Untold number of Ethiopians are subject to human rights violations : Amnesty International USA

At the end of 2016 Amnesty International published a report titled Ethiopia Offline: Evidence of Social Media Blocking and Internet Censorship in Ethiopia. This report documented how social media and networks in Addis Ababa and the Oromia region were being blocked by the Ethiopian government. Among the more alarming findings is that AI and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), who co-authored the report, detected the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology, which can be used to monitor and filter internet traffic. The Ethiopian government appears to be using the technology for “mass surveillance internet censorship.” The government’s actions constitute a violation of Ethiopia’s obligations to protect freedom of expression under the African Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and also drastically restricts access to information for the Ethiopian people.The internet crackdown is linked to a brutal crackdown by the government in response to protests that started in the Oromo region in November 2015 against the Addis Ababa City Integrated Development Master Plan. This led to nationwide protests following a stampede in Oromia region on October 2, 2016 that followed attacks on foreign and local businesses. In response to the attacks and the protests, the Ethiopian government declared a State of Emergency (SOE) on October 9, 2016. The government declared that under the SOE they could “restrict freedom of expression where such freedom is abused”, and imposed a wide range of restrictions on internet access.  The government also arrested more than 11,000 people charging them with “violence and property damage.”

Based on the standards of the ICCPR, the State of Emergency in Ethiopia has resulted in many derogations that fail to meet international human rights law. For example, the Ethiopian government established a Command Post whose purpose was to “stop any media, prohibit any assembly and search and seize any person or place.”  Under the SOE, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter were either blocked or inaccessible in Ethiopia, especially in the Oromia region. Further, certain types of URLs were blocked, including news media, web pages of political opposition, LGBTI, calling for freedom of expression, and circumvention tools such as Tor and Psiphon.

The Ethiopian government continues to misuse the Anti-terrorism Proclamation (ATP) legislation to charge and arrest people critical of government policies or actions. Amnesty International believes that “the acts of censorship, conducted outside a clear legal framework, over several months and affecting dozens of websites and social media platforms as well as the State of Emergency itself – which is so broadly drafted violates Ethiopia’s international legal obligations and permits violations of numerous human rights.”

These violations include the arrest of a number of government critics such as Bekele Gerba, a leading Oromo human rights activist, Eskinder Nega a prominent journalist and a human rights defender. Who was sentenced to 18 years in jail after he wrote articles demanding freedom of expression and an end to torture in Ethiopia.. Yonatan Tesfaye, a prominent opposition figure facing a possible death sentence due to his Facebook post opposing a government plan to extend the capital’s administrative authority to the Oromia region and Merera Gudina, a human rights activist and leader in the Oromo community.

An untold number of Ethiopians are subject to human rights violations as a result of the State of Emergency, the Anti-terrorism Proclamation and other legislation that the government is using to impose order, and, according to the government, restore peace and security.

As 2017 begins however, the government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will face very stark truths. In can continue down the current path of increasing repression, and jail anyone who it considers unacceptable, creating a nationwide detention camp, or it can display the leadership the country needs by ending the State of Emergency, allowing an independent commission of inquiry into the protests that have shaken the country for the last two years, repeal the draconian laws it created to silence opposition, and release the scores of prisoners that it will need to talk to and work with to address the governance and human rights challenges the country is facing.

The world is watching and time is running out.

See the original report HERE

I refuse to Accept Words Over Spilled Blood!!!

