Sunday, March 25, 2007

Meles Zenawi interview with Aljazeera reporter

Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, has been in power since 1991, that's longer than the man he helped to overthrow, the communist leader Colonel Mengistu, who was last year convicted in absentia of genocide. Most recently Zenawi has been in the headlines for his invasion of Somalia with the support of the United States.Andrew Simmons went to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to interview him for Talk to Al Jazeera.

I'll start with the issue of Somalia. You invaded nearly three months ago, you wanted to get your troops out quickly, at least two-thirds of them are still there, are you in a dangerous quagmire?

Meles Zenawi: I think we should get the facts straight first. We did not invade Somalia. We were invited by the duly constituted government of Somalia, internationally recognised government of Somalia to assist them in averting the threat of terrorism. We did so. We are not in a quagmire now; we have completed our first phase of withdrawal, we'll complete our second phase of withdrawal in a few days' time and things are improving in Somalia.
You said you'll be out in a matter of weeks and you said that two months ago and the security situation is not good. It's patently clear that it's not good.

Zenawi: We had plans to withdraw in weeks, but in the meantime the Africa Union decided to send troops to Somalia and we, therefore, decided to synchronise our withdrawal with the deployment of African Union troops.
Now that the first contingent of Africa Union troops is in place, we'll go ahead with our withdrawal and as the African Union troops consolidate, we'll completely withdraw. Of course, there are challenges in Mogadishu, but the rest of Somalia is very stable and even in the case of Mogadishu, taking into consideration the fact that this is a city of 2.2 million people, awash with guns, the type of security challenge we currently face are not all that unexpected or alarming.

Ugandans are coming under attack frequently, your own troops likewise - every other day is not an exaggeration. You've hardly brought peace to Somalia, have you?

Zenawi: If one assumes Somalia is equal to Mogadishu, then, of course, that could be a correct assessment, but I believe Somalia is not equal to Mogadishu. The rest of Somalia is absolutely stable and even in Mogadishu, while there are these challenges, these are not insurmountable challenges. You talk of daily attacks on the Ugandans, as far as I know, not a single Ugandan soldier has been killed since arriving in Mogadishu. That gives you an idea of the scope and scale of the attacks which understandably are exaggerated by the media.
What do you mean by that?

Zenawi: Well, people are looking for... I mean, violence is more newsworthy than anything else. It's in the nature of things and reports of attacks are tabulated every day, they are not fabricated but, in the process of being reported, they tend to be given more weight than they perhaps warrant.
Let's look at this point and you'd expected more support from the international community and the African Union and that has not been forthcoming in the scale you wanted. So I'll put to you, you fought a proxy war on behalf of the US, don't you regret it now?

Zenawi: Well let's get the facts straight first, we did not fight a proxy war on behalf of the United States, indeed the United States was very ambivalent about our intervention, once we intervened of course the United States and much of the international community was supportive but in the initial phase before we intervened, everybody, including the United States was warning us that we might walk into a trap and a quagmire and that we should think twice before taking steps.
That's the first point that I want to stress. Secondly, the African Union has been extremely helpful, it has deployed its forces within a few months - that's much more than what the United Nations is capable of...
But there isn't anything like the numbers committed to this operation is needed surely…

Zenawi: We have 1,500 Ugandan troops in the thick of it...
That's nothing compared with the situation, with respect...

Zenawi: I don't think it's the numbers that are going to do the trick, it's going to be the reconciliation process among the Somalis which will hopefully marginalise the terrorist elements and therefore reduce the threat they pose to manageable proportions and I think that's going ahead.

Before moving on to that point, I'd like to just pick up on your assertion that the US were not directly involved with the run up to this war because in a leaked UN document, referred to a meeting around June 2006 between top brass military from Ethiopia and the US in which a series of options were looked at, now this has been documented now do you deny that there wasn't active discussion about a military operation with the US, assistance and the US backing months and months before the actual hostilities took place?

Zenawi: Months and months before the actual hostilities took place ... I ... publicly stated that we will take military steps unless the terrorists change their ways and this public information was shared with anybody who was interested in our view not just the Americans, there was no military planning.
But the point is, do you deny that the US were not involved actively with your forces months before ... you don't deny it?

Zenawi: They were not involved at all, except in the form of sharing intelligence with we have done for years before the military intervention in Somalia.
But sharing intelligence can mean a number of things can't it, that it can be a description of formulating options…

Zenawi: No, we planned our military operation, we executed it without the support, military support of anybody, without the financial support of anybody.
I want to pick up on the point you made about terrorism, the Islamic courts, it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Islamic courts is wholly comprised of what some describe as extremists, many many moderates among them and they did bring peace to Somalia for the first time in a long time. So how do you assess your war objectives in hindsight?

Zenawi: I agree with you that all those involved with the Islamic courts were not hardcore terrorists. Many of them were rank-and-file clan militia members, but there were hardcore terrorists in the leadership including some who were trained in Afghanistan.

Now, this assertion that they brought peace to Mogadishu, in some ways is very similar to assertions by some, that Hitler, for example, instilled, enforced peace and stability in Germany after the turmoil in the Weimar republic, but the way he did it was such that it would be obnoxious to everybody and could not be sustained.

That's the same thing with the establishment of peace in Mogadishu by the jihadists. They did it by flogging women, by preventing people from going about their daily life in a normal civilised way, and it could not have ever been sustained. The peace brought about by the Taliban in Afghanistan was not sustained. The peace brought about by the Taliban in Somalia would never have been sustained.

On the issue of peace, how on earth can this be attained if you don't involve former members of the Islamic courts in the process? You talk about reconciliation - how can that happen if you don't bring in people from a leadership that many ordinary Somalis respected and admired?

Zenawi: Well, again, I think the facts are slightly different. The overriding political divide in Somalia is not ideological, it's not between Islamists and non-Islamists, it's among clans. The hardcore jihadists were hiding behind clan loyalties.
By addressing this fundamental clan division, you incorporate, inevitably, some who are associated with the Islamic courts but who have respect within their own clans and you marginalise those extremists who have no interest in peace and who are merely hiding behind clan loyalties.
So I believe the transitional government is willing and able to incorporate, to include anyone…anybody who has respect and support within any of the Somali clans.

Do you think then, that an ordinary Somali, their view towards Ethiopia is that you are an occupying power, how do you address the Somali public after what's happened?

Zenawi: That is not the overwhelming opinion of the overwhelming majority of people in Somalia.

But does it have to be a majority?

Zenawi: Had it been the case, we would not have rooted out the Islamists in four days with a very limited contingent and we would have had fire burning throughout Somalia, that is not the case.
Clearly there are people in Somalia who very strongly object to our intervention and we respect the opinion of some of them and we have no intention of staying there or remaking Somalia in our image.
We were there to support the transitional government, we have done most of the job, we are withdrawing most of our troops and as soon as we complete our job, and as soon as the African Union is firmly established in Somalia, we'll move out completely.
When will you move out completely?

Zenawi: The second phase of our withdrawal will take place in a few days which means less than a third of the original contingent will be left in Somalia, and as soon as some of the other African Union troops begin to arrive, we'll withdraw the remaining troops.
And what happens if it deteriorates even more at that point?

