Resilient Ethiopian Muslims’ Movement is back

 

Ethiopian-Muslim-Protest-Dimtsachin-YisemaMarch 28, 2014 (Borkena) –The Resilient Ethiopian Muslim Movement is back. Today, Ethiopian Muslims were demonstrating again in the capital Addis Ababa and different parts of Ethiopia. The Grand Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa was once again a place to oppose government peacefully after procession of Friday prayer.

According to Dimtsachin Yisema , one of the voices of Ethiopian Muslims in social media, there was energized peaceful demonstration essentially all over Ethiopia.

For well over a year, Ethiopian Muslims have been staging weekly demonstration opposing TPLF/EPRDF government intervention in the administration and religious affairs of Ethiopian Muslims. In an effort to quell down the movement, Ethiopian government threw harbingers and representatives of the movement to jail.

Far from ending the protest, the measure only added one more cause for Ethiopian Muslims to carry on with the movement despite extremely repressive action from government.

Ethiopian Muslims are mainly opposing government imposition of new religious creed within the established Ethiopian Muslim faith and over the administration of Muslim school in Addis Ababa. It seem the movement is not going away before government addresses legitimate constitutional rights of Ethiopian Muslims, including the release of their incarcerated leaders who have been tortured only for exercising their constitutional rights.

Source: Borkena

Foreign Technology Used to Spy on Opposition inside Country, Abroad

 

Afaan Oromo tiin PDF

Ethiopia, Amhara Region, holy city of Lalibela, cyber cafeMarch 25, 2014, Berlin (Human Rights Watch) – The Ethiopian government is using foreign technology to bolster its widespread telecom surveillance of opposition activists and journalists both in Ethiopia and abroad, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 100-page report“‘They Know Everything We Do’: Telecom and Internet Surveillance in Ethiopia,” details the technologies the Ethiopian government has acquired from several countries and uses to facilitate surveillance of perceived political opponents inside the country and among the diaspora. The government’s surveillance practices violate the rights to freedom of expression, association, and access to information. The government’s monopoly over all mobile and Internet services through its sole, state-owned telecom operator, Ethio Telecom, facilitates abuse of surveillance powers.

“The Ethiopian government is using control of its telecom system as a tool to silence dissenting voices,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The foreign firms that are providing products and services that facilitate Ethiopia’s illegal surveillance are risking complicity in rights abuses.”

The report draws on more than 100 interviews with victims of abuses and former intelligence officials in Ethiopia and 10 other countries between September 2012 and February 2014. Because of the government’s complete control over the telecom system, Ethiopian security officials have virtually unlimited access to the call records of all telephone users in Ethiopia. They regularly and easily record phone calls without any legal process or oversight.

Recorded phone calls with family members and friends – particularly those with foreign phone numbers – are often played during abusive interrogations in which people who have been arbitrarily detained are accused of belonging to banned organizations. Mobile networks have been shut down during peaceful protests and protesters’ locations have been identified using information from their mobile phones.

A former opposition party member told Human Rights Watch: “One day they arrested me and they showed me everything. They showed me a list of all my phone calls and they played a conversation I had with my brother. They arrested me because we talked about politics on the phone. It was the first phone I ever owned, and I thought I could finally talk freely.”

The government has curtailed access to information by blocking websites that offer any independent or critical analysis of political events in Ethiopia. In-country testing that Human Rights Watch and Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto research center focusing on internet security and rights, carried out in 2013 showed that Ethiopia continues to block websites of opposition groups, media sites, and bloggers. In a country where there is little in the way of an independent media, access to such information is critical.

Ethiopian authorities using mobile surveillance have frequently targeted the ethnic Oromo population. Taped phone calls have been used to compel people in custody to confess to being part of banned groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front, which seeks greater autonomy for the Oromo people, or to provide information about members of these groups. Intercepted emails and phone calls have been submitted as evidence in trials under the country’s flawed anti-terrorism law, without indication that judicial warrants were obtained.

The authorities have also detained and interrogated people who received calls from phone numbers outside of Ethiopia that may not be in Ethio Telecom databases. As a result, many Ethiopians, particularly in rural areas, are afraid to call or receive phone calls from abroad, a particular problem for a country that has many nationals working in foreign countries.

Most of the technologies used to monitor telecom activity in Ethiopia have been provided by the Chinese telecom giant ZTE, which has been in the country since at least 2000 and was its exclusive supplier of telecom equipment from 2006 to 2009. ZTE is a major player in the African and global telecom industry, and continues to have a key role in the development of Ethiopia’s fledgling telecom network. ZTE has not responded to Human Rights Watch inquiries about whether it is taking steps to address and prevent human rights abuses linked to unlawful mobile surveillance in Ethiopia.

Several European companies have also provided advanced surveillance technology to Ethiopia, which have been used to target members of the diaspora. Ethiopia appears to have acquired and used United Kingdom and Germany-based Gamma International’s FinFisher and Italy-based Hacking Team’s Remote Control System. These tools give security and intelligence agencies access to files, information, and activity on the infected target’s computer. They can log keystrokes and passwords and turn on a device’s webcam and microphone, effectively turning a computer into a listening device. Ethiopians living in the UK, United States, Norway, and Switzerland are among those known to have been infected with this software, and cases have been brought in the US and UK alleging illegal wiretapping. One Skype conversation gleaned from the computers of infected Ethiopians has appeared on pro-government websites.

Gamma has not responded to Human Rights Watch inquiries as to whether it has any meaningful process in place to restrict the use or sale of these products to governments with poor human rights records. While Hacking Team applies certain precautions to limit abuse of its products, it has not confirmed whether and how those precautions applied to sales to the Ethiopian government.