By: Najat Hamza

I want to apologize to my fellow Oromos beforehand if my following statements will offend anyone. I have noticed there is a lot of an tasteless statement on social media on our political organizations, individual activists and various ideologies at this time. I might not the total history of all of Oromo struggle nor do I see myself as a historian, however I do have a basic understanding of it. The Oromo struggle was born out of a prolong repression with devastating impact on every sphere of our people dehumanizing us and reducing our person-hood to nothing more than a subject of various regimes. The struggle started to challenge this historic injustice and to speak for our people who are shuttered under these oppressive systems. The struggle did not have amazing acronyms or political programs at first; it was just the desire to be free and to bring ourselves out of the darkness they put us in. It has achieved many things, like the sense of Oromo nationalism, reclaiming our identity, revival of our culture and even the recognition of Oromia on the map not to mention the creation of our alphabets. These are done with Oromo sons and daughters with nothing more than aspiration to see our people free and to someday live in dignity. We have established various organizations with different political programs but the same basic idea of freedom for all Oromo people

The Oromo struggle have passed through various transformations, progresses and regressions however, no one organization is an isolated success or failure. We have to stop isolating each other by trying to be relevant and more influential by disrespecting the legacies of all organizations or individuals who have handed us the torch for struggle. I do not want us to think of any past or present organizations as an entity that stands on it’s own but a continuation of all before it. We have nothing to gain by promoting one organization over another but we have much more to gain by promoting the vision we all share for Oromo people and Oromia.

I am disappointed that our supposed leaders, intellectuals and even activists are playing the game of who is better than who, who is more relevant at this time, when Oromia is drenched with the blood of our youth, women, children and the elderly and our prisons is over populated with our people. I just want to point out, no one, or no organization past or present is above the Oromo people, but rather an agent of change or support systems for our people. I have respect for all Oromo individuals, organizations, and ideologies as a person because I know it is birthed from the spirit of resistance. I will ask all of you who are listening, can we please stop being an instrument for our own repression!!! We have to work together by recognizing our common goals, ideas and more importantly uniting against an enemy currently busy gunning down our people. But, if you think self promotion, individual ego, and the culture of comparison is the game plan to combat our enemy, we will be a hamster on the wheels and we maybe peddling non-stop but we are not going anywhere fast!!! In a free and independent Oromia any Oromo, political party operating currently or some that may form then will have an equal participation with people who are free to choose. However, right now the state of emergency we face in Oromia is not a competition of candidates or party systems but the struggle for liberation.

We should operate with this sense of urgency to answer the call of our people by consolidating all of the resources we have, whether it is money, intellectual power, and tactical knowledge and so on. I have no desire for anything or endorsement of my views, I only want my people to achieve liberation and live the lives they deserve with respect and dignity. It is crucial to remember the current nationalism, identity, and pride of Oromia and the Oromo people come with the culmination of the entire past struggle and the continuation of who we are now. It was not without a price, they fought together, they died together to give us the inheritance, our stolen identity. I want us not to defecate on their graves by turning it into a petty agenda, but rather honor them by finishing the goal they died for. I refuse to participate in the manifestation of our oppression to self sabotage our own progress. Because, I am ashamed of what to say if our precious youth that perished this past two years alone can come back and ask us the value of their scarifies!!! I refuse to see my Oromo brothers and sisters as a member of political party, religious beliefs, or their regional environment, to me you are all my Oromo brothers and sisters who have endured and still enduring unimaginable pain. I will see you all as a reflection of those who have given their lives for all of us to restore our dignity and respect in this world.

We are resilient people, we are proud people, we are brave people and we are people who have been subjected to inhumane act of the denial of our very humanity. So, my people, if you are angry, be angry at the unfair systems put in place to suffocate you. If you are angry, be angry at a government who is targeting and cleansing us from our homes. If you are angry, be angry at those who still re-offend our trauma while telling us to forget about the past and how they know what is best for us. If you are angry, be angry at our ineffective response to the level of violence we have come to normalize in Oromia!!! What we cannot get angry at is EACH OTHER!!! How can I get angry at an Oromo who is hurt like me? How can I get angry at our political organization when it belongs to the people and we are the force to make it better? How can we sit on social media and forget the task we were entrusted with when our brilliant heroes handed us the torch never to be returned? How can we be the instrument of those who are weak, those without honor and those who can run a well oiled propaganda machine with zero networks on the ground, when we are the owners of the #OromoProtests? The protest that brought the Ethiopian regime to its knees!!! Rise UP and You can Rise Up!!! We can all rise up, We can all rise above the perpetuated defaming of our accomplishment so far!!! Because, we are Oromos, we are people of Truth!!!