Zenawi: Well, all we can do is to try to help the Somalis resolve their own problem. We cannot resolve it on their behalf, we can only support them. If our support is not enough, then it will be very unfortunate, we are not going to be sucked in to a Somali civil war.
You are sure about that?

Zenawi: Absolutely.
I'd like to move on now to your deteriorating relations with your neighbour Eritrea. How bad are things at the moment?

Zenawi: Well, I think it would be fair to say that they are quite bad.
And for what reason?

Zenawi: I think the Eritrean government has come to the conclusion that they cannot live comfortably alongside a strong, united Ethiopia, under any government, and have come to the conclusion that they should try to weaken and perhaps dismantle Ethiopia to feel secure.
The border war ended in 2000. You refused to accept the ruling of the boundary commission. Is there any room for compromise for the sake of peace after all this time?

Zenawi: There is a misunderstanding here. We did not refuse to implement the boundary commission decision, of course we have our reservations about the decision itself, but in the end we recognise this is a judicial decision and we have said we'll accept the decision.
We have asked for dialogue in the implementation of the decision, we have not rejected the decision itself, we have simply asked let's implement it, but let's implement it in a manner that can bring about lasting piece and through that.

But you didn't accept the ruling really, I mean there are ways of describing it but you didn't accept the ruling, did you?

Zenawi: That is not true, we said we'll accept the decision in principle very clearly, we said that repeatedly and very clearly, what we said is having accepted the decision in principle, let's move ahead and implement it but in order to implement it, you need to implement it in a manner that would sustain peace and let's have engagement, dialogue that is the normal practice, it is not something that Ethiopia discovered. That's what happened, for example, in the case of the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon, they had a decision, Nigeria had it's reservations about the decision, they said they will accept the decision in principle but that they'd want to talk about it's implementation. They talked for three years, they agreed and went ahead an implemented. That's a normal thing, we are simply asking for the normal implementation process.

You've said in the past that it takes two to tango in relation to talks. Now President Isais Afewerki insists you need to make the first step because of this boundary commission dispute, now for the sake of peace, the world over, leaders make a move, a grand gesture, is there nothing you can do here?

Zenawi: We did initially, as you intimated earlier on, we did reject the boundary commission's decision in the end. We said OK we have to make a very clear gesture and we said we'll accept the decision, let's just talk about implementation, we are not going to reopen the decision, we are simply going to discuss implementation and so I believe we have gone more than half way to try and encourage the Eritreans to respond in kind. They have not done so.

You started on this issue by sounding very pessimistic; do you think there's a danger that there could be war again?

Zenawi: We have no intention of going to war with Eritrea again, we would not want to do so, I believe the Eritreans recognise that it's in their interests to try it again and so the likelihood of war is not as high as some people think. Nevertheless that doesn't mean there's going to be peace, it could mean that the current status of stalemate and tension could persist for months and perhaps years.

I'm sure you'd agree that the horn of Africa is going through a very difficult time in view of your actions in Somalia and the present situation in Eritrea.

Zenawi: I don't, I don't agree with that. The Horn of Africa is much safer now than it was in December, in spite of the conflict in Somalia and the tension in Eritrea, the Horn of Africa is doing very well economically the bulk of the population lives in Ethiopia and Ethiopia is doing very well economically, we are going ahead with all our plans, so I don't think ... I can't say the Horn of Africa is very stable and safe but I cannot say that it is deteriorating either.

Zenawi: What implications do you think the recent kidnapping incident in North of your country has in view of relations with Eritrea.

Zenawi: We in Ethiopia look at this not in isolation but in the context of prevision activities of the Eritrean government to try and destabilise Ethiopia. There were a spate of bombings in Addis last year, these were carried out by people recruited, supported by the Eritrean government. Recently we have caught an Eritrean agent of the Eritrean government who was involved in trying to carry out bombing activities during the African Union summit here. All of these cases are before court now and so we think this is just a continuation of involvement with terrorism that the Eritrean government unfortunately appears to be more and more immersed in.
Isn't there a time, anytime soon, when the rhetoric has to stop and you talk with President Isais, you both fought the same enemy many years ago ... Mengistu?

Zenawi: Sure, not only the rhetoric, but the tension and the problems have to come to an end, they could easily come to an end, we have offered to talk to the Eritrean government any time, any place but as I said before ... it takes two to tango and we don't have a party [sic] at the moment.

And I'd now like to address your background in terms of human rights, how would you assess your record on human rights?

Zenawi: We've made tremendous improvements in the human rights record so far in Ethiopia but, of course, this is not a perfect situation, it's a work in progress.

What about the anti-government demonstrations in 2005, the lives lost, the clamp down you ordered after the elections, do you regret that?

Zenawi: I regret the deaths as you know, up to 194 civilians died, six policemen were killed, more than 70 policemen were wounded, I regret all these deaths but there was a challenge to the constitutional order in Ethiopia and that challenge had to be faced.

It changed the world's view or many leaders in the world, their view towards you as a leader ... that round of violence in your country, didn't it?

Zenawi: I doubt whether it changed the view of world leaders, but it clearly tarnished the image of Ethiopia.

Because I have in front of me here a report from the US department of state which is very recent and it's 23 pages on the human rights record in Ethiopia and it refers to the inquiry which was implemented after the deaths, 193 deaths in the antigovernment protests, and it highlights the fact that the chairman and vice chairman of that inquiry left the country allegedly because they had been threatened, and they had voted, the majority vote was in favour of the fact that there was undue unnecessary force used against protestors, now that decision was reversed after they left the country.

Zenawi: That is not the case.

It's here in the department of state report. Have you read it?

Zenawi: I have not read it, but I know having read the department of state reports on human rights for over a decade now that they do tend to get things wrong, that what they write is not always the last word in the Bible.

There's reference to wholesale, large numbers of people disappearing, people who were involved in these demonstrations, we already know that there has been levels of repression used in your country, defending it, on the basis that it was necessary but here, the suggestion is that it was wholly unnecessary and this level of repression is inexcusable. What do you say to that?
Zenawi: Well, people are entitled to their own opinion in the case of Ethiopia, we took people to court, they've had their day in court we are still waiting for the verdict of the court, we detained a large number of people immediately after the attempted insurrection but we released them within weeks, the vast majority of them were released within weeks, the 100 or so were detained and taken to court. I do not believe that is a disproportionate response to a concerted effort to bring about a change in government by force.

This is Africa's second most populated country. It has a wealth of resources and energy, don't you think you should be more democratic in the way you run Ethiopia?

Zenawi: We are democratic in the way we run Ethiopia, we've been elected by the people.
Aside from the engineering, one wouldn't dispute the structure being democratic, it's the policies used, officially or unofficially by your security services and your security forces against Ethiopians I'm asking about.

Zenawi: Well, as I said, there has been tremendous democratic progress in this country including the last election, everybody who observed the last election says that it was an exemplary election campaign and that things began to get wrong after the polling and contrary to what some have suggested, every government I know, including every government in Europe has clearly recognized that we did not steal the elections, that we won the last elections, not just the last but the previous elections too so the fundamental structure is democratic, is there room for improvement? I do not know of any country where there is no room for improvement.

And what about the way you run the security services and security forces which is what I asked you. Would you not agree that perhaps you need to review policies in a way?

Zenawi: Yes, we need to review our policies on a daily basis, beef up the capacity to manage such crisis without bloodshed and more effectively, and more humanely, we need to do that every day and we've been doing that since the day we got here to Addis.

