MUST-READ | Looking Back – Oromo Liberation Front’s (OLF’s) Statement from 1978 (From Archives)

Some of the highest-ranking OLF leaders in 1978 (when the below statement was issued)

The following excerpt from a 1978 statement of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is published herein to seek comparative analysis between the affairs of the Oromo people and Oromia under the Dergue Abyssinian military occupation of the changed over the last four decades, after reading the below statement, one can observe the affairs of Oromia in 1978 have fundamentally remained almost the same, if not worse, in 2015 (except some token appeasements – “temporary outlets” – here and there from the occupying Abyssinian military forces), and the current dismal State of the Oromo Nation will also remain the same in the future as far as Oromia remains under the Abyssinian military occupation. Historically, this statement was released when many, if not all, of the founding leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front were still alive (see photo here). At the time, this statement was widely distributed all over the world, including being published in a U.S. academic journal for the Horn of African region. The revisit of this statement is also for those reactionary forces which are naively convinced that “national self-determination” and “nations and nationalities” (in some instances, the “OLF” itself) were invented by the TPLF takeover of state power in Ethiopia in 1991. In the letter/statement, OLF argues that the support the Cubans were giving to the anti-people Dergue were shortsighted; true to this analysis, a few years after this letter, the Dergue falsely believed its ‘win in the East’ was a testament for the popular support for its regime and mobilized its forces to ‘crash’ the Eritrean national movement in the North, and with that campaign, the Dergue itself died, though it took almost a decade for Dergue’s slow death to be realized in 1991. – The Editor

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Oromo Liberation Front (1978)

A LETTER TO CUBANS IN HARAR

Dear Friends:

… We would like to briefly describe the current Ethiopian situation and circumstances that led to it in order to bring to your attention the realities of this Empire state and the role you and your government are playing, purportedly under the illusion of aiding a progressive government. The facts below are not complete, but are intended only to inspire you to arrive at the whole truth.

First, today’s Ethiopia came into being ninety years ago during the European colonial powers’ Scramble for Africa. Before that, Abyssinia or Ethiopia proper formed only one-fifteenth of the present Empire state of Ethiopia. It comprised of Tigray and Begemdir provinces and the three high land Awrajas of Eritrea (the then Bahr Negash) and one Awraja of Shoa (Menz plus Gishen). Although the northern provinces of Gojam and northwestern Walla were virtually under Abyssinian (Ethiopian) occupation for some years prior to the colonization of the rest of the present-day Ethiopia, the peoples of these provinces never gave up their struggle against alien domination.

The dozens of peoples inhabiting the central, eastern and southern parts of Ethiopia today, viz, the Oromo, Afar, Wallaita, Kambata, etc. were then living under their respective governments enjoying freedom. However, in the latter half of the 19th century, the age-old desire of the Amharas to occupy and colonize the Oromo and other peoples’ lands coincided with that of the European colonial powers. This historical coincidence provided Menelik II, the then head of the Abyssinian Kingdom, what he needed in order to fulfill his ambition. The European powers had the objective of controlling Abyssinia and the adjacent countries. The inevitable clash of interests between the powers and intense rivalry to outmaneuver one another saved Abyssinia from direct colonization. Accordingly, in order to accomplish their colonial ambitions, they resorted to indirect means of colonization by aiding Menelik II to expand and control the adjacent regimes under their auspices, thereby fulfilling their objectives through him. They competed ardently in providing Menelik with arms, military and intelligence advisers, etc. From the European colonial powers, Menelik found all that he was lacking to colonize the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia, thereby bringing under his rule peoples of diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The Oromo, which constitutes over 60% of the entire population of the country, and others were thus brought under Amhara rule and reduced to the status of colonized peoples. The present situation of Ethiopia can only be correctly understood when viewed in this historical perspective.

Second, the colonization was not attained easily. Our people made ferocious resistance on every inch of their land sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives. However, lack of modern weaponry – and expert advisers, which the enemy had in abundance, made the war of unequals to end in favor of Menelik and his European overlords. The colonization of our people resulted in the reduction of our predominantly agrarian society to tenancy, exclusion from political affairs and the ruthless suppression of their culture and language.

From the day they lost their independence, the Oromo people have never paused from struggling for national liberation. At different times and in various places, our people have waged political and armed struggles. They rose up in arms against the Amhara colonizers several times. In 1928 the struggle of the Oromo people in Raya reached such a stage as to compel the colonial regime to call in the aid of foreign forces from Aden to subdue the rebellion. Similarly, the heroic struggle of the Bale Oromo that lasted from 1962 to 1970 required the aid of many foreign counter-insurgents and engineering experts to bring a halt to it. Of a special significance is the armed struggle conducted in this province under the leadership of the OLF in 1973-1974 – mobilizing the entire peasantry against the landlords and settlers; this made a tremendous contribution to the overthrow of the Haile Selassie regime. Our force has grown several fold since then. These are but only three major instances of several armed struggles our people waged for liberation.

Third, the struggle of the Oromo people, other oppressed peoples and genuine democrats from oppressed nations underwent tremendous ideological transformations as years passed by and the cumulative effect of their struggles brought about the 1974 February Revolution. The fact that the uprising of 1974 was limited to areas of oppressed peoples attests to the hard reality that the movement was more inspired by the aspirations of the oppressed peoples for liberation.