“Ethiopia’s use of foreign technologies to target opposition members abroad is a deeply troubling example of this unregulated global trade, creating serious risks of abuse,” Ganesan said. “The makers of these tools should take immediate steps to address their misuse; including investigating the use of these tools to target the Ethiopian diaspora and addressing the human rights impact of their Ethiopia operations.”

Such powerful spyware remains virtually unregulated at the global level and there are insufficient national controls or limits on their export, Human Rights Watch said. In 2013, rights groups filed acomplaint at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development alleging such technologies had been deployed to target activists in Bahrain, and Citizen Lab has found evidence of use of these tools in over 25 countries.

The internationally protected rights to privacy, and freedom of expression, information, and association are enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. However, Ethiopia either lacks or ignores judicial and legislative mechanisms to protect people from unlawful government surveillance. This danger is made worse by the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment against political detainees in Ethiopian detention centers.

The extent of Ethiopia’s use of surveillance technologies may be limited by capacity issues and a lack of trust among key government ministries, Human Rights Watch said. But as capacity increases, Ethiopians may increasingly see far more pervasive unlawful use of mobile and email surveillance.

The government’s actual control is exacerbated by the perception among many Ethiopians that government surveillance is omnipresent, resulting in considerable self-censorship, with Ethiopians refraining from openly communicating on a variety of topics across telecom networks. Self-censorship is especially common in rural Ethiopia, where mobile phone coverage and access to the Internet is very limited. The main mode of government control is through extensive networks of informants and a grassroots system of surveillance. This rural legacy means that many rural Ethiopians view mobile phones and other telecommunications technologies as just another tool to monitor them, Human Rights Watch found.

“As Ethiopia’s telecom system grows, there is an increasing need to ensure that proper legal protections are followed and that security officials don’t have unfettered access to people’s private communications,” Ganesan said. “Adoption of Internet and mobile technologies should support democracy, facilitating the spread of ideas and opinions and access to information, rather than being used to stifle people’s rights.”

Full Report  in PDF – English

Afaan Oromo tiin PDF

What Dr. Negaso Gidada writes to Ato Girma Kassa

March 20, 2014

Dear Ato Girma Kassa,

Negaso Gidada

Negaso Gidada

Sorry, it took me long to be able to answer you. I hope that we are slowly coming to the point where we can identify our differences and agreements. I like the discussion. I wish that all recipients of our Ccs. comment. What are the media to whom we make Cc. of our e-mails doing with them?

1. Concerning my joining UDJ and Withdrawal

The views I have now are the views I had before I joined UDJ. If article 3.1.5 of the program of UDJ did not exist, I would not have joined UDJ. This was clear to the UDJ people who pleaded with me to join UDJ. Did the leaders and members of UDJ believe in article 3.1.5 of their program full heartedly then and reconsidered and changed their mind now? This is their right. But if they then did not believe in it and superficially accepted it then to woo me and Ato Seeye to join UDJ then, this is tantamount to treachery. unless they give an explanation on this matter. Why shouldn’t I have joined the UDJ if my stand was then clear, if the leaders and the members agreed, and adopted article 3.1.5 in their program.

I now left UDJ because article 3.1.5 has now been changed which means that UDJ has made it clear that it does not support the right of self determination of peoples through referendum in case the question secession comes up. The leaders of UDJ have made this clear when they further stated “they will not compromise on the unity of Ethiopia … (in Amharic= anideraderim).” For me this implies that such people would be ready to go to war against people who use their right to self determination including secession. To work in such an organization is for me to violate the right to self determination, a naturally given human right.
Yes it is right that I left the party.

2. On Your Criticisms and Your Call for My Resignation

I do remember that you asked me whether UDJ accepts the right of secession 9 months ago. Yes, I did not then answer you because it was clearly known that I, UDJ and MEDREK ARE opposed to secession. (Read the program of MEDREK in Which UDJ is member until its suspension). Why should I spend time on an issue which was publically obvious? Yes you did express a strong criticism against me and called for my resignation. This was after my interview with Radio Fana. What I then did was to clarify that I oppose secession but support the right to secession. You expressed opposed view in your criticism. This is your right. I also have right to have different view from you. I did not then heed to you call on me to resign. Why should I heed to you? Your call was a call from a citizen who has the right to say whatever he/she wants. You are not member of UDJ. There are procedures of the party through which questions are dealt with. I did not want to accept your call because I did not then see why. Even after the “evaluation of MEDREK” by UDJ, I as chairman of the executive committee did implement what the national council decided. I wanted to serve the party as long as the activities were in compliance with the program, the byelaw and as long as we working in MEDREK. I resigned from UDJ when it was decided that it is better not to spend time in coalitions and fronts and when article 3.1.5 was amended.
You say,

“I think the party did the right thing in clarifying confusions by cleaning out items in its program that may wrongfully be interpreted or spinned to say something they were not intended to.”

But what I know is that the issue of the right to self determination or the right to secession was never an issue on the meetings of the executive committee, the national council and the General Assembly of UDJ as long as was in UDJ and before Tahisas, 2006. I only remember that a member of the executive committee who was in the U.S.A. around the time when my interview with Radio Fana was heard, that some supporters of UDJ there (may be including you?) were furious against me. At another time latter, I and two members of the executive committee had discussion on this matter and the word “aanideraaderim” and we parted with difference. Also around this time a member of the national council was in my office and asked me that we take time some time and discuss on the national question. But both of us did not come back to each other to discuss on this matter. The last discussions were on the meeting of the national council about a week earlier than the last (December) General Assembly when discussing on the pre-merger agreement document forwarded by a joint committee of AEUP and UDJ which should have been signed by both parties on the 17th of Tahisas and when discussing on the amendment of the program both at the level of the national council and the General Assembly.

