By Sophia Tesfamariam (sophia_tesfamariam @ hotmail.com)
Crocodiles are known to shed tears as they eat their victims. In this case they have a lot in common with those ruling Ethiopia today who are shedding fake tears over human rights of the Eritrean people whose rights they have been violating the last 15 years in ways rarely seen before in the world: ethnic cleansing, mass expulsion, property expropriation, occupying their sovereign land, among other inhuman forms.
On June 4, 2013, Mr. Minelik Alemu Getahun of Ethiopia without the slightest sense of shame told those participating at the 20th Meeting of the 23rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council “it is deplorable that the Government of Eritrea continues to commit systematic human rights violations against its own people. We are deeply concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Eritrea.”
This is from a regime that is still illegally occupying Eritrean territory, and building illegal settlements after it ethnically cleansed the territories of its Eritrean inhabitants, a regime that had deported over 80, 000 Ethiopians of Eritrean origin “for not liking the color of their eyes” after they “were subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment”. Some of these “were very young, others old and frail. … Some were veterans of the Ethiopian army who lost their limbs in battle. Some were blind and others had chronic illnesses that needed constant care. This extraordinary array of deportees includes even Catholic nuns and Orthodox priests, picked up in monasteries and churches.” 1
We are talking of a regime that has one of the most sordid records in the world on human rights against its own people. A regime that has been repeatedly condemned for widespread human rights violations gainst Ethiopians in all sectors of the country and crimes against humanity in Somalia. In fact, the word mostly associated with the regime in relation to human rights is “genocide.” According to Genocide Watch, Ethiopia has passed 7 out of the 8 stages of genocide. Including the stages of dehumanization of its victims, doing it in an organized way, polarizing societies, and extermination. Ethiopia has been repeatedly accused of committing acts of genocide against at least four of its ethnic groups: the Anuak (in Gambella), Ogadeni (in the Ogaden), Oromo (in Oromia), and Omo tribes in the Omo Valley.
Here are some of the details of the most egregious, widely reported and internationally condemned violations:
1. Ethiopia is accused of genocide of the Anuak people in the Gambella region because the Anuak as “dark–skinned Africans” are “regarded as racially inferior” by the Tigrean elite ruling Ethiopia and are subjected to dehumanized conditions and extermination.2 This Tigrean pattern of victimizing dark-skinned Africans is centuries old. For example in the late 19th century a Tigrean warlord who is taken as a hero by those ruling Ethiopia today had committed Genocide against the Kunama people of Eritrea where he killed more than two-thirds of the population 3. The “ethnic federalism” they instituted in Ethiopia starting in 1991 is a way of institutionalizing discriminatory practices that foster hatred and ethnic violence.
2. Ethiopia is also accused of rampant human right abuses of in the Lower Omo valley where leaders of the tribes are imprisoned, hundreds of people are being killed for resisting the relocation from their ancestral home so that Ethiopia can sell their land to foreign companies to grow palm oils, and build a massive dam to generate electricity designed to sell to neighboring countries to benefit the ruling elite.4
3. The Ogadeni people are also experiencing systemic extermination by the Ethiopian Government because it wants to exploit, over the protest of the inhabitants, the oil and gas resources in the area. Ethiopia is accused of “evict[ing] large numbers of Ogadenis from their ancestral grazing lands, and herded them into Internally Displaced Persons camps, causing a humanitarian disaster. Thousands of once self-sufficient Ogadenis have starved to death.”5
4. The policy of ethnic cleansing that targeted people of Eritrean origin in 1998 is now running rampant and is targeting the once dominant Amhara ethnic group, because the current rulers of Ethiopia consider the Amhara as rivals to their power hold in Ethiopia. “Thousands of ethnic Amharas in western Ethiopia are being expelled en masse from the country’s Benishangul Gumuz region, where many have settled, in what some are condemning as a campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’…This isn’t the first time Ethiopian officials have forced Amhara people to move to another region. A reported 22,000 Amharas were evicted from southern Ethiopia and their homes confiscated in 2012.”6
5. One other evil scheme the Ethiopian regime is employing is pitting one ethnic group against another. The Ethiopian government trains and arms one ethnic group to attack another and when violence surges and people die or get displaced by the tens of thousands, the evil regime in Ethiopia feigns non-involvement. “The worst episode of inter-communal fighting, in terms of its horrific violence and its significance for future relations between former good neighbours, was the slaughter of defenceless Oromo by Benishangul Gumuz militia in the Didessa and Hanger valleys, Eastern Wallega, Welltrained and armed by the government with AK47s and heavier machine guns, Gumuz militias attacked unarmed Oromo villagers as they slept, slaughtering men, women, children and babies, cutting throats, dismembering bodies and casting body parts aside –limbs, breasts and genitals.”7
6. Ethiopia is also a country where the freedom of worship of Muslims, a group that constitutes about 40-50% of its population, is not respected; Ethiopian Muslims for example are not allowed to build houses of worship in some cities like Axum, in northern Ethiopia where many of the ruling elite of Ethiopia hail from.
7. In 2005, after the ruling party was humiliated at the ballot box, it decided to steal the election. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians protested and 193 protestors were murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and over 40, 000 were imprisoned.8
8. In 2007 and 2008 several human rights groups, including the European commission accused Ethiopia of committing war crimes “including gang rape, slitting people’s throats, and indiscriminate killings.”
9. Human Rights Watch, with which the Ethiopians were standing together to accuse Eritrea in Geneva a couple of days ago, in its 2013 report, has strongly condemned the Ethiopian regime for extrajudicial executions, torture and other abuses in detention. Adding, the report said, “An Ethiopian government-backed paramilitary force known as the “Liyu Police” executed at least 10 men who were in their custody and killed 9 other villagers in Ethiopia’s Somali Region on March 16 and 17 following a confrontation over an incident in Raqda village, Gashaamo district.” Human Rights Watch said it “continues to document torture at the federal police investigation center known as Maekelawi in Addis Ababa, as well as at regional detention centers and military barracks in Somali Region, Oromia, and Gambella.”9
10. Even the United States, a strong supporter and enabler of the regime, in its 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, has this long list of charges against the government in Addis Ababa: “torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; allegations of abuses in connection with the continued low-level conflict in parts of the Somali region; restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; 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; clashes between ethnic minorities;”10
This shows us:
a) That the minority regime in Ethiopia has no sense of shame. Of course, there is nothing new for many people; we have known this for a long time; now let us hope the world can see this as well.
b) This also reveals how perverted the process is. The Human Rights Council allows some of the greatest abusers of human rights in the world, like Ethiopia, to pontificate on the conditions of human rights in other countries. In some ways it is revealing because it shows the political motivations behind many of the human rights investigations the Council mandates.
1. Asmarom Legesse, The Uprooted: Case Material on Ethnic Eritrean Deportees from Ethiopia Concerning Human Rights Violations. Citizens for Peace in Eritrea, 26 July 1998 http://www.denden.com/Conflict/deportees/legesse-072698.htm
3. H. Erlich. Ras Alula and the Scramble for Africa: A Political Biography: Ethiopia & Eritrea 1875-1897, AWP, 1996
8. Wondwosen Teshome, International Journal of Human and Social Sciences 4:6 2009, http://www.waset.org/journals/ijhss/v4/v4-6-60.pdf
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P.S. Editorial opinion may be different from the views of the authors.