I want share the concept I love called “Sankofa” from ewe people of Ghana, Sankof is a mythical bird that flies forward by looking backward. The concept of “Sankofa” basically explains in order for us to move forward, we have to carry our history with us as permanent reminder of who we want to be in the future, pay respect to those who gave us that insight and use our insight to achieve the vision in its totality!!!

I quit when I am Free!!!
We quit fighting when we are Free!!!
We fight for each other, for our country, for our people NOT each Other!!!

Running from Ethiopia: The Oromo Exodus

Running from Ethiopia: The Oromo Exodus is a documentary  produced by Thomson Reuters Foundation in August 2016 and it tells the story of Muaz, a student who fled  Ethiopia after being detained and tortured by security forces, and Jawar, who runs a popular Oromo TV channel from exile in Minneapolis. Jawar’s channel closely followed the story of Muaz as he made the treacherous journey to Europe, only to be caught in one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks of 2016.

Read full story here.

The Young Man who chanted ”Down Down Wayane escapes persecution

Gammada Wario, the young man who chanted, ”Down Down Wayane’ after getting on the stage at the 2016 Irrecha festival in Bishoftu has escaped persecution by the Ethiopian government and safely arrived in Egypt.

Gammada is notably remembered for his courageous action at Irrecha Festival (Oromo Thanks Giving Festival in October 2016.  On October 2, 2016 at Hora Arsedi (a lake in Bishoftu Town where Irrecha is celeberated annually) more than three millions Oromos gathered to celeberate Irrecha (Oromo Thanksgiving Day), but it turned out to be very disastrous. Oromos who gathered at the festival protested against the Ethiopian government; showed protests signs (X) and booed the government officials and traditional leaders who are the surrogates of the government when they went on stage to deliver speech. Suddenly, a young man jumped on to the stage, snatched the microphone from a man who was trying to calm down the angry protesters, and chanted a catchy phrase, ‘Down Down Wayane’ calling the  government to step down. Millions of people chanted with him until he was forced to stop by the people on the stage.

Gammada Wario(left) with Fikadu Shumeta (right) (who also escaped persecution in Novemeber last year ) in Cairo, Egypt

After that the government security forces fired live bullets and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. The people panicked and ran, but ended up in a ditch and  many people died as a result.At this event more than 700 people were reported to be dead though the Ethiopian government denies this figure. According to the government only 55 people died.The day was the darkest day in the history of Irrecha celeberation by the Oromo people.Such tragedy has never happened before.

The incident happened after the celebrants protested and called the minority led government in Ethiopia to step down. The Oromos came to Irrecha celebration after a year long protest that rocked the Oromia region. First the protests began opposing the Addis Abeba Master Plan (the Federal Government’s plan to expand the capital city, Addis Ababa into the Oromo land that would result in the eviction of more than two million Oromo farmers from their land). The government scrapped the Master Plan after the protests were intensified across the Oromo region resulting in the death of hundreds of protesters. However, the protests continued even after the Master Plan was removed demanding for more political and economic rights for the Oromo people who are  marginalized economically, politically and culturally by the minority led Ethiopian government.

Many people wondered about what happened to this brave young man. Some said he was safe and had manged to escape and others said he was was arrested and persecuted by the security. Six weeks after the Irrecha Massacre, the news that Gammada safely arrived in Cairo, Egypt came. It was reported that he is safe and in a good condition.

This video shows the incident at Irrecha Festival on October 2, 2016; Gammada chanting ”Down Down Wayane” and millions of people following suit.