Finally can I ask you, how would you like to be remembered in history? You've been in power a long time, how would you like to be remembered in history?

Zenawi: I would like to be remembered as someone who got Ethiopia off to a good track, a democratic one, one ... where Ethiopia's proverbial poverty begins to be tackled in an effective way. I'd like to be remembered as someone who started the process.
Kana egaa Mallas

Friday, March 16, 2007

IFJ calls for release of journalists imprisoned in Eritrea, Ethiopia

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Press Release

March 15, 2007 — The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today renewed its call for the release of journalists in Eritrea and Ethiopia who have been held for years without trial in deplorable conditions and denied any contact with lawyers or their families.

“Eritrea and Ethiopia are both creating a lasting legacy of human rights abuse and intolerance for free expression that is not just taking a toll on society but also on the health and well being of the journalists they have detained for an unconscionably long time,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office.

The IFJ sent an open letter to the Swedish Parliament calling on it to facilitate the release of 20 journalists jailed in Ethiopia for periods ranging from more than a year to almost three years and 15 journalists imprisoned in Eritrea for almost six years. The Parliament held a seminar yesterday on the imprisonment of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaac, who is among the group of Eritrean journalists who have been held since 2001 as political prisoners. Recent reports have said that one of the Eritrean journalists is now feared dead.

“We want to seize this opportunity to call on the Honourable Swedish Parliamentarians to do everything in their capacity to appeal for the release of our illegally detained colleagues without any further delay,” said Gabriel Baglo.

The IFJ is extremely concerned about “the Eritrean government’s ongoing reign of terror against the independent press”. Fifteen journalists including Swedish-Eritrean Dawit Isaac have been held in Eritrea without trial for almost six years. They have been imprisoned in secret detention centres. All the private media houses have been forced to close down.

In September 2001, opposition leaders advocated for democratic reforms, which were widely carried by the press. Following these reports, ten journalists were arrested along with some opposition leaders. The Eritrean government in an official statement labelled the journalists as "traitors working for the enemy" and a threat to national security.

The journalists are prohibited from communicating with their families and lawyers. Authorities have refused to release information specifying their location or health conditions and, according to recent reports, one of the journalists, Fessehaye "Joshua" Yohannes, is feared dead. There is also the case of five journalists arrested before the wave of repression began in 2001. Eritrea is the only country in the world where there are no independent media or foreign correspondents.
The continued lack of information about the situation of the captive journalists is a grave cause of concern.

The situation in Ethiopia is also a cause of grave concern.

November 2005, 17 journalists were arrested during the violent suppression of anti-government riots that followed the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia. The journalists were accused of publishing materials favourable to the opposition and were charged with treason. They could face possible death sentences or life imprisonment, according to Ethiopian legislation. Three detainees, a freelance journalist and two journalists from the public television channel ETV, have been in jail since April 2004.

number of the journalists and political prisoners have suffered from health problems due to the poor prison conditions. Prison sources stated that the journalists were sick and some of them were hospitalised at the time of the court hearings.

To read a copy of the letter to the Swedish Parliament click here.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43 The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Europeans kidnapped in Ethiopia freed

Wednesday March 14, 2007
By Paul Hughes

LONDON - Five Europeans kidnapped in Ethiopia almost two weeks ago have been released but the whereabouts of eight locals seized with them remain unclear, British and Ethiopian officials said today.

British foreign minister Margaret Beckett said the three British men, an Italian-British woman and a Frenchwoman, all linked to the British diplomatic community in the Ethiopian capital, had been freed with the help of Ethiopia's neighbor Eritrea.

"All five were released earlier today to the Eritrean authorities and have just arrived in the care of our embassy in (the Eritrean capital) Asmara," Beckett told reporters. "I understand that broadly they are all in good health."

They were seized 12 days ago by armed attackers while traveling in Ethiopia's remote northeast Afar region, where separatist rebels are known to operate.

Regional officials and Afar locals had said the hostages had been marched into Eritrea, something Asmara denied.

Beckett said there were varying reports as to where the hostages had been held but "certainly they were released with the help of the Eritrean government".

Asked whether they had been kidnapped by Afar separatist rebels, Beckett said: "That has been the thinking earlier, but I haven't heard anything to confirm that since they were released."

A government spokesman said Britain had not paid a ransom to secure the Europeans' release, which came as a "result of a process of dialogue".

Source: New Zealand Herald

Hoga Ekeera Gaara Suufii

...Asaboot koran malee
Suufii naannawan malee
Odaa jigaa hin arganii
Yoo lola bu'an malee
Dhiiraan walqaban malee
Garaa gootaa hin arganii

Qilleensa gaara Suufii
Ajeese balaan diinaa
Nagaa dhabne yaa qomoo
Funyaan dhiiga fununa
Yaa Suufii mandhe booree
Gaara nama gubdu garaa
Seenaa hin duune haa beekani
Gumaan qomoo diroof seera!

Abdaarif qalu jeennaan
Kichu Oromoo guyya qalan
Uumaamaaf waan kabajan
Namumaa kotten dhiitan
Gaara Suufii hin korani
Irreesaaf dhaqu malee
Namummaati qoosani
Dhugaa qabnu hin walalle
Digaaluu mureen sofaa
Danbiin qilxuu hin gabbisu
Qabsoon seenaa diroon fufa
Qomoo fi lammiin ittin obsu
Mirga maaliin geeraru
Boree bafaatan malee
Gumaan ijoollee Oromoo
Bulbultus waan hin oolle

Eenyuutan obsa laataa?
Seenaa garaa nama gubu
Gumaa Galamsoo fi Ciroo
Eenyuu muree naaf haa koobu
Abdiin koo gootoota Oromoo
Akka Ormaa bulee hin gaabbu!
Baddeessaan galaa seenaa
Kosooruun Xobbee dhiigsu
Hagamsaa hadhee gumaa
Irre Lammiin ilkee baasu
Eenyutti obsu laataa?
Seenaa Suufii na boosisu

Doobbaa biyya gameessaa
Dhiigan qabsoo nuu sooree
Iyyaa iyyaa dabarsaa
Birmaanaf seenaa egeree
Qomoo Oromoo qalani
Reefa nyachiisan saree
Alaagan hin birmaatu
Lammiitu baafata boree
Boree gootota Oromoo
Fachaa isaaniin geeraree
Irree tokkummaan baasu
Hadhee sirna tortooree!

Yaa Fayyoo mandhee seenaa
Mi'eessoon tuulaan reefaa
Seenaa Culloo fi Habroo
Xinnaa fi guddaatu kufa
Kan marsee Marsaa roobu
Caaffee coommaniin bifaa
Kan dhiigee Dhiiga sooruu
Seenaa Suufiittin ifa!
Dhukkuba bara dhibaa
Diroo guba akka saafaa
Sirna aadaa gabrummaa
Hadhooftu summi bofaa
Hinhaftuu guman qomoo
Dhugaatu xuuxee tufa!