Thus I do not understand your statement that the party now clarified confusion. On “items in its program that may wrongfully be interpreted or spinned to say something they were not intended to.” Unless there was confusion with you and some others in the U.S.A., and may be, with one or two members who may have contacts with you, there was no confusion in UDJ until now. Whatever the case, the change in article 3.1.5 is an important reason for my withdrawal from UDJ. Added to this is the relation of UDJ with MEDREK.

It is interesting to hear from you now that you were “not familiar of this article. First of all we did not know if there was such article; and if there was, how it was added in the UDJ program.”

My question is why and how you could support UDJ if you did not know what is written in its program in the first place? I thought that the leaders of UDJ have made the program public after the General Assembly which was supposed to take place in Imperial Hotel but instead was held in the compound of the office of UDJ. (The change of place was because of the disturbance created as the result of the controversy between the group “zim anniloch/merih yikeber and UDJ members). I agree and even demand that the then leaders of UDJ, particularly, Eng. Gizachew, “ought to answer this question” as to “how it (article 3.1.5) was added in the UDJ program.”
You state: “It is amazing you do not know the constitution of the Oromia region”.

No, it is amazing that you say that I do not know the constitution of Oromia and this is an insulting statement from you. I was there when the founding Council of Oomia Stste met at Sidist Kiilo and I know well the contents of the constitution.

I think the problem is that you and I have difficulty to understand each other because we have difference in understanding Ethiopian history, because we have different picture of Ethiopia, because we have different attitudes and because we have different perspectives for a united, independent, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Ethiopia. Our difference starts on whether genuinely and fully respect the right of the different peoples (nations/nationalities) to self determination or not.

If one accepts and respects the right to self determination one can understand, respect and accept the constitution of Oromia including is article 33. How can one serve the Oromo people if one does not know the Oromo language? Or should we go back to the old days when we were forced to be administrated, to appear in court and get sentenced in a language we did not understand, to be forced to learn in a foreign language, and to listen radio in a foreign language and read books and news papers and proclamations in a foreign language? No, No, that time is gone. We should not even dream of it that it should come back. When I recently hear that some people in the Diaspora attacking the “Qube Generation” it makes me sick.

To demand from people to learn Oromo language and that they must know the language if they want to work in Oromia State is neither RACIST NOR APARTHEUD. It is a question of right to self determination in own region and the question of how to serve the majority of people in that federal state, while respecting minority right for the non-Oromo speakers living in Oromia.

It is again insulting to trying to explain to me how many and where non-Oromo speakers live in Oromia. I recommend that you come back to Ethiopia and go around the country to find out the truth instead of misjudging me from abroad. It is an insult to say that I know only Dembi Dollo. It is good to know that your “mother mother speaks fluent Somali and Afan oromo.” I also envy her as you do because of her fluency in Somali. I know only such figures like 1, 2, 3, 8 and words like “nabad, abewaraqsan, and anan” from Somali language. I presume that your mother lives in an area where the people speak Somali and Oromo. This is how it should be. Respect for the people among whom you live and communicate with them if you want to serve them or want something from them, it is better to know their language. What about you? Do know Somali and Oromo. If not, why? You say: “You are better than me because you know afan oromo and Amharic.” As for me, yes I know Afana Oromo because it is my mother tongue and I am proud of it. I know Amharic, not because it is my mother tongue but because I had to forcefully learn it. Yet I am happy that I know Amharic because I can use it in federal administration, in the media and to communicate with people who do not know Oromo. Are you sure that your mother is better than me in Oromo language? How do you verify this?

You claim that more than 75% of people in Oromia could speak Amharic as their second language. What is your evidence for that?
And you say that I assert that “one cannot campaign in Oromia, because people do not understand other language other than afan oromo” and that this does not hold water.

But for the record the following is what I wrote you last time and I would like to request you to stop misquoting me: “It is true that large number of non Oromo people live in the towns of Oromia and some qebeles of some woredas in some zones of Oromia region. Minority rights, (political, economic, and social) must be fully respected for these minorities in Oromia. This right includes the right of representation at the different levels of councils/parliaments. I do not think that people who cannot speak Afaan Oromo are prohibited from candidacy in these constituencies during elections. But what one should realize is the fact that the working language in Oromia is Afaan Oromo and that it would be much better for non-Oromo speakers to know the language to effectively participate in the different structures of the region. Besides, how can a non-Oromo speaker campaign in a village where the people do not understand non-Oromo language? Such questions of respecting rights and technical procedures of administration, serving justice and schooling must be taken into account.”

Your assertion that the practice in Oromia is racist leads me to ask you if it was RACIST when the NAFXAGNA (my definition is the musket bearer and not Amhara) under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II carried out atrocious war in Oromia in the name of “unification” and “civilization” (maaknaat), when the NAFXAGNA FEUDAL ADMINSTARATION AND EXPLOITATION was imposed on the Oromo, when Oromo self administration was forcefully discontinued, and when Amharic language was forcefully imposed. All these happened not too long ago to be forgotten easily. One must read Atsme Giorgis at least to refresh one’s memory. I myself do not support Amharanization, or Oromization. I do not also support that neither the Amhara nor any other ethnic group dominates the Oromo, nor do I want to see that the Oromo dominate others. I want to see that all Ethiopians are equal and that their rights should equally be respected.

I do not agree with your following suggestion:
“I think Amharic must be the working language of Oromia as well. Whether as first language or as second language many people speak Amharic.”

Why should Amharic be the working language of Oromia? Do you support that Oromo becomes the working language in Amhara federal state? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be, if this happens? Would the administration there employ a non Amharic speaking Ethiopian in its institutions? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be if this happens?