Today, the Dergue attempts to pose as the vanguard of the revolution to the outside world. The truth, however, is to the contrary. The revolution, which was brought about by the arduous struggles of the Oromo and other oppressed peoples, had the following popular slogans in the late 1973 and early 1974 (the greater part of which the Dergue is still suppressing in spite of popular unrest and resentment): land to the tiller; the recognition of the sovereignty of nations and their rights of self-determination up to and including secession; release of political prisoners; equality of religion; granting of basic democratic rights, and formation of a democratic provisional government that is capable of realizing the aforementioned demands as the OLF and other political organizations that rallied the masses around the foregoing demands were then too weak to lead the people to consummate the national democratic revolution. The military, which was until the last minute defending the Haile Selassie regime, usurped the leadership from the people by massacring thousands of students, workers, democrats and nationalists, thereby ascending to the apex of political power undeservedly. Then, after its accession to power, it struggled hard to halt the popular movement. However, the peasantry of the colonized peoples defied the Dergue’s orders and persisted in their struggle by defeating landlords. The Dergue found the trend irresistible, fearing that, unless certain reforms were effected, the revolution would go far beyond the land question, it legalized the action of the peasantry by issuing the March 1975 land proclamation. Although this measure gave a temporary outlet for the masses upsurge, it was not long before the chauvinistic Dergue exposed its true nature by siding with the settler landlords and the anti-people colonial bureaucracy in the showdown for power between the peasantry and bureaucracy. There is no need to explain to you the fact that any thorough going democratic revolution is a farce under the leadership of an anti-people bureaucracy.

Colonized peoples struggling for national liberation are not to be quenched by land reform alone. National self-determination pertaining to political independence and freeing the suppressed cultures and languages are yet to be attained. Hence, the Oromo and other oppressed peoples vowed to take the revolution to the final conclusion until the total liberation and equality of all peoples are attained.

Fourth, this hard fact confused the social chauvinistic Dergue. As most of its members came from the oppressor nation, the principle of self-determination is anathema to it. This chauvinistic attitude of the Dergue is reinforced by the training its members had regarding the sanctity of territories under the overthrown regime. Hence, its sole reaction to genuine national movements was wholesale condemnation and massive military build-up to counter the insurgents. After two years of confusion, under public pressure and through persuasion of the former provisional office for mass organizational affairs, it accepted and issued the [April 1976] National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which contains a perverted clause on nationalities. Clause 5 of the NDR program falls far short of the principle of self-determination. It curbs the right of nations to self-determination up to and including secession by limiting the exercise of right to regional autonomy. It is clear to any observer that the extent of the right of nations can only be meaningful and satisfactory to oppressed peoples if discussed in a democratic atmosphere. The NDR was prepared by the oppressor nation without the participation of the oppressed people and, hence, it is arbitrary and represents one viewpoint only. That is why it is not accepted. The drafters of the program were, at least, academically capable of seeing this shortcoming. They urged the declaration of democratic rights even though vaguely in its definition and application. Now two years have lapsed since the declaration of the program, but the prerequisite for Clause 5 to become operational is not forthcoming. The Junta in power, in a usual military fashion, continues giving orders to national liberation movements to lay down arms and surrender to it without taking into account the interests of the oppressed. Its first public and specific call was made to the EPLF. At the initial secret contacts between the Dergue and the EPLF, the Front made it clear that any meaningful negotiation leading to lasting peace could only take place between legitimate representatives of the peoples concerned, and this required the prior proclamation of democratic rights and the constitution of a people’s government. The Dergue could not swallow this demand. Accordingly, it rejected it and went around denouncing the Front as a collaborator of imperialism and Arab reaction to counter the Ethiopian revolution. As you very well know this Front from your past contact, it is a progressive organization.

The struggle of the Oromo people did not have international publicity as that of the Eritrean peoples. However, in its social base and the width and length of the territory it operates in, it is the strongest national movement in the Empire state of Ethiopia. The Dergue is afraid of publicly condemning and/or inviting it for negotiation out of fear that the military, which has an overwhelming majority of Oromos, may defect en masse to the Front, thereby wreaking the despotic rule of Mengistu. That is why, in its meeting of December 1977, it decided to label our force in the east and south as that of Somalia, and those in the west and central provinces as that of the EDU. Since we have sufficiently demonstrated our stand regarding Somalia’s occupation of Oromo land through repeated and effective military actions in both Harar and Bale, we need not waste your time by explaining to you what you already know. Regarding our relation with the EDU, let it be known that it was the force of the OLF that hit back EDU’s thrust from the Sudan into Wollega three times last year. The OLF is a progressive national liberation organization that has the ultimate objective of freeing the Oromo land from alien occupation by organizing and mobilizing the Oromo people against feudalism, occupation and all sorts of reaction. Hence, its choice is not between Amhara aristocracy and Amhara military dictatorship – which are represented by the EDU and the Dergue, respectively. Therefore, the Dergue’susual misrepresentation of facts to confuse the general public and foreigners will not have the adverse effect it intends. We hope that you will not be misled to being used against our struggle lest you regret the consequences.

The EPLF and the OLF are not the only national organizations in this country. There are also the TPLF in Tigray, the ALF in Afarland, the WLF in Sidama, and the KLF in southern Shoa. While some of these are already waging armed struggles, others are making intensive preparations to start, and one can witness that each is fast growing every day so they enjoy increasing support from their respective peoples. It is quite natural that those oppressed peoples, who have not yet started struggle, will soon do so, and this empire state, with the exception of one fifteenth part, will be brought under the fire of national liberation forces. In the light of these developments, it is proper that progressive forces reconsider their stand, i.e. whether to stand with the people or perish with the anti-oppressed peoples’ military dictatorship.

Fifth, despite all these obvious developments, Mengistu and his colleagues seem to relax because of the massive military support from the Soviet Union and Cuba to suppress the peoples’ liberation movements. Mengistu believes that because of the strategic importance of Ethiopia, the socialist countries will concern themselves with the situation in the Horn of Africa to the extent of fighting his anti-people war. So if America offers more materials and human support in order to displace the Soviet Union, which no doubt it will do, he will opt to go over to the American side and send the Soviets and your personnel home. Pseudo-progressives, such as Mengistu and Siad Barre, have no ideology. Their ideology is hypocrisy and power — they pretend to be with any power that is ready to support their tottering anti-people regimes.