Yaa Oromoo dhagessu
Dheeraas taatu gabaabaa
Ajjeerraa galma qabsoo
Diinni nu hin haamu kabaa
Oromoon fira hin qabnu
Yoo lammii fi qomoo malee
Seenaaf gargar facaanee
Kichu cirsisifne ijoollee

Yaa lammii koo dhagessuu
Seenaan abbaa dhimma guba
Waan iyyinuf iyya baaqee
Kolfaan quba nutti qaba
Hogaa tokkummaan ture
Kan faayyinu dhukuba
Dhibbee sirna gabrummaa
Kan nu gubuu bara dhiba
Roorroo jibbinne lammii
Bilisaaf du'uun eebbaa
Eebba uumaamman hiree
Humna egeree tujuba
Ekeroota gaara Suufii
Sagaalee ilmaa fi abbaa
Alagaan hin birmatuu
Hoga nu dhowu hirriba
Boree lammiin dhukubsatu
Kan faayyisu Walabaa!

Tokkommaa humna Oromoon
Seenaaf dhaabatu alabaa
Ekeroota gaara Suufii
Hoga madda Walabaa
Boree lammiin baafatu
Abdiin Gudayyaa Roobaa!
Gudayyaan lammii itayyaa
Rooban dhiiga akka bokkaa
Odaa Bultum ciranii
Balaatu bu'ee bakakaa
Iyyaa Iyya dabarsaa
Yaa lammii walii labsaa
Maanguddoo fi Xobbee ofii
Dhumiinsa gaaraa suufii

Guumaan bilisaan baatii
Bilisni qabsoon dhuftii
Yaa lammii booree godhaa
Seenaa kana hubadhaa.

G. Roobaatii.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gaara Suffii: The Killing Mountain – Lest We Forget!

Iyyaa, iyya dabarsaa!

As described to me by a compatriot born and raised there, Gaara [Mount] Suufii is located about two hours walk on foot from Mi’essoo, to the North-East of Asaboot, in Eastern Oromia. The Oromo have a poem (walaloo/geerara) for Gaara Suufii which goes like this:

Asaboot koran malee
Suufii naannawan malee
Odaa jigaa hin arganii
Yoo lola bu’an malee
Dhiiraan walqaban malee
Garaa jagnaa hin arganii

By all accounts, it is there, on Gaara Suufii, that the TPLF regime murdered twenty Oromos early this year. It looks like TPLF is determined to turn every inch of Oromo territory in to killing fields. Oromos, young and old, women, children and the elderly, are murdered every where; in schools, on the streets, in their homes, in detention camps and now on mountains.

The heart wrenching account of the Gaara Suufii gruesome and politically motivated murders of Oromo political prisoners was brought to us by the VOA Afaan Oromo program on Wednesday Feb. 21, 2007. The victims range from a fourteen years old teenager, Ayishaa Alii, to a seventy year old elderly farmer Obbo Ahmed Mohhamed Kuree.

The ordeal of two ladies interviewed on that VOA program is truly heart wrenching to any one who values human life.

Aadde Kadijjaa Usuman is the wife of the late Obbo Ahmed Mohhamed Kuree from Mi’essoo. She and her late husband have nine children - eight girls and one boy whom she just stopped breastfeeding. Here is her account of how her husband was murdered as told to VOA during an interview (translation mine; You may listen to audio clips of the interview after the texts. English translation of each clip is provided as well.)

“My husband, Ahmed Mohammed Kuree, is a farmer. Farming is all he knew. The tax man took him away to “China Camp” after telling him that he had to go pay his taxes. He was told he was going to pay his taxes. They kept him there for one night only. The next morning, they took him to Gaara Suufii. After they took him to Gaara Suufii, we searched for him for three weeks to no avail. After three weeks and having heard a rumor, we went to Gara Suufii. After two days of searching, we found his prayer beads, his cloth and a single piece of his bone which the hyenas left behind after devouring the rest of his body and we took those items home. What is more, after we got home, they [our persecutors] condemned us for going to Gaara Suufii and for mourning. For fear of repercussions, we have not offered the customary prayer for the dead for my husband by reading from the Qur’an. Justice has not been served. That is where we are today!” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

Adde Kadijjaa was asked how she found out that her husband was taken to Gaara Suufii.

She said: “A meeting was called which some of our people attended. Our people enquired about my husband at the meeting. At that point they said to his sister [my sister-in-law]: “Your brother has died. Go home and give up the search for your brother.” She [my sister-in-law] went home in tears. The next morning, a Kebele meeting was convened in the city. When my husband’s siblings went to that meeting and asked why he was killed, they [our persecutors] said “Since when does the government kill citizens? Come, we will show you where he is.” With that, they took them to the camp [China Camp]. Once at the camp, they were unable to produce my husband. Instead, they arrested my sister-in-law.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

Ayishaa Alii (see picture above) was a fourteen years old, barely a teenager. According to her mother, Aadde Shamsii Ahmed Muusaa of Mi’eessoo, a divorced mother of six, Ayishaa attended school in Asaboot up to grade four. She was forced to discontinue her schooling to help her mother raise her younger brothers. Aadde Shamsii described the events leading up to her daughter’s murder to VOA as follows.

“His name is Muhammad Boruu. He was armed. He arrived at 9:00 AM. He woke her up from where she was sleeping and ordered her to get on the motor-bike he came on. She [my daughter] had a wound on her behind which she told him about. He said to her “forget your wound. You are to be devoured by wild predator beasts” and ordered her to follow him. She followed him with only her skirt on her back. That was how he took my daughter away from me. Because he is [worked for] the government, we assumed he was taking her to a prison. I had always assumed she was detained and searched for her in detention camps for two weeks. After we heard the rumor about the old man [Obbo Ahmed Mohammed Kuree] I followed his family to Gaara Suufii [in search of my daughter]. There we found her skirt, sweater, under wears and her hair, braided and red [dyed in henna] as it was when she was taken away. That was all we found of my daughters remains.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

Speaking about others murdered with her daughter, Aadde Shamsii says:

“They [the government] continue to take individuals to this mountain and murder them. Besides my daughter’s, we have found many human remains. One example would be a henna dyed human hand. There are many people missing and whose loved ones are hoping that they are in detention. They continue to murder people.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

The stories told by Aadde Kadijjaa Usuman and Aadde Shamsii Ahmed Muusaa are corroborated by others.

Obbo Abdulhakim Mohammed of Mi’eessoo district, Ciroo town, tells of the continued harassment and killing of Oromos in Mi’esso area, again to VOA.

“Just in the last two months, December and this month, hundreds of Oromos from the towns in this district – from Culloo, Ciroo, Baddeessaa, Habroo and Mi’essoo - have been herded to a concentration camp known as “China Camp” located here in Mi’essoo. After detaining them there, they took over twenty of them to Gaara Suufii in the middle of the night and shot them there. Eight of them are from Mi’eessoo district. Five are from other districts. Their names are Ashaa [Kormee], Ahmed Kuree, 70 years old, from Mi’eessoo, Shanqoo a labourer, Kedir Aliyyuu, a grade 8 student from Mi’eessoo, Yasin Mohammed Waday from Mi’eessoo, Alii Goolee, Saidee Ammadee, Kokaa Adam from Mi’eessoo district Faayyoo area. Others are, Ammee Shenkor from Tuulloo district, Hernaa Town, Ahmed Aliyyi Turee from Doobbaa district, Ciroo town, Abrahim Badhaasoo from Qunnii district, Odaa Bultum area. This is what we know so far.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

An elderly man who was a political prisoner at “China camp” for two and a half months, but did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation by the TPLF regime, describes the deplorable human rights abuses in that area as follows.