Brotherly Advice to our Ethiopianist Friends

By: Jawar Mohammed

You have engaged in renewed attack on the Oromo struggle in recent days which I missed for most part because I have been bogged down on an important project. I read some of the attacks last night and thought I should drop you few words of brotherly advise.

1. I know many of you in person, hence I know your love for the idea of Ethiopia is genuine one. I suggest you start loving the peoples of Ethiopia as much as you romanticize the idea of Ethiopia. If you are ready to do so, please show empathy and provide as much support as you can for real Ethiopian people facing daily massacre and mass incarceration in Oromia, Amhara, Konso and Gedeo. How about you speak up for the 15,000 and 35,000 young men and women languishing in concentration camps in Amhara and Oromia regions respectively? Or could you please raise some money to cover the funeral cost of mothers who lost their loved ones or to buy some medicine for thousands of injured protesters? My point is that I always see you come out with your big guns to defend the abstract ideas but no where to be seen when real people need real help.

2. I know you are smart folks who have keen understanding of history. Thus you know very well attacking resistance nationalism never works, in fact it backfires very badly. Had barrage of propaganda worked, Eritrean nationalism would not have given birth to an independent state. Had spreading Oromophobia worked, Hailesilassie and Mengistu would have put out Oromo nationalism before it took off. Eritrean independence is as much a result of Hailesialssie/ Mengistu’s ignorance & arrogance as it was achievement of Issaias Afewroki and the gallant Eritrean freedom fighters. Repression and overtly negative ideological attacks are like fertilizer for nationalist movement. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing again and again over, yet expecting different result. So using the same old tactic against new and even less favorable socio-political reality is tactically stupid move. ( Btw in such fight, the nationalists almost always win at the end. Eritreans did so by beating the largest army in Africa and the dirtiest propaganda war. And today those who wasted decades bombarding them with propaganda have surrendered unconditionally and begging for their support)

3. Do you want to know how to win over nationalists and moderate their position? Learn from the streets of Gonder and Bahr Dar. That slogan ‘the blood of our Oromo brothers is our blood’ had the most cooling effect on Oromo nationalists than any thing else ever. Why? Because it was unconditional message of solidarity sent out across the Abay river out of pure empathy ( not sympathy). It was received as unsolicited yet genuine message of solidarity that it had the ability to disarm the heart of even the most radical nationalist. In contrast your unwise overtly negative propaganda campaign contributes much more to the outcome you fear than any campaign by hard-line nationalists. Bottom line, your old and tired propaganda might irritate some nationalists, but it neither threaten nor persuade them. In fact it increases their personal resolve and internal cohesion.

4. Friends, you know that political rhetoric is nothing without ability to organize and mobilize. If you want to change attitude of a particular political group, you have to have the real organizational ability either to coerce or persuade. In today’s Ethiopia, the so called ‘Ethiopianist’ ( unitarist) camp is the most incoherent one with almost no tangible presence on the real ground. Even in Addis Ababa which is believed to be the ‘core constituency’, multiple calls for ground shaking rallies did not bring out even a bird. Therefore, in order for you to be taken seriously by nationalists, you have to emerge as either a real threat or dependable ally. For that you gotta get off your high horse and do the tiresome work of organizing whatever constituency of your ideology on the real ground. If you don’t or cant organize, then support the only two real political forces in today’s Ethiopia, the nationalist movements in Amhara & Oromia so that you can play a mediating role in their emerging solidarity. We know this renewed attack on Oromo activism is in part a tactic aimed at breaking up the emerging solidarity between Oromo & Amhara activists as you fear such solidarity would render your ideology obsolite. If you really care about Ethiopia, you should support this solidarity because it offers the only realistic hope to maintaining territorial unity of the Ethiopian state, which you seem to care for more than any thing else.

Human Rights Watch Dispatches: Anger Boiling Over in Ethiopia: Declaration of State of Emergency Risks Further Abuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/11/anger-boiling-over-ethiopia

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20663&LangID=E