The African Union was the sole international organization permitted to observe the elections. Opposition party observers accused local police of interference, harassment, and extrajudicial detention. Independent journalists reported little trouble covering the election, including reports from polling stations. Some independent journalists reported receiving their observation credentials the day before the election, after having submitted proper and timely applications. Six rounds of broadcast debates preceded the elections, and for the most part they were broadcast in full and only slightly edited. The debates included all major political parties. Several laws, regulations, and procedures implemented since the 2005 national elections created a clear advantage for the EPRDF throughout the electoral process. In addition the “first past the post” provision, or 50 percent plus one vote required to win a seat in parliament, as stipulated in the constitution, contributed to EPRDF’s advantage in the electoral process. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters. Various reports confirmed at least six election-related deaths during the period before and immediately following the elections. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is politically dependent on the prime minister, and there is no opportunity for nonruling political parties to have a say in its decisions concerning party registration and candidate qualification. NEBE has sole responsibility for voter education and broadcast radio segments and distributed manuals on voter education in many local languages.

In a preliminary election assessment, the African Union called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible” and applauded the government for its registration efforts. It raised concerns, however, regarding the legal framework underpinning the election. NEBE registered more than 35 million voters, and did not report any incidents of unfair voter registration practices.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The government, controlled by the EPRDF, unduly restricted political parties and members of certain ethnic groups, particularly the Amhara and Oromo, who stated they lacked genuine political representation at the federal level. The state of emergency regulations restricted political parties’ ability to operate. For example, the regulations prohibit any political party “from briefing local or foreign journalists in a manner that is anticonstitutional and undermining sovereignty and security.”

Authorities arrested and prosecuted political opposition members including under allegations of terrorism (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners). Government officials alleged many members of legitimate Oromo opposition parties were secretly OLF members and, more broadly, that members of many opposition parties had ties to Ginbot 7.

The OFC reported that authorities have kept OFC general secretary Bekele Nega under house arrest since December 30, 2015. Security personnel reportedly told him not to leave his house in Addis Ababa, use his phone, or give any interviews to media. Authorities also arrested other OFC leaders and members including Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba (see section 1.e., Denial of Fair Public Trial, Political Prisoners and Detainees).

On October 11, authorities arrested Blen Mesfin and three other members of the registered Blue (Semayawi) Party. Blen Mesfin was charged with “inciting the public through false rumors.” Authorities ordered her release on bail. On the day scheduled for her release, authorities rearrested and detained her without charge. She was released on December 21, although it was unclear whether she still faced charges.

Constituent parties of the EPRDF conferred advantages upon their members; the parties directly owned many businesses and were broadly perceived to award jobs and business contracts to loyal supporters. Several opposition parties reported difficulty in renting homes or buildings in which to open offices, citing visits by EPRDF members to the property owners to persuade or threaten them not to rent property to these parties. There were reports authorities terminated the employment of teachers and other government workers who belonged to opposition political parties. According to Oromo opposition groups, the Oromia regional government continued to threaten to dismiss opposition party members, particularly teachers, from their jobs. There were reports unemployed youths not affiliated with the ruling coalition sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their wards necessary to get jobs.

Registered political parties must receive permission from regional governments to open and occupy local offices. Opposition parties reported difficulty acquiring the required permissions for regional offices, adversely affecting their ability to organize and campaign. Laws requiring parties to report “public meetings” and obtain permission for public rallies were also used to inhibit opposition activities.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws prevented women or minorities from voting or participating in political life, although highly patriarchal customs in some regions limited female participation in political life. Women were significantly underrepresented in both elected and appointed positions. As of the October change in cabinet assignments, women held three of the 22 federal government ministerial positions, including one of three deputy prime minister positions, and also held 212 of 547 seats in the national parliament. The Tigray Regional Council included the highest proportion of women nationwide, at 50 percent (76 of the 152 seats).

The government’s policy of ethnic federalism led to the creation of individual constituencies intended to provide for representation of all major ethnic groups in the House of Federation (one of the two chambers of parliament). There were more than 80 ethnic groups, and small groups lacked representation in the other chamber of parliament, the House of People’s Representatives.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Despite the government’s prosecution of some officials for corruption, many officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Although the government cited fighting corruption as a high priority in its public statements, there were perceptions corruption increased in the government.

Corruption: Corruption, especially the solicitation of bribes, including police and judicial corruption, remained problems. Some government officials were thought to manipulate the land allocation process, and state- and party-owned businesses received preferential access to land leases and credit. The federal attorney general was mandated to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.

The government attributed some of the unrest in Oromia to corruption. For example, on June 9, authorities detained Zelalem Jemaneh, former head of the Oromia Regional State Agriculture Bureau with the rank of deputy chief administrator, on allegations of corruption.

The trial of Wondimu Biratu Kena’a, former head of the Revenues Bureau of Oromia Region who was arrested in August 2015 on allegations of grand corruption and embezzlement, continued at year’s end.

On May 17, the High Court sentenced former intelligence deputy chief Woldeselassie Woldemichael, who authorities arrested in 2013, to 10 years in prison and a fine of 50,000 birr ($2,220) after convicting him of abuse of power and generation of wealth from unknown sources.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires all government officials and employees to register their wealth and personal property. The law includes financial and criminal sanctions for noncompliance. The president and prime minister registered their assets. The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) reported it registered the assets of 26,584 appointees, officials, and employees between July 2015 and April. The commission also carried out reregistration of previously registered assets in the stated period. As of November 2015, 95,000 officials had registered their assets as required by law.

The FEACC held financial disclosure records. By law any person who seeks access to these records may make a request in writing; access to information on family assets may be restricted unless the FEACC deems the disclosure necessary.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, but access was largely restricted. The law includes a narrow list of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure. Responses generally must be made within 30 days of a written request, and fees may not exceed the actual cost of responding to the request. The law includes mechanisms for punishing officials for noncompliance, as well as appeal mechanisms for review of disclosure denials. Information on the number of disclosures or denials during the year was not available.

The government publishes laws and regulations in its national gazette, known as the Federal Negarit Gazeta, prior to their taking effect. The Government Communications Affairs Office managed contacts between the government, the press, and the public; the private press reported the government rarely responded to its queries.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare

A few domestic human rights groups operated but with significant government restrictions. The government was generally distrustful and wary of domestic and international human rights groups and observers. State-controlled media were critical of international human rights groups such as HRW.

The CSO law prohibits charities, societies, and associations (NGOs or CSOs) that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources from engaging in activities that advance human and democratic rights or promote equality of nations, nationalities, peoples, genders, and religions; the rights of children and persons with disabilities; conflict resolution or reconciliation; or the efficiency of justice and law enforcement services. The law severely curtails civil society’s ability to raise questions of good governance, human rights, corruption, and transparency and forced many local and international NGOs working on those issues to either cease advocacy, or reregister and focus on activities other than rights-based advocacy.

Some human rights defender organizations continued to register either as local charities, meaning they could not raise more than 10 percent of their funds from foreign donors but could act in the specified areas, or as resident charities, which allowed foreign donations above 10 percent but prohibited advocacy activities in those areas.

The state of emergency and the accompanying regulations restricted the ability of organizations to operate. The prohibitions relating to communication and acts that undermine tolerance and unity resulted in self-censorship of reports and public statements. The prohibition on unauthorized town hall meetings limited the organization of meetings, training sessions, and other gatherings. The prohibition on exchanging information or contact with a foreign government or NGOs in a manner that undermines national sovereignty and security reduced communication between local organizations and international organizations and others. Curfews in certain areas impeded human rights investigations. The obligation of all organizations to give information when asked by law enforcement raised concerns regarding confidentiality of information.

In July, August, and October, authorities arrested seven members of HRCO. On October 23, authorities dispersed a fundraising event celebrating HRCO’s 25th anniversary. Authorities claimed the organization did not seek additional approval from the command post for the gathering, though it had sought and received approval for the event prior to the start of the state of emergency. As of November 27, at least three members of HRCO remained in detention.

The government denied most NGOs access to federal prisons, police stations, and undisclosed places of detention. The government permitted a local NGO that has an exemption enabling it to raise unlimited funds from foreign sources and to engage in human rights advocacy to visit prisoners. Some NGOs played a positive role in improving prisoners’ chances for clemency.

Authorities limited access of human rights organizations, media, humanitarian agencies, and diplomatic missions in certain areas.

The government continued to lack a clear policy on NGO access to sensitive areas, leading regional government officials and military officials frequently to refer requests for NGO access to the federal government. Officials required journalists to register before entering certain regions or denied access. There were reports of regional police or local militias blocking NGO access to particular locations on particular days, citing security concerns.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not cooperate with requests for investigations from the OHCHR or UN experts. In August the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to allow independent observers into Oromia and Amhara regions. The commissioner reportedly said allegations of excessive use of force across the two regions must be investigated. The government dismissed the request through its spokesperson, who, on August 11, told an international media the United Nations was entitled to its opinion, but the government was responsible for the safety of its own citizens. The spokesperson stated the government would launch its own investigation. On October 7, following the deaths at the religious festival in Bishoftu, the OHCHR reiterated the request the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate.

Requests from the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to visit the country remained unanswered.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The EHRC reportedly investigated hundreds of human rights complaints, organized field investigations, conducted prison visits to provide recommendations on improving prison conditions, and produced annual and thematic reports. On June 10, the EHRC reported to parliament that it counted 173 deaths in Oromia, including 28 of security force members and officials, and asserted security forces used appropriate there. The EHRC also asserted Amhara regional state special security had used excessive force against the Kemant community in Amhara Region. The commission did not publicly release its report. The EHRC also investigated the September 3 fire in Kilinto prison. The commission operated 112 legal aid centers in collaboration with 22 universities and two civil society organizations, the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association, and the Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Fellowship.

The Office of the Ombudsman has authority to investigate complaints of administrative mismanagement by executive branch offices. From July 2015 to June, the office received 2,849 complaints; the ombudsman opened investigations into 1,231 (including 209 cases from the previous year) and referred 1,827 cases outside its mandate to other offices. Of the 1,231 cases the office investigated, it reported resolving 1,010 (82 percent); 221 remained pending. The majority of complaints investigated dealt with land, administration of public service, delay in service delivery, unjust decisions, social security, and access to information.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides for penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law, partially due to widespread underreporting. Recent statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished were not available.

Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. Depending on the severity of damage inflicted, penalties range from small fines to up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Although women had recourse to police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure prevented many women from seeking legal redress, particularly in rural areas. The government prosecuted offenders on a limited scale.

Domestic violence and rape cases often were delayed significantly and given low priority. In the context of gender-based violence, significant gender gaps in the justice system remained, due to poor documentation and inadequate investigation. Gender-based violence against women and girls was underreported due to cultural acceptance, shame, fear of reprisal, or a victim’s ignorance of legal protections.

“Child friendly” benches hear cases involving violence against children and women. Police officers were required to receive domestic violence training from domestic NGOs and the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs on the EHRC.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition or punish those who practiced it. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 74 percent of women and girls had undergone FGM/C. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy, with sentences of imprisonment of at least three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22). Infibulation of the genitals is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. No criminal charges, however, have ever been filed for FGM/C.

The prevalence of FGM/C was reportedly declining. UNICEF cited a 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey as finding 23 percent of girls between birth and age 14 had undergone FGM/C. Although statistics on FGM/C varied, one report from 2013 cited Afar, Somali, and Dire Dawa regions as having the highest prevalence of FGM/C. It was less common in urban areas.

The age at which FGM/C is performed depends on the ethnic group, type of FGM/C performed, and region. In the north FGM/C tended to be performed immediately after birth; in the south, where FGM/C is more closely associated with marriage, it was performed later. Girls typically had clitoridectomies performed on them seven days after birth (consisting of an excision of the clitoris, often with partial labial excision) and infibulation (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) at the onset of puberty. The government’s strategy was to discourage the practice through education in public schools, the Health Extension Program, and broader mass media campaigns rather than to prosecute offenders. International bilateral donors and private organizations were active in community education efforts to reduce the prevalence of FGM/C, following the government’s lead of sensitization rather than legal enforcement.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws.

Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples generally have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Traditional practices such as marriage by abduction in which forced sex occurred limited this right in practice. According to a 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the maternal mortality rate declined to 412 deaths per 100,000 live births. An article surveying maternal mortality listed obstructed labor/uterine rupture, hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and sepsis/infection as the top four causes from 2000 to 2012. The 2016 DHS found a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 35 percent nationwide among married women and 55 percent among sexually active unmarried women. For married women the rate increased compared with that found in previous DHS surveys. According to the 2016 DHS, the percentage of births delivered by a skilled attendant increased to 28 percent and those that occurred in a health facility increased to 26 percent. Abortion is illegal but with numerous exceptions. The incidence of illegal, unsafe abortions had declined since legislation changed, which accounted in part for the drop in maternal mortality. All maternal and child health services were provided free of charge in the public sector; however, challenges persisted in accessing quality services in more remote areas of the country due to transportation problems.

Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem and was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years a marriage existed, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.

The constitution states ownership of land and natural resources “is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia.” Both men and women have land-use rights that they may pass on as an inheritance. Land law varies among regions, however. All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property they acquired during marriage.

In urban areas women had fewer employment opportunities than men did, and the jobs available did not generally provide equal pay for equal work. Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their generally lower level of education and training and by traditional attitudes.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations.

Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The number of students enrolled in schools expanded faster than trained teachers could be deployed. The net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal marriage age for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. In several regions it was customary for older men to marry girls, although this traditional practice continued to face greater scrutiny and criticism. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders.

According to a 2015 UNICEF report, 16 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 15 and 41 percent before age 18. According to the 2011 DHS, the median age of first marriage among women between ages 20 and 49 who were surveyed was 17.1 years, compared with 16.5 years in 2005.

In Amhara and Tigray regions, girls were married as early as age seven. Child marriage was most prevalent in Amhara Region, where approximately 45 percent of girls marry before age 18, and the median first marriage age was 15.1 years, according to the 2011 DHS, compared with 14.7 years in 2005. Regional governments in Amhara and, to a lesser extent, Tigray offered programs to educate girls, young women, parents, community leaders, and health professionals on problems associated with early marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information is provided in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years in prison for sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. The law prohibits profiting from the prostitution of minors and inducing minors to engage in prostitution; however, commercial sexual exploitation of children continued, particularly in urban areas. Girls as young as age 11 were reportedly recruited to work in brothels. Customers often sought these girls because they believed them to be free of sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas. They also were exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops. Reports indicated family members forced some young girls into prostitution.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.

Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets, of whom 60,000 were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions were often unsanitary. Due to severe resource constraints, hospitals and orphanages often overlooked or neglected abandoned infants. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

On April 15, members of the Murle ethnic group from South Sudan reportedly abducted more than 100 children from Gambella Region (see section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce the law, for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of the Proclamation on The Rights of Disabled Persons to Employment.

The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although specific regulations that define the accessibility standards were not adopted. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and this was respected.

Women with disabilities were more disadvantaged than men with disabilities in education and employment. The 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey found young persons with disabilities were less likely to have ever attended school than those without disabilities. The survey indicated girls with disabilities were less likely than boys to be in school: 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Overall, 48 percent of young persons with disabilities surveyed reported not going to school due to their disability. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than girls without disabilities. Of sexually experienced girls with disabilities, 33 percent reported having experienced forced sex. According to the same survey, approximately 6 percent of boys with disabilities had been beaten in the three months prior to the survey, compared with 2 percent of boys without disabilities.

There were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law continued to affect negatively several domestic associations, such as the Ethiopian National Association of the Blind, the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf, and the Ethiopian National Association of the Physically Handicapped, as it did other civil society organizations. International organizations and some local CSOs were active, particularly on issues concerning accessibility and vocational training for persons with disabilities.

The right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs is not restricted by law, although lack of accessibility can make participation difficult. In the May 2015 national elections, African Union observers reported voters requiring assistance were always provided with assistance, either by a person of their choice or by polling staff. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities, and priority was given to them as well as to the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of ethnically based parties.

HRCO reported that a few Oromo protesters in Ameya, South West Shoa Zone of Oromia, burnt down homes and property of Amhara residents on December 12, 2015. According to the HRCO report, the attack displaced several hundred farmers and destroyed more than 800 homes. A number of Amhara farmers reportedly retaliated by burning down homes of 96 Oromo farmers. The two communities held joint meetings and condemned the attacks on both sides. They were working together to rebuild the destroyed houses.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community stated they were followed and at times feared for their safety. There were no updates on reports of persons incarcerated for allegedly engaging in same-sex sexual activities.

The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in the areas of education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Violence occurred, including in Gambella Region and during protests.

On April 15, armed men from the Murle ethnic group from South Sudan who crossed into the country reportedly killed more than 200 women and children in three woredas of Nuer Zone in Gambella Region. The attackers also reportedly abducted more than 100 children and stole thousands of cattle. The Murle attack added to the instability of the region, which was already under pressure because of interethnic clashes between Nuer and Anuak groups that started on January 20.

On April 21, South Sudanese refugees living in Jewi camp in Gambella Region reportedly killed 10 Ethiopians contracted by an international NGO to build a secondary education facility. The violence was triggered when an NGO-contracted truck hit and killed two refugee children. Authorities detained 53 refugees suspected of the killings and, on August 15, filed criminal charges against 23 of them. According to the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, the government provided two public defenders to represent the refugees at their trial. The UNHCR Protection Unit as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross had access to the detainees and monitored the legal process.

On June 29, residents of Hana Mariam, Furi, and Mango Cheffe localities of Nifas Silk Laphto Subcity in Addis Ababa clashed with police and killed two police officers and a local official during the start of the city government’s operation to evict residents forcibly. Both Addis Ababa Police Commission and Government Communication Affairs Office confirmed the killings.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide workers, except for civil servants and certain categories of workers primarily in the public sector, with the right to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, although other provisions and laws severely restrict or excessively regulate these rights. The law specifically prohibits managerial employees, teachers, health-care workers, judges, prosecutors, security-service workers, domestic workers, and seasonal and part-time agricultural workers from organizing unions.

A minimum of 10 workers is required to form a union. While the law provides all unions with the right to register, the government may refuse to register trade unions that do not meet its registration requirements including because of a nonpolitical conviction of the union leader within the previous 10 years and the presence of illegal union objectives. The government may unilaterally cancel the registration of a union. Workers may not join more than one trade union per employment. The law stipulates a trade union organization may not act in an overtly political manner. The law allows administrative authorities to appeal to the courts to cancel union registration for engaging in prohibited activities, such as political action.

Other laws and regulations that explicitly or potentially infringe upon workers’ rights to associate freely and to organize include the CSO law, Council of Ministers Regulation No. 168/2009 on Charities and Societies to reinforce the CSO law, and the ATP. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations noted the CSO law gives the government power to interfere in the right of workers to organize, including through the registration, internal administration, and dissolution of organizations’ processes.

While the law recognizes the right of collective bargaining, this right was severely restricted. Negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collective agreement must be completed within three months of its expiration; otherwise, the provisions on wages and other benefits cease to apply. Civil servants, including public school teachers, have the right to establish and join professional associations created by the employees but not to negotiate better wages or working conditions. Arbitration procedures in the public sector are more restrictive than those in the private sector. The law does not provide for effective and adequate sanctions against acts of interference by other agents in the establishment, functioning, or administration of either workers’ or employers’ organizations.

Although the constitution and law provide workers with the right to strike to protect their interests, the law contains detailed provisions prescribing extremely complex and time-consuming formalities that make legal strike actions difficult. The law requires aggrieved workers to attempt reconciliation with employers before striking and includes a lengthy dispute settlement process. These provisions apply equally to an employer’s right to lock workers out. Two-thirds of the workers concerned must support a strike before it is authorized. If a case has not already been referred to a court or labor relations board, workers retain the right to strike without resorting to either of these options, provided they give at least 10 days’ notice to the other party and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and make efforts at reconciliation.