But my view is that the right of all regions should be respected to choose their working languages. But at the federal level Amharic, Oromo and any other Ethiopian language which is spoken by large number of the Ethiopian population should be adopted as working language of the federal government. I also think that the alphabet which better fits a language should be used for writing in hat language. As for Oromo language, I personally prefer Latin, not because I do not like Geez, but because it does not fit for the Oromo language. By the way I am glad to know that you support that Afaan Oromo be adopted at the federal level. I also agree that the constitution be amended and the amended constitution be approved by the people through referendum.

Dear Ato Girma, the whole point revolves around the question of self determination, acceptance of the federal system and acceptance the right of the federal states to determine on the language of the states and how to internally administer their states without violating minority rights. We may have differences on these issues. These differences could be solved through amendments on the federal and federal states constitutions and which should be accepted or rejected through referendums for which we need an atmosphere of democracy.

Point 3:
On what you wrote about “The idea which some individuals propagate saying “Oromia is only for the Oromos. Somali region is for the Somali only” is wrong and unacceptable. It is, I think wrong to give a general judgment basing oneself on what some individuals express in pal talk rooms, interviews or articles.” You wrote. Again you wrote this without referring to the constitutions of the Oromia and Somali regions. Please refer to the link I posted above.” I think that I have said enough above expressing my attitudes and I stick to what I said earlier. I know the constitutions of Oromia and Somali. This is how they have decided to assert their right to self determination and short of secession. Respecting their right in what they have decided is the best way to keep Ethiopia united.

You say that I had high respect for Jawar Mohamed. Good, if that is the case. Unfortunately I do not know Jawar Mohamed much enough to be able to say I had high respect for him or not. In fact, I know you better than I know Jawar. I have high respect for you for your forwardness and for frankness. But again, I request you not to conclude about me based on what you hear from others. How do people you hear from know that I have high respect for Jawar or not. I hate politics which is based on hear-says. I have been recently reading articles about him in local news papers and magazines (for that matter, I also read your articles in Lomi) but have not taken them seriously. Now that you speak about Jawar, I will seriously try to find out what he wrote and said to make my own judgment on his ideas.

Point 4:
On your question who the Oromos are, the answer is they are one of the peoples (nation, nationality or whatever) in Ethiopia. The Oromo are, in accordance to the Ethiopian constitution article 39/5 “a group of people who have or share large measure of common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable, predominantly contiguous territory”. See also the Transitional
Yes, if there is a referendum voting cards would be given to voters. But one should ask on what kind of issues is the referendum going to take place. All citizens of Ethiopia would be given voting cards for voting on common national issues. Referendum concerning self-determination is specific to the people concerned leaving in a specific area and people who claim to belong to that specific ethnic group (living in the territory or outside the territory).

We have to learn from the experiences of Russia, Yugoslavia, Singapore, East Timor, Ireland, Bask, Belgium, Eritrea, and South Sudan, Scotland, Catalonia and now from Ukraine /Crimea and to prepare a technique of how we carry out referendum on self determination in the best way for our situation and for the best interest of the country and people.

Point 5:
Yes, I know that the OLF participated in the July 1991 “Peace Conference”. There is also evidence that a task force including Bereket Habte Sellasie was established by Isayas, Meles and Lencho to draft the Charter and agreed upon between Meles and Lencho at Tesenai/Eritrea.

This was after the London meeting in April 1991. (It would be correct to comment on the London meeting: AESM and EPRP were deliberately excluded from taking part. Contrary to what some say, the OLF was not partner in the negotiation. It was an on-looker (observer).) The draft Charter was presented at the “peace conference” from which AESM, EPRP and WEP were excluded. But there were many other organizations who participated on the conference, and actively for that matter. These were not just on-lookers. It is therefore not correct to undermine them as if they were babies fed by the EPRDF and OLF. Why don’t we ask the participants who still are alive to explain the situation instead of giving subjective judgment?

Whatever the case I like the charter. Part one speaks of democratic rights including the right to self determination (Article two) and conditions when the question of independence/secession may come up. Article 13 of Part four speaks about the program of decentralization. The Constitution of FDRE was guided by the Charter, yes, and I do not see any harm in this. As I said above, for me this decision was wise one so as to avoid the disintegration of Ethiopia. The only mistake I see is that the process of making the constitution was not participatory enough and that the constitution was not forwarded to the people so that the people could approve or reject it through referendum.

Point 6:
Yes, I hope that the OFC would publicly say something on its relation and attitude towards ODF. On the other hand it is not wise to take rumors seriously. The recent widely disseminated media coverage that Lencho was in Ethiopia should be a good warning against rumors. Yes, I know that Dr. Merera is a regular visitor of Minnesota. I was also there several years ago. Why not? If I meet the OLF people in Minnesota or elsewhere, I would advise them to abandon the armed struggle, come and work peacefully, legally, democratically accepting the laws and the constitution of the country. But I would not call on them to abandon the secession question. Unfortunately, this is what all Ethiopian Nationalists are demanding from OLF. The secession question is a question which could and should be answered by the Oromo people through a referendum, and not by EPRDF, OLF, ODF, OFC, Blue Party, UDJ, AEUP, EDP, and Ginbot 7 and so on. The correct way is that all organizations and citizens should work hard to bring about a democratic situation in which all organizations (including OLF with its secession question) present their options freely to the public.

