Wednesday, December 17, 2008

HRLHA Press Release No. 14: Another Batch of Oromos Face Another Bundle of Charges

HRLHA Press Release No 14
Another Batch of Oromos Face Another
Bundle of Charges
HRLHA Considers Them Prisoners of Conscience

Among the numerous civilian Oromos who have been detained during the most recent wave of arrest and imprisonment, sixteen of them have been charged with an allegedly politically motivated crime.

This bundle of charges, according to documents obtained by HRLHA reporters, is based on the allegations that the Oromo suspects were involved in a network of opposition groups, described as “Network 123”, who has allegedly committed crimes that range from killing people by planting and detonating explosives to causing damages to properties. The 38-page document has contained about eleven different counts of charges.

This newly charged batch of suspected Oromos is headed by Mr. Tesfahun Chamada and Mr. Mesfin Abebe, whose whereabouts were not known for the last two years, and who were said to have masterminded the alleged crimes. The families and friends of both Mr. Tesfahun and Mr. Mesfin, who were overwhelmed by the hardly expected emergence of the two from almost nowhere, and after a two-year disappearance, were not surprised by the charges filed against them. Both Mr. Tesfahun and Mr. Mesfin were civil engineers working and living in the Capital Addis Ababa.
The co-defendants of Mr. Tesfahun and Mr. Mesfin, who are from various walks of life, are the following:
1. Mr. Bekele Jiraataa Raasaa, an agricultural expert with master’s degree,
2. Mr. Wabii Hajii Joorsoo, a Law graduate,
3. Mr. Kebede Boranaa Imaanaa, an Accountant,
4. Mr. Bekele Nagarii Guddaa,
5. Mr. Eshetu Kitil, an entrepreneur who own a big hotel in the Capital,
6. Mr. Roobaa Gaddafaa Badhaadhaa, a Statistician,
7. Mr. Olaanaa Jabeessaa Jaaluu, a graduate of Police College and member of the Force with the rank of Colonel,
8. Haile Dalasaa Hundisaa, a university student,
9. Dejene Dhaabaa Kebebe, a student,
10. Lalisee Wadaajoo Fidaa(female), a student,
11. Aberash Yaaddessaa (female),
12. Baayyisaa Huseen Muhaammad, a student,
13. Bogale Moosisaa Leggese, a student, and
14. Mr. Dejene Booranaa Imaanaa, brother of Mr. Kebede Borena (above).

All defendants, who appeared in Federal High Court, Second Criminal Bench on December 15, 2008, were taken back to the Ma’ikelawi Central Investigation, where they are currently being held.

HRLHA has also learnt that Artist Zerihun Wodajo and some other Oromos, among the rest of the victims of this most recent wave of arrests and imprisonments, have also been charged in a separate file with less serious crimes.
All defendants, except Dejene Dhaabaa and Baayisaa Hussen, are from the Capital Addis Ababa. The HRLHA considers all defendants to be prisoners of conscience; as they have been arrested, imprisoned and charged for attempting to exercise their democratic political rights as well as their freedom of thought based on their ethnic identity.

Since the TPLF/EPRDF Government took full control of power in 1992, countless batches of Oromos and other ethnic groups have ended up in prisons and faced countless bundles of political charges which are usually replicas of each other. In a country like Ethiopia, with the poorest economy and a more of patriarchal society, HRLHA is highly concerned about the negative impacts of such endless, unfounded and indiscriminate political actions on the already devastated socio-economic situation in the country; as such actions usually target the relatively educated, skilled, experienced and relatively productive segments of the society, and individuals who are in most cases heads of families.

HRLHA calls on governments of the West, regional and international diplomatic communities and human rights agencies to join hands and try to pressurize the Ethiopian Government so that it refrains from politically intimidating its own peoples, and instead engage itself other resources in improving the ever worsening economic situation.

HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It has aimed at defending fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It has also aimed at raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and that of others. It has intended to work on the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008



OMRHO e.V Press Release


The Ethiopian empire has always been a prison as far as the Oromos and other oppressed peoples in the empire are concerned. Prison life means nothing but living under constant state-surveillance and control with no right or sense of freedom as Oromos have been doing in Ethiopia for more than a century. In the face of their giant demographic size and wealthiest natural resource possession, the Oromos could only be contained within this larger prison through repressive laws, bylaws, regulations and police craft.

Under the present regime even this larger prison seems to be no longer efficient enough in containing the Oromos. Therefore, many prisons had to be opened within the larger prison as Mr. Zenawi’s regime has been engaged right from his ascendance to power in 1991 in turning even schools, hospitals and colleges into prisons. As queer some as this direction of development may appear in the era of globalization in 21st century, Mr. zenawi seems to have free hand in his project of developing prisons both in their quantity and quality. One cannot help wondering how many prisons Ethiopia has today, in the face of the ever rising number of Oromos getting imprisoned all throughout Oromia.