The law also prohibits strikes by workers who provide essential services, including air transport and urban bus service workers, electric power suppliers, gas station personnel, hospital and pharmacy personnel, firefighters, telecommunications personnel, and urban sanitary workers. The list of essential services exceeds the ILO definition of essential services. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, but it also provides for civil or penal penalties against unions and workers involved in unauthorized strike actions. Violation of this procedure is an offense punishable with a fine not exceeding 1,200 birr ($53) if committed by a union or of 300 birr ($13) if committed by an individual worker. If the provisions of the penal code prescribe more severe penalties, the punishment laid down in the code becomes applicable. The government may dissolve unions for carrying out strikes in “essential services.”

The informal labor sector, including domestic workers, was not unionized and was not protected by labor laws. Workers are defined as persons in an employment relationship. Lack of adequate staffing prevented the government from effectively enforcing applicable laws for those sectors protected by law. Court procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were respected, but some legal problems remained. The ILO was critical of the government’s alleged use of the antiterrorism law to punish ringleaders, organizers, or commanders of forbidden societies, meetings, and assemblies. The government refused for the fourth year to register the National Teachers Union (NTA) on grounds a national teachers’ association already existed and that the NTA’s registration application was not submitted in accordance with the CSO law. In 2013 an ILO mission made a working visit and signed a joint statement with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, stating the government was committed to registering the NTA. The ILO’s Ethiopia office reiterated this message and characterized the dispute as an administrative issue focused on naming rights and diaspora membership.

While the government allowed citizens to exercise the right of collective bargaining, enterprise unions are allowed to negotiate wages only at the plant level. Unions in the formal industrial sector made some efforts to enforce labor regulations.

Antiunion activities occurred but were rarely reported. Despite the law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, unions reported employers terminated union activists. There were unconfirmed reports that some major foreign investors generally did not allow workers to form unions, often transferred or dismissed union leaders, and intimidated and pressured members to leave unions. Lawsuits alleging unlawful dismissal often took years to resolve because of case backlogs in the courts. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required to reinstate workers dismissed for union activities and generally did so. The law prohibits retribution against strikers, and there were no reported cases of violations. Labor officials reported that high unemployment, fear of retribution, and long delays in hearing labor cases deterred workers from participating in strikes or other labor actions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

In August 2015 the federal government enacted a comprehensive overhaul of its antitrafficking penal code. The code prescribes harsh penalties of up to life imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 birr ($22,197) for human trafficking and exploitation, including slavery, debt bondage, forced prostitution, and servitude.

Although the ban on labor migration to the Gulf States remained in effect, in February the government enacted the Revised Overseas Employment Proclamation (Proclamation No. 923/20 16), a major precondition for lifting the labor migration ban.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor but permits courts to order forced labor as a punitive measure. Slavery, even in disguised form, is punishable with five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred. Police at the federal and regional levels began to receive training focused on human trafficking and exploitation. Both adults and children were forced to engage in street vending, begging, traditional weaving, or agricultural work. Children also worked in forced domestic labor. Situations of debt bondage also occurred in traditional weaving, pottery making, cattle herding, and other agricultural activities, mostly in rural areas. Girls were exploited in domestic servitude and prostitution in neighboring African countries. Ethiopian women who migrated for work or fled abusive employers in the Middle East were also vulnerable to sex trafficking. Men and boys migrated to the Gulf States and other African nations, where some were subjected to forced labor.

The government sometimes deployed prisoners to work outside the prisons for private businesses, a practice the ILO stated could constitute compulsory labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

By law the minimum age for wage or salary employment is 14. The minimum age provisions, however, apply only to contractual labor and do not apply to self-employed children or children who perform unpaid work. The law prohibits hazardous or night work for children between 14 and 18. The law defines hazardous work as any work that could jeopardize a child’s health. Prohibited work sectors include passenger transport, work in electric generation plants, factory work, underground work, street cleaning, and many other sectors. The law expressly excludes children under age 16 attending vocational schools from the prohibition on hazardous work. The law does not permit children between ages 14 and 18 to work more than seven hours per day, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or on public holidays or rest days.

Child labor remained a serious problem. The small number of trained labor inspectors and a lack of enforcement resources resulted in numerous violations. Occupational safety and health measures were not effectively enforced, and significant numbers of children worked in prohibited work sectors, particularly construction.

School enrollment was low, particularly in rural areas. To underscore the importance of attending school, joint NGO and government-led community-based awareness-raising efforts targeted communities where children were heavily engaged in agricultural work. The government invested in modernizing agricultural practices and constructing schools to combat the problem of child labor in agricultural sectors.

In both rural and urban areas, children often began working at young ages. Child labor was particularly pervasive in subsistence agricultural production, traditional weaving, fishing, and domestic work. A growing number of children worked in construction. Children in rural areas, especially boys, engaged in activities such as cattle herding, petty trading, plowing, harvesting, and weeding, while other children, mostly girls, collected firewood and fetched water. Children worked in the production of gold. In small-scale gold mining, they dug mining pits and carried heavy loads of water. Children in urban areas, including orphans, worked in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevented many from attending school regularly. Children also worked in manufacturing, shining shoes, making clothes, parking, public transport, petty trading, as porters, and directing customers to taxis. Some children worked long hours in dangerous environments for little or no wages and without occupational safety protection. Child laborers often faced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of their employers.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin nationality, gender, marital status, religion, political affiliation, political outlook, pregnancy, socioeconomic status, disability, or “any other conditions.” The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on pregnant women and persons with disabilities (see section 6). Sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status are not specifically protected. The penalty for discrimination on the above grounds is a fine of 1,200 birr ($53). The government took limited measures to enforce the law.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, who had fewer employment opportunities than did men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred (see section 7.e.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage. Some government institutions and public enterprises set their own minimum wages. Public-sector employees, the largest group of wage earners, earned a monthly minimum wage of approximately 420 birr ($19). The official estimate for the poverty income level was 315 birr ($14) per month.

Only a small percentage of the population, concentrated in urban areas, was involved in wage-labor employment. Wages in the informal sector generally were below subsistence levels.

The law provides for a 48-hour maximum legal workweek with a 24-hour rest period, premium pay for overtime, and prohibition of excessive compulsory overtime. The country has 13 paid public holidays per year. The law entitles employees in public enterprises and government financial institutions to overtime pay; civil servants receive compensatory time off for overtime work. The government, industries, and unions negotiated occupational safety and health standards. Workers specifically excluded by law from unionizing, including domestic workers and seasonal and part-time agricultural workers, generally did not benefit from health and safety regulations in the workplace.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ inspection department was responsible for enforcement of workplace standards. In 2015 the country had 423 labor inspectors and, according to the ministry, they completed 37,500 inspections in 2015. The labor inspectors did not enforce standards effectively. The ministry’s severely limited administrative capacity; lack of an effective mechanism for receiving, investigating, and tracking allegations of violations; and lack of detailed, sector-specific health and safety guidelines hampered effective enforcement of these standards. Maximum penalties for different types of violations range from 300 birr ($13) to 1,000 birr ($44), which by themselves are insufficient to deter such violations

Compensation, benefits, and working conditions of seasonal agricultural workers were far below those of unionized permanent agricultural employees. The government did little to enforce the law. Most employees in the formal sector worked a 39-hour workweek. Many foreign, migrant, and informal-sector workers worked more than 48 hours per week.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their employment; there were no reports that workers exercised this right. Hazardous working conditions existed in the agricultural sector, which was the primary base of the country’s economy. There were also reports of hazardous and exploitative working conditions in the construction and industrial sectors, although data on deaths and injuries were not available.

Forbes: Ethiopia’s Cruel Con Game March 3, 2017

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion. The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion.


Ethiopia’s Cruel Con Game

Forbes Opinoin, GUEST POST WRITTEN BY David Steinman, 3 March 2017


Mr. Steinman advises foreign democracy movements. He authored the novel “Money, Blood and Conscience” about Ethiopia’s secret genocide.


In what could be an important test of the Trump Administration’s attitude toward foreign aid, the new United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien have called on the international community to give the Ethiopian government another $948 million to assist a reported 5.6 million people facing starvation.

Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the recent 28th Summit of the African Union, Guterres described Ethiopia as a “pillar of stability” in the tumultuous Horn of Africa, praised its government for an effective response to last year’s climate change-induced drought that left nearly 20 million people needing food assistance, and asked the world to show “total solidarity” with the regime.

Women and children wait for care at an outpatient treatment center in Lerra village, Wolayta, Ethiopia, on June 10, 2008. (Jose Cendon/Bloomberg News)

Ethiopia is aflame with rebellions against its unpopular dictatorship, which tried to cover up the extent of last year’s famine. But even if the secretary general’s encouraging narrative were true, it still begs the question: Why, despite ever-increasing amounts of foreign support, can’t this nation of 100 million clever, enterprising people feed itself? Other resource-poor countries facing difficult environmental challenges manage to do so.


Two numbers tell the story in a nutshell:

1. The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion.

2. The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion.


The latter figure is based on the UN’s own 2015 report on Illicit Financial Outflows by a panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and another from Global Financial Integrity, an American think tank. These document $2-3 billion—an amount roughly equaling Ethiopia’s annual foreign aid and investment—being drained from the country every year, mostly through over- and under-invoicing of imports and exports.

Ethiopia’s far-left economy is centrally controlled by a small ruling clique that has grown fantastically wealthy. Only they could be responsible for this enormous crime. In other words, the same Ethiopian leadership that’s begging the world for yet another billion for its hungry people is stealing several times that amount every year.

America and the rest of the international community have turned a blind eye to this theft of taxpayer money and the millions of lives destroyed in its wake, because they rely on Ethiopia’s government to provide local counterterror cooperation, especially with the fight against Al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia. But even there we’re being taken. Our chief aim in Somalia is to eliminate Al-Shabab. Our Ethiopian ally’s aim is twofold: Keep Somalia weak and divided so it can’t unite with disenfranchised fellow Somalis in Ethiopia’s adjoining, gas-rich Ogaden region; and skim as much foreign assistance as possible. No wonder we’re losing.

The Trump Administration has not evinced particular interest in democracy promotion, but much of Ethiopia’s and the region’s problems stem from Ethiopia’s lack of the accountability that only democracy confers. A more accountable Ethiopian government would be forced to implement policies designed to do more than protect its control of the corruption. It would have to free Ethiopia’s people to develop their own solutions to their challenges and end their foreign dependency. It would be compelled to make the fight on terror more effective by decreasing fraud, basing military promotions on merit instead of cronyism and ending the diversion of state resources to domestic repression. An accountable Ethiopian government would have to allow more relief to reach those who truly need it and reduce the waste of U.S. taxpayers’ generous funding. Representative, accountable government would diminish the Ogaden’s secessionist tendencies that drive Ethiopia’s counterproductive Somalia strategy.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn attends the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017. (ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)

But Ethiopia’s government believes it has America over a barrel and doesn’t have to be accountable to us or to its own people. Like Mr. Guterres, past U.S. presidents have been afraid to confront the regime, which even forced President Barack Obama into a humiliating public defense of its last stolen election. The result has been a vicious cycle of enablement, corruption, famine and terror.

Whether the Trump Administration will be willing to play the same game remains to be seen. The answer will serve as a signal to other foreign leaders who believe America is too craven to defend its money and moral values.

 

ETHIOPIA: FASCIST TPLF’S PROXY WAR THROUGH THE LIYU POLICE March 2, 2017

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

tplf-ethiopias-federal-army-abbay-tsehaye-and-samora-yunus-are-architects-of-the-ongoing-ethnic-cleansing-against-oromo-in-south-and-eastern-oromia


Via Oromo-American Citizens Council

For immediate release:

February 27, 2017

TPLF’S PROXY WAR THROUGH THE LIYU POLICE

The OACC is alarmed by the unsettling grave situation transpiring in Oromia today. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the TPLF has hit a new low.  The revival and strengthening of Oromo protest over the last two years had shaken the TPLF/EPRDF regime to its core. Even though it has by and large installed military administration using the so called State of Emergency declaration, the TPLF knows that this is a temporary fix that cannot stop the impending Oromo uprising. The regime has realized that it cannot quell the Oromo movement and rule as before.

Therefore, in addition to its old tactic of dividing the Oromo within itself, the regime has now devised and rolled out a new tactic aimed at averting the Oromo rage from itself to a new foe it is fabricating for the Oromos.  This new tactic is instigating conflict between the Oromo and all its neighbors. In the last few months, the regime has partially succeeded in one area. In using the puppet Somali regional state, that has committed untold atrocities against its own people, TPLF has declared war and annexed some Oromia territories to Somalia region.

As a result of the terroristic and violent action of the notorious semi criminal roving band called Liyu Police, to date more than two-hundred Oromos are killed and many more hundreds are maimed, and thousands of goats and chattels are looted from the people.  In addition, thousands are evicted from their land and homes. The Liyu Police, with the blessing of the Ethiopia government, is today occupying significant part of Oromia.  Unless stopped immediately, this has a great consequence for the future territorial integrity of Oromia.

Evidence is coming out that the regular TPLF army members are not only participating in the Liyu Police raids against the Oromo population, but are also leading it from behind. One of the fundamental functions of any government is to keep peace and stability. In Ethiopia, the irony is that it is the government that foments conflict and instability.

The Oromo and Somali population should not fall prey to this malicious TPLF tactic of divide and rule. There is no enmity between the Oromo and Somali population. They should rather be wise and stand together and fight this cancerous regime that is becoming the source of all conflict in the country.

Unless and until it is removed from power, it should definitely be expected that the TPLF will concoct similar conflicts between the Oromo and other ethnic groups. Thus, it’s incumbent on the Oromo population to keep vigilant and guard against such political machinations.

It is only the lack of strong Oromo government and the division between the Oromos that has made Oromia vulnerable and to be overrun by any force at will.  And it’s only the concerted effort of the Oromo population, in alliance with all peace loving peoples of Ethiopia, that can put an end to this troubling situation.

Today, it is the Somali militia, and tomorrow, unless we are prepared, it’s going to be militia forces from other regions that are going to occupy and slaughter our defenseless and forsaken population with impunity. Therefore, it is high time that all Oromos, including those in the government who still have a little nationalism left in them, come together, strengthen their unity, and confront this dangerous situation in unison.

This is a national issue that should worry every Oromo irrespective of any political and any other differences. At this crucial stage of our people’s struggle, it’s especially incumbent on Oromo political organizations, by taking into account the gravity of the situation, to close their gap more than any other time, and lead our people to the final victory.

Oromo-American Citizens Council (OACC) is a Minnesota non-profit organization established and functioning since 2002. We are made up of Oromo-Americans and others who are concerned about Oromo issues. Among others, we advocate for equal rights of Oromos in Ethiopia, expose human rights violations, and help initiate dialogue and reconciliation among various Ethiopian groups.

Ethiopia’s Oromo Revolution echoes around the globe March 1, 2017

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Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

Ethiopia’s Oromo Revolution echoes around the globe

Published on February 28, 2017 by Lima Charlie News

| “If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed, maybe they will put me in prison.” These words were not spoken by just anyone seeking asylum. They were spoken by 2016 Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa when he displayed the Oromo Revolution symbol of an X after running a 2:09:54 marathon in Brazil, in August 2016.

Image Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopian Olympic Silver Medalist
FEYISA LILESA, ETHIOPIAN OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST (OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Feyisa, 27, fearing for his life, found refuge in Arizona, where he is training for the London Marathon. Feyisa received a green card and has been living in the United States since September. On Valentine’s Day of this year, his wife, daughter, and son, were reunited with him.

Feyisa highlights the real story.

The Oromo Revolution is a movement seeking societal change and equal rights in Ethiopia, a country of over 86 million. It developed in response to the government’s violent response to peaceful protests. Oromia is the largest of nine ethnically based regions in Ethiopia, and it is one of the most fertile lands in Ethiopia’s agrarian society. Protesters initially displayed opposition to the “Master Plan,” a government push to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, further into Oromia.

In response to the protesters, the Government of Ethiopia eventually decided to cancel the Master Plan, but damage was done as security forces killed hundreds, wounded thousands, and imprisoned tens of thousands.

Image Ethiopia protest
OROMO AND AMHARA PROTESTERS CALL FOR EQUITABLE RIGHTS, AUGUST 6, 2016. REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented hundreds of cases of alleged human rights abuses by the government against the Oromos and Amhara populations, including the killing of peaceful protesters, the arrest and detention of students, journalists, and political leaders, and the stifling of political dissent under the guise of “counterterrorism.” Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the United States, assisting in counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadi terrorist group based in Somalia.

In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power and has ruled for nearly two decades. The EPRDF is primarily comprised of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is a minority group. In Ethiopia, the Oromos and Amharas constitute the two largest ethnic groups, combining for over 61% of the population. Yet, in 2015, the EPRDF won 100% of parliamentary seats, up from 99.6% in 2010. Despite an obvious lack of equality in representation, in 2015 President Obama referred to the Government of Ethiopia as “democratically elected”.

As a response to the Oromo Revolution, the Oromo Leadership Convention (OLC) is seeking to organize an overall consensus for the future of the Oromo. While several conferences have been conducted, there is another scheduled for March 2017, in Arlington, Virginia.

While the OLC continues to build consensus, the Government of Ethiopia continued to implement a state of emergency. Last week prosecutors also brought multiple criminal charges against key Oromo opposition leaders, which included charges of treason, that they attempted to “violently overthrow the constitutional order”. Charges were also brought against two foreign-based television stations, OMN and ESAT, which included allegations that they violated Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism laws.

TPLF has finally put on its honor roll by charging me at its kangaroo court. The charge is said to include… http://fb.me/8eNv4u6PY 

Lima Charlie News, by J. David Thompson

Follow David on Twitter @JDThompsonLC 

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

 


 

Human Rights League: ETHIOPIA: The Ethiopian Government is Plotting a War Among the Nations and Nationalities in Ethiopia February 28, 2017

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ETHIOPIA:  The Ethiopian Government is Plotting a War Among  the Nations and Nationalities in Ethiopia

 

HRLHA Press Release


HRLHAFebruary 26, 2017

The  Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Ethiopian Federal government’s killing squad have been engaged in a cruel war for the past six months against the Oromo nation in fifteen districts of Oromia.   The Oromia districts that have been invaded by the two aforementioned forces are in east and east- west Hararge Zone, Eastern Oromia,  Guji,  Borana and  Bale, South Oromia zones, Southern Oromia of Oromia Regional State.

Nations

Somali Liyu Police Invading Southern Oromia

The Ethiopian Federal government, which in theory has a state duty and a responsibility to bring peace and harmony among the nations and nationalities in the country, is actually engaged in instigating a war between the Ethiopian Somali and Oromo nations. High casualties have been registered on both sides in the past six months.  Hundreds of Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government’s killing squad have entered into Oromia villages, attacked and killed and abducted hundreds of Oromos and looted properties; over 750 goats, ships,  and camels were taken.

According to the HRLHA informants, the Oromia Regional State nominal administrative leaders, including Lema Megersa- the president- turned a blind eye while the citizens they claimed to be governing have been killed,  abducted, and displaced from their lands and villages  and dehumanized by the warriors of the  Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government of Ethiopa’s killing squad.

Recently, the invasion into Oromia has expanded into the western part of Oromia Regional State. The Federal government force in Gambela crossed into West Wallaga, Oromia Regional State villages and displaced thousands of Oromos in Qelem Zone of Anfillo and Yatii districts. The HRLHA informants also disclosed that the Ethiopian Killing squad force is on intensive training on the western side of Oromia regional state boundary in Benshangul regional state preparing to invade Oromo villages in the western part of Wallaga zone of Oromia Regional State.