Sixth, before ending this letter, we would like to briefly quote from the OLF political program in order to sufficiently clarify our objectives for you:

The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self-determination for Oromo people and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through the successful consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Oromia.

Regarding relations with other nations and nationalities, the Front’s program reads as follows:

It will work to bring about, where possible, political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respects for mutual interests, and the principle of voluntary association.

Working on this current policy on the national question, the OLF has already contacted and established fraternal relations with several national organizations, including those of Eritrea. We believe it is on the basis of this policy alone that unity between peoples can be achieved. The Dergue’s chauvinistic approach to the national question is reactionary and has failed to satisfy the aspirations of the oppressed peoples. In view of this, it is quite evident that the policy is bound to meet further resistance, eventually ending up in disaster.

Dear friends, this letter is written with three objectives, viz’, (a) To inform you about our objectives, the Dergue’s true nature and its prospects so that you are furnished with correct information in order to be able to decide where your support should go in the struggle between the people and the anti-people Dergue; (b) to open a channel of communication for future dialogue, through you, with your government to solicit material and political support for our just cause; and (c) to show you the reality so that your government ceases supporting the anti-people military dictatorship headed by Mengistu and immediately renounce all relations with it lest our fraternal forces clash in the battlefield …

National interest, conflicts of identity politics and conflict resolution

Prof. Hamdesa Tuso , Seminar in Oslo, Norway  | March 25, 2015

profHamdesa

Dr. Hamdesa Tuso teaches at Department of Peace and Conflict Studies Faculty of Graduate Studies, The University of Manitoba 252C-70 Dysart Rd. Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2M6

INTRODUCTION

Teaching and celebrating Oromummaa is an on gong and continuous process in order to develop Oromian national interest in the predominantly Oromoo country , Oromia and elsewhere the oromoo people live in the world. Discourses on identity politics as well as the socio economic and political conditions of Oromo society emanates partly from reinforcing Oromomummaa at home land and in diaspora with a special weight and focus on uplifting of Oromians national consciousness of their identity both at a community and national level. By virtue of exercising these very natural rights the contemporary Oromo society is facing many conflicts. According to Dr. Tusoo commencing with regime king Sehile Sillassie of Showa, the Abyssinian elite deployed strategies to conquer and control the Oromo country. Strategies and schemes backed by the European technical advisors were intensively executed and implemented to destroy the Oromo identity from the globe. Hence Oromo’s has been exposed to both external and internal conflicts since the Abyssinian’s domination of the Oromo country.

Why Conflicts and how to handle it?

On March 14.03.2015 the energetic leaders of the Oromo Community in Oslo and its adjacent area organized a very timely seminar where three outstanding oromoo scholars among others Drs. Hamdeassaa Tusoo, Makuria Bulchaa and Girma G/ sambet made their ways to Oslo & held this long awaited pubic seminar . The seminar was aimed at pinpointing the concept of a conflict, conflicts resolutions and management in order to restore harmony between individuals, family members, neighborhood communities , and political entities at local, regional or interregional levels.

Dr. Tusoo the main presenter of the seminar embarked up on the topic under discussion by starting form his own life experiences – referring to his own journey of resistance against the Abyssinian domination of Oromoo identity & culture to stigmatize and demolish anything reflecting the indigenous oromoo culture or Oromomumma. He emphasized that up on the, assertions and views about conflicts by stressing that theoretically conflicts is the relational process where there is a power in balance between the complicating parties. The unmet needs of human beings pave ways for a conflict to erupt at all social levels and at any time. However, Dr. Tusoo Maintain that under the right leadership and right circumstances conflicts can be prevented and resolved.

Dr. Tusoo’s esearch based knowledge about the politics of power relations between different parties and further career specialty in peace and conflict studies focusing on an Oromoo indigenous based knowledge of conflicts management ( Jaarsummaa) made his presentation very attractive to participants . He held the seminar in an easy and understandable manner so that the participants could easily comprehend the subject under discussion. He gave a two part long and elaborative presentations using bilingual in both Afaan oromo and English and this made his presentations more alluring with a high degree of quality, generosity and bigheartedness.
Departing from the contemporary definitions of conflict and Theories of conflicts he went on linking it to the characteristics of conflicts manifesting itself in a colonized people and society. The case in point is conflicts that have been erupting with in the Oromo National Liberation movements and other scenarios pertaining to cause and effects of conflicts and its implication for any conflict escalating parties.

According to Dr. Tusoo the mainstream Oromo worldview which is built on the notion of peace for every living body ( Nagaa waaqaa waan hundumaaf ) is the underlying and core element that a modern oromo society need to nurture and develop by scrutinizing those environmental changes that make and shape the new world order. Oromoos have an ancient and indigenous civilization of governance- the Gadaa social and political system that should be studied and adopted in a way it could contribute to the ongoing human and social developments of the International community .

Following Dr. Tusoo´s informative and educative presentation the panel discussants Drs. Girma and Bulchaa gave their comments by acknowledging the main speaker.

Dr. Girma generously supplied on the ABC of conflicts that were elaborated by Dr . Tusoo and went on recommending that such scholarly forum is very important to build confidence among the oromo public and political parties both at home and in diaspoa. He went on underlying that the rest of Oromo communities across the globe need to follow the Oslo suits.

Dr Bulcha also complemented the presentation by saying that it is an informative and educative seminar which can uplift the moral dignity of all Oromoos who are lingering under the total subjugation of a tiny minority that get legitimacy to dominate the political climate of the Ethiopian Empire that on verge of collapsing. The debutants commented that the development of Oromo identity can pave a way for the emancipation of not only the Oromoo nation but also other oppressed nations and nationalities that are being overlooked by the international community.

Any conflicting parties has to adopt a constructive and the accommodative approaches of conflicts resolving mechanisms as it deem to apply them and work on to get down and minimize the scale of conflicting views in a community, region or country. The harmony in the Oromo Community base on the god will of national interest is important to halt an erupting and escalating conflicts by disrupting it in the camps of Oromo national movements.