Point 7:

  1. The current picture of opposition party’s constellations looks as follows:
  2. a) MEDREK, B) TIBIBIR, C) BLUE PARTY, D) UDJ, E) AEUP
  3. The position of UDJ in MEDREK and TIBIBIR is not clear. It is suspended for the time being from MEDREK and seems to go its own way. The same is true of AEUP in TIBIBIR. AEUP signed the agreement with 8 other parties (mostly ethnically based) to establish a coalition, but it acts as if it is working separately.
  4. MEDREK does exist with four member parties and has announced that it is going to hold a public meeting in Awasa on Megabit 20.
  5. Negotiations between Arena, ESDP-SEPUP and UDJ did not work because the two told to first complete the negotiations UDJ began with AEUP.
  6. The negotiation for merger of Arena and ESDP-SEPUP is dragging on. If they merge, the merger party, OFC and SLM will continue in MEDREK. This is not the same as the former UEDF.
  7. The negotiation for merger of UDJ and AEUP has so far failed because of differences on the question of chairmanship and because of the number of representation on the merger general assembly.
  8. It is an illusion to think about the unity between UDJ, AEUP, Blue Party and EDP and re-establish the dead Kinijit.

For all reasons, it would have been good that parties with similar ideologies and programs unite. If impossible they could work together in fronts or coalitions. If not possible, they could at least form a broad coalition for common interest: The CREATION OF AN ATMOSPHERE FOR a FREE, DEMOCRATIC AND FAIR ELECTION.

This is all I want to say for the time being. I wish you good health and greeting to all friends.
Negaso

 

Koongirasii Federaalistii Oromoo (KFO/OFC) Kora Isaa Kan Shaashamannee Milkiidhaan Xumurate

Koongirasiin Federaalistii Oromoo (KFO/OFC) kora guyyaa kaleessaa, Bitootessa 7, 2014 magaalaa Shashamanneetti waame milkiidhaan raawwate.

Kora kanarratti uummanni baayyeen hirmaateera. Kora kanarratti KFO irraa 1. Kabajamoo Ob. Bulchaa Dammaqsaa, 2. Barreessaa Dhaabichaa Ob. Baqqala Nagaa, 3. Itti-aanaa Dura Taa’aa Ob. Gabruu Uturaa fi 4. Itti-aanaa Dura Taa’aa Ob. Mulaatuu faan argamanii haasawa baldhaa taasisaniiru. Kora kanarratti sagantaa siyaasa dhaabichaa irratti, mirga Oromoo irratti, filannoo 2015, fi haala siyaasa biyyittii irratti mariin taasifameera.

Miseensonni Koraaf Uummata Wamaa turan gaafa Jimaataa Saatii 6f mgaalaa Arsii Nageelleetti jalaa hidhamuunille ibsameera. Qabsoo uummanni Oromoo fi saboonni cunqurfamoon taasisaa jiraniin dimookraasii fi bilisummaa Itoophiyaa keessatti ni fidna dhadannoo jedhuun xumurameera.

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Kora Koongirasii Federaalawaa Oromoo (KFO/OFC) magaalaa Shaashamannee

Ethiopia—An Abusive Home for its People? Mr. Obang Metho Address Norwegian Civil Society

March 10, 2014

obang-address-norway-300x200A review of the difficult conditions of life in Ethiopia leading to the large exodus of its people to other parts of the world and their hope for Ethiopia’s transformation.

I want to thank Frontline Club Oslo, New Frontiers, Norwegian activists, Solveig Syversen, who invited me, Marius von der Fehr, our moderator, and all of those people involved in organizing today’s event. It is an honor to be part of this public discussion on Ethiopia, entitled: In the Name of Democracy: Land Grabbing and Genocide in Ethiopia.

Norwegians are known to be some of the most socially conscious and peace-loving people in the world. I give my sincere thanks to the Norwegian people who are attending today and to all Norwegians who have opened up their arms to welcome foreigners, including thousands of Ethiopians who have decided to make Norway their second home or those who are still in the process of seeking asylum.

Although Norway is a relatively small country of five million people—the 61st largest country in the world according to the World Population Review, when there are issues of social justice, Norway’s voice can been heard in all of these discussions despite its size. It demonstrates what a significant impact can be made in the world when a culture collectively embraces principles of social concern for others outside your borders and when those value are backed up by action. For example, Norway is known to give one of the highest percentages of their GNP to the poor countries of the world. Sweden is similar; in fact, when discussions come up regarding how countries treat their citizens, Norway and Sweden are both exemplary. This may be one of the reasons that many who have been mistreated in their own homelands, prefer to come to such well-respected countries. It is also the reason many advocates for justice seek to find a kindred spirit among Norwegians and the government that represents them.

This was my own thinking when I first came to Norway in 2004 and met with government officials in an effort to bring to their attention the December 13-15, 2003 massacre of 424 leaders from my own ethnic group, the Anuak, who lived in the resource-rich Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia. The atrocities were perpetrated by members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and militia groups that they had incited and armed. You can read more about it on human Rights Watch report: Targeting the AnuakHuman Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region.

These groups targeted Anuak by ethnicity for killing. As they marched through the streets they chanted: “Today is the day for killing Anuak,” and “Today there will be no more Anuak land.”

Those Anuak to be killed were named on a prepared list. It identified Anuak who had voiced opposition to the government’s plans to start drilling for oil on indigenous Anuak land without consulting the local people as required by law. The killing was only part of it. The troops purposefully destroyed the limited infrastructure of one of the most marginalized regions in Ethiopia. They proceeded to pilfer, burn and destroy health clinics, wells, schools, homes, crops and granaries. Extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture were widespread, creating fear and inhibiting movement. Nearly ten thousand Anuak fled to South Sudan for refuge; many are still there.

The troops moved to the rural areas and continued to kill, rape, beat, arrest, torture and harass the local people for days, weeks and months, especially in the area surrounding the oil drilling site. The military occupation of the Gambella region remained for nearly three years until they were moved to the Ogaden Region in late 2006 where they committed similar atrocities and destruction against those people. By the time they left the Gambella region, human rights investigations estimated that two thousand or more Anuak had been killed, a great number considering the Anuak are only 0.01% of the total population of Ethiopia.  Incidentally, the wells were dry.