During the recent skirmish between Liyu  Police and Oromo people on February 23, 2017, in  Bale, Sawena district at Qilessa village Southern Oromia,  19 Oromos were killed and 13 wounded. In the same fight,  35 were killed and 50 wounded from the Ethiopian Somali Liyu  Police invaders by Oromo civilian resistance force.

According to the HRLHA informants, the total casualties in connection with the invasion by the  Ethiopian -Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government’s killing squad in Oromia Zones of Guji, Borana, Bale and east and west Hararge zones caused the deaths of over 200 Oromos and injured over 150 and many were abducted and taken to Somali Region. The report from our informants also confirmed  Oromo self-defense civilians killed over 260 invaders,  members of  Liyu police and Ethiopian Federal Killing squads, and injured many others.

This meaningless and reckless action by the Ethiopian Federal government will destabilize the region in general and Ethiopia in particular.

It is clear that the  Ethiopian Federal government is demonstrating its hidden agenda- to eliminate the Oromo nation under the pretext of boundary conflict between nations and nationalities. During the  Oromo self-defense attack against Somali  Liyu Police, many invaders were killed and others injured. This shows that the plan to invade  Oromia in all directions may lead to a  civil war, which suggests that the Federal  Government of Ethiopia is deliberately plotting to cause a war among nations and nationalities in the country.

Background

Ethiopians have been under extreme repression ever since  October 8, 2016- a State of Emergency in fact.  The Ethiopian government has used a state of emergency in order to kill, imprison and abduct citizens from their homes and workplaces in Oromia and Amhara regional states. During the past four months- under the State of Emergency- over  70,000 Oromos,  including pregnant women, seniors and underage children have been taken to concentration camps in Xolay, Zubway, Didessa, Huriso and other places. There, they have been tortured, exposed to communicable diseases and malnutrition from which hundreds have died.

 

The cause of the civilian unrest in Ethiopia during the past two years was the marginalization of the citizens from the political and fair distribution of their economic resources; they have also been evicted from their ancestral lands without consultation and compensation. Evictions from the land around the city of Addis Ababa after the declaration of ” The Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan”- evictions which have confronted by the Oromo nation from all walks of lives and have caused the deaths of over 2000 Oromos by the federal government sniper force Agazi- still continue. In the Month of February over 200 People have been displaced by the government and their lands have been taken.  Every day a number of people are detained all over Oromia and Amhara regional States and tortured.

Today, over ten million Ethiopians are daily exposed to hunger and poverty while the Ethiopian government has invested billions of dollars of foreign aid in training killing squads to kill its own people, claiming that Ethiopians were not dying from hunger and poverty.

A call on International Communities:

  • The HRLHA once again renews its calls to the international community to act collectively in a timely and decisive manner to request the Ethiopian government to stop instigating war among the Nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, a situation that could easily lead to civil war.
  • The HRLHA further requests that members of the UN Human Rights Council urge the Ethiopian government to allow the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs to visit the country to assess the human rights situations of political prisoners and others in detention centers all over the country
  • The HRLHA calls upon major donor governments, including the USA, UK, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Australia to make sure that their aid money is not used to train the Ethiopian Government’s killing squads to dehumanize the citizens of Ethiopia

Copied To:

  • UN Human Rights Council
    OHCHR address: 
    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
    Palais Wilson
    52 rue des Pâquis
    CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Africa Union (AU)
    African Union Headquarters
    P.O. Box 3243 | Roosevelt Street (Old Airport Area) | W21K19 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Tel: (251) 11 551 77 00 | Fax: (251) 11 551 78 44
    Webmaster: webmaster@africa-union.org
  • The US Department of State
    WASHINGTON, D.C. HEADQUARTERS
    (202) 895-3500
    OFMInfo@state.gov
    Office of Foreign Missions
    2201 C Street NW
    Room 2236
    Washington, D.C. 20520
    Customer Service Center
    3507 International Place NW
    Washington, D.C. 20522-3303

 

Why the Eerie Silence of The Peoples of Ethiopia As State Terrorism Mainly Rampages Oromia? February 20, 2017

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Why the Eerie Silence of The Peoples of Ethiopia As State Terrorism Mainly Rampages Oromia?   

  


‘Unite to Defend Your Rights, Or Else, You’ll Cease to Exist’


By Denboba Natie, Sidama Info Network,   February 20, 2017, 

“Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere. We Are Caught In An Inescapable Network Of Mutuality, Tied In A Single Garment Of Destiny. Whatever Affects One Directly, Affects All Indirectly.” Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, 16 April 1963, USA


  1. The TPLF Never Quashes the Oromo Revolution.

The Oromo nation’s new waves of struggle against the ongoing oppression began in October 2015, is continuing unabated; despite the imposition of state of emergency by TPLF’s ruthless regime since October 2016. Several hundreds of Oromo civilians have been summarily executed on monthly basis ever since; and to date hundreds are getting slaughtered by TPLF’s terrorizing agents known as ‘Agi-azi’, in addition to Ogaden Sumali Liyu militia, the national army and security forces. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Oromo civilians are rounded up and taken to various torturing chambers all over the country; where the prisons of the country mainly entertain Oromo prisoners – to the extent where people assume that the language of all prisons in Ethiopia became Affan Oromo. The Oromo’s prominent opposition figures such as Baqala Garbaa and Professor Marara Gudina among hundreds of thousands of Oromo prisoners remain unlawfully incarcerated. Therefore, the Oromo’s current revolution is the outcome of over century old grievances resulted from deep-seated injustice imposed on the nation by successive Ethiopian rulers including the current TPLF’s ruthless regime.

Therefore, the aim of the Oromo nation’s new form of struggle is not about demanding the regime to answer their mysterious, unrealistic and alien quests. To the contrary, the Oromo nation unanimously rose to unconditionally demand its Waqaa, Allah, Magano, Yahweh, Egiziabher (God-given) unalienable rights to decent life, liberty, freedom of choice and self-determination, the pursuit of happiness and dignity; all denied to the nation by this regime for the last 26 years. The Oromo nation as the rest nations and peoples of Ethiopia is demanding ‘Nothing More, Nothing Less’.

Furthermore, the Oromo nation as the rest peoples of Ethiopian is demanding the current TPLF’s terrorist regime to stop the ongoing exploitation of their vast resources and economy, displacements of millions of Oromo peasants from their ancestral lands and livelihood (to vacate it for TPLF’s military commanders and its collaborators to trade with it under the pretext of elusive investment and fake development). The Oromo is demanding its denied rights to be unconditionally restored.

Sadly, the response of TPLF’s ruthless regime to date remain live bullet and mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Oromo civilians where inhumane treatments in various prisons is extreme. To make the situation worst, the current deployment of Ogaden Liyu militia (Agi’Azi within it) to massacre the Oromo people from East to South Ogaden neighboring areas is demonstrating the virulent nature of TPLF’s brutal regime to the Oromo nation in particular, to the rest peoples and nations of Ethiopia in general. Lessons the peoples of Ethiopia have learnt thus far are evident that this regime never respect its own constitution which vehemently denounces (at least on paper) its harrowing actions to unarmed civilians. Wholly disregarding its constitution, the regime remains responding all quests of the Oromo, Ogaden Sumali, Sidama, Amhara, Konso, Gambella, Benshangul and the rest peoples and nations of Ethiopia with live bullet and unprecedented level of brutality since it has assumed power in May 1991.

  1. The West and Their Hypocrisy

Overwhelmingly occupied with jungle mentality of over four decades, to date the TPLF’s architects resorted to responding to any peaceful quests of the subjects with brutality and cruelty of unheard proportion in Empire’s history. The military commanders of the TPLF, blatantly terrorize unarmed civilians in front of the oblivious Western diplomats whose mouths remain zipped when vested interests’ posse eerie silence. Whilst the said oblivious diplomats watching in front of their noses, the TPLF’s killing machines who are mainly trained and equipped with modern snipers by the USA, France, the UK and some other EU countries military and security personnel, summarily execute the unarmed Oromo, Ogadenia, Amhara, Gambella, Konso, Sidama and the rest peoples of various nations. Obliviously, regardless, they pore aid money to date. To have such confidence in executing unarmed civilians and mass arresting tens of thousands of civilians, the TPLF’s politicians often receive tacit agreement from their surreptitiously watching Western sponsors who always pay deaf ears and blind eyes to the suffering of the majority of stakeholders.

West’s politicians, particularly during the era of Tony Blair’s Premiership, when once TPLF’s late leader PM Meles Zenawi, was regarded as their darling; the West has tacitly given him outright authority to do whatever he wishes on his subjects as long he runs their agenda in the horn. This has been obliviously reinforced by the repeated visits of the USA’s, Germany’s and UK’s leaders and high level officials including last year’s visit of the USA’s former president, Barak Obama. Their Medias remain as oblivious as their politicians, whilst wasting their time talking about the ailing Robert Mugabe, instead.

Due to the above geopolitical interests of the West and concomitant silence in the face of unfolding executions, the TPLF ruthless regime became bold, callously, blunt, confident, unrepentant and stubbornly determined to assure the subservience of the majority to its barbaric rule. Particularly, with this end, it is the Oromo nation to be mainly focused upon, the Amhara standing the second in the queue. The ultimate reasons why the Tigrean regime is focusing on brutalizing the Oromo nation is twofold. The first is the Oromo’s economic importance for its plan of exponentially increasing the capacity of their domestic and international bank accounts. Those, TPLF’s military commanders, once who were penniless when they occupied Finfinnee (Addis Ababa), over quarter of a century ago, now become multimillionaires by looting, primarily the wealth of the Oromo nation as the region has got vast resources including immense minerals and abundant cash crops; as Oromia remains their primary cash cow. The second reason is the Oromo’s being major single entity in Ethiopia. Hence, unless the regime, divides and silences the Oromo nation and the second largest nation of Ethiopia, the Amhara, TPLF knows that its survival will be at stake. Cognizant of this, the regime leaves no stone unturned to humiliate and silence the Oromo nation primarily and the Amhara secondly.

III. TPLF’s Erroneous Belief That the Smouldering Fire Has Been Extinguished.

It’s imperative that TPLF believes that, it has accomplished its tasks after the imposition of state of emergency. Gullible belief, as far as the situations in Oromia and Amhara regions are concerned. The fire is steadily Smouldering. The same is true in all regions. Moreover, TPLF particularly believes that its infamous quislings have silenced the 4th and 5th largest nations of the county, the Sidama and Ogaden Sumali. In the cases of both Sidama and Ogadenia, this is the case simply because it uses notorious cadres of the country known for their barbaric actions against their own people whilst implementing TPLF’s agenda in their respective regions although in Ogaden, the ONLF is fiercely fighting the enslaving regime. The hideous personalities include, the infamous ‘Shiferaw Shigute’ who has worked hard to humiliate the Sidama nation time and again whilst facilitating, and committed crimes against the Sidama people in addition to his major roles in displacing tens of thousands of Sidama peasants from their ancestral lands by leaving them destitute. Abdi Mohammed Omar of the Ogaden Sumali (regional puppet president), who is known for his viciousness and blood thirsty nature as his Sidama counterpart, is responsible for the death and incarceration of tens of thousands of Sumali civilians. This is the wicked puppet who is overseeing the official commanding aspect of Ogaden Liyu militia under the watchful eyes of TPLF’s generals, whilst implementing the current massacre of the Oromo civilians from east to south east. The two notorious cadres known for their both barbarism and moronic nature, are instrumental in dehumanizing their own peoples and beyond. Besides, the Smouldering fire in Oromia and beyond won’t be extinguished until it successfully achieves its objectives.

  1. Is the Division of Oromo Diaspora Playing Against the Oromo’s Interests? 

If a herd of buffalo remain united creating fence like defense, stands its grounds and doesn’t run away from its predators, none of them could be easily devoured. However, once a herd loses its ground, frightened, panicked and start to run away, natural separation occurs -thereby become an easy prey. We human beings are not different. If we are united and defy any oppression, no oppressor on planet will be able to enslave his/her subjects. Nowhere on planet, oppression has been successful unless the subjects are divided, manipulated and mentally defeated to allow themselves to be enslaved. This has been the case during the era of European colonization of Africa and the rest parts of the world; and it is the case as we speak all over the world. This has been the case in human history since mankind began a socially organized life. Yet, failing to assert such simple analogues, we fail time and again. We make the same mistakes repeatedly. This can be the case, when we are less aware of or our ego overrides the needs of our downtrodden groups of society for whom we may claim, are ready to sacrifice our lives, whilst quashing their dream as we continue bickering on little issues.

Finally, I dare to be bold (although I might be told it’s none of my business), on the fact that, the division and subdivision of Oromo Diaspora and opposition groups for minor issue is playing to the advantage of the TPLF’s ruthless regime. The division of the Oromo Diaspora is allowing to the regime to buy time. The Oromo players must stop, rethink and act quickly to save the situation before it gets out of control, thereby, elongate the suffering of the Oromo people those who are paying ultimate sacrifices with their precious lives day and night. If we remain as stubborn as we seem now, let all of us not forget that we’re committing inexcusable historical error. Humbly, I remotely believe that any Oromo wants this to be the case. Therefore, it’s now, the right time to act.

 

  1. The Silence of The Sidama Nation Must Come to An End!

The relationship of Oromo and Sidama nations is much deeper than mere solidarity, one might entertain as a temporary show case only benefiting politico-diplomatic gesture. Both Kush brothers share deeper unity in several ways. Their view of the world around them and beyond, their perception of justice and equality as well as governance under egalitarian systems ‘Gadaa and Luwa’, their religious belief are of similar nature, not only they are of similar stock. The Sidama and the Oromo nation share numerous attributes- not exhaustively such as cultural and psychological as well as socio-economic. Their being are closely intertwined in such a manner that, sometimes becomes indistinguishable. If one studies the Arusi and Bale Oromo and traditional Sidama society, their stark similarities are unprecedented.

Moreover, Oromo and Sidama nations’ resistance movements predate the creation of the current barbaric incumbent, TPLF. Since Hailesilassie and prior to the latter, including during the Abyssinian king, Menelik II, Oromo and Sidama nation have shared both bad and good times together. They have been in quest for their liberty and freedom taken away from them together. Both nation are the victims of the current injustice. Whilst the Tigreans were part and parcels of the subjugating empire, the solidarity of the Sidama and Oromo has been there. Therefore, at this critical moment in the history of the Oromo nation, while its sons and daughters are gunned-down in broad day lights by Tigrean barbaric regime; to me as a principled Sidama man, the current uncustomary silence of the nation is extremely unsettling. Thus, I urge the Sidama nation to rise and walk shoulder to shoulder with its Oromo brothers and sisters. The propaganda of the regime conveyed and enforced through notorious ‘Shiferaw Shigute’ network, evidently, so far has confused the Sidama nation. Such deceitful propaganda should be critically considered and scrutinized to be eventually regurgitated. There is no excuse, for the current silence, thus I reiterate that, the Sidama must stand with its Oromo cousins and disallow its land from being used by the TPLF’s brutal regime, to incarcerate and torture Oromo brothers and sisters, old and young alike.

  1. The Unity of All Peoples of Ethiopia Is Paramount to Dismantle Brutal TPLF.

Having a meticulously planned objective; using violence, assassination, massacres, land confiscation and expropriation of the entire wealth of the country, for the last 26 years, the TPLF’s regime has demonstrated its virulence to all peoples of the country. Not only to the other peoples, it has also shown its hideous nature to its own people to achieve its objectives. A good example could be drawn from its barbaric action when it has masterminded the massacre in ‘Hawzen’ market place where hundreds of Tigray civilians have been mercilessly bombed by the fighter jet coordinated by TPLF. Its action was planned to blame on its predecessors to gain international sympathy. Therefore, the TPLF’s regime has time again shown its barbarism and viciousness to all peoples of the country. The solution, thus is needing a strategic unity, maintaining differences as they are, until we get rid of this ruthless regime. The current revolution started by gallant Oromo nation is serving as a vehicle to achieve such objectives, thus shouldn’t be aborted by the brutal crackdown on a peaceful and purpose-driven Oromo youth and the entire nation.

All peoples of Ethiopia need to synchronize their struggle, temporarily leaving their petty differences aside, until this bestial regime is brought down to its knees. We must, rethink our actions before we rush into entertaining petty differences whilst men and women, youth and old citizens are gunned-down in broad day light in all parts of the country. None of us can afford continuing in such heartless and soulless manner; if we genuinely aspire the emaciation of our nations and peoples from over a quarter of a century subjugation and brutality of unprecedented scale. The time is today. Let’s move with strategic togetherness before it’s too late.

 

Denboba Natie, (my opinion not of my political party or alliance)

February 20, 2017


 

IHS Jane’s Country Risk Daily Report: War Crimes: Crimes Against Humanity: The genocide against Oromo people involving Ethiopia’s Somali region police (Liyu Police), a segment of fascist TPLF’s Agazi forces February 18, 2017

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Fascist TPLF Ethiopia’s federal defence army,  Abbay Tsehaye & Samora Yunus are architects of the ongoing genocidal ethnic cleansing against Oromo people in South and Eastern Oromia. 

Oromia violence involving Ethiopia’s Somali region police

IHS Jane’s Country Risk Daily Report, 17 February 2017

EVENT

Several members of Ethiopia’s Somali region’s Liyu special police were reportedly killed by armed locals on 14 February in Gursum district, Oromia region, allegedly in response to recent raids into the area by these security forces, according to Ethiopian opposition media. Locals also seized unspecified amounts of police ammunition and weapons during the violence.

Earlier in February, both an Oromia government official and an Oromo opposition party had claimed Somali regional police involvement in recent cattle raids, looting, and killings in Oromia’s East Haraghe (which includes Gursum), Bale, Guji, and Borena zones.

Complicity by the Ethiopian government, dominated by its Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) wing, in these raids would most likely be part of a strategy designed to prevent the formation of a cross-ethnic domestic opposition and marginalise the ethnic-Oromo opposition ahead of the scheduled end of the state of emergency in April.


About Jane’s

Jane’s Defence Weekly (abbreviated as JDW) is a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, edited by Peter Felstead. It is one of a number of military-related publications named after John F. T. Jane, an Englishman who first published Jane’s All the World’s Fighting Ships in 1898. It is a unit of Jane’s Information Group, which was purchased by IHS in 2007. The magazine has a large circulation and is frequently cited in publications worldwide

How should the US react to human rights abuses in Ethiopia? February 16, 2017

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H.Res.128 – Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.115th Congress (2017-2018)


How should the US react to human rights abuses in Ethiopia?

By Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency, 16 February 2017

 

The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.

The US capitol building. Credit: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.

 One member of Congress is hoping for a “serious policy review” by the Trump administration of the United States’ relationship with Ethiopia, citing human rights abuses by the government there.

“To truly stop violence abroad, Ethiopia must stop violence at home,” Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the House subcommittee on Africa and global human rights, stated at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.

“Since 2005, untold thousands of students have been jailed, have been shot during demonstrations or have simply disappeared in the last 11 years,” Smith stated Feb. 15. “Ethiopia’s next generation is being taught that the rights that democracy normally bestows on a country’s citizens don’t apply in their country.”

Smith and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced a House resolution (H. Res. 128) Wednesday “highlighting the crisis in Ethiopia due to government violations of the human rights of its citizens,” Smith stated.

“With this resolution, we are showing that the United States remains committed to universal respect for human rights, and that we will not tolerate continued abuse of those human rights by Ethiopian security forces,” Coffman said.

There has been a “steady erosion” of democracy in Ethiopia since 2005, the congressmen maintained.

Government dissidents have been jailed, citizens have been tortured and killed by the government’s security forces, and freedom of the press has been infringed upon. Ethnic groups have been the victims of violence perpetrated by the government.

Peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country were met with hundreds of killings and tens of thousands of arrests by security forces in 2016, Human Rights Watch said in its recent report on the country. Citizens released from jail claimed they were tortured while in custody.