“There is always torture in that place. People are beaten up there day and night. That place is very worrisome. We were imprisoned there by Abdallaa Idiris and his colleagues. Abddalaa Idris is the leader of the [government] Militia deployed to Western Hararge. Abrahim Kamiilaa is second in command. Aadam Dheeraa is the third person. Alamayyoo is the lead interrogator. These people arrest and torture individuals day and night. They take them away at night around midnight, 2 AM, 3 AM or 4 AM. Among those taken away, were Ashaa Kormee and Ahmed Kuree. They took them away at 4:00 AM in the morning. They never came back. We have heard that they have been killed. Their prayer beads, pictures and ID cards have been found, particularly that of Ahmed Kuree. Of the girls [killed], it is said that their skirts have been found. For these reasons, the situation in that area is grim. Others are being persecuted under the pretext of their siblings joining armed groups [to fight against the government]. For instance, from Asaboot area, siblings of Abrahim Walii, Ahmad Mahammad Walii and Haadha Ahmad are being persecuted under such pretext.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

Speaking about others detained at that location, the same elderly man says:

“People are brought there from every where: from Doobbaa, Galamsoo, Baddeessaa, Ciroo. They bring people there from as far away as Adaamaa and Dheeraa town in Arsii. There are many people detained there. Prisoners are not allowed to see each other or communicate with others. At times about 30 prisoners share a cell. There are many people there. We [some of us] survived a deplorable situation. In that detention camp, they beat prisoners at night. After chewing Khat, prison officers get into manic behaviors. and start torturing prisoners. They ask about the OLF army that prisoners are alleged to have been feeding. Women and the elderly are also subjected to the same treatment. IRC (International Red Cross) is not aware of the grave [human rights abuses] situation in that area. Neither are other human rights advocates. Relatives are not allowed to visit the prisoners.” [Audio clips in Afaan Oromoo English]

As you can see or hear, their stories are consistent and shows that impunity for human rights abuses remains the norm in Ethiopia. “Nama iyyeef ollaan dirmata” jedha Oromoon. Do international human rights advoctaes know about this massacre? Does the world know? Have we done our part to bring the plight of our compatriots to the attention of the world public?

Lest we forget Gaara Suufii!

Please forward the English version of the clips to as many human rights advoctaes as
you can.

Maddi Barreefama kanaa Orom Affairs iraati.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

War on terror thwarts Somali peace

If the US and UN fail to actively - and publicly - work against Ethiopia's presence in Somalia, the AU peacekeeping mission will have little chance of success

Commentary by Abdurrahman Warsameh in Mogadishu for ISN Security Watch (08/03/07)

Ten civilians were killed and 21 others wounded when newly-arrived Ugandan peacekeepers were ambushed in Mogadishu on Wednesday by unknown assailants. The attack happened while the unit was patrolling a portion of the capital. This was the second day in a row that the peacekeepers had come under fire. On Tuesday, they came under mortar assault shortly after their arrival at the airport.

These assaults, together with the intermittent attacks on Ethiopian troops already in Somalia could be a prelude to a major confrontation between Somali and African Union (AU) peacekeepers.

Such a confrontation could lead the AU peacekeeping mission down the fateful path of the doomed US-led UN operation in Somalia in the early 1990s.

There were no injuries in Tuesday's attack. However, a gun battle that ensued around the former defense ministry building in Mogadishu, where Ethiopian troops are stationed, left at least two civilians dead and 10 others wounded.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the defeated Islamists - who abandoned the capital in December in the face of advancing Somali government forces backed by Ethiopian troops - have vowed to wage a guerrilla war against any foreign forces in Somalia.

Since December, Ethiopian forces in Somalia have been under attack from all sides and have largely been forced to remain on their bases. When Ethiopian troops have ventured out of their barracks, they have frequently been ambushed Many Somalis consider their Horn of Africa neighbor as a historic enemy and do not trust the motive for its presence.

Ethiopia has ignored a UN Security Council resolution banning it (albeit rather vaguely) - along with Djibouti and Kenya - from sending troops into Somalia, saying its national security was threatened by the Islamists who had taken over much of the country last year.

Somalia's neighbors have a vested interested in the war-torn nation. Ethiopia and Somalia have fought two wars over territorial and ethnic disputes which have not been officially resolved
The historic rift is even symbolized by the white five-pointed star of the Somali flag. According to Somali tradition, one of the star's points represents the disputed Ogaden region in western Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government had earlier said it would withdraw its troops from Somalia in compliance with the Security Council resolution and "in respect of the sensitivity between the two nations." However, Ethiopia was emboldened to stay on when US and UN officials clearly backed its involvement, stating that Ethiopian troops could help root out Islamists, accused by the US of harboring members of al-Qaida. That charge has never been officially substantiated.
"Somalia's struggle to form a unified government after 15 years of clan warfare is achieving success, after the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] and Ethiopian forces drove away the UIC [Islamic Courts Union] and other destabilizing forces harbored there," Ambassador Vicky Huddleston, who recently served for 15 months as US acting ambassador to Ethiopia, told the Council on Foreign Relations on 22 February.

Section 5 of the last UN Security Council 1744 did not explicitly demand a full Ethiopian withdrawal but "urges member States of the African Union to contribute to the above [AU] mission in order to create the conditions for the withdrawal of all other foreign forces from Somalia."

Many in Somalia feel the need for peacekeepers but the involvement of a country seen as an enemy taints the peace mission and jeopardizes a unique opportunity to end 15 years of violent chaos in Somalia.

Ali Saeed, chairman of the Mogadishu-based Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD) think tank, believes that the apparent green light from the US for Ethiopian troop involvement in Somalia under the banner of fighting terrorism and UN insensitivity toward the Somalo-Ethiopian relationship will at the very least impede the AU peacekeeping mission. At the very worst, it could make AU troops part of the problem rather than the solution, he says.

"The current government is seen as just a puppet of the Ethiopians and not as a legitimate representative of the people of Somalia," he told ISN Security Watch.

The international community seems either unable or unwilling to discern the effect of the Ethiopian presence on the AU peace mission in Somalia. And the US, with its war on terror agenda in the Horn of Africa, has found a convenient partner in Ethiopia - regardless of the negative consequences for Somalia.

Unless both the US and the UN not only refrain from condoning the Ethiopian presence in Somalia but are seen to be actively doing so, the UN-sponsored AU peacekeeping mission will have little chance of bringing stability to Somalia.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborMarch 6, 2007

Ethiopia is a federal republic under the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. The country's population was approximately 77 million. In the May 2005 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF won a third consecutive five-year term. Domestic and international observers reported that polling throughout the country was generally credible, although irregularities and intimidation of voters and election observers marred polling in many areas. Political parties predominantly were ethnically based, but opposition parties engaged in a steady process of consolidation. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances in which elements within those forces acted independently of government authority.

Human rights abuses reported during the year included: limitation on citizens' right to change their government during the most recent elections; unlawful killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition; detention of thousands without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens' privacy rights and frequent refusal to follow the law regarding search warrants; restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists for publishing articles critical of the government; restrictions on freedom of assembly; limitations on freedom of association; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and religious and ethnic minorities; and government interference in union activities.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of political killings; however, federal and local police forces committed unlawful killings during the year.