The recent wave of arrest, which begun at the end of October in this year, is still going on in an imaginable pace every where in Oromia without any discrimination of gender, age, locality, social class or political opinion that even babies should be imprisoned with their mothers. Every Oromo from all walks of life is a potential prisoner or victim of any sort, ranging from intimidation to physical elimination. Being an Oromo seems to be enough reason for the regime to criminalize any Oromo individual. Otherwise, it would be difficult for any rational mind to comprehend the recent continuous and massive imprisonment of the Oromos in the entire Oromia region. The arrest is virtually happening on a daily basis, but we fail to deliver the exact data because of an ever tighter state control of information flows, on the one hand, and the high magnitude of arrest in every corner of Oromia, on the other.

According to the recent information Oromo Human Right and Relief Organization, OMRHO e. V., received the following individuals are from eastern Hararge zone, Gola Odaa district, Cabbii county in the villages of Gaara Gaafaa and Diimtuu which includes the head of security in the region:

1. Mr. Abdii Mahadii (the head of security of the regime itself in the area)
2. Mr. Siraaj Ahmed ( a student)
3. Mr. Ibraahim Ahmed Kadir
4. Mr. Taajuddiin Sheek-Ibraahim
5. Mr. Ibraahim Aliyyii
6. Mr. Aliyyii Tukkee
7. Mr. Ahmed Saido
8. Mr. Aliyyi Muosa

All these mentioned individuals have been sent to a prison known as Burqaa in the region.

Hailu Dalasaa, 3rd year accounting student at Haroo-Mayya University in Hararge was abducted on October 29, 20008 by the regime’s security men and where his about remains unknown.

Another two Oromos named Abdii Botuu and Durrii Mohammad Galchu were also criminalized by their identity and thrown into a prison in the locality known as Miliqaayetti, district Daroo Labuu in western Hararge.

Similarly, an Oromo student known as Ahmed Mohammad Aliyyii was imprisoned with no charge in Gindhiir town, Baalee region.

The following individuals are also reported to have been arrested in western Oromia, Neqamtee city:

1. Mr. Warqinaa Dhinsaa (a teacher)
2. Mr. Namoomsaa Warqee (a teacher)
3. Mr. Fiqaaduu Nagarii (a teacher)
4. Mr. Balaay Kormee
5. Mr. Taayyee Ittaanaa
6. Mr. Shiferaw Nagaassoo
7. Mr. Geetahuun Dhugumaa
8. Mr. Obsaa Wakkee
9. Mrs. Bizunesh (a student)
10. Mr. Qanaate Barataa
11. Mr. Nagaraa Fayyisaa
12. Mr. Mahammad Tamaam (a student)
13. Mr. Takkee Gamachuu (a student)

These mentioned names are numerically insignificant compared to those whose names are not yet disclosed. This being the case, the TPLF regime herds thousands of Oromos into prison while it propagates, on the other hand, its readiness to negotiate with the Oromo Liberation Front, the main Oromo opposition organization widely considered as a vanguard political force among the Oromos at large. In the last couple of weeks, the regime also declared to the world that it pardoned and released 44 Oromo prisoner who were sentenced up to life imprisonment. In the face of the recent wide spread mass arrest, these positive gestures of the regime are simply its usual fake methods of deceiving and manipulating the public opinion of the international community.

Therefore, the Oromo Human Right and Relief Organization keeps on calling all human right advocating organizations and governments of the world to and continue concerting their powers and work in curbing this anti-human right regime before it would be too late to do so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ethiopia's Oromo Face Increased Repression (World Politics Review)

Ethiopia's Oromo Face Increased Repression
Matthew Stein | 10 Dec 2008
World Politics Review

Surrounded by unstable regimes and beset by national conflicts, the current Ethiopian government has long been preoccupied with containing any militant threat. In June, even as the country was gripped by its worst famine in 25 years, the government announced plans to increase its military budget by $50 million -- to $400 million -- just one week after appealing to the international community for assistance.

As a result, in addition to deploying troops into Somalia for the past two years, and intermittently clashing with Eritrean troops along their northern border, Ethiopia's military has also fought several internal conflicts in the Ogaden and in the less known Oromia regions.

Ethiopia's ethnic Oromo people have been in conflict with the state since they were forcibly integrated into the Amhara-dominated Ethiopian empire at the end of the 19th century. However, the arrests of at least 100 Oromos since Oct. 29, including the secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Party (OFDM), without warrant or charge is an indication that the conflict is intensifying.