When reports began to surface, the current regime of TPLF/EPRDF orchestrated a cover-up, denying any responsibility and attributing the violence to simply another incident of ethnic conflict between the Anuak and another local group; however, it was later revealed that the crackdown on the Anuak was part of a calculated plan called Operation Sunny Mountain, which was meant to eliminate opposition to the exploitation of the oil.  Evidence exists that the origins of that plan began at a meeting in the highest offices of Ethiopia in October 2003, two months prior to the massacre. Two later investigations by Genocide Watch led to their finding that the crimes had reached the definition of genocide, crimes against humanity and other gross human rights violations.

When I first came to Norway in 2004, it was for the Anuak; but today, I am here for all the people of Ethiopia. The problem of human rights violations, resource-grabbing and the elimination of democratic rights in Ethiopia is not the experience of a few, but is endemic. Justice will never come to only one group until it comes to Ethiopia as a whole. For that reason, the social justice organization of which I am the executive director, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), has a mission to protect the rights, wellbeing and freedom of all Ethiopians.

The focus of my presentation will be: Human Rights and Land Grabs in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia these are overwhelming issues, making it impossible to cover them all; however, with the help of my colleague Mr. Abdullahi Hussein from the Ogaden Region of southeastern Ethiopia, I hope we can bring greater light to the darkness that enshrouds Ethiopia even today. He has used the lens of his camera to more vividly capture what has been going on in the hidden and silent places of Ethiopia. I would like to use a short power point to challenge some widely held misconceptions about the country before I start.

To most, Ethiopia is known as one of the poorest, most hunger-filled countries in the world. Outsiders believe it is like a desert where there is little to sustain life. When one thinks of Ethiopia, what often comes to mind is the image of a dead cow or of a mother holding a child with skinny legs, a swollen belly and flies lighting on his face. This certainly is the case in some places for Ethiopia is plagued by chronic hunger, but what outsiders may not know is that this country has great potential for change. Not only could Ethiopia feed itself, it has what is needed to become a major contributor to help feed others in the world. 

See for yourself. [Power point]

The obvious question is why are Ethiopians not using this rich and fertile land with access to abundant water to feed themselves? The answer to this question is that the ruling government of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF),which has been in power for more than twenty years, has miserably failed to uphold the rights of the people and has purposely excluded them from the benefits of citizenship. They have not helped to develop these resources for the benefit of the Ethiopian people.

On the other hand, the EPRDF clearly recognizes the potential value of this underutilized land and the untapped resources within the country and is now carrying out an ambitious economic development plan that favors power-holders, their families, patronage networks and foreign investors who will partner with them on their terms. The people of Ethiopia, especially those inhabiting the most agriculturally fertile and well-watered regions of the country who have been sustenance farmers for generations, are now seen to be obstacles to eliminate rather than co-beneficiaries of the potential bounty of their own land.

Since the food shortages in 2008, when people rioted in different places in the world, the situation has only intensified. Wealthy countries, like Saudi Arabia who has plenty of oil and money, but little land to use for agriculture, are seeing Ethiopia as the answer to their problems. Other Middle Eastern countries, as well as high population East Asian countries like China, India and Indonesia are seeing the potential in Ethiopia, as well as in other parts of Africa, as a way to feed their growing populations, causing a land rush for arable land.

In many of these cases, foreign governments, foreign investors and multi-national companies are making secretive deals for the long-term lease of fertile land and water use with unelected, autocratic regimes, without ever consulting or compensating the people for the loss of land their families have occupied for as long as they can remember. This has become known as land grabbing. It is also what I have called the second scramble for AfricaTechnically, although it is called a land grab, the implications are so serious for indigenous populations that you could call it a life grab as it is grabbing the means to live from some of the most vulnerable people in the world.  These land and resource grabs destroy the lives and futures of Africans both now and to come. 

For most of those affected, it has led to widespread displacement and to greater, rather than less, food insecurity. World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim said at their annual meeting in April 2013, “Usable land is in short supply, and there are too many instances of speculators and unscrupulous investors exploiting smallholder farmers, herders, and others who lack the power to stand up for their rights. This is particularly true in countries with weak land governance systems.”[i]

Much of the food they produce is destined for export or wherever it can bring the highest price. Most Ethiopians are small farmers; though poor, they have been able to sustain themselves because of their land; however, the displaced will no longer be able to be self-reliant and may easily end up hungry or in need of food aid. Although some of the food produced will end up locally, food prices may well be beyond their ability to pay. The displaced are mostly in the rural regions where education and training have been lacking, leaving most ill-equipped to find other jobs. 

In the vague contracts, previously made available on the government’s website, investors are promised land, “free of impediments.”  Impediments, a description which refers to the people now living on the land, are citizens of Ethiopia, but instead of their own government protecting their rights, they are seen as obstacles to be “cleared from their land” as if they were squatters or intruders in their own homes. This is most often occurring in rural areas among indigenous people who have no established land rights even though they and their families or communities have lived on the land for generations.  Neither do they have the power to resist the regime’s security forces as many are forcibly evicted from their land and moved to resettlement areas where they are promised improved access to services; however, most often, those services do not exist and the land is inferior with less access to water sources. Some end up homeless, in refugee camps in neighboring countries or working for slave wages on land they used to own. In most cases those affected have neither been consulted nor compensated for their losses; in contradiction to national and international laws. When I speak today, my testimony is not as an outsider or expert, but as a witness. When I talk about the people being displaced from the land grabs, in many cases I am speaking about people whose names I know. They include my uncle, my cousins, my nephews, my extended family, my community and my people—the people of Ethiopia

View this video to see the impact on the people.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0GP3XK2j2c&list=UU8lBdGjabxkhLGRun46D-Ow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15xyVHIABvQ&list=UU8lBdGjabxkhLGRun46D-Ow

Who is doing this in Ethiopia?  It is the elite in the EPRDF who are in cahoots with outsiders. The EPRDF, from its origin, has been controlled by the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), a group that led the fight to overthrow the government in 1991 and that continues to assert tight control over every sector of society. The human rights abuses associated with land and resource grabbing, whether in Gambella, the Ogaden, Oromia, the Omo Valley, the Afar region or other places in Ethiopia, differ little from the atrocities the TPLF carried out as a rebel movement in the bush prior to coming into power. It led the U.S. State Department to classify them as a terrorist group at the time. This is the group in power now, minus the late Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012. 

