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Politics of Death: The map maker who finds the bodies in Ethiopia’s land battle June 22, 2017

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Politics of Death: The map maker who finds the bodies in Ethiopia’s land battle

 

By Sally Hayden, This Is Place,  20 June 2017

 

A man at a funeral holds up the portrait of Tesfu Tadese Biru, 32, a construction engineer who died during a stampede after police fired warning shots at an anti-government protest in Bishoftu during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Denkaka Kebele, Ethiopia, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo


Academic Endalk Chala has been mapping the deaths of men and women killed in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, since violence erupted in November 2015By Sally Hayden


LONDON, June 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It was late 2015 when Endalk Chala began documenting deaths in his home country of Ethiopia, scouring Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to piece together who had died and where.

Chala comes from Ginchi, a town 72 km (45 miles) from Addis Ababa where protests began in November 2015, initially over a government plan to allocate large swathes of farmland to the capital city for urban development.

The plan would have displaced thousands of Oromo farmers, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

“There were reports that people were killed in the protests and no one was reporting about it. No one cared who these people are,” Chala told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“The information was all over the internet, not well organised. I just wanted to give perspective.”

While the land re-allocation project was officially scrapped by authorities, protests and conflict reignited over the continued arrest and jailing of opposition demonstrators with full-scale protests over everything from Facebook to economics.

Several hundred protesters were killed in the 11 months to October 2016 when the government declared a state of emergency and shut down communications, including the internet.

More than 50 people died at a single demonstration that month, after a stampede was triggered by police use of teargas to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival.

Watch: the map-maker’s mission

Witnesses also reported security forces firing live rounds into crowds of protesters at multiple locations.

A government report presented to parliament in April acknowledged a death toll 669 people – 33 of them security personnel – although activists believe it could be much higher.

For the government shutting off the internet for periods all but ended online contact across Ethiopia, leaving it to the Ethiopian diasporas to pull together the facts.

DIASPORA’S DATABASE

Enter Chala, a PhD student in Oregon, the United States, who decided to log every death he could on an interactive map, inspired by a similar Palestinian project.

“I started to collect the information from the internet: Facebook, Twitter and blogs. And I started to contact the people who had put that information out,” he said.

Once word spread that Chala was collating the deaths, Ethiopian friends and activists began to send details, including photographs of those injured and killed. They contacted Chala via social media and instant messaging applications like Viber.

Chala learned that Ethiopians in rural areas were driving miles to put evidence of the killings online, but he still feared there were information black holes.

Click here to see map WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND DEATH 

In its report of 669 deaths presented to parliament, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission – which works for the government – blamed protesters for damaging land and property.

In the report, seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Commission said the disturbances had damaged public services, private property and government institutions. It also cited harm to investment and development infrastructure.

However the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticised the government for a lack of accountability and called for access to protest sites.

Neither the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission nor the Ethiopian government responded to requests for comment.

FACEBOOK LEADS TO JAIL

In a country where fear of reprisals is common place, it is easier for those living outside Ethiopia to speak out, said Felix Horne, Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Any time victims of human rights abuses share information with outside groups, with journalists – either domestic or international – there’s often repercussions, quite often from local security officials,” he said.

Protesters run from tear gas being fired by police during Irreecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri – RTSQE9N

Horne said Facebook was a key source of information in the early stages of the protests but this was quickly seized on by the government and security officials checked students’ phones.

Last month, an opposition politician was sentenced to 6-1/2 years in prison because of comments he wrote on Facebook.

Horne, whose organisation also attempted to document the deaths, agreed that numbers are important for accountability, but said a focus on the death toll alone can be de-humanising.

“We’ve talked to so many people who were shot by security forces. Many of them children. Many of them students. The numbers sort of dehumanises these individuals.”

COST OF FREE THINKING

Benta, a 29-year-old veterinarian and former government employee who took part in the protests, saw nine people shot.

Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Kenya, his new home, he recalled how a soldier fired directly on a car in Aje town, West Arsi on Feb. 15 last year. Five people were shot, two died and three were wounded, he said.

Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa makes a gesture while crossing the finish line at the Rio Olympics to protest Ethiopia’s treatment of his ethnic group, the Oromo people on August 21, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Six months later, on Aug. 6, Benta was participating in another protest in Shashamane in the Oromia region, when he saw four people shot. He says he was detained and tortured for nearly two months and has now made a new life in Nairobi.

“If you’re expressing your freedom, you’ll be shot, and if you’re asking for your rights, you’ll be detained,” he said.

Chala said bullet wounds were the most common injuries visible on the photos that flooded in to him from Ethiopia and the brutality he witnessed has stayed with him.