The 53 Oromos still being detained by the authorities also include three human rights workers, teachers, students and successful businessmen. They have all appeared in court three times since their arrest on allegations of supporting the outlawed militant group, the Oromo Liberation Front, but have yet to be formally charged. As is common practice in Ethiopia, the court keeps extending their illegal incarceration to give the Ethiopian police and intelligence services more time to gather evidence.

At their last appearance, several detainees said they had been taken from their jail cells at Addis Ababa's Maikelawi detention center in the middle of the night and tortured.

A former Ethiopian journalist and human rights activist who endured Maikelawi for eight months, Garoma Wakessa -- now a Canadian resident -- still has trouble recounting the horrors he encountered.

"Even in Canada I have no relief," he says. "I know what's happening to those people and it's not human."

Garoma explains that because of Maikelawi's special status as an interrogation center rather than a formal prison, the use of torture to extract information is widespread. Guards use electrical cables or sticks during investigations, and interrogations are conducted in rooms with varying electricity.

"In the absolute dark room there is a possibility they will kill you because you are dangerous according to them," says Garoma.

Similar reports of abuse, often following arbitrary arrests or other forms of state suppression, have been well documented by local and international human rights groups, but fail to garner international attention in a corner of the world ravaged with bloodshed.

Instead, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has enjoyed considerable support from the Bush administration in order to counter the threat of Islamic extremism in the region. In October 2007, however, in the wake of the 2005 general elections whose bloody aftermath claimed 200 lives and amidst mounting abuses in the Ogaden region, the U.S. Congress passed the "Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act," which would withhold U.S. aid from Ethiopia unless it implements human rights reforms. The act must still be passed in the Senate and signed into law by the president.

Nevertheless, since the mass detainment of Oromos in October, the State Department has been largely mute on the subject. There have been no stern warnings, with one State Department official simply maintaining that the U.S. is supportive of reconciliation between the OLF rebels (a onetime political party) and the government.

Negotiations between 125 elders of the Oromo community and the government have been initiated in recent weeks, purportedly as a means of finding a peaceful solution.

But many Oromos argue that by continuing to arrest Oromo political leaders and scholars, the government is demonstrating it is not interested in reconciliation.

"This is a gimmick, an overture to deceive Oromo public opinion, world opinion, and portray itself as if the regime is changing," Beyan Asoba, an OLF spokesman, said from the United States.

Matthew Stein is a Canadian freelance journalist who has previously contributed to World Politics Review from Bogotá, Colombia.

Photo: An Oromo Liberation Front unit in Kenya. Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie (Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Licence).

Monday, December 08, 2008

HRLHA Press Release No. 13 December 2008

HRLHA Press Release No. 13
December 2008

EPRDF/ TPLF Government Continued Human Rights Abuses Against Oromo Civilians


The year 2008 has been one of the years in which widespread extrajudicial house searches, arrests and imprisonments of innocent Oromo civilians from various walks of life have taken place. Targeted in the most recent wave of political harassments and intimidations, which has been going on for the last two months, were, among others, public servants, university and high school teachers as well as students, businessmen, private company workers, and peasants. This newly launched campaign is also taking place under the usual allegation that the victims were either harbouring, financially supporting or simply sympathizing with the armed Oromo opposition group, OLF.

From the many (over one hundred) victims of this most recent political wave, the HRLHA has managed, through its local correspondents, to obtain the names of the following together with some details of their situations:

From local sources (mid November, 2008)
HRLHA Addis Ababa/ Finfinne Reporter

According to trusted local sources based at each institution, the following two Oromo university students were among the many detained by security forces, all under the pretext of working with the OLF, one from Haromaya and one from Bahir Dar universities. Although other Oromo students at Haromaya University had made joint efforts at having the students released through demonstration-like measures, efforts were aborted as a result of counter-actions taken by government security forces. The Bahir Dar victim is brother of an Oromoo (Dastayoo Dheressa), himself still in detention beginning with September, as indicated below.

The three detained:

1. Hailu Dilas Mirkana, male, age 27, born in Ambo/western Shawa, was Haromaya University, Law Faculty 3rd year student. He was abducted by Ethiopian security forces on November 20, 2008 at 8:15 local time from the University campus; and was taken to Kaliti prison, about 600 km away form Haromaya. Then, he was transferred to Maikelawwi Central Investigation, where he is currently being held, according to some reliable sources.

2. Zegeye Dheressa Kaba, born in Matakal, Western Oromia, age 24, male; and Bahir Dar University, Faculty of Law 3rd year student. He was abducted by government security forces on November 07,2008 and it was believed he is being held at Maikelawi Central Investigation.

