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OPED Kenya must protect refugees who fled brutal military attacks in Ethiopia.- Amnesty International #MoyaleMassacre #Prevent #Genocide May 29, 2018

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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistAmnesty International

OPED Kenya must protect refugees who fled brutal military attacks in Ethiopia


Ayantu, a 53-year-old mother of seven, had just finished preparing lunch for her children when military personnel surrounded her village. They pulled everyone out of their homes and asked them to reveal members of ‘shiftas’ – the informal name for members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition group outlawed in Ethiopia.

For residents of Argale, an Oromo village in Ethiopia’s Moyale District, this kind of terrifying harassment had become normal. But this time it was different. Just four days earlier, on 10 March 2018, nine people had been “mistakenly” shot dead – and 15 others injured – by military officers in the nearby Shawa Bare village. These attacks prompted the Oromo people in Tuka, Argale, Madiambo and Chamuq villages to flee into Kenya by the thousands.

In January, her husband was arrested, alongside three other men. She has no idea what happened to him, or where he is now.
53-year old Ethiopian mother of seven

For Ayantu and others, such attacks have been the order of the day for the last 20 years. Mid last year, she watched as military officers shot dead her uncle for challenging their attacks and harassment at a village meeting. And in January, her husband was arrested, alongside three other men. She has no idea what happened to him, or where he is now.

For Godana, a 52-year-old man from Tuka village, the scars from his encounter with the military are etched deep within his soul, and on his body. His abdomen and back have burn marks from attacks suffered, also for speaking up against the military harassment.

The military officers dug a hole in the ground, tied my hands and placed me in it, leaving me in the scorching sun for a whole day.
52 year old Ethiopian Refugee from Tuka Village

“The military officers dug a hole in the ground, tied my hands and placed me in it, leaving me in the scorching sun for a whole day,” he recounted painfully. His wife was kicked by the soldiers as she tried to prevent them from arresting him, resulting in the loss of a pregnancy.

But in Kenya the peace and security they sought remains elusive.

Ethiopian government officials visited Moyale on 20th March, accompanied by local Kenyan leaders, to persuade the refugees to return home. Kenya’s Governor for Marsabit County also visited the makeshift refugee settlements in his county in April and urged the refugees to return home, or be relocated to the Kakuma refugee camp, more than 1,000km away. He claimed that refugees were stretching local security and health services. Local clan elders have also reported that they have received calls from their counterparts in Ethiopia urging them to tell refugees to go back home.

But in Kenya the peace and security they sought remains elusive.

Kenya’s national government is not acting any differently. Its Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS), the department that deals with refugees, withdrew its registration officers from Marsabit County in April, in effect denying new arrivals the opportunity to be registered as refugees. The deputy county commissioner also stopped coordinating humanitarian agencies, disrupting the provision of essential services.

While about 4,000 refugees voluntarily returned home after the swearing in of the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the remaining 6,000 still fear for their safety if they return home. The Moyale District in Ethiopia continues to experience armed skirmishes that are causing refugees to fear for their safety and lives, therefore deterring them from returning home.

Having signed and ratified international treaties concerning refugees, the Kenyan government is obliged to continue providing asylum and protection to the Ethiopian refugees in Moyale until they feel that they can safely go back home. Kenya must not push refugee back by making life difficult for them in Kenya. The risk of serious human rights violations in Ethiopia is still very real.

The Kenya government must do all it can to support the Ethiopian refugees, including by facilitating their registration and coordinating humanitarian services to ensure they have access to adequate food, shelter and health services.

The Kenya government must also facilitate their social and economic integration to enable the refugees to live a normal life in safety and dignity.

This article was first published in the EastAfrican


Related (Oromian Economist sources):

UNPO: Oromo: Refugees Condemned to Hardship and Uncertainty in Kenya

SPILLOVER: Ethiopia’s political crisis is now spilling over into Kenya’s borders. – Quartz Africa #MoyaleMassacre

#MoyaleMassacre: Indiscriminate Mass Murder in Moyale, Southern Oromia Carried out by the fascist Ethiopia’s TPLF Regime. #Prevent #Genocide

UNPO: Oromo: Refugees Condemned to Hardship and Uncertainty in Kenya May 24, 2018

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

Oromo: Refugees Condemned to Hardship and Uncertainty in Kenya


Having escaped from State repression in Ethiopia, refugees coming from the region of Oromia suffer from deprivation and apprehension as they try to rebuild their lives across the border. Their situation is a direct consequence of a conflict that has seen the Oromo community in Ethiopia suffer from fundamental rights restrictions and severe human rights violations, something that has particularly been voiced by this community through massive protests since 2014.

