Monday, January 17, 2011

This report follows a field study in Kenya which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, UK.
Published by the Oromo Relief Association UK and the Oromia Support Group.

Oromo Relief Association
11 Goodwin St.
Finsbury Park
London N4 3HQ
+44 (0)207 263 5030
Oromia Support Group
60 Westminster Rd.
WR14 4ES
+44 (0)1684 573722

Ethiopia exports more than coffee:
Oromo refugees, fear and destitution in Kenya.


In an intensive two week investigation into health and security needs of Oromo refugees in Kenya, 58 were interviewed in Kakuma and Dadaab camps and in two estates in Nairobi. Refugees reported very high levels of torture and rape in Ethiopia. Out of 27 men who were interviewed, 25 had been detained and 20 (80%) of former detainees had been tortured. Out of 31 women interviewed, 16 had been detained. Nine (56%) of these had been raped in detention. One other was raped by a soldier in her home.

The refugees complained of excessive delays in status determination by UNHCR, often due to repeatedly postponed appointments, and voiced their frustration in waiting long periods for resettlement opportunities. They believed that other groups were more successful in being resettled, sometimes using false Oromo identities. Although instances of this undoubtedly occur, it was not possible to confirm whether or not there is a significant difference in the rates of resettlement between groups. UNHCR has an impossible workload and in many ways copes admirably under difficult circumstances. Means of distinguishing genuine Oromo claimants were explored.

The main problems expressed were related to security and mental health. Refugees in Kakuma, especially unaccompanied women, lived in fear of attack by thieves and rapists. In the Dadaab camps, racist abuse and violence from Somalis severely restricted economic and social life. Misery and mental ill-health were worse in the camps than in Nairobi. Insecurity from police is possibly declining in Eastleigh estate, Nairobi, but theft and rape remain serious problems, again most severely affecting unaccompanied women. Security threats from agents of the Ethiopia government are much more severe in Nairobi than in the camps. Some reported threats are due to fear and paranoia. Others are invented in order to promote chances of resettlement. However, significant and serious security threats from those acting on behalf of the Ethiopian government are common and affect large numbers of refugees. Detailed accounts of the refoulement of five mandated refugees and an account of three awaiting refugee status determination were recorded.


They come and ask questions but what is the effect?

The research was undertaken with the aim of raising the profile of problems faced by Oromo refugees in Kenya. It is often a necessarily bleak and miserable history. It is a story that must be told and is not intended to be comfortable reading.

I wish to emphasise the profound respect I have for the dignity and resilience of those with whom I spoke in Kenya. The research was humbling and inspiring.
In the course of the interviewing process, it became obvious that many refugees felt a need to tell their story and express their frustration and anguish. I hope this was therapeutic in itself, but am concerned that by causing refugees to revisit past traumas and to dwell on current anxieties and frustrations, I may have left them more traumatised. If that is the case, I hope that the positive effects of this study will offset this discomfort.


The extent of human rights abuse in Ethiopia is documented by annual reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the US State Department. Other reports by Human Rights Watch1 and the Oromia Support Group2 include many detailed accounts of individual violations of basic human rights.
The number of Oromo asylum-seekers in Europe and North America has mushroomed since 1992 but the majority who have escaped persecution in Ethiopia have fled to neighbouring countries, where many have been subject to killings and refoulement.

In the course of the present study, I spoke to a refugee who had been subject to refoulement from Djibouti and I interviewed others who had seen recognised refugees killed and 4000 sent back to Ethiopia from Djibouti in 2004. I heard an Oromo describe many drowning on a sea crossing from Puntland to Yemen, and others being refouled from Yemen to Ethiopia.

Refugees who had travelled from Somaliland within the last month told me about the refoulement of their colleague, a mandate holding refugee, from there and the continuing insecurity of about 1600 Oromo UNHCR mandate refugees because of a heavy Ethiopian troop presence there. They also reported about 3500 Oromo refugees, mostly with UNHCR mandates, in Bosasso, Puntland.

To read the full report, please download the attached document in .pdf Format.

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Human Rights League of the

Horn of Africa

HRLHA Urgent Action and Appeal

January 2011

PUBLIC, 12 January 2011

Extra-judicial Arrest in Djibouti; Fear of Deportations and Tortures

Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety of nine Oromo refugees from Ethiopia whose whereabouts are not known since they were extra-judicially arrested and taken away by members of the Djibouti force in Djibouti on different occasions in the months of November and December 2010 and January 2011.