CONCLUSION

After the Abyssinian power demise in 1991, the current ruling elite from Tigray accepted and accommodated the diversity and identity of nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire. The Oromo took this advantage and emerged as a regional political force post the Communist regime in Ethiopia. The Ruling party the TPLF imposed conflict and has been in hostile with not only the Oromoos but also the other nations and nationalities that they consider are a threat to their political power position they assumed after the collapse of the communist regime. History attest that all the successive Abyssinian rulers including the current ones or the old ones obtain Lethal weapons from the West to conquer and control the Oromo’s on their home land. Where there is no democracy and control is in play to govern society conflicts are in evitable. The Oromo world view which is based on the notion of nagaa Waaqaa and Araara Waaqaa fi Lafaa is built on optimism and principles that conflicts can be handled, managed and resolved between the conflicting parties.

The participants attended the seminar with interest and passionate thereby suggesting such forum must be adopted & explored on issues that are of paramount importance to minimize conflicting views and interests among the Oromo public whose wish and dream is a restoration of peace , freedom and justice rather than conflicts that erupt at the cost of peace and stability between community members , and different parties within the Oromo society at both local , regional and national levels.

By Buttaa Duuloo

Ethiopia: Digital Attacks Intensify

Spyware Firm Should Address Alleged Misuse

hrwMarch 9, 2015 (New York) – The Ethiopian government has renewed efforts to silence independent voices abroad by using apparent foreign spyware, Human Rights Watch said today. The Ethiopian authorities should immediately cease digital attacks on journalists, while foreign surveillance technology sellers should investigate alleged abuses linked to their products.

Independent researchers at the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab on March 9, 2015, reported new attempts by Ethiopia to hack into computers and accounts of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) employees based in the United States. The attacks bear similarities to earlier attempts to target Ethiopian journalists outside Ethiopia dating back to December 2013. ESAT is an independent, diaspora-run television and radio station.

“Ethiopia’s government has over the past year intensified its assault on media freedom by systematically trying to silence journalists,” saidCynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These digital attacks threaten journalists’ ability to protect the safety of their sources and to avoid retaliation.”

The government has repressed independent media in Ethiopia ahead of the general elections scheduled for May, Human Rights Watch said. Many privately owned print publications heavily self-censor coverage of politically sensitive issues or have shut down. In the last year, at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers have been criminally charged, at least six publications have closed amid a campaign of harassment, and many journalists have fled the country.

Many Ethiopians turn to ESAT and other foreign stations to obtain news and analysis that is independent of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. However, intrusive surveillance of these news organizations undermines their ability to protect sources and further restricts the media environment ahead of the elections. Government authorities have repeatedly intimidated, harassed, and arbitrarily detained sources providing information to ESAT and other foreign stations.

Citizen Lab’s analysis suggests the attacks were carried out with spyware called Remote Control System (RCS) sold by the Italian firm Hacking Team, which sells surveillance and hacking technology. This spyware was allegedly used in previous attempts to infect computers of ESAT employees in December 2013. If successfully installed on a target’s computer, the spyware would allow a government controlling the software access to activity on a computer or phone, including email, files, passwords typed into the device, contact lists, and audio and video from the device’s microphone and camera.

Citizen Lab also found that the spyware used in the attacks against ESAT appeared to have been updated as recently as December 2014. On November 19, a security researcher, Claudio Guarnieri, along with several nongovernmental organizations, publicly released a tool called Detekt, which can be used to scan computers for Hacking Team RCS and other spyware. Citizen Lab’s testing determined that Detekt was able to successfully recognize the version of RCS used in a November attack, but not the version used in a December attack. Citizen Lab concluded that this may indicate that the software had been updated sometime between the two attempts.

These new findings, if accurate, raise serious concerns that Hacking Team has not addressed evidence of abuseof its product by the Ethiopian government and may be continuing to facilitate that abuse through updates or other support, Human Rights Watch said.

Hacking Team states that it sells exclusively to governments, particularly law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The firm told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that “we expect our clients to behave responsibly and within the law as it applies to them” and that the firm will suspend support for its technology if it believes the customer has used it “to facilitate gross human rights abuses” or “who refuse to agree to or comply with provisions in [the company’s] contracts that describe intended use of HT [Hacking Team] software.” Hacking Team has also stated that it has suspended support for their product in the past, in which case the “product soon becomes useless.”

Media reports and research by independent human rights organizations in the past year have documented serious human rights violations by the Ethiopian government that at times have been facilitated by misuse of surveillance powers. Although spyware companies market their products as “lawful intercept” solutions used to fight serious crime or counterterrorism, the Ethiopian government has abused its counterterrorism laws to prosecute bloggers and journalists who merely report on public affairs or politically sensitive issues. Ethiopian laws that authorize surveillance do not adequately protect the right to privacy, due process, and other basic rights, and are inconsistent with international human rights requirements.

Hacking Team previously told Human Rights Watch that “to maintain their confidentiality” the firm does not “confirm or deny the existence of any individual customer or their country location.” On February 25, 2015, Human Rights Watch wrote to the firm to ask whether it has investigated possible abuse of its products by the Ethiopian government to target independent media and hack into ESAT computers. In response, on March 6 a representative of the firm emailed Human Rights Watch that the company “take[s] precautions with every client to assure that they do not abuse our systems, and, we investigate when allegations of misuse arise” and that the firm is “attempting to understand the circumstances in this case.” The company also stated that “it can be quite difficult to get to actual facts particularly since we do not operate surveillance systems in the field for our clients.” Hacking Team raised unspecified questions about the evidence presented to identify the spyware used in these attacks.