“It really hit me very hard,” he said.

“People will forget. They’ll bottleneck their emotions and grievances and the government will just extend and buy some time, and there will be another bubble sometime in the future. That’s a vicious circle.”


This is part of our series The Politics of Death”, reporting a global wave of violence against communities fighting for their lands. To find out why, read the full story here.


 

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Konso: #KonsoProtests Alert! #OromoProtests Alert! Fascist Ethiopia’s regime (TPLF) is conducting genocide against Konso people (indigenous people in Southern Ethiopia). September 17, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

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konso-people-the-demand-for-self-determination

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The current  fascist Ethiopia’s regime also known as TPLF (Woyane), a criminal group from minority Tigray tribe,  in northern Ethiopia is conducting genocidal mass killings against Konso people.  TPLF  has occupied Konso land, killing the people and burning the entire town and villages. The Konso are one  of the very ancient people in East Africa and their historical villages are UNESCO World Heritage.

konso-cultural-landscape

 

fascist-ethiopias-regime-tplf-is-conducting-genocide-against-konso-people


 

Agazi’s new tactic, burn homes to ground along inhabitants. This was done to Konso people in Aylota-Dokatu & Lulito towns yesterday September 13, 2016. Hundreds homes were destroyed and death is reported. All the Konso people are asking to be granted zonal status which their right enshrined within the constitution. The federation council accepted their appeal last week yet the federal army in burning their homes. Jawar Mohammed


SORRY BUT THE KONSO UNESCO REGISTERED WORLD HERITAGE SITE HAS BEEN BURNT TO ASHES
Xiixaa Buubaa Sardaa• with Darajjee M. Billii

Yesterday, we heard (Listen to VOA Amharic & Afaan Oromoo, transmitted on 9/15/2016 17:30-19:00 GMT), over the past 1 month, both the elected local Konso District leaders & leaders of the Regional State of Southern Ethiopian Peoples Nations & Nationalities (SEPNN) are counter-blaming one another for what they call “genocide on the Konso people”. The Konso People speak Afaan Oromo in its other southern Ethiopian Kushites accent/dialects and still retain the ancient Gada Socio-politico-theological System and Qaalluu Ancestral Spirituality. Moreover, they retain the eschatology of preserving in sarcophagus of the Spirits of the dead that we know in Ancient Kemet/Egyptian turned to a battle ground, the Konso District’s UNESCO registered world heritage site was burned into ash by government security forces of Ethiopia. Konso Cultural Landscape is a 55km2 arid property of stone walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment. The landscape demonstrates the shared values, social cohesion and engineering knowledge of its communities. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.

On April 2016, William Davidson wrote on the guardian as Protests sparked by the arrest of Konso leader Kala Gezahegn underlined growing tensions between Ethiopia’s central govelrnment and many ethnic populations. Now it has been over a period of 7 months since the Konso people has started protesting against the injustice and maladministration by the forcefully established Zone- Segen Area People’s Zone. The Konso people who were formerly administered under a Special District status in SNNPRS, had been unconstitutionally forced to form a zone with other neighboring ethnic groups, dropping from a ‘Special District’ status to a District in the newly formed zone. That sparked complaints from the people but no one gave an ear to the people that time. The zone government then grabbed three Kebeles from Konso to create a new city structure in Sagan town. This was also followed by the deduction of annual budget allocated to Konso District without being approved by the District council representing the people. This gave momentum to the silent and peaceful popular protests in every corner in Konso since then. Despite the loyalty of the people to the constitution of the country, the government in power at all levels has failed to give a constitutional answer to the people appeal for establishing a self-governed Zone as per the law of the country.
Now, the Konso people is under military siege some months ago. No freedom of movement, no education for children… all offices closed. Worst the innocent farmers are being shot to death by security forces. Konso cultural landscapes tell the incremental story of human progression—how regular people have taken the sum total of their knowledge and applied it to living in their natural surroundings. They are another way in which history comes alive through the built environment, and their importance is recognized by UNESCO. Beside their ten months long protests the indigenous people of Konso now lost both their life and heritage. After 400 years of conservation now Konso-world heritage site is destroyed with fire set by security forces of Ethiopian government, world community have to take part in identifying the cause and take measures on guilty body.


 

AS: COMMENTARY – WHAT WAS TROUBLING KONSO? How Konso people’s demand for constitutional self-determination was met with state violence April 28, 2016

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COMMENTARY – WHAT WAS TROUBLING KONSO?

