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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human Rights Watch report on Ethiopia

Events of 2009 (HRW) - Ethiopia is on a deteriorating human rights trajectory as parliamentary elections approach in 2010. These will be the first national elections since 2005, when post-election protests resulted in the deaths of at least 200 protesters, many of them victims of excessive use of force by the police. Broad patterns of government repression have prevented the emergence of organized opposition in most of the country. In December 2008 the government re-imprisoned opposition leader Birtukan Midekssa for life after she made remarks that allegedly violated the terms of an earlier pardon.

In 2009 the government passed two pieces of legislation that codify some of the worst aspects of the slide towards deeper repression and political intolerance. A civil society law passed in January is one of the most restrictive of its kind, and its provisions will make most independent human rights work impossible. A new counterterrorism law passed in July permits the government and security forces to prosecute political protesters and non-violent expressions of dissent as acts of terrorism.

Political Repression and the 2010 Elections As Ethiopia heads toward nationwide elections, the government continues to clamp down on the already limited space for dissent or independent political activity. Ordinary citizens who criticize government policies or officials frequently face arrest on trumped-up accusations of belonging to illegal "anti-peace" groups, including armed opposition movements. Officials sometimes bring criminal cases in a manner that appears to selectively target government critics, as when in June 2009 prominent human rights activist Abebe Worke was charged with illegal importation of radio equipment and ultimately fled the country. In the countryside government-supplied (and donor-funded) agricultural assistance and other resources are often used as leverage to punish and prevent dissent, or to compel individuals into joining the ruling party.

The opposition is in disarray, but the government has shown little willingness to tolerate potential challengers. In December 2008 the security forces re-arrested Birtukan Midekssa, leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, which had begun to build a grassroots following in the capital. The government announced that Birtukan would be jailed for life because she had made public remarks that violated the terms of an earlier pardon for alleged acts of treason surrounding the 2005 elections. The authorities stated that there was no need for a trial as the move was a mere legal technicality.

In July the Ethiopian government passed a new anti-terrorism law. The law provides broad powers to the police, and harsh criminal penalties can be applied to political protesters and others who engage in acts of nonviolent political dissent. Some of its provisions appear tailored less toward addressing terrorism and more toward allowing for a heavy-handed response to mass public unrest, like that which followed Ethiopia's 2005 elections.

Civil Society Activism and Media Freedom

The space for independent civil society activity in Ethiopia, already extremely narrow, shrank dramatically in 2009. In January the government passed a new civil society law whose provisions are among the most restrictive of any comparable law anywhere in the world. The law makes any work that touches on human rights or governance issues illegal if carried out by foreign non-governmental organizations, and labels any Ethiopian organization that receives more than 10 percent of its funding from sources outside of Ethiopia as "foreign." The law makes most independent human rights work virtually impossible, and human rights work deemed illegal under the law is punishable as a criminal offense.

Ethiopia passed a new media law in 2008 that improved upon several repressive aspects of the previous legal regime. The space for independent media activity in Ethiopia remains severely constrained, however. In August two journalists were jailed on charges derived partly from Ethiopia's old, and now defunct, press proclamation. Ethiopia's new anti-terror law contains provisions that will impact the media by making journalists and editors potential accomplices in acts of terrorism if they publish statements seen as encouraging or supporting terrorist acts, or even, simply, political protest.

Pretrial Detention and Torture

The Ethiopian government continues its longstanding practice of using lengthy periods of pretrial and pre-charge detention to punish critics and opposition activists, even where no criminal charges are ultimately pursued. Numerous prominent ethnic Oromo Ethiopians have been detained in recent years on charges of providing support to the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF); in almost none of these cases have charges been pursued, but the accused, including opposition activists, have remained in detention for long periods. Canadian national Bashir Makhtal was convicted on charges of supporting the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in July, after a trial that was widely criticized as unfair; he was in detention for two-and-a-half years before his sentence was handed down, and he was unable to access legal counsel and consular representatives for much of that period.

Not only are periods of pretrial detention punitively long, but detainees and convicted prisoners alike face torture and other ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented consistent patterns of torture in police and military custody for many years. The Ethiopian government regularly responds that these abuses do not exist, but even the government's own Human Rights Commission acknowledged in its 2009 annual report that torture and other abuses had taken place in several detention facilities, including in Ambo and Nekemte.

Impunity for Military Abuses

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) has committed serious abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes or crimes against humanity, in several different conflicts in recent years. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any meaningful efforts to hold the officers or government officials most responsible for those abuses to account. The only government response to crimes against humanity and other serious abuses committed by the military during a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in Gambella in late 2003 and 2004 was an inquiry that prosecuted a handful of junior personnel for deliberate and widespread patterns of abuse. No one has been investigated or held to account for war crimes and other widespread violations of the laws of war during Ethiopia's bloody military intervention in neighboring Somalia from 2006 to 2008.

In August 2008 the Ethiopian government did purport to launch an inquiry into allegations of serious crimes in Somali Regional State, where the armed forces have been fighting a campaign against the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front for many years. The inquiry was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lacked independence, and concluded that no serious abuses took place. To date the government continues to restrict access of independent investigators into the area.

Relations in the Horn of Africa

In August the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission issued its final rulings on monetary damages stemming from the bloody 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nonetheless the two countries remain locked in an intractable dispute about the demarcation of the heavily militarized frontier. Eritrea continues to play a destabilizing role throughout the Horn of Africa through its efforts to undermine and attack the government of Ethiopia wherever possible. The government of President Isayas Afewerki hosts and materially supports fighters from Ethiopian rebel movements, including the Oromo Liberation Front. Eritrea has also pursued a policy of supporting armed opposition groups in Somalia as a way of undermining Ethiopia's support for the country's weak Transitional Federal Government.