“Instead of addressing the numerous calls for reform in 2016, the Ethiopian government used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to suppress largely peaceful protests,” Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated in the report released in January.

One protest in the Oromia region resulted in the police using tear gas, rubber bullets, and rounds fired into the air to break it up, claiming that the crowd was getting out of hand. An ensuing stampede killed 50. The Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia, on which Catholic leaders sit, called for prayer and peace amid the protests and asked government leaders to listen to the people.

The recent protests in the Amhara region of the country have showed a sense of “identity” on the part of embattled citizens, and their “need to survive,” Tewodrose Tirfe of the Amhara Association of America, a refugee who came to the U.S. in 1982, noted.

“The U.S. and the West cannot sympathize with a government that kills people,” Seenaa Jimjimo, a human rights advocate who was born and grew up in Ethiopia, insisted in her statement at Wednesday’s press conference.

Amidst protests, a state of emergency was declared by the state in October and is “being used as a method to crack down even further on basic human freedoms,” Coffman said.

Thus, the resolution is the “first step by our representatives to let the Ethiopian government know that the U.S. policy is changing, that their continued human rights violations on innocent civilians will not be tolerated,” Tirfe stated.

“We invoke the Global Magnitsky Act,” Gregory Simpkins, staff director of the House subcommittee on Africa, said on Wednesday of the law which enables sanctions against specific “entities and persons who violate the human rights of people.”

Ethiopia has acted as a key ally in fighting international terrorism, Smith noted, but if it fails to protect human rights at home then extremism could fester within its own borders.

“What Congressman Smith and I are asking is for the Congress of the United States to join together and pass this resolution condemning the Ethopian government for its human rights abuses,” Coffman stated.

“And I think it’s important for all Americans to care about human rights to encourage their member of Congress to co-sponsor this resolution so that we can pass it in the Congress.”


Related:-

Mana-maree Yunaayitid Isteetsitti, dura-taa’aa Koree-birkii Dhimma Fayyaa fi Mirgawwan Dhala-namaa Sadarkaa Addunyaa fi Dhaabbatoota Sadarkaa Addunyaa ka ta’an – bakka-bu’aan Niwujeersii, Kiris Ismiiz, har’a “Seeraa Haaraa Mirgawwan Dhala-namaa Itiyoophiyaa Lakkoobsa 128 ” kaleessa yeroo gazexeessotaaf ibsa kennanitti ifa godhaniiru.

Wixineen seeraa kun, “Kabajaa mirgawwan dhala-namaaf kennamu deggeruu fi Itiyoophiyaa keessatti bulchiinsi hunda hammate akka jiraatu jajjabeessuu” ka jedhu.

Gabaasa guutu kana cuqaasuun dhaggeeffadhaa


Congressman Chris Smith submit again His Resolution HR861 of Ethiopia Govt Human Rights Violation

Trump, Ethiopia: Neither is Normal February 15, 2017

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

 

Oakland Institute

There has been nothing normal about the political, social and economic situation in Ethiopia for years. But this past year has seen things get far worse, with increasing state violence and restrictions on basic human rights.


Trump, Ethiopia: Neither is Normal

By Elizabeth Fraser,  Oakland Institute,  November 29, 2016


In the weeks since Donald Trump was elected, many have focused on the need to not normalize the man, his words, or his actions.1

This call is vital. We cannot normalize having someone in the White House who has become the very face of bigotry, islamophobia, white supremacy, misogyny, and contempt for the environment.


Ethiopian army soldiers monitoring Suri people during a festival in Kibish. Credit: Oakland Institute.
Ethiopian army soldiers monitoring Suri people during a festival in Kibish. Credit: Oakland Institute.

This call has also got me thinking about the many times and ways that normalization gets in the way of real change. One country that comes to mind is Ethiopia.

One Year Anniversary of Oromo Protests Against Land Grabs

November marked the one year anniversary of the start of mass protests in Ethiopia’s Oromo region. The protests began in reaction to a proposed land grab by the government in order to expand the borders of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Land grabbing in the name of “development” is not new to Ethiopia, and previous grabs have involved widespread human rights abuses. So, it was a major victory when this particular land grab was successfully defeated. But the protests didn’t stop. Instead, they expanded into calls for human rights, democracy, and justice, and spread across the country.

These protests are a reaction to an authoritarian state that has oppressed people for years; a state that has cracked down on freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion; a state that has jailed students, political opposition members, land rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists and more for raising their voices; a state that received 100 percent of the seats in a supposedly “democratic” election; and much more.2

Ethiopian Government’s Response: Bloodshed and Brutality

Sadly, the protests have been met with bloodshed and brutality. In early October 2016, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn admitted that 500 protesters had been killed by security forces in previous months. This came one week after the Irreechaa tragedy which took between fifty-two and several hundred lives and one month after a fire at the Kilinto prisonleft dozens dead. Days later, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency that included a laundry list of curtailed freedoms.

For a few weeks around the state of emergency, it felt as if all eyes were finally on Ethiopia. US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski penned a scathing op-ed that called the abuses perpetrated by the Ethiopian government “self-defeating tactics.” Social media exploded with images, videos, and reports from the ground. A Human Rights Resolution was put before the US Congress, one of Ethiopia’s largest donors.

But in recent days the international outrage appears to have shifted.

While the Ethiopian government continues to crackdown, Germany has lifted its travel ban to the country. Diplomats are allowed to travel outside of Addis Ababa. The World Bank has gone back to publishing articles on so-called climate smart agriculture. Civil society groups are organizing a conference on changing food systems in Africa later this month. The list goes on.

Trump, Ethiopia: Not the Time to Normalize

“Not normal” is happening all over the world, and looking away is not an option.

But things in Ethiopia are far from normal. In mid-November, the government released a list of over 11,600 people who were arrested in the first six weeks of the state of emergency. Mobile internet is frequently turned off across the country, and social media sites remain blocked. You can still be arrested for crossing your hands above your head, discussing the situation with outsiders, or listening to diaspora radio and TV. At the same time, the Ethiopian government has gone out of its way to issue diatribes against the work of the Oakland Institute and Human Rights Watch,3 and, according to The Hill, even mocked the potential of the US House Resolution on human rights in Ethiopia to pass.

There has been nothing normal about the political, social and economic situation in Ethiopia for years. But this past year has seen things get far worse, with increasing state violence and restrictions on basic human rights.

The world is calling on us to stand up for a lot of things right now. As we work to keep from normalizing Trump, let us extend this standard to all of our work. “Not normal” is happening all over the world, and looking away is not an option.

Footnotes

Human Rights League of Horn of Africa: The United Nations Human Rights Council: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention: ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN OROMIA ESCALATE AFTER THE STATE OF EMERGENCY IS DECLARED February 15, 2017

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

 

Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

 

Human Rights League of Horn of Africa

(HRLHA)

Written Statement Submitted to United Nations Human Rights Council,

34th Session, 27 February – 24 March, 2017

Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

(Country- Ethiopia)

Geneva, 12 February, 2017

ETHIOPIA:

ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN OROMIA ESCALATE AFTER THE STATE OF EMERGENCY IS DECLARED

oromo-protests-against-tplf-fascsit-ethiopian-regimme-tyranny

ETHIOPIA:

How Many Should die Before the Internatioanl Community intervenes to save lives?

                    HRLHA  Calls for  Intervention by the international community

to end Human Tragedy in Ethiopia


1. The Ethiopian government has targeted the Oromo people in general and the youth in particular, since the 2005 beginning of the mass, but the peaceful uprising of the Oromo people led by Orom students demanding their freedom and the halt of systematic violations of their fundamental rights. The response from the government to the legitimate and peaceful demands of the people] was massive arrests, torture, disappearances and summary executions of the civilian population. However, the heavy hand of the government forces didn’t stop the demands of the Oromo people and the protest has continued for over ten years. From November 2015, the mass movement- in which Oromos from all walks of life have participated- has continued on a daily basis until the government declared a State of Emergency on October 8, 2016.<

The government also targeted prominent political leaders of Oromo parties that are registered and functioning peacefully in Ethiopia. Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress – OFC, Mr. Bekele Gerba- has been in jail for some years now, with his case still pending in the court of justice under the pretext that the prosecutor is unable to gather witnesses to testify against the accused. The number of Oromo political prisoners has reached an unbearable level and so disproportionate that, using the words of one senior government official who spend few years in prison, “Afaan Oromo (the language of the Oromos) has now become the official language of Ethiopian prisons”.

2. Ethiopian prisons, as far as the rights of the political prisoners to a reasonable space/room for sleeping, access to daylights, to proper sanitation, to family visits and meeting with their respective lawyers is concerned, are that they are among the worst correctional facilities in the world. The level of torture, as reported by the families who were granted rare visits, is unbearable. The government continues to deny access to international organizations, the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs and the ICRC, whose report could have shed more light on the situations in the prisons.

3. The Ethiopian government boldly demonstrated its dedication to continue violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens, when it arrested Dr. Merera Guddina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress – OFC, on November 30, 2016 upon his return to Ethiopia after briefing the European Union officials on the situation in Ethiopia. The arrest, according to the government, was justified because of an alleged meeting of Dr. Merera with the other opposition leader, Prof. Berhanu Nega, chairman of the outlawed political party, Ginbot – 7 (a.k.a G7). Dr. Merera Guddina and Professor Berhanu Nega, the G7 Leaders, had been invited by the EU parliament to Brussels to attend an EU organized Conference on the Ethiopian current political crisis. According to reliable sources, Dr. Merera Gudina was taken to the infamous Maikelawi interrogation center, with the other two of his friends, Taye Negera and Kumala, both of whom were in his house during the arrest.

4. The peacful protests that have rocked Ethiopia over one year (November 2015- October 2016) led by “Qeerroo Bilissummaa” literally, youth for freedom against subjugation, dramatically changed the peaceful protests into violence after the tyrannical government mercilessly massacred over 700 Oromos, from the ground and the air, at the Irrecha Festival, Oromo Thanksgiving Day on October 2, 2016. This dramatically changed the peaceful protests into violent ones all over the country.

UNPO: Oromo: Political Conviction Endures, while Communities Refuse to be Stifled February 14, 2017

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

UNPO

Oromo: Political Conviction Endures, while Communities Refuse to be Stifled

Photo courtesy of Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Despite punitive suppression, Oromo people continue to gather in protest of the state of affairs in Ethiopia. Through the current state of emergency, the government is attempting to solidify central power and quash opposition groups, which results in the heightened marginalisation of already-disadvantaged communities. Voices in these communities express distrust in small democratic concessions, and call instead for a total overhaul of the political system to ensure inclusivity. With no opportunities for opposition to engage politically, and with the often-violent suppression of peaceful protests, the options for the Oromo are severely limited. For now, legitimate grievances fuel continued unrest, and the ruling party coalition maintains a chokehold on every pathway to power.

 

The article below was published by The Guardian:

In a muted show of defiance near Ethiopia’s capital city, a tall farmer glanced around before furtively crossing his arms below his waist to make the Oromo people’s resistance symbol.

Ethiopia’s government outlawed the gesture made famous by Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa – who formed the “X” above his head at last year’s Rio games – when it enacted a draconian state of emergency in October in an attempt to stem 11 months of protests. Although that decree has suppressed unrest, the farmer thinks demonstrations will start anew.

“The solution is the government has to come with true democracy. The people are waiting until the state of emergency is over and then people are ready to begin to protest,” he said.

While the emergency has led to at least 25,000 people being detained, security forces aren’t visible on roads flanked by fields with workers wielding curved sickles to harvest crops. Beyond that seeming normality, there is pervasive discontent with authorities accused of responding to claims of ethnic marginalisation by intensifying repression.

“The protests will come again because the government is not responding to the demands of the people in the right way,” said another young Oromo man in Ejere town. Like others, he answered via a translator in the Oromo language, and asked for his views to be kept anonymous.

Farmers in the restive West Shewa district of Oromia dismissed the political response so far, which has amounted to replacing regional leaders. Despite positive noises from the new Oromia president, many seek a wholesale change of government. “People need new faces and a new system,” the Ejere man said.

The problem for activists is how to translate popular anger stemming from grievances into political change. The security apparatus has shown it can quell protests and a de facto one-party state offers few opportunities for opposition activities.

Longstanding complaints by the Oromo about state exploitation coalesced around opposition to a metropolitan development plan in November 2015. In January the government suspended the blueprint for the integrated development of Addis Ababa with surrounding Oromo areas, but that didn’t stem the revolt. Some demonstrations were peaceful; others involved torching investments and government offices. Security forces gunned down as many as 600 protesters, according to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia.

Now the demands are less policy-oriented due to outrage over repression. Allegations of ethnic bias are prevalent, though it is Oromo officials who are culpable for local failings. The claims centre on a view that the Tigrayan ethnic group benefit disproportionately from a system said to be controlled by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which founded a coalition that has ruled the country since 1991. Activists, many of whom are based abroad, also allege that Ethiopia’s territorial expansion in the late 19th century dispossessed Oromo, who at roughly 35 million people-strong nonetheless remain Ethiopia’s largest community.

Under a multinational federal system introduced in 1995, the Oromo group runs its own region, but people complain the resource-rich state is economically exploited, and their leaders subservient to the TPLF in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). “There’s an Oromo saying: what the husband says, the wife cannot change,” said another opponent apropos of the political dynamic.

Land, which is state-owned in Ethiopia, is a particularly emotive issue. An aggressive, government-driven approach to development, combined with corrupt officials and investors, led to Oromo families losing farmland without receiving adequate compensation over the past two decades, particularly on the sought-after fringes of the capital.

Around Guder town, 80 miles (130km) west of Addis Ababa, farmers believe Oromo officials enriched themselves by selling plots on the edge of town to developers and using the proceeds to build houses near the capital. One man interviewed can’t give a specific example of an unfair eviction near Guder, but he’s worried about the trend. “People have a fear about what happened in the Addis Ababa area,” he said.

Other common concerns are mundane, and acknowledged as legitimate by officials: people want an improved road, or better supplies of water and electricity. Despite evident progress, Ethiopia, where the population of close to 100 million is Africa’s second largest, still lies 174th out of 188 countries on the UN’s 2015 human development index, below South Sudan and Afghanistan.

The evolving and multi-layered grievances are an acute test for the government, as well as a conundrum for major donors, such as the UK’s Department for International Development, which remains silent on the EPRDF’s repression as it lauds its development record. While efforts to improve public services, create jobs and reduce corruption may make headway, there’s little chance of the desired systemic reform.

That was reinforced by the arrest in November of Merera Gudina, the most high-profile Oromo opposition leader not in jail or abroad. He was accused of breaking emergency rules by communicating with a banned nationalist opposition leader at a European parliament hearing in Brussels.

Across West Shewa, locals said there had not yet been any changes in community leaders and the government hadn’t reached out to discuss the problems with them. Some said they were no longer interested in what officials had to say.

In Addis Ababa, the federal communications minister, Negeri Lencho, an Oromo professor of journalism, offers a different view. “The change belongs to the people. The reform belongs to the people. The reform includes increasing awareness of people to defend their interests,” he said.

Despite this gulf between officials and public, serious dialogue is unlikely, according to Zelalem Kibret, an Ethiopian blogger who was arrested in 2014 and is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University.

“The government will not go for any type of concession while the opposing force is weak. The activists also seem unwilling, since they are aimed at ousting the regime. I think the brutality that was unleashed by the regime for the last 12 months pushed every moderate voice to the fringe,” he said.

If the movement were to opt for incremental gains through the ballot box, opposition parties would have to compete in local elections scheduled for 2018, but that presents formidable political and logistical obstacles. As well as holding all seats in the federal parliament and regional chambers, the four-party EPRDF and allied organisations occupy all of up to 100 seats on each one of more than 18,000 village councils, and also on roughly 750 larger administrations, said Zelalem. With opposition leaders and activists exiled, imprisoned, or fearing arrest, already weak parties are in no shape to loosen the coalition’s hold.

“The EPRDF is still the only strong political force in Ethiopia. I doubt the protesters have any solid bargaining power other than sporadic demonstrations that are likely to be quashed easily. It is an impasse. Most probably the regime will stay in power for many years,” Zelalem said.

The Guardian : How long can Ethiopia’s state of emergency keep the lid on anger? February 12, 2017

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A state crackdown has silenced ethnic Oromo people in Ethiopia, but grievances over land and rights, and a lack of political options, could reignite protests

Oromo people stage a protest against the government near the Hora Lake at Debre Zeyit
Oromo people stage a protest against the government near the Hora Lake at Bishoftuu ( Debre Zeyit). Photograph: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In a muted show of defiance near Ethiopia’s capital city, a tall farmer glanced around before furtively crossing his arms below his waist to make the Oromo people’s resistance symbol.

Ethiopia’s government outlawed the gesture made famous by Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa – who formed the “X” above his head at last year’s Rio games – when it enacted a draconian state of emergency in Octoberin an attempt to stem 11 months of protests. Although that decree has suppressed unrest, the farmer thinks demonstrations will start anew.

“The solution is the government has to come with true democracy. The people are waiting until the state of emergency is over and then people are ready to begin to protest,” he said.

While the emergency has led to at least 25,000 people being detained, security forces aren’t visible on roads flanked by fields with workers wielding curved sickles to harvest crops. Beyond that seeming normality, there is pervasive discontent with authorities accused of responding to claims of ethnic marginalisation by intensifying repression.

“The protests will come again because the government is not responding to the demands of the people in the right way,” said another young Oromo man in Ejere town. Like others, he answered via a translator in the Oromo language, and asked for his views to be kept anonymous.

Farmers in the restive West Shewa district of Oromia dismissed the political response so far, which has amounted to replacing regional leaders. Despite positive noises from the new Oromia president, many seek a wholesale change of government. “People need new faces and a new system,” the Ejere man said.

The problem for activists is how to translate popular anger stemming from grievances into political change. The security apparatus has shown it can quell protests and a de facto one-party state offers few opportunities for opposition activities.

Longstanding complaints by the Oromo about state exploitation coalesced around opposition to a metropolitan development plan in November 2015. In January the government suspended the blueprint Global Development – The Guardian African women form a united front in the battle for equality – podcast

Under a multinational federal system introduced in 1995, the Oromo group runs its own region, but people complain the resource-rich state is economically exploited, and their leaders subservient to the TPLF in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). “There’s an Oromo saying: what the husband says, the wife cannot change,” said another opponent apropos of the political dynamic.

Land, which is state-owned in Ethiopia, is a particularly emotive issue. An aggressive, government-driven approach to development, combined with corrupt officials and investors, led to Oromo families losing farmland without receiving adequate compensation over the past two decades, particularly on the sought-after fringes of the capital.

Around Guder town, 80 miles (130km) west of Addis Ababa, farmers believe Oromo officials enriched themselves by selling plots on the edge of town to developers and using the proceeds to build houses near the capital. One man interviewed can’t give a specific example of an unfair eviction near Guder, but he’s worried about the trend. “People have a fear about what happened in the Addis Ababa area,” he said.

Other common concerns are mundane, and acknowledged as legitimate by officials: people want an improved road, or better supplies of water and electricity. Despite evident progress, Ethiopia, where the population of close to 100 million is Africa’s second largest, still lies 174th out of 188 countries on the UN’s 2015 human development index, below South Sudan and Afghanistan.

The evolving and multi-layered grievances are an acute test for the government, as well as a conundrum for major donors, such as the UK’s Department for International Development, which remains silent on the EPRDF’s repression as it lauds its development record. While efforts to improve public services, create jobs and reduce corruption may make headway, there’s little chance of the desired systemic reform.

That was reinforced by the arrest in November of Merera Gudina, the most high-profile Oromo opposition leader not in jail or abroad. He was accused of breaking emergency rules by communicating with a banned nationalist opposition leader at a European parliament hearing in Brussels.

