Joint Appeal Letter of OYSA, OCO, OSA, HRLHA and OSG on Eviction of Oromo Farmers and Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia
August 02, 2013
Secretary of State of the United States
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Honorable Secretary,
We the undersigned associations, namely: the Oromo Youth Self-help Association (OYSA), the Oromo Community Organization (OCO) of Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA), and the Oromia Support Group (OSG) are a diverse group of scholarly, community and human rights organizations focusing on Ethiopia, particularly Oromia, the Oromo regional state in Ethiopia. We are writing this joint appeal letter to you to express our deep concern about the widespread human rights violations that continue unabated in Ethiopia and to request that the U.S. Department of State, under your able leadership, uses its enormous influence with the government of Ethiopia to stop its arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, tortures and killings of innocent Oromos and other peoples of Ethiopia. The Oromo, who constitute more than forty percent of the population of Ethiopia, have been the target of attack by the minority Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) dominating the Ethiopian regime for over two decades.
Pressure Ethiopia to Stop Killing and Evicting Oromo Farmers from their Ancestral Lands
On July 7, 2013 three innocent Oromo civilians namely: Mr. Ibrahim Henno (age 38), Mr. Mahammed Musa (age 26) and Mr. Mohammed Yusuf (age 27) were killed and two others – Mr. Nuredin Ismael (age 25) and Mr. Ali Mohammed (age 27) wounded in Eastern Oromia’s Regional State, in Ethiopia in a violence that involved the Federal Government’s special force known as Liyyu Police. According to the Human Rights League of Horn of Africa, the three dead victims of this most recent attack by Liyyu Police took place in Gaara-Wallo area in Qumbi District of Eastern Hararge Province in Eastern Ethiopia. The two wounded victims of this same violent action have since been treated at the Hiwot Fana Hospital in the city of Harar. More shocking was that the bodies of the three dead victims were eaten by hyenas, because there was nobody around to pick and bury them as the whole village had been abandoned when the Liyu Police forced the villagers to leave the area.
The Ethiopian government-backed violence that has been going on in the name of border dispute around the Anniya, Jarso and Miyesso districts between the Oromia and Ogaden regional states has already resulted in the death of 40 Oromo nationals and the displacement of more than 20,000 others along with looting of their cattle and valuable possessions.
In January 2013, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, Claire Beston told the Guardian, “There have been repeated allegations against the Liyu police of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and other violations including destruction of villages and there is no doubt that the special police have become a significant source of fear in the region.” In a similar dispute last May, the Voice of Americareported that at least five Oromos were killed in an inter-ethnic clash near the town of Dabus, Bidigilu county in the Benishangul Gumuz region. Manasibu county administrator in West Wollaga zone, Mr. Malkamu Tujuba, confirmed the death of civilians and destruction of properties to the VOA’s Afan Oromo program.
Oromo Political Refugees need UNHCR protection
Oromo Political refugees in Egypt who fled tyranny and subjugation in Ethiopia are facing another round of attack and human right abuse from Egyptians, who have been angry at the construction of the renaissance dam on the Nile River by Ethiopia. The UNHCR and Egyptian government couldn’t provide protection to these political refugees per the UN convention. Consequently, on July 6, 2013, one young Oromo was attacked by a knife as he and his friend were looking for dinner. His friend survived the knife attack by running away.
On May 22, 2013 nine Oromo/Ethiopian refugees were arrested in front of the UNHCR Office, Djibouti branch, where they had been for the renewal of their refugee identification cards. The families and friends of those refugees have not been able to see and/or communicate with them since they were arrested and detained. Based on related past experiences and the involvement of Ethiopian security agents in the arrest and detention of those refugees, there is a high level of fear that the government of Djibouti might deport the detained refugees back to Ethiopia exposing them to detention, torture and death. Similar human rights abuses have been reported on Oromo refugees in Yemen.
Pressure Ethiopia to Release Oromo Political Prisoners in Ethiopia
In May 2013 six Oromo civilians and artists were incarcerated by the TPLF security agents from their respective homes and work places. They are Tesfaye Lammuu, Addisu Mengistu/Karrayyu (Artist), Dasse Lamu, Birraa Margaa, Dhaba Abdulqadir, and Shasho Idosa.