The article blow was published by allafrica.com:

Two months ago, Kote Adi fled Moyale, Ethiopia, after government soldiers there opened fire on civilians, killing at least nine. Kote and his pregnant wife found shelter in a tent in northeastern Kenya’s Dambala Fachana refugee camp, but weeks of heavy rain have displaced them again.

“Our plastic shelters were flooded with water,” said Kote Adi, who is settling into a new tent site on higher ground.

Hardship and uncertainty haunt him and thousands of others who’ve left Moyale, a market town straddling the border between Ethiopia and Kenya, and its surroundings in Ethiopia’s Oromia region for safety in Kenya. Some are staying with relatives and friends, or in makeshift camps scattered across the normally arid Marsabit County.

Roughly 3,350 of them, including Kote Adi, have found at least temporary security by registering with the United Nations as refugees at Dambala Fachana. Lacking most of their belongings and normal routines, vulnerable to food shortages and illness, they have no idea when they might be able to safely go home.

Political and ethnic rifts keep them away. Ethiopia’s government blamed the March 10 civilian deaths on faulty intelligence, saying soldiers had been deployed to subdue militants from the nationalist Oromo Liberation Front. The Oromia region has been a hotbed of unrest, with ethnic Oromos long complaining of underrepresentation in government and lack of economic opportunities. Nearly three years of their mass anti-government protests led Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to step down in mid-February.

With Oromia native Abdiya Ahmed Ali’s April 2 installation as prime minister, some of the displaced ethnic Oromos made their way home to Moyale.

Some discovered their dwellings had been looted.

“When I went back, the door was broken. … None of my stuff was there,” Abdiya Gelma told VOA in a phone interview, ticking off missing items including her bed, kitchen utensils and a rug. Now she and her child are staying with relatives.

Returnees also found an intensified military presence, Abdiya Gelma and several others told VOA. She said she saw security troops beating a youth who displayed the Oromo Liberation Front’s red-and-green flag.

Moyale remains tense after more rounds of violence. A grenade exploded at a bus station April 17, killing at least three people. Gunfire broke out May 6 between Oromo and Garre ethnic groups, provoked by the Ethiopian Somali Region’s paramilitary force firing on a local police station, a resident told the Addis Standard. That regional force is part of the federal Command Post that has implemented a national state of emergency since then-prime minister Desalegn’s resignation Feb. 15.

The border town “is so volatile. Our neighbors who went back to Moyale are coming back again” to Dambala Fachana, refugee Kote Adi told VOA.

He and Nagelle Kote are staying put in the camp for now, Kote Adi said.

Nagelle is his second wife; his other wife and their seven children, along with his mother, remain in Yabelo, an Ethiopian city about 210 kilometers northwest of Moyale.

“I wasn’t able to contact my family there because of road closures and [poor] phone connections,” Kote Adi said, adding that he and Nagelle escaped Moyale on foot.

Now he and Nagelle have an infant daughter, Tiya. She’s among at least 20 newborns in the camp, her father said. More than 600 pregnant women were among the 9,700 asylum seekers arriving in northern Kenya from Ethiopia’s Oromia region, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported in mid-March.

Kote Adi operated a cattle-trading business just outside Moyale; now he has become a day laborer. He earns 100 shillings a day, but spends up to 60 shillings on the round-trip travel to a construction site two hours away.

“It is the only way I can help my wife,” Kote Adi said, explaining that the extra money goes toward supplementing the rice, maize, sugar and milk rations provided by aid organizations such as the UN, its World Food Program and the Kenya Red Cross.

Conditions have become more challenging with recent heavy rains, which give rise to flooding, more mosquitoes and higher risks of malaria and water-borne ailments.

“The area we live in is [near] a forest infested with mosquitoes, where you hear lions roaring all night,” Kote Adi said.

