Ethiopia unveiled Friday the first phase of a space exploration program, which includes East Africa’s largest observatory designed to promote astronomy research in the region. Once Jommo Kenyta in 1960’s said ” the Europeans showing as the heavens took our lands”. The Ethiopian regime today letting the land of the people to be grabbed claimed started exploring the heavens, when 80% of Ethiopians do not eat a full meal in a day.
The so called “The optical astronomical telescope is mainly intended for astronomy and astrophysics observation research,” said observatory director Solomon Belay.
The observatory, which will formally be opened on Saturday, boasts two telescopes, each one meter (over three feet) wide, to see “extra planets, different types of stars, the Milky Way, and deep galaxies,” Solomon added.
The 3.4 million dollar (2.5 million euro) observatory, run by the Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS), is funded by Ethiopian-Saudi business tycoon Mohammed Alamoudi enriched selling Ethiopian Gold and fertile land to the international speculators.
The observatory, 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) above sea level in the lush Entoto mountains on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, is an ideal location because of its minimal cloud cover, moderate winds and low humidity, experts said.
When established in 2004, ESSS was labelled as the “Crazy People’s Club”, according to the group, but has gained credibility in the past decade with astronomy courses introduced at universities and winning increased political support.
The Ethiopian government is set to launch a space policy in coming years.
Solomon said the group originally faced sceptics in Ethiopia and abroad, who questioned whether space exploration was a wise use of resources in one of Africa’s poorest economies, plagued in the past by chronic famine and unrest.
But Solomon said promoting science is key to the development in Ethiopia, today one of Africa’s fastest growing economies largely based on agriculture.
“If the economy is strongly linked with science, then we can transform a poor way of agriculture into industrialization and into modern agriculture,” he said.
The ESSS is now looking to open a second observatory 4,200 metres (13,800 feet) above sea level in the mountainous northern town of Lalibela, also the site of the largest cluster of Ethiopia’s ancient rock-hewn churches.
Photographs from the ESSS show scientists with testing equipment looking for the best site to put the next telescope on the green and remote peaks, as local villagers wrapped in traditional white blankets watch on curiously, sitting outside their thatch hut homes.
Solomon hopes to boost “astronomy tourism” among space fans interested in coming to one of the least likely countries in the world to boast a space programme, an added economic benefit.
The country will also launch its first satellite in the next three years, ESSS said, to study meteorology and boost telecommunications.
Ethiopia is not the first African nation to look to the skies; South Africa has its own National Space Agency, and in 2009 the African Union announced plans to establish The African Space Agency.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, has also called for a continent-wide space program .
Solomon said while the next several years will be about boosting research and data collection, along with promoting a strong local and regional interest in astronomy, he is not ruling out sending an Ethiopian into space one day.
They speak of democracy, but act violently to suppress dissenting voices and control the people through the inculcation of fear: they ignore human rights and trample on the people, they are a tyrannical wolf in democratic sheep’s clothing, causing suffering and misery to thousands of people throughout Ethiopia. The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government repeatedly scoffs at international law and consistently acts in violation of their own Federal constitution – a liberal document written by the regime to please and deceive their foreign supporters. They have enacted laws of repression: the widely condemned Charities and Societies (ATD) law (CSO law) and the Anti Terrorism Declaration, which is the main tool of political control, together with
The ‘Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation’ they form a formidable unjust arsenal of government control. Freedom of the media (which is largely ‘state-owned’) is denied and political dissent is all but outlawed.
Against this repressive backdrop, the Semayawi (Blue) party, a new opposition group, organized peaceful protests on the 2nd June in Addis Ababa. Ten thousand or so people marched through the capital demanding the release of political prisoners, “respect for the constitution” and Justice! Justice! Justice! It was (Reuters 2/06/2013 reported), an “anti-Government procession…. the first large-scale protest since a disputed 2005 election ended in street violence that killed 200 people”, a ‘disputed election’ result that was discredited totally by European Union observers and denounced by opposition groups and large swathes of the population.