On January 23, federal police shot and killed 15 demonstrators and injured 19 others in the East Wallega zone, Guduru District. The shootings occurred during a demonstration by residents against local government forces. No investigation was conducted into the incident.

On February 6, off-duty federal police officer Alemu Dariba, along with other unidentified persons, killed four youths in Gondar. Dariba allegedly approached 17-year-old Berket Fantahu; 18-year-old Abebe Wondem-Agegn; 18-year-old Sentayhu Worknehand; and 19 year-old Dawit Tesfaye and ordered them to raise their hands. He then marched them to a stream 30 yards away, forced them to the ground, and shot each of them in the head. Dariba was arrested shortly after the incident and remained in custody without charge at year's end.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) reported that on May 27, in a violent conflict between local store owners in Nazret, Oromiya Region, police shot and killed Alemu Tesfaye, Tariku Yakiso, and Mensur Musema. Police had attempted to evict the store owners, and the owners and their employees responded by throwing rocks at the police. No investigation was conducted into the incident.

During the year reports were received of the August 2005 killing of Elias Molago, of Gibe District, by army troops. After Molago was killed, his body was publicly displayed in the town of Hosana, the district capital. Molago, an election observer in the 2000 parliamentary elections, had disputed the official results that gave the ruling party victory in the area. No investigation was conducted into Molago's killing.

There were no developments in the early 2005 political killings of opposition All-Ethiopia Unity Party/Coalition for Unity and Democracy (AEUP/CUD) party members Anley Adis, Eyilegne Wendimneh, Tilahun Kerebe, and Alamir Aemero. At the end of 2005 police had arrested two suspects in the killing of Tilahun Kerebe, but no further information was available.

There were no developments in the 2005 political killings by police, militia, and kebele (local administration) officials of 24 Oromo National Congress (ONC) members, including Ahmed Adem and parliamentarian-elect Tesfaye Adane. At year's end, three police officers suspected of involvement in Adane's killing were detained at Zway prison as their case remained under investigation.

There were no further developments in the 2005 political killing of CUD coordinator Hassan Endris in Amhara Region or the May killing of Sheikh Osman Haji Abdella in Oromo Region. Both killings were committed by kebele officials.

There were no developments in the August 2005 political killing of Bezela Lombiso and the rape of his wife by army troops. Bezela had been accused of killing a policeman during the 2000 national and regional elections.

There were no developments in the September 2005 killing of CUD member Asefa Getahun, the October 2005 political killing of Girma Biru, or the extrajudicial killings of Mosse Wasse and Tila Tsega.

There were no significant developments in the following cases of persons killed by security forces in 2004: the killing of Kebede Uzo in the Somali region, the killing of ninth-grade student Alemu Tesfaye in Oromiya region; the killing of high school student Amelework Buli of Oromiya region; the killings of various AEUP supporters; the killing of 10 persons in Gode town; the killing of Geletaw Mamo of Amhara region and Efrem Alemayehu of Addis Ababa.

There were no new developments reported in the following 2005 police killings of demonstrators: the June killings of 42 unarmed demonstrators in Addis Ababa; the November killings of 46 rioters; the killings of student Shibre Desalegn, 16-year-old student Nebiy Alemayehu, Zulufa Surur (a mother of seven children), or 16-year-old brothers Fekadu Negash and Abraham Yilma. Seven police officers were also killed during the November riots, and no individuals were charged in these cases.

In late October the commission of inquiry established by the government to investigate the alleged use of excessive force by security forces in violent 2005 antigovernment demonstrations released its report. The commission found that 193 civilians--nearly four times the number originally reported by the government--and 6 members of the security forces were killed, while 763 civilians and 71 members of the security forces were injured, many seriously.

The commission also found that security forces did not use excessive force, given demonstration violence; however, prior to the release of the report, the chairman and deputy chairman of the commission fled the country, allegedly in response to threats made against them by government forces. After fleeing, both stated publicly and showed video evidence that at an official meeting in June, the commission had originally decided, by a vote of eight to two, that excessive force was used and that the total number of killed and injured was the same as eventually reported. Following this vote, government officials allegedly urged commission members to change their votes to indicate that excessive force was not used.

At year's end the criminal trial of government soldiers who were charged with the killing, rape, and torture of hundreds of Anuaks during the December 2003 to May 2004 violence in the Gambella region remained ongoing. In 2004 an independent inquiry commission was established to investigate this case. As a result of the commission's findings, six members of the army were arrested and placed on trial for their involvement in the killings.

At year's end there were approximately two million landmines in the country, many dating from the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea. During the year landmines killed five and injured 20 civilians in districts bordering Eritrea. The government demining unit continued to make limited progress in its survey and demining of border areas. United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) officials reported that new landmines were planted on both sides of the border with Eritrea during the year. The government and UNMEE engaged in demining activities in selected areas along the border and disseminated information on the whereabouts of suspected mined areas to local residents.

Armed elements of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) continued to operate within the country. Clashes with government forces on numerous occasions resulted in the death of an unknown number of civilians, government security forces, and OLF and ONLF troops and members.

On April 15, a blast in the central market place in the town of Gedo, Oromiya region killed 15 persons and injured 37 others. The government accused dissident Oromo groups of involvement, but all denied responsibility. A number of individuals, including alleged ONC supporters, were arrested in connection with the bombing, although at year's end there were no reports of legal proceedings.

During the year several bomb explosions were reported in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country. On May 12, four persons were killed and 42 were injured in nine separate bombings in Addis Ababa. Security forces blamed the OLF and accused it of operating in cooperation with the Eritrean government; the OLF denied responsibility. There were no arrests in this case.
In late May, 42 persons were injured in three simultaneous bomb blasts at a hotel and two restaurants in Jijiga, Somali region.

Violent clashes between different ethnic clans during the year resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries and displaced tens of thousands (see section 5).

On June 11, a group of armed men attacked a bus en route from Addis Ababa to Gambella, near the town of Bonga, Gambella region. At least 14 persons were killed and several others injured. Reports indicated that the assailants may have been ethnic Anuak dissidents. Several people were arrested in connection with this event and charged with murder. At year's end their case was ongoing.

On September 3, a hand grenade was thrown into the Wendimamchoch Hotel in the town of Jijiga, killing the owner and injuring seven others. The government had not identified suspects or made any arrests by year's end.

On September 15, an explosion in Addis Ababa killed three persons. The government reported that those killed were OLF members attempting to construct a bomb, using materials supplied by Eritrea. However, many believed that government security forces may have been involved in the bombing.

A series of clashes between Muslims and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians during the year resulted in numerous deaths and injuries (see section 2.c.).

There were no further developments in the 2005 hand grenade attacks on four hotels and a residence in Jijiga, which resulted in five deaths and 31 injuries.

No further information was available on the trials of suspects arrested in connection with the 2004 hand grenade attack on a television room at Addis Ababa University.

There were no developments in the 2004 hand grenade attack on a Tigrayan-owned shop in Debre Zeit, Oromiya region. Police blamed the OLF for the attack.