Human Rights Watch also asked the company whether contractual provisions to which governmental customers agree address governments’ obligations under international human rights law to protect the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and other human rights. In a separate March 7 response from the firm’s representative, Hacking Team told Human Rights Watch that the use of its technology is “governed by the laws of the countries of our clients,” and sales of its technology are regulated by the Italian Economics Ministry under the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export controls regime for dual-use technologies. The company stated that it relies “on the International community to enforce its standards for human rights protection.”

The firm has not reported on what, if any, investigation was undertaken in response to the March 2014 Human Rights Watch report discussing how spyware that appeared to be Hacking Team’s RCS was used to target ESAT employees in 2013. In its March 7 response, the company told Human Rights Watch that it will “take appropriate action depending on what we can determine,” but they “do not report the results of our investigation to the press or other groups, because we consider this to be an internal business matter.”

Without more disclosure of how Hacking Team has addressed potential abuses linked to its business, the strength of its human rights policy will be in question, Human Rights Watch said.

Sellers of surveillance systems have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes preventing, mitigating, and addressing abuses linked to its business operations, regardless of whether government customers adequately protect rights.

“Hacking Team should publicly disclose what steps it has taken to avoid abuses of its product such as those alleged against the Ethiopian government,” Wong said. “The company protects the confidentiality of its customers, yet the Ethiopian government appears to use its spyware to compromise the privacy and security of journalists and their sources.”

Source: HRW

Freedom House Report: Ethiopia in 2015

Discarding Democracy: Return to the Iron Fist

Freedom houseOverview: 

Ethiopia's score

March 12, 2015 (Freedom House) — In 2014 the Ethiopian government continued to suppress free speech and associational rights, shattering hopes for meaningful reform under Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Government harassment and arrest of prominent opposition and media members continued, including the April arrest of nine journalists who were charged under Ethiopia’s controversial antiterrorism law. In April and May, massive protests in Oromia Regional State broke out following the announcement of the planned expansion of Addis Ababa into Oromia. At least 17 people died after the military fired on unarmed protesters.

Despite nascent signs of an opening with Eritrea, formal dialogues remain frozen between the two countries. The Ethiopian-Eritrean border remains highly militarized, though no major border clashes were reported in 2014.

Sporadic violence resumed in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region after talks failed in 2013 between the government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist group that has fought for independence since 1991. In January 2014, two ONLF negotiators dispatched to Nairobi for a third round of talks were abducted and allegedly turned over to Ethiopian authorities by Kenyan police. The kidnappings effectively ended the talks.

Ethiopia ranked 32 out of 52 countries surveyed in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, below the continental average and among the bottom in East Africa. The country’s modest gains in the index are due to its improvement in human development indicators, but its ranking is held back by low scores in the “Participation and Human Rights” category.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Political Rights: 7 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 1 / 12

Ethiopia’s bicameral parliament is made up of a 108-seat upper house, the House of Federation, and a 547-seat lower house, the House of People’s Representatives. The lower house is filled through popular elections, while the upper chamber is selected by the state legislatures; members of both houses serve five-year terms. The lower house selects the prime minister, who holds most executive power, and the president, a largely ceremonial figure who serves up to two six-year terms. Hailemariam has served as prime minister since September 2012, and Mulatu Teshome as president since October 2013.

The 2010 parliamentary and regional elections were tightly controlled by the ruling coalition party Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), with reports of voters being threatened with losing their jobs, homes, or government services if they failed to turn out for the EPRDF. Opposition party meetings were broken up, and candidates were threatened and detained. Opposition-aligned parties saw their 160-seat presence in parliament virtually disappear, with the EPRDF and its allies taking all but 2 of the 547 seats in the lower house. The next elections are scheduled for 2015.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 2 / 16

Shorn of their representation in parliament and under pressure by the authorities, opponents of the EPRDF find it difficult to operate. In July 2014, opposition members—two from Unity for Democracy Party, one from the Arena Tigray Party, and one from the Blue Party—were arrested without charges and held without access to legal representation. The Ethiopian government denies the arrests were related to 2015 elections, but the detainments follow the government’s pattern of suppressing political dissent prior to popular votes.

A series of December 2014 rallies by a coalition of opposition parties saw nearly 100 people arrested, including the chairman of the Semayawi Party. Witnesses report that police beat protesters, though nearly all those arrested were released on bail within a week.

Political parties in Ethiopia are often ethnically based. The EPRDF coalition is comprised of four political parties and represents several ethnic groups. The government tends to favor Tigrayan ethnic interests in economic and political matters, and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front dominates the EPRDF. While the 1995 constitution grants the right of secession to ethnically based states, the government acquired powers in 2003 to intervene in states’ affairs on issues of public security. Secessionist movements in Oromia and the Ogaden have largely failed after being put down by the military.

C. Functioning of Government: 4 / 12

Ethiopia’s governance institutions are dominated by the EPRDF, which controlled the succession process following the death of longtime Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012.

Corruption remains a significant problem in Ethiopia. EPRDF officials reportedly receive preferential access to credit, land leases, and jobs. Petty corruption extends to lower-level officials, who solicit bribes in return for processing documents. In 2013, the government attempted to demonstrate its commitment to fighting corruption after the release of a World Bank study that detailed corruption in the country. As part of the effort, the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission made a string of high-profile arrests of prominent government officials and businessmen throughout 2013 and 2014. The Federal High Court sentenced many corrupt officials in 2014, including in one case a $2,500 fine and 16 years in prison. Despite cursory legislative improvements, however, enforcement of corruption-related laws remains lax in practice and Ethiopia is still considered “highly corrupt,” ranked 110 out of 175 countries and territories by Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Civil Liberties: 11 / 40

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 3 / 16

Ethiopia’s media are dominated by state-owned broadcasters and government-oriented newspapers. Privately owned papers tend to steer clear of political issues and have low circulation. A 2008 media law criminalizes defamation and allows prosecutors to seize material before publication in the name of national security.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ethiopia holds at least 17 journalists behind bars—the second-highest number of jailed journalists in Africa as of December 2014, after Eritrea. Restrictions are particularly tight on journalists perceived to be sympathetic to protests by the Muslim community, and journalists attempting to cover them are routinely detained or arrested. Those reporting on opposition activities also face harassment and the threat of prosecution under Ethiopia’s sweeping 2009 Antiterrorism Proclamation. At least 14 journalists have been convicted under Ethiopia’s antiterror law since 2011, and none convicted have been released.