The Chairman of the Semayawi Party, Yilekal Getachew, told Reuters, “We have repeatedly asked the government to release political leaders, journalists and those who asked the government not to intervene in religious affairs”. In keeping with the recent worldwide movement for freedom and social justice, he stated that, “if these questions are not resolved and no progress is made in the next three months, we will organize more protests. It is the beginning of our struggle”. To the disappointment of many and the surprise of nobody, the government has made no attempt to ‘resolve’ the questions raised, and true to their word a second demonstration was planned for 1st September in Addis Ababa. In the event, as the BBC report, around “100 members of Ethiopia’s opposition Semayawi (Blue) party were arrested and some badly beaten”, and “equipment such as sound systems were confiscated”, ahead of the planned rally, which was banned by the EPRDF. Government justification formed, and a cock and bull story was duly constructed with Communication Minister Shimeles Kemal stating “the venue [for Semayawi’s event) had already been booked by a pro-government group condemning religious extremism”.
Non-interference in religious affairs is one of the key demands of the Semayawi party, a demand based upon the constitutional commitment of religious independence from the State, which Muslim groups claim the government has violated. Enraged by government interference in all matters religious, the Muslim community have organised regular small-scale protests and sit-ins in the capital for the last two years. In early August, Reuters 8/08/2013 reported “Demonstrators chanted “Allahu Akbar” and hoisted banners that read “respect the constitution”, referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council”. Around 40% of Ethiopia’s population (around 85 million) are Muslim, for generations they have lived amicably with their Orthodox Christians neighbours, who make up the majority in the country; they are moderate in their beliefs and peaceful in their ways. The EPRDF in contrast are violent, intolerant and ideologically driven; ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ being the particular tune to which the democratic dictatorship hums and drums its partisan rule.
The government’s response to the peaceful demonstrations, has unsurprisingly been intolerant and dismissive; their comments inflammatory and predictable, stating Mail@Guardian 14/07/2013 record, “most of these demonstrators are Islamic extremists”, and showing their own ‘extreme’ tendencies, authoritively declaring that “the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by “extremists” [this time] overseas”. Duplicitous nonsense, which serves to distract attention from the underlying issues being raised and the imperative (and legal requirement) for the government to act in accordance with its own constitution.
Along with such disingenuous comments the regime has responded to the protests in a repressive manner; imprisoning Muslims calling for justice, causing Amnesty International 8/08/2013 to be “extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia… of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters”, Amnesty demand that the “on-going repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now”. Despite the fact that the protests have been peaceful and good-natured the regime has consistently described the protesters as violent terrorists, in February the ‘Holy War Movement’ was shown on State Television, it presented protestors and those arrested (including journalists), as terrorists. And in a clear violation of people’s constitutional right to protest, the regime has threatened to take firm action against further protests.
Whilst the majority of actions during the last two years have been without incident, protests in Kofele in the Oromia region on 8th August ended in “the deaths of an unconfirmed number”, there have also been reports of large numbers of people being arrested in Kofele and Addis Ababa, including two journalists. Following the Kofele deaths Amnesty called for “an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the events in Kofele, as well as into the four incidents last year which resulted in the deaths and injuries of protestors”. Legitimate demands which the regime has duly ignored.
The EPRDF does not tolerate any independent media coverage within the country and indeed does all it can to control the flow of information out of Ethiopia and restrict totally dissenting voices. And they don’t care who the journalist is working for, key allies or diaspora media; In October 2012 a reporter from the Voice of America (VOA) covering a protest in Anwar Mosque in Addis was arrested and told to erase her recorded interviews, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report. This was not the first time a VOA journalist had been detained. “They are criminalizing journalism,” said Martin Schibbye a Swedish freelance journalist who was jailed [in 2011] along with a colleague for more than 14 months in Ethiopia”, for entering the Ogaden region. A heavily militarized area where wide ranging human rights violations constituting crimes against humanity are taking place, which has been hidden from the International media and aid organisations since 2007. Fearing imprisonment, many journalists have left Ethiopia, CPJ report that in 2012, along with Eritrea, it was were Africa’s ‘top jailer’ of journalists”, coming in eighth worldwide.