The federal high court in Addis Ababa continued to arraign and prosecute those formally charged with committing genocide and other war crimes, including extrajudicial killings, under the 1975-91 Derg regime (see section 1.e.).

b. Disappearance

The politically motivated disappearances of tens of thousands of civilian protestors following the November 2005 political demonstrations persisted into the current reporting period. The independent commission of inquiry into the alleged use of force by security forces in June and November 2005 found that security officials held over 30,000 civilians incommunicado for up to three months in detention centers located in remote areas following the November 2005 demonstrations. Other estimates placed the number of such detainees at over 50,000. By year's end, all but a few hundred of these prisoners were released and those who remained in custody currently were facing trial.

In January EHRCO reported the December 2005 disappearances of six persons. On December 2, security forces abducted Lt. Abebe Alemu of Lafto Subcity, Addis Ababa; Heletework Zewdu of Akaki Subcity, Addis Ababa; and Wondimagegene Gedefaw of Kolfe Subcity, Addis Ababa. On December 21 and 22, security forces abducted Tadesse Zelelam, Ayana Chindessa, and Legesse Tolera at Nekemt High School in Nekemt, Oromiya region.

There were no developments in the June 2005 abduction by security forces of Addis Ababa residents Ashenafi Berhanu, Tsegaye Neguse, Daniel Worku, Adem Hussien, Jelalu Temam, Girum Seifu, Mekonnen Seifu, Endeshaw Terefe, Daniel Abera, Tesfaye Bacha, Tesfaye Jemena, Bonsa Beyene, Getu Begi, Solomon Bekele, Amanuel Asrat, Mesfin Mergia, or Dawit Demerew. The whereabouts of these individuals remained unknown.

There were no new developments in the May detention of Jigsa Soressa, a guard at the Mecha and Tulema Association (MTA), an Oromo Non-governmental organization (NGO), who reportedly continued to be detained at Addis Ababa prison.

In June 2005 three Ethiopian air force personnel landed a military helicopter at Ambouli, Djibouti; two of them reportedly requested asylum, but an Ethiopian military delegation reportedly convinced them to return to Ethiopia the next day. Amnesty International (AI) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) attempted to visit them in Djibouti but were refused. At year's end, family members told local press that the pilots were detained at an air force base and were restricted from seeing visitors.

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

Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees. Opposition political parties reported frequent and systematic abuse of their supporters by police and regional militias.

On February 28, the opposition ONC reported that security forces beat and intimidated regional parliamentarian Wegayehu Dejene of Me-ea District, Oromiya region following a regional council meeting. At year's end no one had been charged.

The EHRCO reported that on July 30, security forces detained and beat one Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) and five ONC regional parliamentarians after their attendance in a court case involving Mecha and Tulema Association members. At year's end no one had been charged.

The ONC reported that on January 23, several armed soldiers raped seven female residents of Guduru District, Oromiya region. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 37. At year's end there were no arrests.

There were no developments in the May 2005 of beating and subsequent suicide death of Abdeta Dita Entele, a member of the opposition coalition Oromo National Congress/United Ethiopian Democratic Forces of Siraro District in the Oromo region.

There were no developments in the October 2005 reported attack on Daniel Bekele, a policy advocate for the NGO ActionAid Ethiopia and a member of the executive committee of the Network of Ethiopian Non-governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations, which monitored the May 2005 elections. At year's end Bekele remained in police detention on trial for treason and genocide.

Authorities took no action against police responsible for the 2004 beatings of students, teachers, and parents at Oromiya region high schools and universities or against militia responsible for 2004 attacks on its members reported by the opposition All-Ethiopia Unity Party.

Security forces beat persons during demonstrations (see section 2.b.).

There were no developments in the 2005 report of two former senior government officials--former national and public security minister Tesfaye Woldeselase and Leggesse Belayneh, former head of criminal investigations--who were given death sentences by the federal high court for torturing political opponents during the former Mengistu regime. At year's end, the death sentences had not been carried out.

During the year ethnic clashes resulted in hundreds of injuries and deaths (see section 5).

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained very poor, and overcrowding continued to be a serious problem. Prisoners often were allocated fewer than 21.5 square feet of sleeping space each in a room that could contain up to 200 persons. The daily meal budget was approximately $0.35 (3 birr) per prisoner, and many prisoners had family members deliver food daily or used personal funds to purchase food from local vendors. Prison conditions were unsanitary, and access to medical care was unreliable. There was no budget for prison maintenance.

In detention centers police often physically abused detainees. Authorities generally permitted visitors but sometimes denied them access to detainees. For example, the detained leaders of the CUD party had their visitation rights limited to immediate family members for a portion of the year.

While statistics were unavailable, there were some deaths in prison due to illness and poor health care. Prison officials were not forthcoming with reports of such deaths. The commission of inquiry into the 2005 post-election violence found at least 17 arrested protestors died in detention.

Authorities sometimes incarcerated juveniles with adults if they could not be accommodated at the juvenile remand home. There was only one juvenile remand home for children under age 15, with the capacity to hold 150 children.

Human rights organizations reported that in 2005 the government had transported 10,000 to 18,000 individuals (mostly youths ages 18 to 23 detained during the November 2005 mass house-to-house searches in Addis Ababa) to Dedessa, a military camp formerly used by the Derg regime located 375 kilometers west of the capital. During the year most of the prisoners were released, although a few hundred remained in custody, facing charges for alleged crimes related to the November 2005 searches.

In July a new 90 bed facility for women was inaugurated at Kaliti. The separate building on the compound was constructed by Justice for All - Prison Fellowship, with funding from foreign governments. The facility improved sanitary conditions, provided greater privacy to female inmates, and was expected to help reduce overcrowding. The construction of a new prison for men near Kaliti was underway at year's end.

During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited regional prisons, civilian detention facilities, and police stations throughout the country and conducted hundreds of visits involving thousands of detainees. However, they were restricted from visiting federal prisons, including those where senior opposition, civil society, and media leaders were being held. The Prison Fellowship Ethiopia, a local NGO, was granted access to various prison and detention facilities, including federal prisons. The government also periodically granted diplomatic missions access to regional prisons and prison officials, subject to advanced notification. Authorities allowed the ICRC to meet regularly with prisoners without third parties being present. The ICRC received permission to visit military detention facilities where the government detained suspected OLF fighters. The ICRC also continued to visit civilian Eritrean nationals and local citizens of Eritrean origin detained on alleged national security grounds.
Government authorities continued to permit diplomats to visit prominent detainees held by the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) for alleged involvement in war crimes and terrorist activities. However, the government limited access of representatives of the international community access to leaders of the CUD opposition party, members of civil society groups, and journalists detained in November 2005 for alleged involvement in antigovernment demonstrations in Addis Ababa, who remained in federal police custody at Addis Ababa's Kaliti prison at year's end. The government also permitted Prison Fellowship Association and local religious leaders to visit these detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Although the constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The Federal Police Commission reports to the Ministry of Federal Affairs, which in turn is subordinate to the parliament. Local government militias also operated as local security forces largely independent of the police and the military. Petty corruption remained a problem in the police force, particularly among traffic policemen who solicited bribes from motorists. Impunity also remained a serious problem. The government rarely publicly disclosed the results of investigations into such types of abuses. The federal police acknowledged that many members of its police force as well as regional police lacked professionalism.

The government continued its efforts to train police and army recruits in human rights. During the year the government continued to seek assistance from the ICRC, Prison Fellowship Association and the EHRCO to improve and professionalize its human rights training and curriculum to include more material on the constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions.