On November 1, 2012, two well-respected Oromo opposition politicians, Mr. Bekele Gerba (professor) and Mr. Olbana Lelisa, along with seven other Oromo nationals, Welbeka Lemi, Adem Busa, Hawa Wako, Mohamed Melu, Dereje Ketema, Addisu Mikre and Gelgelo Gufa were convicted and later sentenced to long term imprisonment under the charge of “working underground to secede Oromia from the federal government” and other concocted charges after being kept in jail for more than a year. The two opposition leaders were arrested in August 2011 after speaking with Amnesty International officials.
Dear Honorable Secretary,
Over the past 21 years, the TPLF-led and dominated Ethiopian government, has imprisoned tens of thousands of political opposition and citizens, mainly Oromos. As the result of the government’s repressive policies, thousands of innocent citizens have been languishing in prisons and secret camps, and many have been severely tortured, deformed and/or killed. Others have been abducted and made to disappear. Hundreds have been murdered in broad day-light. Well respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and US State Department’s own annual reports have documented rampant arrests, unlawful killings, abductions, tortures and other human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government. These reports are consistent with our own reports and direct experiences. We are frustrated because, despite these glaring facts, Ethiopia’s allies and Western donors are reluctant to restrain the government and halt its flagrant human rights abuses. Some donors even go on record to support the government’s wrong claim that Ethiopia is “on the road to democracy.” It is troubling that despite these well documented human rights abuses, the Ethiopian government continues receiving billions of dollars of aid money every year. Using over one third of its budget from foreign aid, Ethiopia has built one of the biggest and best-equipped armies in Africa, while millions of its citizens seek food aid. In fact, the aid money is used to impose the Tigrayan dictatorship and autocratic regime on Oromos and other peoples in a multinational society.
Observing the painful agony and sufferings of the ordinary people and the political prisoners, we specifically request that you and the US government:
- Use your influence and international responsibilities to force the Ethiopian Government to stop the killing of Oromo nationals, bring the violence to end and facilitate the return of the displaced Oromos back to their homes.
- Use your influence and international responsibilities to force the minority regime in Ethiopia to stop the politically motivated eviction of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land and illegal selling of Oromo land immediately.
- Use your enormous influence to put political, economic and diplomatic pressures upon the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release Mr. Bekele Gerba, Mr. Olbana Lelisa and thousands of Oromo political prisoners.
- Influence the Ethiopian government to respect the current Ethiopian constitution and stop the regime’s extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention of innocent people without trial.
- Insist on the unconditional release of all political prisoners before providing economic aid to the regime.
- Demand that the regime is committed to respecting human rights of the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia and allow freedom of expression and assembly.
- Demand the repeal of all new laws that violate the fundamental freedom of citizens: particularly the so called Anti-terrorism Law, Press Law, the current law that prevents charitable organizations from freely moving in the country and the most recent law that criminalizes the usage of Skype and other media tools.
- Demand that the regime respect freedom of religion and stop interfering in religious affairs.
Finally, we believe that unless international donors, mainly the US government, use their leverage and make meaningful pressure, the Ethiopian government will continue with political repression of the Oromo and other nations and nationalities. Therefore, we humbly request you to exert your energy and diplomatic skills to create conducive political environment for establishment of the rule of law in Ethiopia. We earnestly believe that as America’s top diplomat and principal voice on international issues, you have an extraordinary opportunity to alleviate the incredible human sufferings of the Oromo and other peoples in Ethiopia. We thank you for your interest in the wellbeing of the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia.
Chairman, Oromo Youth Self-help Association (OYSA)
6212 3rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20011
Desta Yebassa, Ph.D.
Board President, Oromo Community Organization (OCO) of Washington D.C. Metropolitan area
6212 3rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20011
Mosisa Aga, Ph.D.
President, Oromo Studies Association (OSA)
P.O Box 32391, Fridley, MN 55432
Director, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA)
994 Pharmacy Avenue, M1R 2G7, Toronto, ON, Canada
Dr. Trevor Trueman
Director, Oromia Support Group (OSG)
60 Westminster Rd, Malvern, WR14 4ES, UK
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Tel: (202) 395-2020
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt
Tele: +41 22 739 8111