Unjust Laws of Control
In July last year, hundreds of protesting Muslims peacefully demanding that the government stop interfering in their religious affairs and allow them to vote freely for representatives on the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). Most were released, but 29 members of the protest committee were charged on 29th October under the universally criticized Anti Terrorist Declaration (ATD), accused of “intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause” by force, and the “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of terrorist acts.” Their arrest has been slammed by human rights groups as well as the United States Commission on religious Freedom, who “are deeply concerned that Ethiopia’s government is seeking to silence peaceful religious freedom proponents by detaining and trying them in secret under trumped-up terrorism charges. They should be released now and their trials halted”. The men claim to have been “tortured and experienced other ill-treatment in detention”.
The ambiguous ATD was introduced in 2009 and has been used by the Ethiopian government, “to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) state. It violates dues process, which like a raft of other internationally recognized and legally binding rights, is enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution. The legislation cause outrage amongst human rights groups and the right minded when it was proposed. HRW (30/06/2009) said of the draft law, (which un-amended found its way onto the statute books) that it would “permit the government to repress a wide range of internationally protected freedoms”, – precisely the reason for it’s introduction, and it provides “the Ethiopian government with a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations and public criticisms of government policy”.
The unjust law allows for long-tem imprisonment and the death penalty for so called crimes that meet some EPRDF definition of terrorism, and denies in some cases a defendants right to be presumed innocent – the bedrock of the international judicial system. Torture is used without restraint by the military and police, under the ATD evidence obtained whilst a prisoner is being beaten, hanged, whipped or drowned is admissible in court, this criminal act contravenes Article 15 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (ratified by Ethiopia in 1994), which ‘requires that any statement made as a result of torture is inadmissible as evidence’. Terrorism is indeed an issue of grave concern in Ethiopia, it is not rooted in the Muslim community, the media, the Blue Party or the Universities, it is State Terrorism that stalks this land, that kills and falsely imprisons, tortures and rapes the innocent, it is the EPRDF; the rebel group that ousted a communist dictator in 1991 only to take up his tyrannical mantle, who manipulate the law to serve their repressive rule and who violates a plethora of human rights, consistently and with impunity. Ethiopia’s donors and international friends, (primarily America and Britain) have other, larger fish on their minds, and even though they give the country over a third of its federal budget they seem unconcerned by the criminality being committed, much of which is taking place under the cloak of development. Violent rule however is a storm that is imploding throughout the world, the people, who have suffered long enough, sense their collective strength and are awakening.
Need for Unity
Although completely contrary to the EPRDF’s pledge of Federal Federalism, divide and rule is the effective methodology of division employed by the regime. In a country with dozens of tribal groups, various ethnicities and different religious beliefs (Islam and Christianity), unity is the key to any popular social revolution, much needed and ardently longed for by millions throughout the land. We are witnessing a worldwide protest movement for change; age-old values of freedom, equality and social justice, brotherhood and peace are the clarion call of many marching and protesting. And so it is in Ethiopia, the Blue party and other opposition groups, the Muslim community and the students on the streets demanding Justice! Justice! Jusitce! are in harmony with the rhythm of the times. Out of step and blind to the needs of the people and their rightful demands, the ruling party acts with violence to drown out their voices and suppress their rights: in Addis Ababa, where thousands marched in June, in Oromia and the Ogaden, where the people seek autonomy, in Amhara, where thousands have been displaced, in Gambella and the Lower Omo Valley, where native people are being driven off their ancestral land into state created villages, women raped and men beaten.