The EPRDF’s structure is based around ethnically defined regions and political parties, but at the grassroots level, all regions and parties, though appearing to be led by leaders of the same ethnicity as the region, are instead pro-TPLF/ERPDF puppets, who implement their policies. By its nature, this division of Ethiopia by ethnicity was meant to look democratic; however, in practice, it has contributed to the prolongation of ethnic-based divisions while strengthening the power of the TPLF, assuring its control of the EPRDF even though Tigrayans are a minority, making up only 6% of the total population. However, this does not mean the TPLF speaks for many Tigrayans who have become disillusioned with the TPLF/EPRDF.[ii] This model also promotes an entrenched system of ethnic favoritism and perks related to loyalty to the TPLF/ERPDF, giving those in power access to exploit the land, national resources and assets with impunity.

This preferential treatment includes special privileges for regime-affiliated companies that are part of a Tigrayan-run business conglomerate, Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray, known as EFFORT.  EFFORT businesses are closely connected to TPLF members, family members and cronies and accounts for roughly half of the country’s modern economy, according to an IPS report titled “Examining the Depths of Ethiopia’s Corruption.” The wife of the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, headed up the organization until only recently.  Despite the increasing levels of foreign investment, large scale land-leasing programs and claims of double-digit economic growth, Ethiopia has remained the second poorest country in the world according to Oxford’s Multi-dimensional Poverty IndexThe current system creates sustainable poverty rather than sustainable development with the possible exception of the Tigray Region where many resources and efforts are directed, disproportionate to those directed to any other region in the country. I was told by one source that approximately 40% of development money from Norway was going to the Tigray region.  

According to a comment from Global Financial Integrity related to their release of their study: Illicit Financial Outflows from Developing Countries Over the Decade Ending in 2009, they state: “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.”

They also report: “Ethiopia lost US 11.7 billion in illegal capital flight from 2000-2009 and illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia nearly doubled in 2009 to US$3.26 billion—double the amount in the two preceding years—with the vast majority of that increase coming from corruption, kickbacks and bribery as revealed in a preliminary 2011 report by the Task Force for Financial Integrity and Economic Development. [3]

Repression of Democratic Rights and Civil Society Creates an Environment of Impunity for Power Holders:

The problem of Ethiopia begins with a government that is not elected by the people. This is a regime that closed off political space preceding the last election in 2010, even misusing development aid to buy votes and party loyalty, but also using methods of obstruction, imprisonment, violence and intimidation to eliminate the opposition. The end result was that the TPLF/ERPDF claimed 99.6% of the vote. Out of 547 seats in the Ethiopian Parliament, only one seat is filled by a member of the opposition and that person is given only three minutes to debate any issue. When peaceful demonstrators protested the flawed election of 2005, 197 were shot and killed. No one expects political space to open up for the coming election in 2015.

Independent institutions like the judiciary, the media, the election board, and the many civic organizations that create a healthy society, cannot exist in the country. Laws are passed and misused to criminalize dissent; causing heroes of truth, freedom and justice to be charged and sentenced to years in prison as terrorists under vague anti-terrorism laws. The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO) has totally paralyzed civil society by outlawing organizations that obtain more than 10% of their budget from foreign sources from advocating for such things as human rights, child rights, women’s rights, conflict resolution between ethnicities and religions, and other essential responsibilities of civil society. It is estimated that over 2,600 organizations closed their doors in response to this draconian law.  On the other hand, the TPLF/EPRDF regime has set up their own pseudo-institutions in order to deceive outsiders.

For example, many of the public agencies and financial institutions associated with land grabs, agriculture, loans, investments and regulation are under the administrative control of the TPLF/ERPDF.  These include such organizations as: the Ethiopian Rural Land Management Agency, the Privatization Agency, the Investment Commission, Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Ethiopian Agriculture Transformation Agency, Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise, Development Bank of Ethiopia, the Federal Ethics and Corruption Commission, Information and Communication Technology Agency as well as trade institutions such as: Chambers of Commerce, The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association and farmers and trade unions and associations.

Control of civil society, the recruitment of their members and utilizing them to deliver regime propaganda did not start with the CSO or Anti-terrorism laws, but it has been integral to a plan adopted and implemented by the ruling party in 1993, according to inside sources familiar with the inner workings of the ruling party.  That plan: TPLF/ERPDF’s Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony and Perpetuating its Rulelaid out specific ways to achieve control of every sector of society, including maintaining government control of land as well as control of civic institutions such as women’s associations, youth associations, cooperatives, professional associations, peace organizations, human rights organizations, development associations, workers’ associations, trade unions and government organizations like the army, the security, and the judiciary.[Section VI].

Ethiopia was rejected for membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative based on its repressive CSO law and its crackdown on civil society. The move by the EITI Board was unprecedented. The TPLF/EPRDF has now reapplied for admission, but conditions have not improved, but worsened despite their claims.

The TPLF/ERPDF excels in democratic rhetoric and has been successful in gaining financial assistance and a place at top meetings throughout the world; however, within the country, they are robbing and terrorizing their own people; ensuring the people have no say in their future without fear of punitive actions.