He estimated his was among 31 households affected by flooding. Yvonne Ndege, a U.N. Refugee Agency spokeswoman, did not give VOA a number but said in an email that heavy rains affected “few refugee families” among the nearly 1,400 households registered with the camp. All were transferred to higher ground.

Ndege added that relief workers were taking “precautionary measures to improve sanitation and hygiene.”

Emergency funds have been “diverted from other refugee operations in Kenya” home to Dadaab and its five camps, another UNHCR spokeswoman, Rose Ogola, said an email to VOA. She said U.N. agencies, along with NGOs, were assessing humanitarian needs, developing a budget and would seek donations. These would support an estimated 5,000 asylum seekers at Dambala Fachana and also the Somare camp near Moyale for six months.

Meanwhile, local volunteers such as Abdiya Golicha, a Marsabit County resident, are trying to assist the displaced in and around Dambala Fachana. She has repeatedly visited the camp with donations.

At first, “the kids didn’t even have shoes or clothing. We bought these for them,” Abdiya Golicha told VOA. She said local residents provided food and other basics until aid agencies could get set up. Volunteers also helped erect the plastic tents that shelter the displaced.

“We received them respectfully, because we are one people,” Abdiya Golicha said. “We speak the same language, although we’re divided by a [national] border.”

Photo courtesy of flicker.com/oromiamovies

Okay Africa: Why Are Oromo Refugees Getting Sent Back to Ethiopia? April 21, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Oromo Refugees in Kenya.
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Tariku Debela, in jeans, walks carefully through the streets of Eastleigh, Nairobi. Photo by Ebba Abbamurti.

On a warm evening last month, Tariku Debela was walking home from dinner in the immigrant enclave of Eastleigh, Nairobi, when he was jumped by four men who took his phone and more than $200 in cash. Getting mugged is bad enough, but what happened next is seared in Debela’s memory.

Debela is an Oromo political leader residing in Kenya as a refugee. The men who robbed Debela delivered a message in Amharic—a verbal threat from across the border—”side with the Ethiopian government or only death awaits you.”

When Debela decided to flee Ethiopia, after years of brutal political persecution, including torture and imprisonment, he expected to be protected as a refugee in Kenya. Indeed, under international law he is. But, Debela and thousands of other Ethiopian refugees who enter neighboring countries have found themselves still within reach of the Ethiopian state, resulting in mistreatment from local governments and neglect from the international organizations ostensibly meant to protect them.

Amnesty International confirmed from sources on the ground that in early January 2016, Kenyan security forces deported 25 Ethiopian refugees from Kenya. This is disputed by Stanley Mwango, spokesperson for the Kenyan government’s Department of Refugee Affairs, who denies the deportations, telling Okayafrica that “Kenya is not sending away anyone who is legally seeking asylum.”

But Amnesty’s account corresponds to reports from Oromo community leaders in Nairobi that Ethiopian refugees are routinely subject to surveillance, harassment, violence and deportation from Kenyan police and border authorities, who they say work in close collaboration with the Ethiopian government.

The border crossing between Kenya and Ethiopia’s Oromiya region. Creative Commons photo courtesy of Andrew Heavens.

The outgoing Oromo community leader in Nairobi, Shaga Arado, 38, says most of the Oromos forcibly returned to Ethiopia are detained in military barracks near the border where they are interrogated and in some cases tortured. There are also incidents of Oromo refugees in Kenya disappearing—such as the case of Dabassa Guyo Saffaro, a well known Oromo oral historical and cultural leader who vanished off Nairobi’s streets in late September 2015. He has not been heard from since.

Although Ethiopians have consistently sought asylum for years on the basis of political persecution—UNHCR estimates there were 160,427 Ethiopian refugees in 2015—human rights organizations say they expect the number to grow in light of the ongoing Ethiopian government violence against Oromo protesters.

Peaceful protests began in November 2015 after the Ethiopian government announced plans to expand the municipality of Addis Ababa into the bordering Oromia region. The government has since abandoned the plan, but Human Rights Watch reports that over the past five months, Ethiopian security forces are suspected of killing over 200 protesters and detaining thousands without cause. Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, have consistently faced persecution and discrimination from the rulingEthiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) party, which has been in power since 1991. The Ethiopian government did not respond to a request for comment.

Debela nostalgically shows off a photo of him with the OFC party leader—Merera Gudina at a past function.