Across West Shewa, locals said there had not yet been any changes in community leaders and the government hadn’t reached out to discuss the problems with them. Some said they were no longer interested in what officials had to say.

In Addis Ababa, the federal communications minister, Negeri Lencho, an Oromo professor of journalism, offers a different view. “The change belongs to the people. The reform belongs to the people. The reform includes increasing awareness of people to defend their interests,” he said.

Despite this gulf between officials and public, serious dialogue is unlikely, according to Zelalem Kibret, an Ethiopian blogger who was arrested in 2014 and is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University.

“The government will not go for any type of concession while the opposing force is weak. The activists also seem unwilling, since they are aimed at ousting the regime. I think the brutality that was unleashed by the regime for the last 12 months pushed every moderate voice to the fringe,” he said.

If the movement were to opt for incremental gains through the ballot box, opposition parties would have to compete in local elections scheduled for 2018, but that presents formidable political and logistical obstacles. As well as holding all seats in the federal parliament and regional chambers, the four-party EPRDF and allied organisations occupy all of up to 100 seats on each one of more than 18,000 village councils, and also on roughly 750 larger administrations, said Zelalem. With opposition leaders and activists exiled, imprisoned, or fearing arrest, already weak parties are in no shape to loosen the coalition’s hold.

“The EPRDF is still the only strong political force in Ethiopia. I doubt the protesters have any solid bargaining power other than sporadic demonstrations that are likely to be quashed easily. It is an impasse. Most probably the regime will stay in power for many years,” Zelalem said.

DW: Political unrest simmering in Ethiopia: The emergency decree remains an instrument of repression. February 10, 2017

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomiststop killing Oromo People

Political unrest simmering in Ethiopia

By Merga Yonas, DW, 10 February 2017

Four months after declaring a state of emergency in a crackdown on protests, Ethiopia’s government claims the country has returned to normal. Critics says the emergency decree remains an instrument of repression.

Äthiopien Proteste | Ausgebranntes Auto in Sabata (DW/M. Yonas Bula)

This coming April marks three years since protests broke out in Ethiopia. They were triggered by students in Ambo town, some 120 kilometers (74 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa. The students were protesting against a controversial government plan dubbed “Addis Ababa and Oromia Special Zone Integrated Master Plan”.

The Ethiopian government maintained that the purpose of the plan was to amalgamate eight towns in Oromia Special Zone with Addis Ababa. The scheme would promote development.

However, residents in the eight towns were resentful of a plan they said had been devised behind closed doors. They were also worried that the plan, under the guise of development, would deprive farmers of their land, and have an unfavorable impact on local language and culture.

The protests which started in Ambo then spread to other towns in Oromia Regional State. On January 12, 2016, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which is the local ally in the country’s ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), revoked the plan.

Äthiopien Proteste | Dr. Negeri Lench (DW/M. Yonas Bula)Negeri Lencho claims the government was forced into declaring a state of emergency

But although the OPDO nominally represents regionally interests, the real power in the EPRDF is in the hands of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

This sense of underrepresentation helped drive the protests in Oromia Regional State, which soon reached Amhara Regional State.

The response by the security forces to these protests, which had a strong following among young Ethiopians, was harsh. Hundreds were killed, thousands were injured, hundreds ‘disappeared’ and others went into exile.

But the protests conituned despite this lethal crackdown. In October 2016, the government responded by declaring a state of emergency for six months. .

Political crisis

Negeri Lencho, the minister who heads the government’s communications office, told DW that the government had announced the state of emergency “not because it wanted to do it, rather it was forced to do it” because of the political crisis.

The administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn claims that the state of emergency has already brought peace back to the country. Critics could therefore agrue that it would be possible for the government to lift the decree even before the six months have expired. However, Lencho says that no timeframe has been declared so far either for the repeal or for the extension of the decree.

Opposition figures and members of the public DW spoke to dispute the claim that the state of emergency has restored peace to Ethiopia. The protests and the gunfire may have ceased, but the arbitrary arrests and human right violations continue.

Äthiopien Proteste | Brennende Reifen in Sabata (DW/M. Yonas Bula)Protests were initially triggered by anger over a development scheme for the capital Addis Ababa that demonstrators said would force farmers off their land

One Ambo resident, who asked to remain anonymous as he took part in the protests, said that the state of emergency had “unsettled the public’s inner repose”.

Repression was still in place, he said, despite the government “falsely” claiming that life was returning to normal.

“You cannot go out after curfew. You cannot stand anywhere with a few people. People are filled with fear. They fear the Command Post.” The Command Post is the government body charged with implementing the state of emergency.

The town of Sabata, located 20 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa, was part of the “Master Plan.” One local resident said calm appears to have been restored to the town which was heavily affected by the protests, However the arrests and repression under the state of emergency continue, he said. “For example, there are youths who got arrested without a warrant and have been in prison for over three months on the charge that they have listened to music,” he told Deutsche Welle. “The state of emergency is being used by the state to take revenge against youth,” he said.

Äthiopien Proteste | Mulatu Gamachu (DW/M. Yonas Bula)Mulatu Gamachu, deputy chairman of the oppostion Oromo Federalist Congress, says state security must avoid repression

Mulatu Gemechu, deputy chairperson of the oppostion Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), said a de facto state of emergency had been in force in Oromia fo some time, but by making it public the government had acquired a legal shield for further acts of repression. Gemechu added that the country can become peaceful only when the state security forces with their firearms keep their distance from ordinary citizens and stop arresting people.

“If government claims peace is returning because of soldiers’ presence, then it isn’t peace,” Gemechu told DW.

Thousands of people were arrested following the declaration of the state of emergency. Although the Ethiopian parliament set up an inquiry board to investigate human right violations in the wake of the state of emergency, it has yet to submit its first report. Lencho says he has no knowledge of any such report.

Uncertainty over number of arrests 

Government and opposition parties differ over the number of people who have been detained during the state of emergency. The government says 20,000 people have been arrested in Oromia, but Gemechu puts the figure closer to 70,000.

The government has said it will release more than 22,000 people. More than 11,000 were set free last Friday (03.02.2017)

The authorities said the prisoners were given “training in the constitution of the country and promised not to repeat their actions”.

But prisoners said that the government, in bringing together people from different areas to one location, had give them an opportunity to get to know each other and “strengthen their struggle and learn more about politics of the country”.

 

Sidama National Liberation Front’s statement on the violence of TPLF in eastern/southern Oromia February 7, 2017

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistNo To Fascist TPLF Ethiopia's genocidal militarism and mass killings in Oromia, Ethiopia

Sidama Nation Flag


The Ongoing Massacre of Oromo Civilians Never Resolve EPRDF/TPLF’s Inherent Malice!

Press Statement by Sidama National Liberation Front (SNLF)

February 2, 2017

Since capturing the state power a quarter of a century ago, the TPLF/EPRDF dictatorial regime has monopolized the political governance and embarked on a project of fear, dehumanization, depersonalization, exploitation of peoples’ lands and wealth for its benefit, and systematic enslavement of the citizens of the country. Often changing its color like Chameleons, TPLF/EPRDF has proved its expertise in cheating, deceiving, stealing and more importantly brutalizing its subjects at an unprecedented scale. The regime has maintained its grip on power with barrel of gun terrorizing its subjects day and night. During TPLF/EPRDF 26 years of tenure, it became clear that the grotesque nature of the regime is multilayered and deeper than any person can comprehend. When it wishes, it sows the seeds of hatred between two or three sisterly nations whose peoples have peacefully coexisted with deep-rooted spirit of fraternity and cooperation for centuries. At the same time, the regime pretends to intervene to appear to be a provider of peace for the conflict it has meticulously masterminded. When it wishes, it massacres civilians who demand their constitutional rights in the name of defending the constitution which it persistently violates. Massacre, executions and incarceration of civilians have become a daily routine for the oppressed nations under the TPLF’s brutal regime.

The TPLF/EPRDF regime remains in power by terrorizing the nations and peoples of the country it claims to govern. As we speak, it is terrorizing the citizens under the ‘State of Emergency’ with the intensity of cataclysmic proportion. The current State of Emergency began since October 2016. One of its key objectives is quelling the Oromo and Amhara revolutions that began in November 2015 in Oromia and July/August 2016 in Amhara region. The two largest nations of the country are demanding freedom, democracy and self-rule in their respective regions.

To quell the Oromo national demand, for the last three months, the regime embarked on deploying Ogaden Somali Liyu militia to kill Oromo civilians, on its behalf in the entire areas neighboring Oromia with Ogaden Somali. The Oromo people are massacred by TPLF armed and commanded ‘Ogadeni Liyu Militia’ day and night, from Borana Zone to Harar and beyond. It orchestrated and instigated such conflicts between the two down trodden sisterly nations to secure a breathing space from the intense Oromo struggle for freedom and emancipation. The Amhara struggle for the same cause is also putting the regime’s position in precarious situation. The aim of the brutal regime is to shatter the dream and aspirations of the Oromo nation and other oppressed nations by setting them up against one another employing a typical colonial divide and rule strategy copied from the West. Together with the likeminded oppressed nations and peoples, the Oromo nation will never surrender its fight to the last drop of blood. The Oromo nation as well as Ogadenia, Amhara, Sidama, Konso, Benshangul-Gumuz, and other oppressed nations of the country are determined to liberate themselves from the TPLF’s tyranny now than ever before. The popular demand couldn’t be easily silenced by the power of weapon and military might, and draconian State of Emergency laws that stifle basic human freedom.

Acting unlawfully, the regime has proved its vicious nature time and again. Impoverishing the target subjects and most of the regions, it has indescribably enriched its region and people, who are exponentially multiplying their wealth and assets day by day. The TPLF elites, who were penniless apart from rifles and ammunitions when they occupied Addis Ababa in May 1991; turned to multi-millionaires by expropriating the resources of Oromia, Sidama, Gambella, Benshangul, Amhara, Konso, Ogadenia and the rest of Ethiopians. In the past 26 years, tens of millions have been displaced from their lands to vacate it for Tigreans and TPLF’s business empires and for those whom the TPLF regime recruits from abroad under the pretext of international investment.

The regime has time and again shown its blatant disregard for a peaceful settlement of political differences. Instead it answers all constitutionally guaranteed demands for freedom with live bullets. In the past 16 month alone, the TPLF/EPRDF regime has executed over 1,700 Oromo civilians and unlawfully arrested over 170,000 who have demanded their constitutional rights in Oromia alone. The Amhara people are also similarity targeted as are in Ogaden, Konso, Sidama, Gambella, Benshangul and elsewhere in the country. Ethiopia is under an act of state terrorism! Under this regime, children and elderly, women and men alike have been increasingly subjected to ongoing massacre and state terrorism.

The ongoing massacre of the Oromo people by Ogaden Liyu Militia, armed and coordinated by TPLF generals behind the scene is deplorable, thus it must be unconditionally stopped. It is wholly loathsome for the regime that calls itself a government to play such barbaric games on human lives. The Oromo and Ogaden Somali nations fully understand the vicious attempts by the TPLF to divide and sow seeds of conflict between them, must foil this heinous plot and stand together in denouncing these criminal actions. We must show the regime that it can’t ‘divide and conquer us’ by standing shoulder to shoulder more than ever until we get rid of the barbaric regime. The ongoing massacre of the Oromo people in the entire militarized Oromia must be unconditionally stopped and the region must be immediately de-militarized. The Oromo and Ogadeni Somali nations must focus on targeting the regime which has denied them their dignity, identity and pride. The Ogandeni Liyu Militia are also urged to reject the TPLF and its sinister agenda of sowing seeds of belligerence between the two sisterly nations to prolong its rule.

Finally, the Sidama National Liberation Front calls up on all the oppressed nations and the entire peoples in Ethiopia, to stand in unison to denounce the TPLF fascism and forge a united front for freedom, democracy and genuine self-rule.

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UNPO: Oromo: Empowered Youth of Oromia Will No Longer Stay Silent February 5, 2017

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Oromo: Empowered Youth of Oromia Will No Longer Stay Silent

UNPO, 3 February 2017

 

Photo courtesy of UN photo/Eskinder Debebe


Mr Mohamed Ademo, editor of the OPride news platform, shares his perspective on the importance of the mobilization of Oromo youth, or the “Qubee generation”, as he prefers to call it. Over the past year, Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilesa has been an important example of this generation, but he does not stand alone. Members of the Qubee generation were the first able to study in their native language and therefore developed a strong and resilient sense of identity. In the context of the state of emergency which turned Ethiopia into “a violent, repressive surveillance society” over the course of 2016, it is important to support and enable this generation of young Oromos to keep faith in the face of repression.

The article below was published by the Diplomatic Courier:

Mohammed Ademo, an Ethiopian journalist and editor of the OPride news platform, had a difficult time choosing the 2016 Oromo Person of the Year. In fact, Ademo admits in his end-of-year essay that he originally planned to write about Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilesa’s courage, and how Feyisa’s protest at the Olympic Games made visible the oppression of Oromo people that the world didn’t yet know it ignored.

Feyisa made the year-end lists of changemakers at Foreign Policy, Deutsche Welle and Huffington Post, Ademo wrote. But the more the Washington-based journalist thought about it, the more he realized that Feyisa is emblematic of a more powerful cultural shift. Feyisa represents an entire generation of young Oromo in Ethiopia – the Qubee, who were the first Oromo permitted to learn in their native language and thus described by an alphabetical feature associated with Afaan Oromo.

Essentially, they’re Oromo millennials.

“The Qubee generation appears ready to fight on until, in the words of Oromo leader Bekele Gerba, either all Oromos are jailed, killed and exiled, or until everyone is free,” Ademo writes. Even as Bekele Gerba, Merera Gudina and others remain imprisoned, the youth represent inevitable change.

Yet that change is coming at a cost that should shame the Ethiopian government as it strangles its own future under a violent, repressive surveillance society – and shame international leaders for their complicity. Because the Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, numbering more than 35 million, and one that has historically felt marginalized and severely discriminated against by successive governments. The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has held power for decades and has awarded power to elites from the minority Tigrayan ethnic group.

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) praised the release of 9,800 prisoners participating in anti-government protests, many of them in the Oromia region. But they remain less than half of the 24,000 people who have been detained since Ethiopia announced a state of emergency in October. That decision followed the Irreecha massacre, in which the Oromo Federalist Congress puts the death toll at nearly 700, a number wildly at odds with official counts of just 52. OFC leader Mualtu Gemechu says there were up to 70,000 people who had been detained in recent months, not necessarily all Oromo protesters.

Their youth is emphasized in the December HRW report, which describes the harrowing experience of a 16-year-old girl from Hararghe whose father was killed, her brothers imprisoned and other family members disabled. She was banned from school after the military found a protest song, one of many recorded by Oromo’s young generation, on her mobile phone.

The Ethiopian teen told HRW that security agents went through her community “arresting every young person they could find,” and she refuses to return until the violence stops and the Oromo are heard.

“Many other young people have told me the same thing,” writes Felix Horne, author of the HRW report.

To say “young Ethiopians” is almost redundant, because one third of the population is under 25 years old. In 2014, almost half of all Ethiopians – 45 percent – were less than 15 years old. So it’s not that a new generation of Oromo don’t know the history or the sacrifices made by their elders, especially those active in organized political resistance that’s designed specifically for them. The reality is that they know that history all too well, and in an era of connectivity and engagement, they demand a different future.

Ethiopia is, in theory, governed under autonomous regional authorities aligned with ethnicity and historical homelands, although in practice that governance and self-determination are rarely true for some groups, including the Oromo. Although they are the largest ethnic group, and along with the Amhara account for a 60 percent majority among Ethiopia’s 100 million people, both groups are ruled by a coalition that’s dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Through the Tigray minority, that Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition has retained power for decades that have seen Oromo excluded from opportunity in government, the economy and other avenues. Protests that began in November 2015 over land annexation in Addis Ababa, plans that would adversely affect Oromo interests, reflected decades of anger and frustration.

The leader of an Ethiopian Somali rebel group, Abdirahman Mahdi of Ogaden National Liberation Front, warned last May that tensions were about to boil over in the manner of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings – and his assessment was accurate. Yet Ethiopian officials rarely pay more than lip service to promises of change.

This week, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn again professed his support for “deep reforms” in government and society that he believes will be successful through public participation. His words are as hollow as those of Western leaders who profess their concern for Ethiopian human rights and the democratic process, while failing to insist that any reforms be implemented. That’s especially true of the United States and the need to protect an Ethiopian ally in combatting terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

While Hailemariam speaks of public engagement, the detentions continue and the disappearances remain unexplained. The trials and lengthy sentences of high-profile journalists, political activists and opposition leaders make more headlines. The draconian control of media and independent reporting has yet to see its well-deserved demise. Ethiopia’s promises are broken, but the world now sees the Oromo, whether through media outlets based in the diaspora like Ademo’s, or thanks to solidarity protests in Europe and America.

What Ethiopian officials must accept – and the world must ensure – is that in this young nation, this race toward freedom and equality is not a sprint but a marathon. Feyisa Lilesa understands this well, but he is not running alone. The Qubee generation runs behind and beyond him, and they will not be deterred.


 

FT: Ethiopia’s economic gains tainted by violent repression February 5, 2017

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Ethiopia’s economic gains tainted by violent repression

Emergency fails to protect regime from biggest threat to 26-year grip on power

The Ethiopian regime has acted on its threat to crush any threat to its economic model.

Six soldiers burst into Beckham’s dormitory at Gondar university in northern Ethiopiaone evening without pausing to question the student.

Beckham’s crime was to share with the world, via a diaspora network, how 104 other Ethiopian students had been detained for complaining about conditions on campus.

Despite the beating, the smiling Ethiopian, who is studying applied science, considers himself lucky because he is still alive.

Beckham was held in a police station rather than a military camp, unlike many of the tens of thousands of people detained under a state of emergency imposed last October to contain anti-government protests.

“After a few weeks the police let me go. They seemed to sympathise with our cause,” says Beckham, who asked to use the name of his favourite footballer for fear of reprisals.

Beckham is among hundreds of thousands who joined protests over the past two years in the biggest threat to the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Frontsince it seized power 26 years ago. The autocratic government has responded with force, sending troops and police to break up protests, in which more than 500 people have been killed, imposing the state of emergency and rounding up tens of thousands.

It has vowed to crush any threat to its economic model, which has been lauded by development experts and helped lure billions of dollars to one of Africa’s best-performing economies. Yet the protests have underlined the fragility of the economic success. They spread from Oromia region in the centre to the northern highlands around Gondar, for generations the seat of imperial power, drawing in Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara.

Human rights groups, domestic and foreign, have documented repeated and widespread abuses by the security forces. They also reported increasing use of violence by the opposition, particularly before the emergency was imposed.

Protesters’ grievances include a lack of democracy, repressive rule, limited job opportunities and the dominance of the Tigrayan ethnic group, which accounts for 6 per cent of the population, in the state and ruling coalition.

“We have no freedom and no prospects unless we join a party in the EPRDF,” Beckham says. “We need change and so we have to fight for it however we can.”

Raised in the city of Ambo, 120km west of Addis Ababa in Oromia, Beckham, who is in his 20s, has experienced the manner in which the EPRDF crushes dissent.

The unrest began in early 2014 when the government announced it wanted to extend the capital Addis Ababa into Oromia. Locals considered it a land grab and protested.

“In Ambo 72 people were killed on one day,” Beckham says of a demonstration in April 2014. “I was there and saw them shot [by soldiers].”

The authorities say the highest number of fatalities in Ambo on any day during that period was eight.

Stung by the level of anger, the government offered to negotiate with the Oromo over the Addis Ababa master plan. No deal was reached and 18 months later, in November 2015, protesters took to the streets again.