In April 2014, police arrested nine journalists—six associated with the Zone9 blogging collective and three freelancers—and charged them with terror-related offenses. Their trial has been postponed 13 times and was closed to the public until recently; their defense lawyer claims the defendants were forced to sign false confessions while in prison.

In June, the government fired 18 people from a state-run, Oromia-based broadcaster, silencing the outlet’s reporting on Oromo protests. In August, the government charged six Addis Ababa–based publications with terrorism offenses, effectively shuttering some of the last independent news outlets inside Ethiopia. In October, three publication owners were convicted in absentia after they fled the country. The same month, Temesgen Desalegn, former editor of the weekly Feteh, was convicted under Ethiopia’s criminal code on defamation and incitement charges and sentenced to three years in prison.

Due to the risks of operating inside the country, many Ethiopian journalists work in exile. CPJ says Ethiopia drove 30 journalists into exile in 2014, a sharp increase over both 2012 and 2013. Authorities use high-tech jamming equipment to filter and block news websites seen as pro-opposition. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), since 2010 the Ethiopian government has developed a robust and sophisticated internet and mobile framework to monitor journalists and opposition groups, block access to unwanted websites or critical television and radio programs, and collect evidence for prosecutions in politically motivated trials.

The constitution guarantees religious freedom, but the government has increasingly harassed the Muslim community, which has grown to rival the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as the country’s largest religious group. Muslim groups accuse the government of trying to impose the beliefs of an obscure Islamic sect, Al-Ahbash, at the expense of the dominant Sufi-influenced strain of Islam. A series of protests against perceived government interference in religious affairs since 2012 have ended in a number of deaths and more than 1,000 arrests.

Academic freedom is often restricted in Ethiopia. The government has accused universities of being pro-opposition and prohibits political activities on campuses. There are reports of students being pressured into joining the EPRDF in order to secure employment or places at universities; professors are similarly pressured in order to ensure favorable positions or promotions. The Ministry of Education closely monitors and regulates official curricula, and the research, speech, and assembly of both professors and students are frequently restricted. In 2014, the Scholars at Risk network catalogued three incidents in academia, including the jailing or firing of professors who expressed antigovernment opinions.

The presence of the EPRDF at all levels of society—directly and, increasingly, electronically—inhibits free private discussion. Many people are wary of speaking against the government. The EPRDF maintains a network of paid informants, and opposition politicians have accused the government of tapping their phones.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 0 / 12

Freedoms of assembly and association are guaranteed by the constitution but limited in practice. Organizers of large public meetings must request permission from the authorities 48 hours in advance. Applications by opposition groups are routinely denied and, in cases when approved, organizers are subject to government meddling to move dates or locations. Since 2011, ongoing peaceful demonstrations held by members of the Muslim community have been met with violent responses from security forces. Protesters allege government interference in religious affairs and politically motivated selection of members of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. Though momentum has slowed, protests continue.

After the government announced an expansion of Addis Ababa’s city limits into the Oromia Regional State in April 2014, thousands of Ethiopians took to the streets. Witnesses reported that police fired on peaceful protesters, killing at least 17—most of whom were students in nearby universities—and detained hundreds.

The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation restricts the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) by prohibiting work on political and human rights issues. Foreign NGOs are defined as groups receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad, a classification that includes most domestic organizations as well. The law also limits the amount of money any NGO can spend on “administration,” a controversial category that the government has declared includes activities such as teacher or health worker training, further restricting NGO operations even on strictly development projects. NGOs have struggled to maintain operations as a result of the law.

Trade union rights are tightly restricted. Neither civil servants nor teachers have collective bargaining rights. All unions must be registered, and the government retains the authority to cancel registration. Two-thirds of union members belong to organizations affiliated with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, which is under government influence. Independent unions face harassment, and trade union leaders are regularly imprisoned. There has not been a legal strike since 1993.

F. Rule of Law: 3 / 16

The judiciary is officially independent, but its judgments rarely deviate from government policy. The 2009 antiterrorism law gives great discretion to security forces, allowing the detention of suspects for up to four months without charge. After August 2013 demonstrations to protest the government’s crackdown on Muslims, 29 demonstration leaders were charged under the antiterrorism law with conspiracy and attempting to establish an Islamic state; their trial remains ongoing. Trial proceedings have been closed to the public, media, and the individuals’ families. According to HRW, some defendants claimed that their access to legal counsel has been restricted.

Conditions in Ethiopia’s prisons are harsh, and detainees frequently report abuse. A 2013 HRW report documented human rights violations in Addis Ababa’s Maekelawi police station, including verbal and physical abuse, denial of basic needs, and torture.

Yemen’s June 2014 arrest and extradition of British citizen Andargachew Tsige to Ethiopia at the government’s request has sparked outrage from human rights groups. Andargachew is the secretary-general of banned opposition group Ginbot 7 and was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009 and again in 2012 for allegedly plotting to kill government officials. Reports suggest that police have denied the British Embassy consular access.

Domestic NGOs say that Ethiopia held as many as 400 political prisoners in 2012, though estimates vary significantly. Nuredine “Aslan” Hasan, a student belonging to the Oromo ethnic group, died in prison in 2014; conflicting reports about the cause of his death—including torture—have not been verified.

The federal government generally has strong control and direction over the military, though forces such as the Liyu Police in the Ogaden territory sometimes operate independently.