Debela, 33, is a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress, a political party that is constantly monitored and harassed by the Ethiopian government. In 2005, following Ethiopia’s disputed national elections, Debela was arrested and accused of inciting violence against the government. He spent nine months in prison. Debela was later released on conditions that he should support the government, withdraw his support for the opposition party and refrain from any political activities. But for Debela, abandoning his political activism wasn’t a choice.

“It was hard for me to wrench my mind away from the reality,” he says. “Seeing the Oromos being dispossessed and systematically impoverished while their land is stolen and dished out to politically correct individuals from the ruling class was what made me speak my mind.”

Debela continued his political organizing, and in February 2009 he was arrested and taken to Maikelawi prison. Debela’s second prison sentence was much worse than the first. In Maikelawi, Debela says he was regularly beaten and tortured. After some of the beatings, often with electrical wires, the prison guards poured ice-cold water over his bleeding body. The pain reverberated in his bones; he slept naked on his cell floor in the water. At times he was interrogated at gunpoint, blindfolded and threatened with execution. Other times bottles were tied on his penis and testicles. Debela lost track of his location, and of time.

Debela-compositeLeft: Debela showing some of the scars he acquired in Ethiopian detention. Right: Some of the documents and photos he carried with him. Photo Ebba Abbamurti

Human Rights Watch has documented political prisoners being taken to Maikelawi and tortured to try and coerce confessions. Since the recent Oromo protests, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa issued a brief that Oromo activists arrested and imprisoned in Addis Ababa’s Kalitti Jail have also experienced torture that lasted over ten hours and resulted in life-threatening injuries.

Debela was released in July 2009; he would later be again arrested and imprisoned three times. In October 2015, Debela decided he could no longer stay in Ethiopia and expect to survive—he was receiving death threats. In November 2015, Debela traveled from Mandi, Oromia to Addis and then onward to the border towns of Moyale and Hiddi Lola. He then crossed into Kenya and passed through Marsabit and Isiolo before reaching Nairobi.

Arado says other refugees who crossed into Kenya since the beginning of 2016 report paying smugglers to help them evade border guards and make it to Nairobi safely. But their safety is not guaranteed—at least two Ethiopian women refugees who recently arrived in Nairobi via smugglers said they were raped on the journey.

Debela is now registered with the UN Refugee Agency; he was given an appointment for a refugee status determination interview in November 2017. Although Debela has yet to make his case for asylum in Kenya, there are indications that many Ethiopians do not receive fair asylum hearings in other countries, making it more difficult for them to receive legal protection and putting them at risk. The United Oromo Refugees Association in Egypt staged a sit-in this month in front of UNHCR’s office in Cairo to protest the low rate of asylum granted to Oromo refugees.

UNHCR, which normally produces guidance for decision-makers who are assessing asylum claims, has not issued guidance for Ethiopian asylum-seekers. As a result, countries may rely more heavily on information from their own sources, which experts say are often flawed. UNHCR’s Kenya office did not respond to a request to comment.

“The biggest problem is that countries do not follow an asylum policy for Ethiopia based on reality,” said Victor Nyamore, Amnesty International’s Refugee Officer in Nairobi. “They prefer to believe the success stories of the Ethiopian government about development and human rights in the country.”

In 2015, Ethiopia received $3 billion in development and aid funding, the majority from the U.S. and Europe, despite that some of its development programs have been documented violating the human rights of local communities. Despite these abuses, donors have not changed their levels of funding. Ethiopia remains a key Western ally in the region on counter-terrorism efforts, including against Al-Shaabab.

refugees-in-ethiopiaTransitional housing for Somali refugees in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia. Creative Commons Photo courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is also one of the largest refugee hosting nations in the world for over 700,000 Eritrean, Somali and South Sudanese refugees—which may explain why some governments and international organizations are hesitant to speak out on behalf of the plight of Ethiopian refugees for fear of jeopardizing their existing programming in Ethiopia.

For now, Debela must find a way to survive the waiting period until his case is reviewed. He says he cannot receive any social services for refugees, and he is afraid to call or visit friends in case it compromises their safety. In the meantime, Debela lives alone like a fugitive, skirting shadows on the street and watching for the Ethiopian security forces he believes are still watching him.