How Konso people’s demand for constitutional self-determination was met with state violence   

 Abate Seyoum, from Konso, Addis Standard, 25 April, 2016

Konso people, the demand for self determination

Undoubtedly, Ethiopia is going through nervous times. The much publicized massive anti-government protests by the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, since the last five months reveal the depth and length of the government’s intolerance for dissenting voices.

But unconcerned by a potentially similar response of killing and jailing by the government, the Konso community in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR), located south of the famous Lake Chamo,  have been protesting against the regional administration.

Although the protest has attracted little media attention, the Konso people have staged peaceful protests for ten consecutive months before cal has returned as of end of last month. During the period of protest tension has escalated and deescalated time and again. Several members of the Konso community faced mass arrests, releases, and re-arrests. On Sat. March 5th confrontation between the community and a federal police force resulted in the later firing live bullets against unarmed people, injuring one. Security forces have also detained the chief traditional leader Kalla Gezahegn (who is now released after so much pressure). In jail, Kalla joined several other detainees who were accused of being motivated by outlawed armed groups including the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Patriotic Ginbot 7.

Why were the Konso protesting?

The fundamental cause of the conflict between the regional administration and the Konso Community lies in the making of the newly established Segen Area Peoples Zone in March 2011.  In a bid to provide an administrative solution to the recurring quest for self administration and autonomy by the Alle ethnic minority, the regional government granted District (Woreda) status to Alle Community, unifying several districts (Kebeles),which, until then were administered by the Derashe and Konso Special Districts.

It soon appeared that the newly created Alle District needed a linking administrative tier below the regional government to be attached to. (The reason being as a mere district it cannot have direct link with the regional administration). The easiest way out for the then regional authorities was to create a new zone in the region by combining Konso, Derashe, Amaro, and Burji Special Woredas to the newly created Alle Woreda.  In haste and without any sort of public consultation, as the Konso People claim, the regional administration created a zone called Segen Area Peoples Zone, with its capital at Gumayde town. The regional government sought to solve the single problem of Alle Community by creating four more problems for other communities.

The creation of the new zone means the demotion of Konso, Derashe, Burji, and Amaro from Special District status to District status, which has budgetary, economic and political implications, Konso being at the worst end point. The combining of these special districts also means the revoking of their constitutional administrative autonomy which they have exercised for the last 20 years.

But for Konso, the problem is not just economic one; it has a political under layer. The base of the zone administration is in the Gumayde town of Konso, which means moreKebelesneed to be taken from Konso District to make up yet another administrative tier with the name of Gumayde Town Administration under the zone. The Konso people are vehemently opposed to this move as it arguably impedes their constitutional right to self-administration, and their right to advance their culture, language and national identity, enshrined in the constitution. Thus, from the very beginning the Konso have been exercising a subdued form of protest claiming that it has led to political, administrative, and economic injustices.

Triggers of the latest protest

The new protest broke out when the newly created Segen Area Peoples Zone Administration took the hitherto shelved Segen Town Administration establishment plan and started to implement it in June 2015, taking land from the five Kebeleadministrations from Konso Woreda without public consultation.  Angered by yet another move of impunity by the regional and zonal administrations, the Konso people have decided to use their constitutional right to self determination and self administration: they have requested to separate from the Segen Area Peoples Zone, and establish their own new zone.

First, led by traditional clan leaders the Konso people have held several mass rallies between July and October 2015 calling on the regional government to halt the implementation and hold public consultations. Having been angered by the administration’s indifference and refusal to organize public consultations, the elders and prominent community leaders called yet another big rally. On Friday October 9th 2015 more than 50,000 people staged a silent walk through the town.

Second, the elders, following traditional rites, rebuked zonal administration members of Konso origin, declaring their total disrespect for the elders, the community, the culture and even to the constitutional values.  They declared to the mass that the zonal government structure and their district collaborators were irrelevant to the community. Since that day a strong peaceful social disobedience is being applied by the community to keep the rogue leaders at bay. The community also called on the district council not to approve the budget for the current Ethiopian Fiscal year, as it is unfairly distributed by the zonal administration.

Third, the mass rally elected a 12 member committee to prepare, submit and follow up a written request to relevant government organs declaring the Konso decision to separate from the Segen Area Peoples Zone and requesting the regional government to grant Konso a zonal status of its own.  Elders and representatives then submitted the communities’ request to regional and federal government organs. The sovereign councils in 38 of the 43Kebele administrations in the district approved the Konso community’s decision to separate from the Segen zone. This was followed by the approval and endorsement of the community’s decision by the principal district government legislative organ, the sovereign district council. The council fully approved the decision to separate from Segen Area Peoples Zone, which is the ultimate precondition for self determination as stated in the regional constitution.