In November the commission investigating the alleged use of excessive force by security forces in violent antigovernment demonstrations of June and November 2005 delivered its report (see section 1.a.).

Arrest and Detention

Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions. Although the law requires detainees to be informed of the charges against them within 48 hours, this generally was not respected in practice. While there was a functioning bail system, it was not available for some offenses, including murder, treason, and corruption. In most cases authorities set bail between $115 and $1,150 (1,000 to 10,000 birr), which was too costly for most citizens. In addition police officials did not always respect court orders to release suspects on bail. With court approval, persons suspected of serious offenses can be detained for 14 days while police conduct an investigation, and for additional 14 day periods while the investigation continues. The law prohibits detention in any facilities other than an official detention center; however, there were dozens of crude, unofficial local detention centers used by local government militia.

The government provided public defenders for detainees unable to afford private legal counsel, but only when their cases went to court. While in pretrial detention, authorities allowed such detainees little or no contact with legal counsel.

There were many reports from opposition party members that in small towns authorities detained persons in police stations for long periods without access to a judge, and that sometimes these persons' whereabouts were unknown for several months. Opposition parties registered many complaints during the year that government militias beat and detained their supporters without charge for participating in opposition political rallies (see section 1.c.).

The government continued its harassment of teachers, particularly in Oromiya region. The independent Ethiopian Teachers Association (ETA) reported that authorities detained numerous teachers and accused them of being OLF sympathizers, many of whom remained in prison at year's end. For example, in December prominent union members Tilahun Ayalew, Anteneh Getnet and Meqcha Mengistu were taken into police custody. Some of the teachers had been in detention for several years without charges. Human rights observers suspected several of the prolonged detentions were politically motivated.

Police continued to enter private residences and arrest individuals without warrants (see section 1.f.).

Police detained journalists during the year (see section 2.a.).

On May 27, following clashes between local police and store owners, 180 persons were detained by security forces in the town of Nazret, Oromiya region, and charged with inciting uprising and destruction of property (see section 1.a.). At year's end most of those arrested had charges dismissed and were released; however, there was no information available on those still detained.

On August 30, security forces rounded up 250 persons in the town of Tikur Inchini, Oromiya region, following an uprising by local ONC activists. At year's end 81 persons remained in prison facing charges of treason.

Authorities took no action against Amhara region government militia, district officials, and police who arbitrarily detained AEUP members in 2004. ONC member Olbana Lelisa, who was arbitrarily detained in 2004, was released in 2005.

Due to the fact that demonstrations were banned in November 2005, there were no reports that police detained persons for holding meetings and demonstrations. Opposition groups alleged that some of the persons detained by the SPO were held for political reasons, an allegation that the government denied (see section 1.e.).

In January international media reported that more than 11,000 persons detained in November 2005 following large-scale antigovernment demonstrations had been released. However, the commission of inquiry into post-election political violence found that over 30,000 individuals had been detained, while other reports placed the number at over 50,000. More than 2,200 of the prisoners were released without charge. An additional 734 persons detained during violence in Addis Ababa were released on January 6. More than 650 prisoners related to the protests were still being held at the Ziway detention camp in January, and the exact number of persons who remained in custody at year's end was not known.

In early February AI alleged that the government was still holding thousands of students under arrest in Oromiya region. The government denied the accusation, and claimed that only 86 students were under arrest for offenses including violence, property destruction, and "disrupting the teaching and learning process."

Alemayu Fantu, a prominent retailer, was arrested in October for allegedly being in possession of CUD civil disobedience calendars. He was released on bail after several weeks.

At year's end scores of CUD leaders, several members of NGOs active in civic education, and independent journalists detained in November 2005 remained in detention (see section 1.e.).
All of the OFDM members detained following the May 2005 parliamentary elections had been released by the end of the year.

In response to attacks by armed opposition groups operating out of Somalia and Kenya, the military continued to conduct operations, which included occasional arbitrary detentions, in the Southern, Somali, and Oromiya regions.

Authorities took no action against Amhara region government militia, district officials, and police who arbitrarily detained AEUP and ONC members in 2004. Authorities also took no action against police who in 2004 detained hundreds of Oromo students and teachers for several weeks in detention centers on suspicion of being supporters of the OLF.

Thousands of criminal suspects reportedly remained in pretrial detention, some for years. Some of the detainees were teachers and students from the Oromiya region accused of involvement in OLF activities or arrested after student unrest broke out in Oromiya in 2004.

The government continued to detain several persons without charge at the Gondar prison, some of whom had been in custody for years, while the police investigated their cases.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Extracting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Extracts. Leenco Lata

Why Seek Something You Already Have?

"Never since the likes of Kwame Nkrumah were removed from the African political scene have I witnessed an African leader writing a book while still in office." Mr Lenco Lata. That is until I came across an Internet posting of extracts from a forthcoming book by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings. Witnessing this possible turnaround of African leadership quality hence brought back refreshing recollections of those exuberant early days in post-colonial Africa. Tragically the decades thereafter saw a steady deterioration of the quality of African leadership with the Samuel Does, Idi Amins and Bokassas replacing the Nkrumahs, Senghors, and Nyreres. The emergence of well-read and articulate leaders like PM Meles Zenawi could hence herald the dawning of yet another more promising era in African history and is thus a cause for celebration.

“Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been ruling one of Africa's most populous states situated in one of the continent's most turbulent sub-regions for the last sixteen years. Writing a book while shouldering such a heavy responsibility is a remarkable feat for which he deserves to be commended. He has thereby restored the hopes of many of us who have despaired that the likes of Nkrumah would never again emerge in Africa.” Lenco Lata.

What we have of the forthcoming book at this stage are extracts made public for "discussion" as clearly stated on its front page. Commenting on such limited revelations of the whole material, however, poses one major difficulty. Anyone who comments on the available excerpts of the larger material runs the risk of being criticized of taking issues out of context. Not commenting, however, would be tantamount to abdicating the responsibility of taking up the Prime Minister on his evident offer of engaging in public discussion on his vision. The only way this difficulty would be resolved is when the Prime Minister expedites the publication of his book. So I appeal to him to put at our disposal the entire material as expeditiously as possible so that interested persons can have a fuller grasp of his ideas and hence offer more substantive comments.

The central theme of PM Meles Zenawi's forthcoming book appears to be the role of the state in promoting economic development in Africa. This is an issue of tremendous importance for all Africans deserving a continent-wide public conversation on a sustained basis. African scholars and political activists should hence welcome the Prime Minister's evident call for public debate and start offering their opinions.

Those of us who have a direct interest in Ethiopia's political and economic development have a particularly pressing reason for engaging in such a public conversation. The Prime Minister is destined to implement his vision in Ethiopia, thereby either positively or negatively affecting the lives and livelihoods of our relatives. We should hence be grateful to him for letting us know what he has is in store for our peoples by laying out his vision in such a detailed manner.

Since I have a very limited acquaintance with the discipline of economics, my comments would only deal with the political repercussions of the Prime Minister's articulation of the type of the state needed to take Africa out of poverty. He prescribes the developmental state as the key and necessary agency for bringing about this much-needed change in Africa. Lenco Leta.

You can read more from allafrica Posted to the web February 12, 2007.
Source: Allafrica