Unity is the song of the day, rich with diversity united in intent, the collective will of the people of Ethiopia and indeed throughout the world is an unstoppable force for change. All steps need to be taken to remove the obstacle to the realization of unity throughout the country, ethnic prejudices and tribal differences; all need to be laid aside. The Ethiopian regime may succeed in subduing the movement for change that is simmering throughout the country, however with sustained unified action, peacefully undertaken and relentlessly expressed, freedom and social justice, longed for by millions throughout the country, will surely come.
A colony for 50 years, federated , Unified to Ethiopia , in 1991’s seceded after three decades of rebellion. Since 1998 Eritrea is at War, harboring proxy warriors especially the notorious Al- Shabab. Torture ,imprisonment , thousands fleeing, no religious freedom , the only university is closed, everybody is in the army, No Parliament, No election, No functioning institution, No free press & all living journalists are in prison. Eritrea is called the North Korea of Africa.
D Eritrea Special Rapporteur – 20th Meeting 23rd Regular Session of Human Rights Council
Interactive dialogue with:
– Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea Interactive dialogue with:
– Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea A/HRC/23/53
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
20th Plenary Meeting – 23rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council.
The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 20/20. It is based upon the initial observations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and information gathered from a variety of other sources, including Eritrean refugees interviewed during a field mission to neighbouring countries from 30 April to 9 May 2013. In the report, the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of the most serious human rights concerns in Eritrea, including cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, indefinite national service, and lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement. She addresses a number of recommendations to Eritrea and the international community aimed at improving respect for human rights in the country.
- Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi (L) wins the women’s 1500 metres final at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 15, 2013. (AFP)
Yesterday the 13th of August 2013 at about 20:00 PM CET
About 11 Armed Shabia Surrogates attacked EPPF fighters in South Eastern part of Lake Tana, infiltrating from Sudan through the Eastern Part of Ambo area.
The outcome of the confrontation:
• 5 Shabia surrogates killed 3 wounded and caught;
• 3 EPPF Fighters were martyred 9 wounded.
The Fight lasted for 1 Hour 30 minutes
EPPF information Center
August 14, 2013
East of Tana
“The truth is I didn’t think too much about the race last night. I slept. My coach called me and said: ‘what are you doing? ’ I didn’t think about the race, I just focused on getting rest.”
This is the man who inflicted two rare defeats upon the mighty David Rudisha, the only ones he suffered in 2011 and 2012, who is resting a knee injury, beating the Kenyan World record holder in Zurich last year and in Milan the year before.
Unfortunately for the teenage Ethiopian, the absence of the world record holder and Olympic champion has been noticed by some aficionados who erroneously believe that his gold medal has been somewhat devalued.
Moments after the semi-finals in Moscow, Aman responded to these comments.
“I am very sad for him because injuries are very hard on athletes,” he said. “I am very sorry for him, but I don’t do sport for Rudisha, though, I do it for me. I didn’t say that because Rudisha is not involved, that the gold is for me. I didn’t say that because there are some very strong athletes here.”
Aman will have to wait until Thursday to gets his hands on his prize. Moscow 2013 organisers have scheduled his awards ceremony then because there is no evening session on Wednesday.
The impending celebration will also have to wait as he plans to wrap up his 2013 Diamond Race title in Brussels on 6 September before heading home.
“After Brussels I will go directly to see my mum,” he said with a huge smile.
“She saw me run in Daegu and then London. She expects me to win and I didn’t. Now it is my time so I will go directly to my mum and see my family and celebrate there. My mum, my dad and also other Ethiopians we have traditional ways to celebrate with a party.”
Aman has a firm grip on the Diamond Race. Victory in Brussels would cap off one brilliant season for a history making Ethiopian, and perhaps make it an even bigger party in Assela early next month when he finally returns home.
Paul Gains for the IAAF
“I am jailed, with around 200 other inmates, in a wide hall that looks like a warehouse. For all of us, there are only three toilets. Most of the inmates sleep on the floor, which has never been swept. About 1,000 prisoners share the small open space here at Kaliti Prison. One can guess our fate if a communicable disease breaks out.”