Beckham was then studying in Gondar, 730km north of Addis Ababa, but rushed back to Ambo after his 16-year-old brother was killed by soldiers in one of the first protests.

“He had been shot once in the heart and hit on the head with a stick,” he says. “It was difficult to identify if it was him or someone else because he was beaten so badly.”

The capital expansion was scrapped but the protests morphed into a wider anti-government movement and spread north.

A further source of discontent was the annexation of Welkait, once part of Amhara, into Tigray more than two decades ago. Protests flared in Gondar in July after Tigrayan police tried to arrest Demeke Zewdu, a former colonel and leader of the self-styled Welkait Committee, which has agitated for the area’s return to Amhara.

“About 300,000 people took to the streets of Gondar when they tried to arrest Colonel Demeke and everything went from there,” says a university lecturer who asked to be called Sufi Seid. “For about 20 days shops did not open as a sign of protest and demonstrations continued.”

“In Gondar and a couple of other towns that I know of about 120 people were killed and many many were arrested,” says a café owner.

Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister, said in November the death toll since November 2015 might be 500. His ministers admit that more than 20,000 have been detained. Activists say those are huge underestimates.

The emergency has brought a semblance of calm to Gondar, although grenade blasts rocked two hotels last month and violence has been reported in nearby towns.

“The protests have not gone away. People are just waiting because they don’t want to get into trouble,” Beckham says. “And nothing is being done to address the roots of the problem. So some people are now fighting back with weapons.”



 

Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2017: Ethiopia Profile: Not free and in downward trends with political rights and civil liberties: Aggregate score of 12/100 February 2, 2017

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Overview:

Ethiopia is an authoritarian state ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has been in power since 1991 and currently holds every seat in Parliament. Multiple flawed elections, including most recently in 2015, showcased the government’s willingness to brutally repress the opposition and its supporters, journalists, and activists. Muslims and members of the Oromo ethnic group have been specifically singled out. Perceived political opponents are regularly harassed, detained, and prosecuted—often under the guise of Ethiopia’s deeply flawed Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation drastically impeded the activities of civil society groups.

Key Developments:
  • Hundreds of people were killed in a crackdown on antigovernment protests that took place primarily in the Oromia and Amhara regions throughout much of the year. The Ethiopian government admitted to at least 500 deaths since the protests began in November 2015, while some human rights organizations report up to 800.
  • Thousands of people have been detained in connection with the protests, and reports of mistreatment, including torture, while in custody are rife.
  • In early October, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced a six-month state of emergency that gives the government sweeping powers to deploy the military, further restrict speech and the media, impose curfews and movement restrictions, and monitor communications.
  • Throughout the year, the authorities disrupted internet and mobile phone networks, and temporarily blocked social-media platforms and certain news websites, in an effort to prevent people from organizing and communicating about the protests.
Executive Summary:

Ethiopia was wracked by protests throughout much of 2016, a result of widespread and growing discontent with ethnic and political marginalization and repressive rule by EPRDF. The largely peaceful protests were frequently put down violently by the security forces. The protests had begun over ethnic and land rights in November 2015 in the Oromia region, and intensified in 2016, with significant additional protests in Addis Ababa and the Amhara region.

In January, the government withdrew the contentious Addis Ababa Master Plan, which had been the rallying point for Oromo protesters who alleged that thousands of farmers would be displaced from their ancestral lands to make way for the capital’s expansion. However, the announcement did little to staunch larger discontent with the EPRDF, and demonstrations took on broader antigovernment dimensions and appealed to Ethiopians across ethnic lines. The protests were regularly met with excessive force by the police and the military, including the use of live ammunition and tear gas against crowds. Tens of thousands of people were detained in police sweeps, and reports of mistreatment, including beatings and torture while in custody, were widespread. Among those arrested or charged were leaders of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, including party chairman Merera Gudina and deputy chairman Bekele Gerba. In October, the government admitted that more than 500 people had been killed in connection with the protests since November 2015, though some rights organizations reported that the true figure is at least 800.

In early October, the government announced a nationwide six-month state of emergency, enacting sweeping powers to deploy the military, restrict speech and the media, impose curfews and movement restrictions, and monitor communications. According to some estimates, nearly 24,000 Ethiopians were detained under the state of emergency, although about 10,000 were released in December. The demonstrations subsided in the wake of the emergency decree, but the government has taken little action to address the grievances of the protesters.

In September, the government pardoned some 700 prisoners in its annual gesture, including 135 Muslims who had been convicted on terrorism charges. However, key religious, ethnic, and political leaders, as well as at least 16 journalists, remained behind bars, and a number of new arrests occurred in 2016; countless other political dissidents are still facing terrorism charges in lengthy and ongoing trials.

Tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea reached a boiling point in June, when the two militaries skirmished at the northern border town of Tsorona before returning to an uneasy peace.

 

The full report for this country or territory will be published as soon as it becomes available.

Ethiopia in Crisis: What is going on now in Oromia is a massacre in the name of emergency, terrorising civilian populations January 31, 2017

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Ethiopia in crisis, closes down news

By Ismail Einashe, sage Journals


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ETHIOPIA HAS BEEN in lockdown for months. There has been a state of emergency declared and there is little news coming in and out of the country.  Social media and the internet have been outlawed, religious and cultural events banned, curfews imposed. Thousands of soldiers are roaming the streets.

It escalated after security services started killing people at the annual Irreechaa festival for the Oromos in Bishoftu in October 2016 This thanksgiving celebration of the Oromos is attended by millions from across Ethiopia and the diaspora. They wear traditional clothes and sing songs of resistance. As Ethiopia declares a state of emergency, Ismail Einashe explains some of the history to the current situation

For Oromos, Irreechaa is their most significant cultural event, and even though they are evenly split between Christians and Muslims, they all share ties to the original Oromo faith, Waaqefanna.

But at this year’s festival there was a stampede and attack by the Ethiopian police. The numbers killed are disputed – the government said 52 were killed, but activists from the Oromo Federalist Congress claim 678 people died.

And since pictures of the festival goers who were killed were published internationally, the state has shut down all access to the outside world. Behind the tragedy at Irreechaa is a long history of the Ethiopian state repressing Oromos, said Dr Awol Kassim Allo, an Ethiopian lecturer at the UK’s Keele University. “What is going on now in Oromia is a massacre in the name of emergency, terrorising civilian populations to force them into capitulation,” he said.

What is going on now in Oromia is a massacre in the name of emergency, terrorising civilian populations

He added: “The massacre at Irreechaa occurred before the state of emergency, although Ethiopia has always been under a state of emergency, the official declaration of emergency was a conclusive evidence that the state was losing control and that a large segment of the society has rejected the government’s authority to govern”.

Celebrating their traditions and wearing traditional dress, as the Oromos were doing at Irreechaa, has historically been part of the resistance to the government in Ethiopia, according to Mohammed Ademo, founder and editor of OPride.com, a multimedia news site focused on Ethiopia’s Oromo community, and now based in the USA.

Recently, many Oromos have begun to eschew Western attire completely and wear Oromo clothes. Oromo clothing has been more visible on the streets. This way of dressing is becoming a cornerstone of their identity and self- expression.

Traditional Oromo clothes consist of woya for men, which are toga-like robes, usually white, and a skirt called a wandabo for women. Oromo women also wear qollo and sadetta, cotton cloths traditionally hand-spun and hand-woven, and sometimes other garments are worn such as leather or animal skin robes.

On Facebook there are numerous groups now dedicated to dissecting the latest fashion styles of Oromo dress and there are popular style blogs that enjoy a huge following. Latest pop hits by Oromo artists heavily feature Oromo clothes – along with dances.

 

Peri Klemm, a professor in African history of art at the University of California at San Diego and expert on Oromo dress, said: “At times when identity is threatened, dress, particularly that of Oromo women who have always been the carriers of culture, becomes a way in which the Oromo maintain a sense of who they are.”


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Stop Genocide Against the Oromo People: The Whole of Oromia Must Act to Stop the Agazi and Liyu Police Terror in Hararge, Bale, Borana and Gujii January 27, 2017

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The Whole of Oromia Must Act to Stop the Agazi and Liyu Police Terror in Hararge, Bale, Borana and Gujii

 

It is well known that areas in eastern and southern Oromia are already hit by drought and weakened. The people are deprived of water and food by the government and there is no adequate humanitarian assistance in the region. Using this opportunity, the paramilitary forces of the fascist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) regime, Agazi and Liyu Police, are deployed alongside the border of Oromia and Ogaden region committing massacres. In the past four weeks alone, the Liyu Police slaughtered more than 200 innocent Oromo people. These paramilitary forces are engaged in ethnic cleansing through armed attacks against unarmed Oromo civilians, women and children. The barbaric Agazi and Liyu Police are burning down villages, displacing thousands of people from their ancestral land, and carry out pillage in several districts of Oromia, for instance Qumbii, Cinaaksan, Gursum, Mayyuu Mulluqqee, Miidhagaa Lolaa, Odaa Diimaa, and Hara Funaanni. It is to be remembered that, since 2008, the Liyu Police have committed similar massacres in villages in Hararge province of eastern Oromia repeatedly. These are undertaken by the Somali regional state Liyu Police under the Tigrayan fascist regime’s direction and instruction. The Liyu Police has been committing attacks on civilians in several villages in Ogaden region itself. The TPLF, spearheaded by the Liyu Police, had already committed genocide in Ogaden region, which is well documented by international human rights groups, including Genocide Watch. Now, the TPLF has unleashed the abusive force on Oromia with the pretext of the state of emergency it declared to crash a peaceful protest.

Real Media Press: WHY IS ETHIOPIA’S SITUATION THE MOST UNDER-REPORTED CONFLICT IN THE WORLD? January 24, 2017

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WHY IS ETHIOPIA’S SITUATION THE MOST UNDER-REPORTED CONFLICT IN THE WORLD?


The situation in Ethiopia has been declared by some bloggers (see for instance Prof Chris Blattman) as the most under-reported conflict in the world right now. This is rather true. Though some media outlets reported on the recent political turmoil in Ethiopia, such as some German press in the context of the recent visit of Chancellor Merkel to Addis Ababa, generally very little has been reported on the unrest.

Already in November 2015, the first protests against the Ethiopian Government unfolded in the Oromia region when the government wanted to expand the margins of the city of Addis. As this implied the resettlement of the local Oromo population -the largest ethnic group in the country- this was seen as a further expression of political and economic marginalisation.

The situation calmed down a little over spring 2016 and erupted again in the summer when the Amhara people in the North started anti-government protests. The military was deployed and further unrest unfolded again in the Oromia region – and for the first time an alliance between the Oromo and the Amhara was built. Since November 2015, at least 500 people have been killed by security forces and tens of thousands have been arrested, according to Human Rights Watch. What started as a protest against the expansion of Addis turned into an expression of general dissatisfaction with the government’s authoritarianism and lack of political and economic participation for more than two and a half decades.

On 9th October, the Ethiopian Government declared the state of emergency for the first time in 25 years. This was after more than fifty people died at a religious festival of the Oromo people close to Addis. A week after, further details on the state of emergency were made public. Now, the government can arrest and detain for six months (the duration of the emergency state) any person breaching emergency laws and conduct searches without a court warrant. There are now severe restrictions to the freedom of assembly and protest, and any communication with foreign governments or foreign NGOs “that is likely to harm sovereignty, security, and constitutional order” (translation provided by Horn Affairs) as well as any communication with “anti-peace groups” is prohibited. Moreover, the Government can monitor and restrict “messages transmitted” through different sorts of media outlets. This is reflected in cutting off the internet via the mobile network for two months – a major internet access route in Ethiopia – as well as the similar disconnections for social media.

Shortly after declaring the state of emergency (on 15th October), the Ethiopian Government also announced reforms, including changes to the electoral system from ‘first past the post’ to a proportional system. A change of cabinet has already taken place and tackling corruption has been declared a priority.

So why are these developments in Ethiopia the most under-reported conflict of the world, to stay with the initial phrase?

To reiterate: Ethiopia is experiencing political unrest over an extended period of time and the state of emergency has been declared for the first time in 25 years. This should be reason enough to report on the situation, but there is more: Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa with nearly 100million inhabitants, only topped by Nigeria. Secondly, Ethiopia’s GDP grew rapidly over the last few years at a rate of 9.6% in 2015. Thirdly, Ethiopia is considered as a bulwark against Jihadist Islamist movements in the Horn of Africa. Despite recently retreating some forces, Ethiopia has sent it troops to fight al-Shabab – the official al-Qaeda branch in Somalia.

These economic and security features of Ethiopia are at the same time a factor, if not the main reason why the West reports so little on the current political situation. Though the low coverage of Ethiopia is also related to the fact that other issues happen in the world and dominate Western media, the situation in Syria and Trump’s election to name a few. It is likely that Ethiopia’s importance to the West heavily contributed to the lack of coverage. Looking at the ever increasing Official Development Assistance (ODA) levels to Ethiopia by Western states, most notably the US and the UK, it seems as if the West buys into two arguments of the Ethiopian Government: political participation and democratic rights are less important than Ethiopia’s economic development and regional stability in the fight against terrorism. This is also reflected in the US and UK’s national focus on the ‘war on terror’ and their own balancing of national security in relation to human rights. A similar dynamic exists with regard to the World Banks and other donor priorities of poverty reduction over issues of political governance when they decide on Ethiopia’s ODA levels.

Though it has to be mentioned that the US, amongst others, expressed that they were ‘deeply concerned’ over the situation in Ethiopia, actions speak louder than words. It needs to be seen whether or not Western ODA levels continue to grow. And in the same manner, we should report on whether or not the Ethiopian Government will really deliver on its reform promises.

Ethiopia: War Crimes Against the Oromo Nation in Ethiopia January 23, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Ethnic Cleansing, Human Rights.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Human rights League of the Horn of Africa

 

Ethiopia: War Crimes Against the  Oromo Nation in Ethiopia

HRLHA  Urgent Action  22nd January 2017


The Oromo nation is under severe coordinated internal  and external attacks  by TPLF/EPRDF- sponsored mechanized killing squads. In the past three months, since  the state of emergency was declared on October 8, 2016, the  Ethiopian TPLF/EPRDF  government  has  deployed  its killing squad Agazi force all over Oromia  and massacred over 1200 Oromo youths, mothers and fathers  in their homes and in the streets, imprisoned tens of thousands, committed rape, and disappeared other  thousands .  Over seventy thousand Oromos  from all walks of life have been arbitrarily detained- under the pre-text of rehabilitation (Tehadiso)- picked up from their homes, workplaces, streets and taken to concentration Camps of  Xolya, Huriso, Diddessa  and also to  unidentified concentration camps.  In these concentration camps, tens of thousands Oromos have suffered and died  from torture, communicable diseases, and malnutrition without receiving medical treatment.

The external attacks have been perpetuated against Oromos by TPLF/EPRDF trained special force (Liyu Police) from the Somali regional state in  the eastern  boundary. The Liyu Police is a special killing squad of the TPLF/EPRDF government in the Ogaden Region, a group  established in 2008 under the pretext of  protecting the people of the region  from the opposition political organization, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) fighting for the self determination of Somali people in Ethiopia.

The Liyu police has routinely conducted heinous massacres in Ogaden villages ever since its formation and committed genocide against its own family members in the past eight years.

According to The Guardian, published  Thursday, 10 January 2013  , millions of pounds of Britain’s foreign aid budget were spent on training an Ethiopian paramilitary security force that stands accused of numerous human rights abuses and summary executions. The Guardian has  also mentioned in its news that  an internal Department for International Development document formed part of a tender to train security forces in the Somali region of Ogaden, as part of a five-year £13m–15m “peace-building” program has recently been discovered.

In its Urgent Action on May 2013 HRLHA reported that the Liyu Police had illegally  crossed into  Oromia in 2013 and attacked  the defenceless people; 700 different types of cattle and other valuable possessions were  reported to have been looted  and over 20,000  Oromos from Rasa Harre, Marfata, Qillee, Mulqee, Dirraa, Waldayyaa, Biqqoo and Libee community fled to the highland areas in Eastern Hararge Zone.

Since then, the TPLF/EPRDF- sponsored Liyu Police periodically has repeatedly attacked the neighboring Oromia districts in Bale, in Eastern Harge zones. The attack of the Liyu police  has escalated into invasions all over Oromia’s neighboring districts multiple times in the past one and half months.

According to the HRLHA informants,  this is the part of  internal and external  coordinated plan of TPLF /EPRDF government to  totally eliminate the Oromo nation  by using paramilitary Liyu Police. (synonym for Janjaweed militia which loosely translates to ‘devils on horseback’) . Janjaweed militia were group  of  killers deployed by Sudan government against the Darfur people in 2003 in which over 480,000 people were massacared and over 2.8 million have been displace)

Acording to the report we received  from our informants, overr 150  Oromos have been killed and many wounded during the war between  Liyu Police and the Oromo civilian in  Gursum, Qunbi, Babile, Chiksan, Gursum, and Jarso (Eastern Hararge),  Seweyena, Meda Welabu, Dawe Sarariti and Raytu (Bale Zone),  Liban and Laga Dawa (Guji Zone), Funanagrsu and Elele (Borana Zone) of Oromia.

The TPLF/EPRDF is committing war crimes against the Oromo nation  by deploying its highly trained killing squads from the internal Agazi Force  and by the external Liyu Police funded by foreign governments. The World Community should not remain silent and witness when such systematic war crimes are  taking place  against the Oromo Nation in Ethiopia, crimes that are similar to those committed in Rwanda and Darfur.

The TPLF government and the TPLF surrogate and the so- called Oromo  People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) must be held accountable by the world community for their systematic war crimes against  the Oromos.

The 2003/2004 Genocide against Darfur in Sudan is a striking lesson; the people there were killed indiscriminately and, more sadly, the perpetrators would go unpunished until it culminated in a full genocide. What is happening in Oromia regional state today resembles more or less what happened at the embryonic stage of the Darfur genocide in Sudan.

Even the AU, whose headquarters is in the center of Oromia/Addis Ababa, remain actionless after thousands of Oromo children, seniors, men and women have been massacred by the TPLF/EPRDF killing squads in the past year. The donor governments such as the USA, the UK, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia  and government agencies (African Commission  on Human and Peoples’ Rights, EU Human Rights Commission and  UN Human Rights Council) have not found the courage to take concrete action, other than expressing  their concerns.  Such inaction doesn’t reflect the AU’s  and the UN’s obligation under their own Constitutive Act, which provides for intervention inside a member state against genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

This is a cosmopolitan ideal of protecting people inside states against mass atrocities as a matter of common obligation. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), coined in 2001 under the leadership of the Canadian government and adopted by 150 heads of states and governments in 2005, obliges the international community to intervene to stop atrocities.

As a matter of principle, a state shoulders the primary responsibility to prevent and protect its own citizens against horrific acts, but if it is unable or unwilling to prevent and protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the responsibility is thus shifted to the international community. The R2P states, “ when a state is unable or unwilling to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the international community has the responsibility to intervene”.

The UN Charter’s first and most essential aim is to “maintain international peace and security”. However, when the UN was first created, it was an enormous undertaking based on hope.

Today, one critical question on everyone’s lips is whether the United Nations is living up to its mandate, more particularly, of maintaining international peace and security. Amid ongoing human rights crises in Ethiopia it is hard to figure out what exactly the UN & AU have done to uphold their responsibilities. Nevertheless, it is not too late to act today.  

Recommendation:

For the Ethiopian human rights crisis, two ways can be helpful in restoring peace and stability. In this, the international communities and agencies (AU, EU & UN) can play a decisive role:

  • Major donor governments, including the USA, the UK & Canada, Sweden, Norway and Australia should stop funding the authoritarian TPLF/EPRDF government
  • Put pressure on the TPLF/EPRDF government to allow neutral investigators to probe into the human rights crisis in the country as the precursor to international community intervention

The HRLHA therefore calls, yet again, upon the international community to act collectively in a timely and decisive manner – through the UN Security Council and in accordance with the UN charter on a case-by – case basis to stop the human tragedy in Oromia.