In came excessive force and subversive tactics 

The regional government which hitherto underestimated the depth and breadth of the Konso Protest realized that things were getting out of its hands in the district. In anticipation of yet another large rally, and in a bid to subvert it, the regional government has deployed the regional Special Forces and hastened to make arrests. So far the district police commander, three members of the peoples committee, and the district deputy chief administrator along with a dozen others are placed under police custody.

In reaction to the disproportional state violence, a general strike was staged by schools and government offices. Although several provocations were conducted by the security forces (in one incident at Fasha on Sunday Nov. 15th 2015, for example, the Special Forces randomly fired 200 rounds of tear gas into people’s houses and the market place). However their violence did not beget violence as the community kept its discipline and order.

Following talks between the SNNPR Chief Regional Administrator and the elders from the community, those who were arrested were released and the Special Forces were withdrawn.  Offices and schools were also re-opened.

But the regional government continued intimidating the Konso community with a frequent visit and use of heavy words by its officials including Kifle G/Mariam, head of the regional health bureau; Lemma Gezume, Speaker of the Council of Nationalities of the regional government and Fiseha Garedew, Commissioner General of the regional Special Forces as well as zonal government administrators.

Unfortunately, as of late, the regional government has resorted to more violent tactics by deploying more troops from the regional Special Forces. So far more than 1200 members of the regional Special Forces have been deployed to the district and to stations close to large traditional community settlement compounds, establishing check points at every village entrances, subjecting innocent citizens to daily searches. They have also disarmed the district police and confiscated motorbikes and other property belonging to community members.

On February 28 this year under the pretext of conducting the regular political evaluation, the regional authorities have taken all Konso district cabinet members to Arbaminch city and arrested five of them including Solomon Galita, the district’s chief administrator.

Currently, there remains a high presence of Special Forces in the area creating an atmosphere of fear and tension. Afraid of repercussion including arbitrary beatings and arrests, schools and government offices remain closed and roads are deserted.

Ways out of the impasse?

The Konso people appear to possess a very strong commitment to the Constitutional order. They, in fact, have reaffirmed their commitment in a written statement. However, subversive tactics of the regional and zonal administration which resort to criminalizing genuine demands rather than addressing them properly are highly unlikely to yield positive results.  Nor will the use of military means produce a lasting solution. But several members of the Konso community say there are a few things the regional government can do to diffuse the tension and find a lasting solution to the problem.

First and foremost, all those incarcerated without charges and without due process must be released immediately or should be given immediate access to justice. The government should re-arm the district police and should immediately reduce the number or withdraw the Special Forces on the ground. It requires genuine effort on the government’s side to regain public trust.

Second, the regional government must realize that it cannot always continue to be both the referee and the player in the game. It must make itself ready to listen to and understand the community’s genuine constitutional demands. Subversive tactics will only end up widening the rift between the government and the public.

Third, any mediation effort by the zonal administrators, who have lost their traditional statuses in the eyes of the wider community, cannot result in a productive outcome. The Konso are very conservative in that regard; the elders demand respect for their culture.

Fourth, the government should stop recycling and reappointing officials who were once or twice purged by the party for various reasons including corruption and incompetence.

The Konso protests have drawn the SNNPR authorities to a new realm of conflict, a realm of peaceful disobedience which they are not well acquainted with. It has taken more time, resources, and energy, from them. And yet there is no foreseeable end to it. Unless they learn from their failed tactics so far, they will not have the resource, energy and time to deal with such non violent protests if they erupt simultaneously in just two or three of the districts in the region.

Konso Democracy#, peaceful demonstration in October 2015

__________________________________//_________________________

ED’s Note: the author is a resident of Konso and member of the community. This commentary was first published on March edition of the magazine.

Since then, according to the author, the following developments have occurred in the area:
 “As is rightly recommended in the [article], the government has finally submitted to a peaceful negotiated solution to the problem. The federal government intervened by releasing the chief traditional leader on 21/03/2016 from Arbaminch Prison to hold meeting with community.
“Subsequently, they held a weeklong series of meetings with the community led by SNNP Chief Administrator, Dese Dalke, Federal Police Commissioner, and Defense Ministry representative. They agreed on 12 point issues to be resolved. Nine are agreed upon. Three points, the main political demands of the people remain unresolved. But normalization steps have already started. The community and the regional government are now negotiating on action plans to resolve the issues agreed up on. All the 200 prisoners are released and only four people remain jailed.”

http://addisstandard.com/commentary-what-was-troubling-konso/