So began a powerful polemic published in the New York Times last month by Eskinder Nega, one of Ethiopia‘s best-known journalists. Last year, under sweeping anti-terror laws used to silence critics of a repressive regime, he was given an 18-year sentence for daring to write about the Arab Spring and suggesting something similar could happen in his own country without reform.
Nega has been imprisoned nine times for his journalism. His wife has also been locked up, forced to give birth to their son behind bars. Their case highlights how Ethiopia might be a donor darling of the west, but it is run by a ruthless government that does not tolerate dissent. Journalists are routinely jailed, while dozens more fled the country and scores of papers have been shut down – 72 over the past two decades, according to one estimate.
Nega’s courage and incarceration highlight the dangers of journalism in parts of Africa, where in too many places dubious laws, deadly violence and direct intimidation are used to stop investigations and stifle criticism. In countries such as Somalia and Zimbabwe, dedicated reporters doing their job risk their lives and liberty daily; last month, I worked with a journalist in Harare who constantly checked his car mirrors for security squads.
You might expect the continent’s media owners and managers to take a strong stand in defence of media freedom. Instead, they have decided to hold their flagship annual convention – the largest such gathering in Africa – in Addis Ababa, just a few miles down the road from where journalists languish in jail.
The African Media Initiative (AMI) – which has been handed British aid in the past – naively calls this constructive engagement, ignoring the reality of a one-party regime renowned for its rigidity.
The AMI brushed aside complaints from exiled Ethiopian journalists. Zerihun Tesfaye, one of eight staff on a paper forced to flee overnight after threats from security forces, told me the decision insulted all those fighting tyranny by rewarding a country where independent journalism is equated with terrorism. He is right.
The AMI also ignored concerns from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which held meetings with organisers after complaining about the Ethiopian regime’s “iron grip on the media and hostile rhetoric against press freedom“.
The obstinacy of an organisation claiming a mission to empower citizens to hold governments to account is tragic; the event is even called, with no obvious sense of irony, Media and the African Renaissance. Not only does its complicity with such an authoritarian state betray those working for their publications, websites and stations. It also fails a continent in which both professional and citizen journalism is playing an increasingly crucial role in civil society despite cash restraints and often-challenging circumstances.
Many parts of Africa remain a difficult place to be a journalist, whether for financial, legal or security reasons. It is easy to list the bad examples: Nigeria, where the authorities continue to use coercion against reporters, responsible for more than 90 cases of assault and intimidation last year alone. Eritrea, the most censored country in the world, with close to 30 editors and journalists held in secret prisons. Or supposedly-democratic Zambia, where independent websites are being blocked and their staff harassed.
But there are also little-heralded causes for optimism, and not just in nations such as Mali, Niger and Senegal that have long enjoyed a lively media; indeed, the media in Mali’s capital Bamako remained unshackled even after last year’s coup. Anti-media laws have been rolled back in Malawi and Uganda, while technology is liberating a generation of new voices even in some of the most perilous places. The recent election campaign in Zimbabwe was enlivened by an anonymous blogger revealing a stream of sensitive government gossip, infuriating Robert Mugabe.
Many of the issues confronting the media are the same the world over, with tight resources and tussles over state control. But after suffering so badly as a result of colonialism and collateral damage from the cold war, Africa needs strong voices to shape its own narrative and shrug off the old stereotypes as it emerges into a more peaceful, prosperous future. Instead of cuddling up to states seeking to silence such vital voices, media owners and their managers should be fighting for free expression and standing by brave journalists risking everything for their job, their causes and their continent’s future.
Ian Birrell is a former deputy editor of the Independent and co-founder of Africa Express
By Graham Peebles
To many people land is much more than a resource or corporate commodity to be bought developed and sold for a profit. Identity, cultural history and livelihood are all connected to ‘place’. The erosion of traditional values and morality (which include the observation of human rights and environmental responsibility) are some of the many negative effects of the global neo-liberal economic model, with its focus on short-term gain and material benefit. The commercialization of everything and everybody has become the destructive goal of multi-nationals, and their corporate governments manically driven by the desire for perpetual growth as the elixir to life’s problems.