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Fascism: Genocide: TPLF Ethiopia: Prompting conflict among Neighboring Nations does not rescue the stumbling Fascist TPLF Ethiopia’s regime from defeat January 21, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Ethnic Cleansing, Genocide, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

OMN: English News ( January 18, 2017)


OLF logo

 

Prompting conflict among Neighboring Nations does not rescue the stumbling TPLF regime from defeat (OLF Statement)

Conflict

The Ethiopian empire was founded not based on the will of its nations and nationalities. It was formed by force by elites from the north with help of the European powers. Since its formation, Ethiopia has never respected the interests of other nationalities in the empire. Today, as in the past, the empire is serving only elites from the Tigray, particularly TPLF and members of its pseudo organizations, while majority of ordinary people from other nationalities, particularly the Oromos, are languishing under its tyranny. Subsequently, the economic, socio-cultural and political exploitations have continued unabated. Tired of such tyranny, the Oromo revolutionaries and the youth has stepped up an uprising that has engulfed the entire nation since 2014. Though the responses of the TPLF security forces were brutal, killing hundreds of peaceful protesters and detaining tens of thousands, the protest has continued and even expanded to the Amhara regional state and to the southern Nations and Nationalities regional state.

Desperate to control the people’s uprising, TPLF first declared a command post rule and then a state of emergency. However, neither of the command post nor the state of emergency has stopped the protest as TPLF hopes. Today, there is no political order in the country especially in Oromia and Amhara regional states. Failed to control the situation in the country, TPLF and its pseudo allies used various strategies to silence people’s quest for freedom and democracy. Since clinch on power, TPLF has been instigating a conflict along national and religion lines. Interestingly, after selfinstigating conflict using its undercover security agents, often it presents itself as a mediator while supporting one group with all sorts of logistics up to militarization. Subsequently, TPLF uses this self-instigated conflict as a propaganda on its statecontrol media to tell the people that TPLF is the best, perhaps the only, remedy for the state to continue as a nation. These are among the strategies that this minority group uses to stay on power. Contrary to this fact the TPLF and its dictatorial rule that are destroying the integrity of the country it claims to maintain.

In Oromia, there are countless instances where TPLF intentionally created a conflict between Oromos and other ethnic groups such as Somali. The current “Oromo -Somali conflict” in East and west Hararge, Bale, Borena and Guji zones seem unique in its nature from previous incidents. A well-trained special police forces (aka Liyu police) solely composed of ethnic Somalis are the fore front of the conflict. This conflict, perhaps a war, has been going on for now three weeks and hundreds of innocent Oromo people have been killed by this special police forces.

Although these special forces are composed of carefully selected ethnic Somalis, it is commanded by a TPLF general Abrhaa Qurater and is also enforced by TPLF Agazi Special Force. The Ethiopian government, as usual, is trying to divert this war as if it is just a conflict between Oromo and Somali farmers. Unlike previous conflicts, this is a large-scale war encompassing East and West Hararge, Bale, Borena and Gujii zones. It is also worth noting here that this Somali special forces are trained by Britain for a so called counter insurgency. The UK- and US-governments also finance the training and supported with all the logistics, which are now murdering innocent Oromo farmers in the East, south-east and southern Oromia bordering the Somali regional state. The TPLF government is using this special police forces, trained supposedly for counter insurgency, to raid just unarmed Oromo farmers. It not a simple conflict to ransack cattle and camels, as TPLF tried to present, however, it a war of ethnic cleansing by a well-trained police forces. Not only those directly involved in the war but also those who trained and armed them will be responsible for such atrocity on hundreds of innocent people.

Our people are fighting back with what they have, but one should note that these are a well-trained and armed forces. Thus, they need support from all Oromos in Oromia and across the globe. This is the time that we standup for the right cause, and show our support for those in dire need, putting aside our little differences. Thus, we call upon all Oromo in Oromia and in diaspora to stand with those who are facing the TPLF special forces with bare hand. The only ever lasting solution we have at stake now is to remove TPLF from power for once and for all. This is possible only when we all united and act as one people for one goal, remove TPLF, the killer of our people. We also call upon all Oromos who are currently serving at various posts in police and military camps of the TPLF to turn their weapons against the enemy of your people.

Those who supported the TPLF killing machinery financially as well as in logistics will not escape from accountability. Thus, we call upon the Western governments, specially the government of USA and UK who financially sponsored the training of such killing machinery should immediately withdraw their support and held the TPLF government accountable for all the killings and destruction. Finally, we would like to call upon all people in Ethiopian to stand together to bring an end to the TPLF tyranny.

Victory to the Oromo people!
Oromo Liberation Front
January 21, 2017

Read more in Amharic,  Afaan Oromoo and English


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Gaaddisa RAABAA DOORII (LIVE) Amajjii 17, 2017, Qabxiin Marii: Weerara Liyyuu Poolisii Oromoo Irratti Bane.

OMN: ODUU (Amajjii 18,2017)

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Abdi Illey’s recent attacks on Oromian territories with TPLF Generals

 

(Ayyaantuu News):There has been frequent, but in fact subsequent, attacks launched by what is called the Liyu Police Force of the Somali Regional State on different districts of Oromia along the South, South east and east particularly along the Hararghe, Bale and Borana lowlands. More than 200 people are estimated to have been killed so far. The Liyu Police, as commanded by the psychopath Abdi Illey did repeatedly commit war crimes and crimes against humanity on civilians in the Ogaden region. Most of the units of the Liyu police are said to have been recruited from Illey’s own clan. After he established the murderous militia group and took the command and control of it, Mr. Illey has literally turned himself into a war lord. He never gives sh* about what the officials at the federal gov’t had to say. It’s even with in the public domain that he spitted on the face of the puppet prime minister HMD in Jigjiga while he was there as a ‘guest of honor’ during the celebration day of what they call “nations and nationalities day” in 2013. While even most of the cabinet ministers of the federal government go on the routine per diem scales on trips to foreign countries, Abdi Illy makes it so differently. The man even contracts and commissions top security guards while reserving hotel rooms in some of the top hotels of the cities he goes for trip to.

2/3: “Liyu police” is an equivalent of the Janjaweed militia in the Sudan (Arabic: جنجويد) but armed by the TPLF to raid districts in Oromia

In this short commentary, I argue that Abdi Illey’s recent attack on the Oromo territories is part of his strategy to “take back” the land he lost during the backdoor deal with the TPLF Generals.
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The land dispute with Afar Regional State
It has been a matter of generic knowledge among the public that the Afar-Issa-Somali conflict over land was the cause for the dismissal for three-fourth of government cabinet members in the Somali regional State a couple of years back. At the heart of the conflict lies, as the Afar diaspora network claims, the Somali-Issa militia forces did expand their control into the heart of the Afar land reaching to the banks of the Awash River and the strategic highway linking Addis Ababa to the port cities of Assab and Djibouti. Apparently, the dispute was halted by TPLF’s interventionist deal that favored the position of the Afar. But insider informants had it that the TPLF-imposed decision to seal the deal favoring the position of the Afar asymmetrically divided the 12-membered cabinet of the Somali Regional State into a fiercely fighting group of 4 to 8 members. Accordingly, 8 of the 12 cabinet members including the then vice-president did reject the decision while 4 of them (including the president Abdi Illey) accepted the TPLF-imposed decision. But the whole saga then went astray so much so that the 8 cabinet members in the Somali Regional State who opposed the move had to be all fired out to implement the land dispute deal proposed by the TPLF, at the end of the day. Abdi Illey’s 4-membered group in the cabinet, a minority by any democratic sense, had to turn victorious by firing all the 8 others (including the vice-president) because Abdi Illey & co had the keen supported from TPLF Generals. What is more??
Why the TPLF wanted to favor the Afar in the tribal land dispute/conflict?
For the TPLF, the Afar region is just part of the greater Tigray it envisions. If article 39 of Ethiopia’s facade federalism is to be first invoked by the TPLF (the maker and its breaker) any time it reads greater risk in the wider Ethiopian politics, Tigreay will secede taking Afar along with it — we all know it and they all know it too. Tigreans have not only political and economic supremacy in the Afar areas but they even dominate the urban culture in there – much like the Amhara do in Oromia due to the lingering legacy of the imperial era and that of the derg. Most businesses in the Afar towns are owned by business men of Tigray origin who are affiliates of the TPLF, more often than not. So, for the TPLF, it’s a natural instinct choice for any land dispute deal between the Afar and the Somali being sealed in favor of the former. But more importantly, the TPLF can make sure that the later won’t lose the land it claimed or at least be compensated for it by what could possibly be paid by a party that had no involvement either in the conflict or in the deal to seal it at the end of the day. Here is where Abdi Illey’s attack on Oromia, as supported by the TPLF Generals comes in. He has already been declared as “the best person of the year” by the TPLF’s mouth piece called “Tigraionline.com”. Sooner or later, we will be told that some remote territories disputed among some tribal pastoralists of the Oromo and Somali have been given to the later. And that seals the backdoor deal between Abdi Illey and the TPLF Generals.

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So what?
It’s conceivable that the OPDO are neither aware of it nor capable of stopping this deal. They are created to contradict the Oromo in the very first place. While the Liyu police not only raids Oromo villages crossing borders but also killing their cadre sitting in office, the OPDO did nothing other than dialing on the old digits of the Arat kilo palace. The response was loud and clear though: ‘the number you calling doesn’t exist’. But they are still calling….so amazing…….
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So, the public should defend itself against these TPLF’s mercenary group called Liyu police by all means possible. We believe semi-organic bodies like the Oromia Police shall stand by the side of the public. We will overcome this dirty war of the TPLF too!
la luta continua vitoria e certa!!!

COMMENTARY: THE INTEREST THAT IS NOT SO SPECIAL: ADDIS ABEBA, OROMIA, AND ETHIOPIA January 19, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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 Addis Abeba, Jan. 18/2017 – When Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn indicated last week that a draft law was prepared on the “special interest” of Oromia in Finfinnee (aka Addis Abeba), discussions have resurfaced on the issue of the status of the city and its relations with Oromia. Last week, I had the privilege of discussing the matter in a couple of radio interviews where, inter alia, I was asked what the content of the special interest is, what I anticipate the content of the draft law will be, and whether passing the law would address the concerns raised in the Oromo protests that has rocked the country for over two years now. What follows is a set of reflections on some of these issues.[1]

This announcement about the draft being prepared on the ‘special interest’ comes at a time when the country is under a state of emergency the end of which is indefinite even according to the Prime Minister.[2] The announcement comes at a time when, in the wake of the Oromo protests against the Master Plan, at least over 700 people are killed by the regime and thousands more are injured. In particular, it comes after key Oromo political leaders—such as Bekele Gerba and Dr Merera Gudina–and tens of thousands of protestors have been sent to jail and military detention centers, respectively, for demanding the right to ownership of their Oromo land including Addis Abeba. The announcement comes at a time when the Oromia and Amhara regions are chiefly being administered by the Command Post in charge of implementing the state of emergency law. The Master Plan, which was once said to be repealed, is reportedly being implemented within Addis Abeba. The boundary between the city and its Oromo suburbs that are still within the administrative jurisdiction of Oromia is not delimited. The repression of all forms of dissent continues. This immediate political context is not without a precedent. In fact, one can say that it is only the continuation of a long-drawn historical context.

Before the advent of Art 49(5)…

Historically, it is now a well-known fact that the notion of Oromia’s ‘Special Interest’ entered the Ethiopian legal universe in 1992 through the instrumentality of the Proclamation that established National/Regional Self Governments (Proclamation No. 7/ 1992). This is the proclamation that set the blue-print for what came later to be the constituent units of the Ethiopian Federation. Adopted to give effect to the decentralization that was envisaged in the Transitional Charter – and to valorize the right of ethno-national groups to self-determination – it established 14 self-governing national regions. Accordingly, Oromia became one of the 14 self-governing States. Addis Abeba, like the City of Harar, was also a region in its own right. Oromia’s ‘special interest’ over both cities was first recognized in this piece of legislation (1).In Article 3 (4), it is provided that:

“The special interest and political right of the Oromo over Region Thirteen [Harari] and Region Fourteen [Addis Abeba] are reserved. These Regions shall be accountable to the Central Transitional Government and the relations of these Self-Governments with the Central Transitional Government shall be prescribed in detail by a special law.”

Very much like the provision in Art 49 (5) of the Constitution that came later, it envisaged a ‘special law’ (meant to clarify the relation of accountability to the Central Government), but such a law was never promulgated. It is interesting to observe that, unlike in the constitution, in this transitional period law, the Oromo has not just a “special interest” but also a political right over the two self-government regions. It is also important to observe that there is no attempt to delimit the boundary of the city. As a result, it was not clear as to where exactly the jurisdiction of the government of Addis Abeba ends and that of Oromia commences.

While it looked like a city-state in a federation, Addis Abeba was also seen as a city within a larger state, i.e., Oromia. In other words, administratively, it was an enclave falling outside of Oromia while also housing the Government of Oromia as its capital. In a sense, Addis Abeba is in Oromia, but not of Oromia. Oromia was a State governing from Addis Abeba without, however, governing Addis Abeba itself. While the meaning of ‘special interest’ was understood to mean much more than having a seat for the Oromia government in the city, for the entire period of the transitional times, this remained to be the only ‘interest’ Oromia could obtain.

The concept of Oromia’s special interest was thus injected into the language of public law in the country accompanying the shift away from a formerly unitary state to what was subsequently to become a ‘multinational federation’. Acutely sensitive to the rights of sub-national groups (called ‘Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’) in Ethiopia, this ‘ethno-federalization’ was a reaction, and a push back, to the goings-on in history. We can thus see its immense historical import in its potency to speak both to the past and to the future. The ‘special’ in the ‘special interest’ phrase hails not only from the mere fact of geographic location of Addis Abeba in Oromia but also from the implicit recognition of the essentially Oromo identity of the city. Historians have routinely described the fact that, until it was violently raided and occupied by the forces of the Shoan Kingdom in the 19th century, the city was inhabited by the Oromo.

When it was ‘founded’ as the capital of the modern Ethiopian Empire in 1886, it was set as a launching pad for the campaigns of imperial conquest on the peoples of the Southern, South-Eastern, and South-Western peripheries. With a violent beginning marked by conquest and occupation of the land; raid, massacre, and displacement of the population; and transformation of the cultural and environmental terrain by the soldiers, it started as a garrison town. A cursory glance at writings by William Harris[3], Alexander Bulatovich[4], and even Evelyn Waugh[5], indicates that the State operated in Addis Abeba as an occupying force of settler colonialists bent on pushing out and displacing the indigenous Oromo peoples. Because the settlers generally spoke Amharic and confessed the Ethiopian Orthodox faith and because of the disproportionate concentration of modern urban facilities in Addis Abeba, it became increasingly different culturally from its surroundings.

Consequently, it projected a cultural life that is different from that of the Oromo. The culture, identity, and language of the Oromo became the constitutive outside of the cultural life in the city. In time, the Oromo were effectively marginalized and otherized. For most of the 20th century, the Oromo, although historically the host, was forced to live like the alien and the guest in what was their own homeland. Informed by this memory and propelled by years of national liberation struggles, the politicians that negotiated the Transitional Charter (Proc. 1/1991) and made the law (Proc. 7/1992) sought to emphasize the need to acknowledge the Oromo presence in the city’s affair through the ‘special interest’. The ‘special interest’ package was thus a way of making up for the artificial (created or intentionally produced) absence of the Oromo. In other words, it was a method of presenting the absent, a way of bringing back the Oromo to its own.

What does the Law Say about the Special Interest?: The Legal Context

When the constitution of FDRE was finally adopted in 1995, the ‘special interest’ clause was more or less carried over into art 49(5). To understand the full textual context of the special interest package in art 49 (5), it is important for us to reproduce the entirety of article 49 in full. Accordingly, the provision in art 49 reads as follows:

  • Addis Abeba shall be the capital city of the Federal State.
  • The residents of Addis Abeba shall have a full measure of self-government. Particulars shall be determined by law.
  • The Administration of Addis Abeba shall be responsible for the Federal Government.
  • Residents of Addis Abeba shall in accordance with the provisions of this constitution, be represented in the House of Peoples’ Representative.
  • The special interest of the state of Oromia in Addis Abeba regarding the provision of social services, or the utilization of natural resources and other similar matters, as well as joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Abeba within the State of Oromia, shall be respected. Particulars shall be determined by law.  

Owing to the unclarity of the clause in art 49 (5), coupled with the lack, to date, of the law constitutionally envisaged to enunciate the content, it became imperative for people to ask “just what is the ‘special interest’?” And what is so special about it? In this section, we make a close reading of the provision to explore what could be in the package.

Developments: Toward Articulating the Content of the ‘Special Interest’

It is important at the outset to underscore that Addis Abeba is a Federal capital city within a State. In this, it is more like Berne (of Switzerland) or Ottawa (of Canada). It is not a city-state (in the style of Berlin or Brussels). Nor is it a federal capital territory or a federal district (in the style of Abuja, or Canberra, or Washington DC). Once that is recognized, i.e., that Addis Abeba is a city in Oromia, one should have an explicit discussion and mutual understanding about what it means to be a federal capital because that automatically indicates that the Federal Government does not have a ‘natural’ right to be in the city. Unfortunately, that discussion did not happen. That was a historical blunder about a city mired in several historical misdeeds and mistakes.

That it was made accountable solely to the Federal Government was the second big blunder committed at the time of adopting the constitution. Given the fact that the city is Oromia and that it is also a ‘natural’ capital of the government of Oromia, it should have been made accountable to Oromia. Or, at the very least, it should have dual accountability to both the Federal and Oromia Governments. That did not happen. Commanding exclusive say on the administration of the city (in the name of ultimate accountability), the federal government ‘banished’ the Oromia government at will in 2003 and allowed it back into the city in 2005. In this, the federal government expanded and re-enacted the original violence of dispossession and displacement of Oromos from the city thereby perpetrating a new wound before the historical wounds could heal. Had it not been for this contemporary constitutive mistake, this ‘original sin’ of constitutional drafting in 1995, there wouldn’t have been anything special about the special interest of Oromia. If there would be ‘special interest’, it would have been that of the Federal Government or the non-Oromo residents of the city. These twin mistakes of recent history led to events of dire consequence that continue to claim lives and limbs to date.

The Host made a Guest

Having made a guest out of the host through the legal fiction of excision, i.e., by excising the city out of the political and administrative jurisdiction of Oromia, it became necessary for Ethiopia, almost as an afterthought, to ‘concede’ a lame ‘special interest’ to Oromia in Art 49(5). Over the years, the government of Oromia and Oromos in general hung on this provision more as a symbolic rallying point to interrogate Ethiopia for what is actually beyond the specific content of the Oromo interest in the city.

To the Oromo public, the city became the metaphor for what Ethiopia has made of the Oromo in general: an invisible, non-speaking, non-acting other who inhabits the interior of the territory but the exterior of the polity. It became the concentrated expression of the ‘life’ and the agony of the Oromo in the Ethiopian polity: their present-absence and their absent presence at a time.

Today, the Federal State presided over the coalition of four parties that make up the EPRDF became the new empire in a federal form, and the leaders became the new emperors in a democratic-republican garb. This forced the quip from many commentators that in Ethiopia ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ (‘the more it changes, the more it remains the same’).

Hence, the wide Oromo discontent over the whole arrangement with regard to Addis Abeba. Taking advantage of the historic asymmetry in power, the city administration, mostly prompted by the federal government, has consistently acted in complete neglect or wilful defiance of the interests of Oromia and Oromos.