Key International Actors

Ethiopia is one of the most aid-dependant countries in the world and received more than US$2 billion in 2009, but its major donors have been unwilling to confront the government over its worsening human rights record. Even as the country slides deeper into repression, the Ethiopian government uses development aid funding as leverage against the donors who provide it-many donors fear that the government would discontinue or scale back their aid programs should they speak out on human rights concerns. This trend is perhaps best exemplified by the United Kingdom, whose government has consistently chosen to remain silent in order to protect its annual £130 million worth of bilateral aid and development programs.

Donors are also fearful of jeopardizing access for humanitarian organizations to respond to the drought and worsening food crisis. Millions of Ethiopians depend on food aid, and the government has sought to minimize the scale of the crisis and restrict access for independent surveys and response.

While Ethiopia's government puts in place measures to control the elections in 2010, many donors have ignored the larger trends and focused instead on negotiating with the government to allow them to send election observers.

A significant shift in donor policy toward Ethiopia would likely have to be led by the US government, Ethiopia's largest donor and most important political ally on the world stage. But President Barack Obama's administration has yet to depart from the policies of the Bush administration, which consistently refused to speak out against abuses in Ethiopia. While the reasons may be different-the current government is not as narrowly focused on security cooperation with Ethiopia as was the Bush administration- thus far the practical results have been the same. The events described above attracted little public protest from the US government in 2009.

Ethiopian rebels play down defections

January 20 (Daily Nation) - A recent defection of 80 Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) fighters to Ethiopian authorities in Northern Kenya will not affect the struggle, OLF says from Asmara.

OLF issued a statement from Eritrean capital Asmara today saying the recent surrender of its 80 fighter forces in northern Kenya was a conspiracy between Ethiopian intelligence and OLF traitors dismissed from the group a year ago.

Those who surrendered to Ethiopian regime are traitors, who had contact with the regime’s intelligence network and had, for a long time, been sources of problems in the area, OLF added.

OLF said, traitors shall not determine the Future of the Oromo Liberation Front or the Destiny of the Oromo Nation. OLF expressed its disappointment on the report on January 14, 2010 on the issue from the ground.

“It’s misleading and unbalanced” the rebel group said.  OLF is fighting with Ethiopian governments since 1970s for independence and autonomy mainly based in northern Kenya and Eastern Ethiopia regions.

Now days OLF senior officials based in Ethiopia’s arch foe Eritrea

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Traitors shall not determine the Future of the Oromo Liberation Front or the Destiny of the Oromo Nation

                                     Statement of the Oromo Liberation Front

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is prompted to issue this statement in response to misleading information published in the Daily Nation of January 14, 2010 regarding the defection of Mr. Licho Bukhura and conspirators, who on January 13, 2010, officially surrendered to the tyrannical TPLF regime of Ethiopia.

Let it be known to all that Licho Bukhura, Abdataa Baasiree and collaborators had established contact with the TPLF spy network and had been trying to form a splinter group and were consequently expelled from the organization on October 31, 2008. Responsible journalism, fairness and the need to provide balanced news to readers and/or audience require full coverage of the issues under consideration. In this regards, the Nation Media Group Reporter only reported a one sided erroneous information instead of contacting the OLF and obtaining a balanced information; that some members of the OLF surrendered to the TPLF regime.

Those who surrendered to the TPLF regime are traitors, who had contact with the tyrannical minority regime’s intelligence network and had, for a long time, been sources of problems in the area. Surrendering to the regime only makes their collaboration official.

To show to their spy handlers that they persuaded a significant number of the Oromo Liberation Fighters to surrender, the ringleaders of the defection, Licho Bukhura and Abdataa Baasiree, managed to collect their recruited of about fifty unarmed Oromo youth from the locality, deceived few fighters and shamefully paraded with them in front TPLF TV reporters. They claimed that they are the last remaining OLF fighters. It was obvious that the whole show was planned and coordinated by TPLF government intelligence agents as part of the forthcoming sham election’s propaganda campaign of the regime. We would like to assure all concerned that, the OLF Army in the South, East and Western Oromia is intact and will continue to discharge its national duty until the liberation of the Oromo nation from the tyranny is achieved.

The reason for the formation and persistence of the OLF is the political, economic and sociocultural situation of the Oromo nation in Ethiopia; where the Oromo people have forcibly been deprived of political power in their own country, lost control of their natural resources and subjected to suppression, humiliation, subjugation, marginalization, exploitation, gross violation of their fundamental human rights and freedoms and the relegation to a status of second class citizenship. The objective of the Oromo National Liberation struggle led by the OLF is to undo the status quo that the Oromo nation is consigned to in Ethiopia. Among the indispensable preconditions for peace and stability in the Horn is the Liberation of the Oromo nation. It is foolhardy to believe that the defection of a few traitors is the end of the Oromo liberation struggle.

The surrender of the whole battalion of TPLF fighters during the war with the Dergue regime did not change the course of war between TPLF and the Dergue. Similarly, this as well, will not change the course of the Oromo people’s Struggle. Traitor’s of the Oromo liberation struggle have betrayed commitment to their
people and organization and also have sold out pride for monetary gains. The traitors sold their pride and chose to serve the regime than continuing the struggle with the Oromo Nation that is yearning for liberation and justice. As such traitors do not represent the aspiration of the Oromo people for liberation, freedom, equality and justice. Traitors shall not determine the future of the OLF or the destiny of the Oromo Nation. The future of the Oromo nation shall only be determined by the Oromo nation and its true sons and daughters who are committed to its national liberation.

Victory to the Oromo People!

Oromo Liberation Front

January 18, 2010

Map of oromia

Map of oromia