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.