Mr. Jundi Bakar Ahmad (a father of 7), Mr. Mohammad Aliyyi Mummad, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad Sa'id, Mr. Umar Ibrahim Yussuf, Mr. Ali Ahmad Mohammad, and Mr. Anwar Jamaal were all arrested by a joint force of Djibouti Police and Ethiopian security agents on December 22, 2010 in Djibouti, at a place called. Nagar Ambouli Sortie. Prior to that, Mr. Ibrahim Hussien, Mustafa Muktar (very young and age 16), and Mr. Kadir Umar were arrested in the same way on November 25, 2010; and their whereabouts are not known since then.

What further raises HRLHA’s concern about those refugees is that the Ethiopian security agents were involved in both their apprehensions and interrogations, according to information obtained through HRLHA reporters. Given this direct involvement of the Ethiopia security agents in the arrest and interrogation activities, it is very likely that the cases of those refugees have been politicized and that they might have been subjected to tortures, and might have also been deported to Ethiopia, where they could face further severe punishments. There are also unconfirmed reports that refugees in Djibouti are subjected to forced labour once they are arrested, regardless of their ages; and often physically assaulted.

Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) calls up on the Djibouti Government to disclose the whereabouts and current situations of those refugees to all concerned bodies. We also request the government of Djibouti to abide by both international and regional covenants, treaties and agreements, and ensure that the rights of refugees in its territory are respected.

Background Information

Previously, the Djibouti Government handed over many refugees of Ethiopian Oromo origin at different times to Ethiopian Government in breaching the international refugees’ rights agreements.

The Ethiopian government has a well-documented record of gross and flagrant violations of human rights, including the torturing of its own citizens who were involuntarily returned to the country. The government of Ethiopia routinely imprisons such persons and in some cases sentences them to long terms in prison. Some face the harshest punishment including death penalty. Ethiopia currently has many former refugees, who were handed over by Djibouti, and other neighboring Countries who were given death sentences and awaiting execution after being arrested similarly and handed over to Ethiopian Government in different years. There have been credible reports of physical and psychological abuses committed against individuals in Ethiopian prisons and other secret places of detention.

HRLHA has a profound belief that the two countries – Djibouti and Ethiopia – are acting jointly in hunting, arresting and punishing alleged members and/or supporters of opposition political organizations and human rights activists. The obligation that a country should not return a refuge to the country they have fled, which is also a principle of customary international law, applies to both asylum seekers and refugees, as affirmed by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and the United Nations General Assembly.

By handing over the Ethiopian Oromo refugees to the Ethiopian governments, the Djibouti Government is breaching its obligations under international treaties as well as customary laws.

Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1465 U.N.T.S. 185), the Djibouti Government has the obligation not to return a person to a place where they are likely to face torture or ill-treatment. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture provides that:

1. No state party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Due to these and other similar facts, HRLHA is highly concerned about the fate of those arrested refugees. Therefore, HRLHA calls upon regional and international humanitarian and diplomatic communities and agencies to approach and pressurize the Djibouti Government to disclose the whereabouts and the current situations of those refugees, and also refrain from deporting them. HRLHA also calls upon those same agencies and communities to exert pressure on the Horn of African countries to refrain from becoming tools of authoritarian regimes and instead respect the rights of refugees to safety and protection according the regional and international refugees rights agreements.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Djibouti Government and its concerned officials as swiftly as possible, in English, French, or your own language expressing:

  • concern at the apprehension and fear of deportation of the refugees who are being held in detention since November and December 2010 at different times, and in January 2011 and calling for their immediate and unconditional release;

  • urging the authorities of Djibouti to ensure that these detainees are treated in accordance with regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners.


His Excellency; Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti

Po Box; 185

Tel; (253) 35 39 95, Fax; (253) 35 39 40.

  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
    United Nations Office at Geneva
    1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
    Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
    (particularly for urgent matters)
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • UNHCR main office Geneva, Switzerland.
    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
    Case Postale 2500
    CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
    telephone number: +41 22 739 8111

  • African Commission on Human and PeoplesRights (ACHPR)

48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673, Banjul,
The Gambia.

Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23
Fax: (220) 4390 764

  • U.S. Department of State

Tom Fcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer


Washington, D.C. 20037

Tel: +1-202-261-8009

Fax: +1-202-261-8197

  • Amnesty International – London

Tom Gibson

Telephone: +44-20-74135500

Fax number: +44-20-79561157

Email;- TGibson@amnesty.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Human Rights Watch – New York, Tel: +1-212-290-4700