Repression of the Oromo and ethnic Somalis, and government attempts to coopt their parties into subsidiaries of the EPRDF, have fueled nationalism in both the Oromia and Ogaden regions. Persistent claims that government troops in the Ogaden area have committed war crimes are difficult to verify, as independent media are barred from the region. The government’s announcement of its intention to expand Addis Ababa’s city limits into the Oromia Regional State exacerbates tensions over historical marginalization of Oromia; according to activists, the expansion will displace two million Oromo farmers.

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited by law and punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 5 / 16

While Ethiopia’s constitution establishes freedom of movement, insecurity—particularly in eastern Ethiopia—prevents unrestricted movement into affected sites.

Private business opportunities are limited by rigid state control of economic life and the prevalence of state-owned enterprises. All land must be leased from the state. The government has evicted indigenous groups from various areas to make way for projects such as hydroelectric dams. It has also leased large tracts of land to foreign governments and investors for agricultural development in opaque deals that have displaced thousands of Ethiopians. Up to 70,000 people have been forced to move from the western Gambella region, although the government denies the resettlement plans are connected to land investments. Similar evictions have taken place in Lower Omo Valley, where government-run sugar plantations have put thousands of pastoralists at risk by diverting their water supplies. Journalists and international organizations have persistently alleged that the government withholds development assistance from villages perceived as being unfriendly to the ruling party.

Women are relatively well represented in parliament, holding 28 percent of seats and three ministerial posts. Legislation protects women’s rights, but these rights are routinely violated in practice. Enforcement of the law against rape and domestic abuse is patchy, and cases routinely stall in the courts. Female genital mutilation and forced child marriage are technically illegal, though there has been little effort to prosecute perpetrators. In December 2012, the government made progress against forced child labor, passing a National Action Plan to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor and updating its list of problematic occupations for children.

Source: Freedom House

Waajjirra Tokkummaa Baqattoota Hawaasa Oromoo Yaman

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Iyyata Lammummaa, 

Akkuma Beekamu Guyyaa Arraa 22/01/2015 Bulchaan Yaman (Abdurabo Mansur Hadi) fi Muumichi Ministera Biyyattii Sababii Jeequmsa Biyyattii keesa deemaa jiru isaanii oltehuudhaan Hujii gadhiisan,
Sababa kanaaf Yaroo ammaa kana Biyti Yaman tan Mootummaa hinqabne yootaatu,Kuniis Fuldureen Nageenya Baqattoota Oromoo biyya Yaman kan Balaaf kan Saaxilame tahuun Hawaasa Baqattoota Oromoo Haalaan Yaachisaa jira.

Kanaaf Waajjirri Tokkummaa Baqattoota Hawaasa Oromoo Yaman, iyyata Lammummaa Oromummaa Gara Hawaasa keenya kanneen Biyya Ambbaa keesa Jiran ammallee Miidiyaalee Dhimma Hawaasa Baqattoota Oromootiif Dhaabbatan akkasuma Walii gala Warroota Rakkina Baqattoota Oromootiif dhaabbatan Maraahu akka Haala Rakkoo Baqattootni Oromoo Biyya Yaman yaroo ammaa Keesa Jiraataa jiran Kana Hubattanii Gocha barbaachisu Hojjachuun Lubbuu Baqattoota Oromoo Kumaantamaan lakkaawamu Balaa kana jalaa baraartan, Maqaa Baqattoota Oromoo Biyya Yamaniin Kabajaan isin gaafanna,

GALATOOMAA,

Koree Waajjira Kominiiti Tokkummaa Baqattoota Hawaasa Oromoo Yaman,

oromo.kominiti@gmail.com

Ethiopia: human rights groups criticise UK-funded development programme

Leaked World Bank report rejects claims from the Bank’s management that no link existed between their programme and villagisation.

A traditional homestead in Gambela, Ethiopia. The country's government denies driving indigenous people from their homes in order to make way for commercial projects. Photograph: Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy/Alamy

A traditional homestead in Gambela, Ethiopia. The country’s government denies driving indigenous people from their homes in order to make way for commercial projects. Photograph: Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy/Alamy

January 21, 2015 (The Guardian) — A major UK- and World Bank-funded development programme inEthiopia may have contributed to the violent resettlement of a minority ethnic group, a leaked report reveals.

The UK’s Department for International Development was the primary funder of a World Bank-run development project aimed at improving health, education and public services in Ethiopia, contributing more than £388m of UK taxpayer funds to the project.

However, a scathing draft report of the World Bank’s internal watchdog said that due to inadequate oversight, bad audit practices, and a failure to follow its own rules, the Bank has allowed operational links to form between its programme and the Ethiopian government’s controversial resettlement programme.

Multiple human rights groups operating in the region have criticised the Ethiopian government’s programme for violently driving tens of thousands of indigenous people, predominantly from the minority Anuak Christian ethnic group, from their homes in order to make way for commercial agriculture projects – allegations the Ethiopian government denies.

Many of those resettled remain in poor conditions lacking even basic facilities in refugee camps inSouth Sudan.

The leaked World Bank report, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and seen by the Guardian, rejected claims from the Bank’s management that no link existed between their programme and villagisation.

According to the report, weak audit controls meant bank funds – which included over £300m from the UK’s Department for International Development – could have been diverted to implement villagisation.

The report did not itself examine whether the resettlement programme had involved human rights abuses, saying such questions were outside its remit.

However, the watchdog highlighted a series of failures in the planning and implementation of the programme, including a major oversight in its failure to undertake full risk-assessments as required by bank protocol. Crucially for the Anuak people, the bank did not apply required safeguards to protect indigenous groups.

Anuradha Mittal, the founder of the Oakland Institute, a California-based development NGO which is active in the region, said DfID was an active participant in the programme, and should share responsibility for its failings.