Legal Silence Exploited

Taking advantage of the undefined territorial boundary of the city, the administration continued to expand its competence over the suburbs surrounding Addis Abeba. Routinely, the Federal and the City Governments exploited the legal silence on the matter of special interest. Thus, the Addis Abeba Land Administration office often acted as the authority in charge of land administration in areas such as Labbuu, the Laga Xaafo-Marii continuum, Bole-Bulbula, Buraayyuu, Sabbata, Sululta, and districts beyond the Aqaqii-Qaallittii corridor (such as Galaan, Dukam, etc). The Federal Government continued to implement its industrialization policy by reserving Industrial Zones, Recreation Parks, and designated investment sites (much like Special Economic Zones). In doing all these things, the Federal Government and the city never took the trouble to consult with Oromia, much less the Oromo people. Evictions of farmers with little or no compensation became a routine practice.

Pollutions, Waste, Deforestation, Evictions

Pollutions from industrial emissions were sustained with no sense of accountability from the part of the city. Waste was dumped recklessly causing massive health risks. Deforestation and soil degradation was intensified in the neighboring districts, especially after the rise of investment in flower farms, dairy farms, and poultry farms. Homelessness of the evicted farmers and residents started to be felt among the people.

Oromia and Oromos Respond Resentfully: #Oromorprotests Emerges

The response from the Government of Oromia was late, but it did come in the form of a 2009 Caffee Oromia proclamation that established a Special Zone of 17 districts and 36 towns in the area. Its attempt at legislative articulation of the ‘Constitutional Special Interest of Oromia over Addis Ababa’ remained a draft to date. Its demand for enunciation of the content of the ‘special interest’ by the Constitutional Inquiry Council (CIC) was rejected on the ground that the CIC and the House of Federation do not give an advisory opinion in the absence of litigation.

Also, Oromo residents of the inner city resented the absence of Schools and cultural centers that operate in Afaan Oromo. The fact that the city has become anything but Oromo over the years made Oromo residents lament the complete cultural insensitivity to the needs of the Oromo in the city. Increasingly, the demand for schools in Afaan Oromo and cultural centers began to be vocally expressed in the last decade or two (resulting in efforts to construct an Oromo Cultural Centre and to open public schools that operate in Afaan Oromo)[6].

While such demands were gaining momentum steadily over the years, the Integrated Regional Development Plan (alias the Master Plan) was announced to the public in 2014. Immediately, it provoked a resistance in all corners of the Oromia region.

The day-to-day encroachment of Oromia’s jurisdiction with the informal expansion of the city; the general spill over effects of the city; its becoming the dumping ground for Addis Abeba waste for no gain; the pollution of the rivers, the soil, and the general environment of the surrounding districts and towns; the evictions with ‘compensations’ whose lower limits are legally left unregulated; the insensitivity to the cultural and linguistic needs of Oromo residents; the temperamental behaviour the Federal Government showed vis-à-vis Oromia’s claim to Addis Abeba as its capital city; these and other resentments fed the anger that emerged in the wake of the revelation of the Master Plan.

Apart from its violation of the principles of federalism and a healthy intergovernmental relation that should exist in a working federation, one of the reasons given for resisting the Master Plan was that it liquidates the ‘special interest’ of Oromia. As was noted above, the particulars envisaged to ‘be determined by law’ were never determined.

Giving Content to the ‘Special Interest’

According to art 49 (5), the articulation of the content of the ‘special interest’ is hoped to revolve around the meaning of four broad phrases:

  1. ‘Provision of social services’
  2. ‘Utilization of natural resources’
  3. ‘Joint administrative matters’
  4. ‘Other matters’ similar to provision of social services or utilization of natural resources.

In the endeavor to give content to the special interest clause, one is expected to interpret these phrases in a judicious manner that can also satisfy the popular discontent that was ignited into full manifestation in the protest to the Master Plan.

Social Services

In particular, we must identify the kind of social services that Addis Abeba should provide to Oromia. Normally, ‘social services’ connote services such as access to housing, education, health, water, transport, and other matters needed for achieving adequate living standards. From experience, we know that one of the unmet needs of Oromia in Addis Abeba is access to public buildings and properties for their offices and residential places for their officials and civil servants. And the need for designated plots of land on which to build houses for the employees of the state.

Organizing public schools that operate in Afaan Oromo is another kind of social service seen as a pressing need. Related but not often articulated is the need for building or making spaces for public libraries run in Afaan Oromo, exhibition centres, concert halls, theatres, museums, galleries, cinema halls, printing presses dedicated to the nurture and development of Oromo cultural lives, shows, performances, plays, memories, arts/paintings, movies, books, etc. This need to give attention to culture also requires the need for memorializing personalities and historical moments of the Oromo through naming streets, places, squares; and erecting statues. In addition, subsidizing Oromo arts and printing and publications as part of making the Oromo presence felt to anyone who comes to and inhabits the city is an important aspect of social service. In other words, the provision of social services also extends to the cultural representation of the Oromo in the life of the wider city.

Similarly, health facilities and other utilities such as public transport services that operate in Afaan Oromo should be considered part of the social services to be provided to Oromos. One way of addressing this could be making Afaan Oromo the co-equal working language of the City Government. The move to make Afaan Oromo and other languages to become working languages of the Federal Government will also help curb part of the problem of access to social services and facilities such as public transport, celebration and registration of vital events (birth, marriage, death, certification, authentication, licensing, etc).

 Natural Resources

The proposed law must also clarify the type of ‘natural resources’ Addis Abeba has, resources that Oromia uses, and identify the modes in which it continues to use them. The effort to give content to this phrase becomes confounding when we note the fact that there is hardly any natural resource that the city offers to Oromia. Anything ‘natural’ in the city is ipso facto that of Oromia because the city itself is of Oromia anyway. The city actually is dependent on the natural resources of Oromia. Water, forest products, hydroelectric supply, minerals, sand, cement products, precious stones, food products, and everything else that Ethiopia (beyond and above Addis Abeba) needs come from outside of the city, Oromia and the other regions.

In the course of articulating this interest, one needs to consider the benefits Oromia should get from the delivery of these resources. One way of doing this is to agree on the percentage of income that should go back to Oromia’s revenue based on what is often called the principle of derivation in federal countries. If the federalism was properly functioning, this would have been handled through a negotiated channel of financial intergovernmental relations.

Joint Administration

The proposed law to be prepared must determine the scope and method of exercise of the envisaged ‘joint administration’. For this, we will first need to identify what tasks are matters for joint administration. Secondly, we need to decide who is responsible for what aspect of the administration. In the area of inter-jurisdictional roads (say maintenance); border management; managing trans-boundary forests, rivers, etc.; inter-jurisdictional legal cooperation (whose police takes responsibility for cross-border criminal activities); these and some such activities need to be spelt out.

One obvious area of joint administration is management of land. Because legislative power over land issues is a matter for the federal government and administration is for the States, issues such as town planning, mapping, cadastre, land redistribution among residents, designing construction regulations, etc should have been a matter for states, districts, and local/municipality governments. And in these areas, local governments of Oromia and the city administration (i.e., sub-cities and districts) could find some collaboration. Accordingly, the government of the state of Oromia and the government of the Addis Abeba City could coordinate their activities as they have overlapping jurisdictions (i.e., Oromia has a territorial jurisdiction while the city has a self-administrative jurisdiction) because the city is also the capital city of Oromia.

Ideally, ‘joint administration’ could have happened if the city was made accountable to the Government of Oromia rather than to the Federal Government. At the very least, joint administration could have been achieved through making the City government accountable to both the Federal and the Oromia governments. Settling on one of these options would mitigate the injustice of the original constitutional arrangement that: a) made Addis Abeba the capital city of the Federal government without the consent of Oromia and Oromos; and b) made the city’s self-government accountable exclusively to the Federal Government.

‘Other issues’

The meaning of the ‘other issues’ over which Oromia has a special interest is to be decided contextually on the basis of issues that rear their head in the course of day-to-day life experience. One cannot be definitive about the list of things to be included in this category.

However, twenty years of experience should have brought forth several such issues that may need to be specified while leaving others to the discretion of administrators subject to judicial review.

Who Takes Initiative?

Even assuming that the content of the ‘Special interest’ is clear, there is another issue left for us to determine: who comes up with the law that “determines” the “particulars”? Is it the Federal Government, the City Government, or the Government of Oromia? So far, the federal government had hesitated to legislate on the matter even in the face of a repeated demand by the government of the state of Oromia. That is of course because the federal government wants to exploit the ambiguity that remains because of the legal vacuum.

Legal silence is strategically deployed by the Federal and Addis Abeba Council to avoid their part of the obligation and to continue to enjoy what doesn’t rightfully belong to them in the absence of a law that proscribes it. Oromia’s attempt in the past (2006) to legislate on the matter could produce only a draft piece of legislation that couldn’t ultimately be presented to and passed by the Caffee Oromia.

Beyond the Content: Reconciled Relationship between the City, the Region, and the Country-Redemption via Relocation?

If there was an inclusive participatory constitutional moment that acknowledges the presence of the Oromo in the polis-to-be between 1992 and 1994, one or more of the following scenarios might have been negotiated:

a) Find a (new) site that is commonly agreed upon by all the constituent members of the Federation to be the Federal District Territory;

b) Designate another city in another State or in Oromia as the seat of the federal government accountable to that state;

c) Designate different cities that can serve as seats for the different branches of the Federal Government;

d) Agree to have a roving capital city for the federal government every decade or so;

e) Designate Addis Abeba as the capital city with a self-governing council ultimately accountable to Oromia—an essentially Oromo city in which the federal government may have some form of ‘special interest’

f) Designate Addis Abeba as a federal capital city whose self-governing council will be accountable to both the federal and the Oromia governments.

 Towards a Redemptive Discourse

We all know that the constitution-making process was less ideal than one would hope for. It was marked by lack of legitimacy on procedural and substantive accounts.[7] The work required now, while attending to the immediate needs of giving content to the ‘joint administrative issues’, is to identify potential areas of constitutional amendments that would overcome the problems caused by original flaws in the constitution. This will force us to engage in—and engage the public with–what I called, elsewhere, a ‘redemptive constitutional discourse,’ a discourse that overcomes the deficits in original legitimacy, a discourse that ‘corrects’ the imperfect beginnings of the constitution by also attending to the trauma caused by inaugural violence with which the city was incorporated into, and made the capital of, the modern imperial Ethiopian state.

Relocating the Capital

While that is being done, the search for a lasting solution to the violent Ethio-Oromia relations, especially regarding Addis Abeba needs to begin and continue. In particular, it is imperative that we consider the possibility of relocating the Federal Government elsewhere. Removing the Federal government will help undo the trauma of the violent occupation at the moment of ‘founding’ and subsequent displacement of the Oromo through the ‘settlement’ of others. Relocation has the advantage of:

  1. Dissolving the altercation over ownership of the city;
  2. Securing the socio-cultural interests of the Oromo in the city;
  3. Restoring full jurisdiction of Oromia over its territory;
  4. Rescinding the legal excision of the city from the administrative jurisdiction of Oromia through the provision of article 49;
  5. Enhancing the Oromo’s right to exercise of ultimate political power in the city;
  6. Restoring the host, the Oromo, to its rightful position and securing the rights of the guests, the non-Oromo inhabitants, in a context of mutual recognition;
  7. Arresting the continued lawless expansion of the city and the concomitant land grab, eviction, and ethnocide thereof;
  8. Responding to, and thereby dissolving, the question of the so-called ‘special interests’ within the context of Oromia and Oromia alone;
  9. Comprehensively responding to the demands of the #Oromoprotests whose rallying cry has been “Finfinnee belongs to Oromo” (“Finfinneen kan Oromooti!”).

The legal relocation of the Federal capital has more transformative potential for the entire polity than the obvious advantages outlined above. It is a restoration of Oromo agency and authority over the decision on what matters to their life in their land and in the wider country. The issue of choosing a negotiated site for a federal capital city is an opportunity to help the wider country to agonize over its history, its state system, its capacity to deal with historical injustice, and its hope of re-building the state on a fairer, more just, and more plural foundation. In short, it allows for a redemptive constitutional discourse to emerge.

It has to be explicitly stated however that to remove the Federal Government is not synonymous with removing the inhabitants of the city. The inhabitants will be part of Oromia and like all other people living in the wider Oromia, their rights shall be respected. Yes, there may be some people who work for the federal government institutions that may have to commute to and from work if they choose to continue living in Addis Abeba after the relocation of the capital. Yes, there will also be people who might move to the new capital altogether. But they don’t have to. No one has to. It is important to remember, incidentally, that not all the inhabitants of the city are employees of the Federal Government as such. The federal Government is merely its institutions, agencies, and its workers. That is not the (entire) population of the city.

Pending Redemption…Shift Accountability

Until that is done through constitutional revision or amendment, it may be necessary to consider the shift of accountability of the city government from the Federal to the Oromia government. It may be imperative for the Federal Government to start paying rent to the Oromia government as a token of acknowledgement to their being hosted by Oromia.

The quest for a lasting solution should start with identifying unconstitutional laws and policies that violate Oromia’s rights and special interests. Laws such as the one that promulgated the Addis Abeba Charter of 2003 (Proc. 361/2003, especially its article 5), the Investment Amendment Proclamation of 2014 (Proc. 849/2014, especially its provisions regarding ‘Industrial Development Zones), and projects like the World Bank sponsored Industrial Zone Projects (such as the Resettlement Action Plan [of] the Qilinxo Industrial Zone (April 2015) should all be rescinded.

New laws may need to be issued. An example is a proclamation that governs the lowest threshold for rates and modes of compensation awarded to a farmer in the event of eviction from her/his land. To be sure, there was a 2005 Proclamation (Proc. 455/2005) that provides for expropriation of land holdings and compensation. However, this proclamation, apart from enhancing the dispossessive regulatory and police powers of the Ministry of Federal Affairs, federal and local governments, and of several other agencies, it says little about the substance of the compensation, especially for collective landholdings (about which it says nothing). Needless, to say, as the actual practice of expropriation has routinely demonstrated, even the normative gesture in the law of providing a replacement remains to be more a legal rhetoric than an actual reality, more a juridical promise than a political practice.

Not so Special

Recognition of special interest is exception-making. Through a ‘special interest’ package, a rightful entity extends some rights, as part of underserved acts of grace, to another that cannot lay claim to these rights. To Oromia and Oromos, there is hardly anything special about the ‘special interest’. The city is naturally and intrinsically part of Oromia. As such, Oromos and Oromia have pre-eminence over the city. They lay claim over the city as their own natural territory. Oromo interests are not supposed to be granted to them by others as some kind of favor. They have the more fundamental right of an owner. As such, they do not need others to make exception in their favor in order to guarantee the protection of the interest of the Oromo in the city. If anything, it is the Oromo that should make exception to the other inhabitants in granting them, for instance, the right of self-government at the municipal level.  In other words, if anything was to be ‘special’, it was the ‘interest’ of other peoples who live in the city that should have been so designated as to constitute the ‘special interest’ of non-Oromos in this inherently and primarily Oromo city.

However, owing to the legacy of imperial conquest and violent occupation of the city and the consequent dispossession and displacement of the Oromo from the city, it is now the guests that are extending (and so far denying) the ‘special interest’ of the hosts. This is a testament to the total lack of self-awareness on the part of the Federal and City Governments about the land they stand on. It is a testament to their moral blindness and (and the consequent incapacity) to pay attention, to see the original owners of the land, and to recognize their natural rights thereof. The result is the failure to understand the pain of dispossession and relentless quest of the Oromo for restoration.

The more consequential result is that this moral blindness is blocking the redemption of the relationship between the city (Addis Abeba), the Region (Oromia), and the Country (Ethiopia). That is why it comes as no surprise that the contestation over the city is pivotal to the making or breaking of the Ethiopian state in our own time. AS

 


ED’s Note: Tsegaye R Ararssa, Melbourne Law School. Email: tsegayer@gmail.com.

Cover Photo: Partial view of Addis Abeba

Photo Credit: Dereje Belachew


End Notes:

[1] The substance of most of these reflections were extensively discussed elsewhere. Here, in most sections, I present a rehash of those reflections. See Tsegaye Ararssa, “The Special Interest in Addis Ababa: The Affirmation of Denial,” Addis Standard (Jan 18, 2016) available at http://addisstandard.com/the-special-interest-the-affirmation-of-denial/.

[2] Technically speaking, this government which needed a special—emergency–measures to secure peace and stability, does not have a legal mandate to enact a law before repealing the emergency declaration and calling the army back to its barracks. Nor does it command a moral authority to make a legislation for the people it killed, maimed, arrested, detained, and tortured unaccountably only because they protested.

[3]William Harris, The Highlands of Ethiopia (1844).

[4] Alexander Bulatovic, Ethiopia through Russian Eyes: A Country in Transition, 1896-1898 (Richard Seltzer, Tr), (2000).

[5] Evelyn Waugh, Waugh in Abyssinia (1936).

[6] Note that the Oromo Cultural Center in Addis Abeba was built and inaugurated only in 2015.

[7] See, for example, Ugo Matei, ‘The New Ethiopian Constitution,’ Cardozo Review (1995), http://www.jus.unitn.it/cardozo/Review/constitutional/Mattei2.html; and  Tsegaye Regassa, ‘The Making and Legitimacy of the Ethiopian Constitution,’ 23 (1) Afrika Focus (2010), 85-118.

Human Rights Watch: Ethiopia: Year of Brutality, Restrictions: Restore Rights, Address Grievances January 13, 2017

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Ethiopia: Year of Brutality, Restrictions


Restore Rights, Address Grievances

HRW

HRW, 12 January 2017


Languages Available In አማርኛ English

(Nairobi) – Ethiopia plunged into a human rights crisis in 2016, increasing restrictions on basic rights during a state of emergency and continuing a bloody crackdown against largely peaceful protesters, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2017. The state of emergency permits arbitrary detention, restricts access to social media, and bans communications with foreign groups.

Ethiopian security hold back demonstrators chanting slogans during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

Ethiopian security hold back demonstrators chanting slogans during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

Security forces killed hundreds and detained tens of thousands of protesters in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara regions during the year. Many of those who were released reported that they were tortured in detention, a longstanding problem in Ethiopia. The government has failed to meaningfully investigate security forces abuses or respond to calls for an international investigation into the crackdown.

“Instead of addressing the numerous calls for reform in 2016, the Ethiopian government used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to suppress largely peaceful protests,” said Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Vague promises of reform are not enough. The government needs to restore basic rights and engage in meaningful dialogue instead of responding to criticism with more abuses.”

In the 687-page World Report, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights as an impediment to the majority will. For those who feel left behind by the global economy and increasingly fear violent crime, civil society groups, the media, and the public have key roles to play in reaffirming the values on which rights-respecting democracy has been built.

Protester anger boiled over following October’s Irreecha cultural festival, when security forces’ mishandling of the massive crowd caused a stampede, resulting in many deaths. In response, angry youth destroyed private and government property, particularly in the Oromia region. The government then announced the state of emergency, codifying many of the security force abuses documented during the protests, and signaling an increase in the militarized response to protesters’ demands for reform.

Government limitations on free expression and access to information undermine the potential for the inclusive political dialogue needed to understand protesters’ grievances, let alone address them, Human Rights Watch said.

The tens of thousands of people detained in 2016 include journalists, bloggers, musicians, teachers, and health workers. Moderates like the opposition leader Bekele Gerba have been charged with terrorism and remain behind bars, education has been disrupted, and thousands have fled the country.

The Liyu police, a paramilitary force, committed numerous abuses against residents of the Somali region in 2016, and displacement from Ethiopia’s development projects continued, including in the Omo valley.

The crackdown during 2016 followed years of systematic attacks against opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations, and independent media, effectively closing political space and providing little room for dissenting voices.