3. Dastayo Dheressa Kaba, (Zegeye’s brother), male, age 26, graduate and practitioner of law who has been working in Ambo/western shawa. He was abducted on September 15, 2008 by government security forces; and said to have been being held at Maikelawi central Investigation.

4. Bekele Nagarii, an Oromo businessman working and living in Finfinnee, is currently being held at Mahikelawi Central Investigation. Some insiders were indicating that Mr. Nagari would be released on Monday, December 1, 2008; but it didn’t happen until the the time this report was compiled.

5. Eshetu Kitil, Oromo businessman and owner of the Hawi Hotel in Finfinne, who is reportedly being held at Maikelawi Central Investigation. He was also said to be released on December 1st ; although he didn’t emerge.

6. Desalegn Qana’ii, a middle-aged freelance legal expert (Abukaatoo) and a well-known lawyer who has been relentlessly providing legal services to Oromos detained under and due to similar political allegations. According to some insiders, it was his unreserved commitment to render legal supports to such political victims that finally made himself one of the targets of such political attacks. However, HRLHA reporters have confirmed that Mr. Qana’ii has been released.

7. Asefa Tefera Dibaabaa, lecturer at Addis Ababa University, one of the prominent Oromo intellectuals who took the courage of teaching the Afan Oromo Language on the University campus, despite the numerous and negative political labelings.

8. Zerihun Wedajo, a famous Oromo singer, was arrested on November 14, 2008, and is still being held at Maikelawi Central Investigation. His detention came following the arrest of some Oromo students of the Addis Ababa Univesity earlier in November. The students are reportedly being held at Maikelawi Central Investigation. They were detained for similar allegations of having ties with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). It has been difficult for HRLHA reporter to get details regarding their identities and current situations. The efforts of fellow students of the University could not go beyond the University campus and could not attract attentions due to the very tight security deployed on the campus.
None of the above suspects has been taken to court or charged.

Updates on the detainees of the Oromo-Gumuz conflict of May, 2008

Information from reliable sources indicates that a large number of Oromo farmers in the conflict area (both East and West Wallaggaa), accused of involvement in the May 2008 conflict, are being held in two different prisons: Qaallitti and Zuway. No clear information was available about their actual numbers and situations. However, the sources indicate that they have been accused in three separate files, with one of the charges involving about 127 the detainees.

Before ending up at Aqaaqii/Qallitti prison, the detainees were said to have been taken to and held in two concentrations camps - Dhidheessa and Zuway. During these processes of transfer, the allegations filed against some of those detainees have been reduced by some degrees, according to inside sources, resulting in the release of some of the suspects originally detained. After these whole processes of screening and transfer, the number of detainees currently held at Qallitti stants at about 240, according to the inside sources. Other sources indicate that they are over 300 in total, currently found in both prisons. Most of the prisoners’ immediate families, who have to travel about 800 to 1000 kms to arrive at Qallitti, claim that they have been unable to see the detainees. As a result, they are not even able to confirm whether or not their relatives are among the detainees.

The detention has already had a devastating economic impact on the families of the detainees, as they were arrested at the crucial time of the first stage of the grand farming season. Those who are being held in Qaallittii prison are said to have been planned to be brought to court for the first time, despite the 48-hour constitutional decree, on December 23, 2008.

Background Note — It was widely reported that the clashes took place in mid of May 2008 between the neighboring Gumuz and Oromo leaved hundreds killed and thousands displaced in Eastern Wellag of Oromia state.

The clash started on Saturday May 18, 2008, when armed Gumuz crossed over from their regional state to Oromia State and attacked villages before day break.

Even though, the Government officials have declined giving the official number of the victims of the conflict, it was confirmed from residents that over 190 people were died and about 9000 people were internally displaced.

The families of the victims accused both regional sate of Benishangul Gumuz and central government have a role in arming and mobilizing the Gumuz to attack them.

The federal police and Oromia regional police have not intervened to avert the armed attacks, residents claimed. It is known that for over a century, the two tribes share the same history of repression under successive Ethiopian regimes and lived together peacefully.

HRLHA is highly concerned about the safety of the local residents in general and of those who have already been taken into custody. It believes that this government action of the Ethiopian Government is in violation of fundamental political and cultural rights which are enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. It also believes that such extrajudicial harassments and intimidations would worsen the humanitarian crisis that has continued to hit the country.

HRLHA calls upon governments of the West, all local, regional and international human rights agencies to join hands and demand the immediate release of the detainees and halt of this mass arrest and imprisonment of innocent Oromo civilians by the Ethiopian government.

The HRLHA is a non-political and non-profit organization that attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It works on defending fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It also works on raising the awareness of individuals about their own fundamental human rights and that of others. It encourages the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.