These land deals are benefiting emerging Ethiopian oligarchs as more and more power holders are entering the ranks of millionaire status. However, those foreign investment partners attracted to these deals that are “too good to be true,” should understand how they are set up to exploit the people. They should also be aware of how human rights violations routinely accompany these deals as punitive actions are taken against indigenous persons and communities who resist. Imagine a foreign country coming to Norway to make a deal with a few politicians who refuse to share any of the benefits with the people. You know Norwegians would react to this.

It is the reason why Ethiopia is not safe for the people who speak up; creating an influx of refugees throughout the world. According to Freedom House, Ethiopia is considered one of the least free countries in the world. This is a government set up on ethnicity where to get a job or opportunity you have to be a member of the ruling party or a member of that ethnic group.

This is the government with which the Norwegian government is aligned. No wonder so many Ethiopians are leaving the country for your own country of Norway where your citizens are valued.  Yet, for the last few years, the Norwegian government has signed an agreement to deport Ethiopians back to Ethiopia to live under such a repressive and brutal regime.

TPLF/ERPDF’s Resistance to Democratic Reform and Improved Human Rights:

According to a recent report in Transformation Index BTI 2014’s country report on Ethiopia, it notes the following resistance on the part of Ethiopian leadership to change:

…. the extent to which the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ignores foreign advice is surprising. The government shows little interest in cooperating with bilateral or multilateral international donors on issues of democratization, trade liberalization or privatization. It has sought to avoid becoming too dependent on the political advice of foreign countries. Negotiations with the World Bank, the IMF and the European Union’s Development Commission are usually tense.

The government tried to present itself as a credible and reliable partner, but was not trusted by all members of the international community. In regard to relations with the West, there is a clear split between the more positive U.S. attitude toward Addis Ababa and that of EU countries that complain that the relatively large amounts of foreign aid given to Ethiopia are not received with a friendlier atmosphere of cooperation. The government is regarded by some Westerners as a “partner” resistant to advice in economic and developmental affairs.

Instead of responding to urges towards democratization, the TPLF/ERPDF has voiced increasing identification with the Chinese model of economic development where human rights are not a priority; however, this alignment is hardly new. The TPLF’s plan of revolutionary democracy, coming out of their Marxist-Leninist ideology in the bush, was purposely hidden from the West for years in order to dupe them so as to gain the perks of that association. They were successful. For years the TPLF/ERPDF regime continued to commit serial perpetration of human rights violations in the dark, closed off areas of the country with little consequence, but with the increase of technology it is now harder to suppress the information from leaking out. 

In response, a defiant attitude among the TPLF/ERPDF has emerged towards others who criticize their human rights record or lack of democratization. When the West takes this position or even requires some accountability or transparency, like in the recent investigation by the World Bank alleging Ethiopia’s misuse of development funds, they are seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. 

In short, the suppression of human rights has become an integral tool used to achieve perpetual hegemony over every aspect of Ethiopian life; including stripping the country of its land, assets and resources, all at risk if they lose power. Referring back to a warning in their manifesto, TPLF/ERPDF’s Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony and Perpetuating its Rule, the TPLF/ERPDF assert that they can achieve their goals “only by winning the elections successively and holding power without let up.”  They warn, “If we lose in the elections even once, we will encounter a great danger… [so] we should win in the initial elections and then create a conducive situation that will ensure the establishment of this hegemony.”

After 20 years of rule, the TPLF/ERPDF’s greatest problem is the rising tension between the majority of people and the TPLF elite in power. Some experts fear the country is like a ticking bomb that could explode into ethnic or religious violence if the status quo continues. The TPLF/ERPDF is stuck between two opposing internal forces—the need to open Ethiopian society up to meaningful reforms, reconciliation and inclusive justice in order to usher in a better future for all; or, the fear that all may implode if they loosen their tight grip. In the meantime, Ethiopians are finding Ethiopia to be a dangerous and inhospitable place for life itself and will continue to seek havens wherever they can find them.

Conclusion:

The aspirations of the Ethiopian people are like everyone else’s—to live in a more peaceful, just and caring society where they might find opportunity to improve themselves and their country. Despite the obstacles we Ethiopians face, with God’s help, I believe this is a possible goal to achieve in Ethiopia.

This is why the SMNE was established. The system we now have in Ethiopia is backward and contrary to the common good; dehumanizing the people of Ethiopia rather than believing in the worth and dignity of every human being; purposefully inciting ethnic, religious, political or other division and undermining peace in order to divide and conquer; and grasping one’s neighbors’ lives, property, opportunity and futures through the abuse of power and violence rather than helping to build a better future for the common good. There is a way to avoid it. We have witnessed the problem in Rwanda and Kosovo where a few minority power holders controlled the majority and when it was not handled properly, the world witnessed the horrible results. We do not want this kind of outcome in Ethiopia.

The only way out is to have a society where its people can truly flourish. This means upholding universal principles such as love, compassion, truth, justice, generosity, civility and diligence; given to us by our Creator as the best way to live in vibrant community with each other.

This call to universal values is a call for all of us as human beings to care, protect and value the well being of each other because our humanity has no boundaries. This is why our organization was established.  We believe a better future for the people of Ethiopia is ahead of us as Ethiopians work to create a New Ethiopia through reconciliation, meaningful reforms and the restoration of justice. It must start with us. We also hope that our vision will be supported not hindered. I leave this with you, as fellow brothers and sisters of this world, I ask you simply to do your part to help.  We will do the same.

May God bless Norway, its beautiful people and its land. May God bring freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation to Ethiopia so that we may rise up to bless those like you who have given us sanctuary during our most difficult times!

Thank you!

For media enquiries, more information including interview requests, contact Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE. Email: Obang@solidaritymovement.org