“Along with the World Bank and other donors, DfID support constitutes not only financial support but a nod of approval for the Ethiopian regime to bring about ‘economic development’ for the few at the expense of basic human rights and livelihoods of its economically and politically most marginalised ethnic groups,” she said.

Mittal was also critical of the World Bank panel’s draft findings, falling short of directly implicating the World Bank and its fellow donors in the resettlement programme.

“It is quite stunning that the panel does not think that the World Bank is responsible for villagisation-related widespread abuses in Ethiopia resulting in destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement of Anuaks from their fertile lands and forests.”

Disclosure of the draft report’s findings come as the UK government faces increasing scrutiny over its involvement in villagisation.

DfID is the project’s largest donor and in March ministers will face a judicial review over whether the UK’s contributions indirectly funded the resettlement programme. The case has been brought by a farmer from the Gambela region who claims he was violently evicted from his land.

Responding to the report’s findings, David Pred of Inclusive Development International – the NGO which filed the original complaint on the Anuak group’s behalf – said: “The Bank has enabled the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands.

“The Bank today just doesn’t want to see human rights violations, much less accept that it bears some responsibility when it finances those violations.”

A World Bank spokesman declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the report.

“As is standard procedure, World Bank staff cannot comment on the results of the inspection panel’s investigation until the executive board of the World Bank Group has had the opportunity to review the panel’s report over the coming weeks.”

In previous statements the bank’s management said there was no evidence of widespread abuses or evictions.

Asked about the findings, a DfID spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked reports.

“Britain’s support to the Promotion of Basic Services Programme is specifically for the provision of essential services like healthcare, schooling and clean water, and we have no evidence that UK funds have been diverted for other purposes.”

Source: The Guardian

Ethiopia: Media Being Decimated

ethiopia0115_reportcoverLegal, Policy Reforms Crucial Prior to May Elections

January 22, 2015, Nairobi (Human Rights Watch) – The Ethiopian government’s systematic repression of independent media has created a bleak landscape for free expression ahead of the May 2015 general elections, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In the past year, six privately owned publications closed after government harassment; at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers were criminally charged, and more than 30 journalists fled the country in fear of being arrested under repressive laws.

The 76-page report, “‘Journalism is Not a Crime’: Violations of Media Freedom in Ethiopia,” details how the Ethiopian government has curtailed independent reporting since 2010. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 70 current and exiled journalists between May 2013 and December 2014, and found patterns of government abuses against journalists that resulted in 19 being imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, and that have forced at least 60 others into exile since 2010.

Ethiopia’s government has systematically assaulted the country’s independent voices, treating the media as a threat rather than a valued source of information and analysis,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director. “Ethiopia’s media should be playing a crucial role in the May elections, but instead many journalists fear that their next article could get them thrown in jail.”

Most of Ethiopia’s print, television, and radio outlets are state-controlled, and the few private print media often self-censor their coverage of politically sensitive issues for fear of being shut down.

The six independent print publications that closed in 2014 did so after a lengthy campaign of intimidation that included documentaries on state-run television that alleged the publications were linked to terrorist groups. The intimidation also included harassment and threats against staff, pressure on printers and distributors, regulatory delays, and eventually criminal charges against the editors. Dozens of staff members went into exile. Three of the owners were convicted under the criminal code and sentenced in absentia to more than three years in prison. The evidence the prosecution presented against them consisted of articles that criticized government policies.

While the plight of a few high-profile Ethiopian journalists has become widely known, dozens more in Addis Ababa and in rural regions have suffered systematic abuses at the hands of security officials.

The threats against journalists often take a similar course. Journalists who publish a critical article might receive threatening telephone calls, text messages, and visits from security officials and ruling party cadres. Some said they received hundreds of these threats. If this does not silence them or intimidate them into self-censorship, then the threats intensify and arrests often follow. The courts have shown little or no independence in criminal cases against journalists who have been convicted after unfair trials and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, often on terrorism-related charges.

“Muzzling independent voices through trumped-up criminal charges and harassment is making Ethiopia one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists,” Lefkow said. “The government should immediately release those wrongly imprisoned and reform laws to protect media freedom.”

Most radio and television stations in Ethiopia are government-affiliated, rarely stray from the government position, and tend to promote government policies and tout development successes. Control of radio is crucial politically given that more than 80 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas, where the radio is still the main medium for news and information. The few private radio stations that cover political events are subjected to editing and approval requirements by local government officials. Broadcasters who deviate from approved content have been harassed, detained, and in many cases forced into exile.

The government has also frequently jammed broadcasts and blocked the websites of foreign and diaspora-based radio and television stations. Staff working for broadcasters face repeated threats and harassment, as well as intimidation of their sources or people interviewed on international media outlets. Even people watching or listening to these services have been arrested.

The government has also used a variety of more subtle but effective administrative and regulatory restrictions such as hampering efforts to form journalist associations, delaying permits and renewals of private publications, putting pressure on the few printing presses and distributors, and linking employment in state media to ruling party membership.

Social media are also heavily restricted, and many blog sites and websites run by Ethiopians in the diaspora areblocked inside Ethiopia. In April, the authorities arrested six people from Zone 9, a blogging collective that provides commentary on social, political, and other events of interest to young Ethiopians, and charged them under the country’s counterterrorism law and criminal code. Their trial, along with other media figures, has been fraught with various due process concerns. On January 14, 2015, it was adjourned for the 16th time and they have now been jailed for over 260 days. The arrest and prosecution of the Zone 9 bloggers has had a wider chilling effect on freedom of expression in Ethiopia, especially among critically minded bloggers and online activists.

The increased media repression will clearly affect the media landscape for the May elections,.

“The government still has time to make significant reforms that would improve media freedoms before the May elections,” Lefkow said. “Amending oppressive laws and freeing jailed journalists do not require significant time or resources, but only the political will for reform.”

Source: Human Rights Watch

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