Land for profit
Since the ‘food crisis in 2008’ agricultural land in developing countries has been in high demand. Seen as a sound financial investment by foreign brokers and agrochemical firms, and as a way to create food security for their home market by corporations from Asia and the Middle East in particular.
Three quarters of worldwide land acquisitions have taken place in Sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty ridden and economically vulnerable countries (many run by governments with poor human rights records) are ‘encouraged’ to attract foreign investment by donor partners and their international guides. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and donor partners, powerful institutions that by “supporting the creation of investment-friendly climates and land markets in developing countries” have been a driving force behind the global rush for agricultural land, the Oakland Institute (OI) report in Unheard Voices (UV)[i].
Poor countries make easy pickings for multi-nationals negotiating deals for prime land at giveaway prices and with all manner of government sweeteners. Contracts sealed without consultation with local people, which lack transparency and accountability, have virtually no benefit for the ‘host’ country (certainly none for indigenous groups), and as Oxfam[ii] make clear “have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods”.
Ethiopia is a prime target for investors looking to acquire agricultural land. Since 2008 The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government has leased almost 4 million hectares, for commercial farm ventures. Land is cheap – they are virtually giving it away, tax is non-existent and profits (like the food grown) are smoothly repatriated. Local people are swept aside by a government unconcerned with human rights and the observation of federal, or international, law. A perfect environment then, where shady deals can be done and large corporate profits made. In their desperation to be seen as one of the ‘growth gang’ and “to make way for agricultural land investments”, the Ethiopian government has “committed egregious human rights abuses, in direct violation of international law,” OI state.
Forced from home
Bordering South Sudan the fertile Gambella region (where 42% of land is available), with its lush vegetation and flowing rivers, is where the majority of land sales in the country have taken place. Deals in the region are made possible by the EPRDF’s ‘villagisation programme’. This is forcibly clearing indigenous people off ancestral land and herding them into State created villages. The plan has been intensely criticised by human rights groups, and rightly so – 1.5 million people nationwide are destined to be re-settled, 225,000 (over three years) from Gambella.
More concerned to be seen as corporate buddy than guardian of the people, the Ethiopian government guarantees investors that it will clear land leased of everything and everyone. It has an obligation, OI says, to “deliver and hand over the vacant possession of leased land free of impediments”, swept clear of people, villages, forests and wildlife, and fully plumbed into local water supplies. Bulldozers are destroying the “farms, and grazing lands that have sustained Anuak, Mezenger, Nuer, Opo, and Komo peoples for centuries”, Cultural Survival (CS)[iii] records: and dissent, should it occur, is brutally dealt with by the government, that promises to “provide free security against any riot, disturbance or any turbulent time”. (OI) ‘Since you do not accept what government says, we jail you.’” The elder told from Batpul village told Human Rights Watch (HRW) [iv]. He was jailed without charge in Abobo, and held for more than two weeks, during which time “they turned me upside down, tied my legs to a pole, and beat me every day for 17 days until I was released”.
Hundreds of thousands of villagers, including pastoralists and indigenous people are being forcibly moved by the regime, HRW reports, they are “relocating them through violence and intimidation, and often without essential services,” such as education (denying children ‘the right to education’), water, and health care facilities – public services promised to the people and championed to donor countries by the government in their programme rhetoric.
Murder, rape, false imprisonment and torture are (reportedly) being committed by the Ethiopian military as they implement the federal governments policy of land clearance and re-settlement in accordance with its villagisation programme. ”My village was forced by the government to move to the new location against our will. I refused and was beaten and lost my two upper teeth”. This Anuak man told the NGO Inclusive Development International (IDI)[v], His brother “was beaten to death by the soldiers for refusing to go to the new village. My second brother was detained and I don’t know where he was taken by the soldiers”.
To the Anuak People, who are the majority tribal group in the affected areas, their land is who they are. It’s where the material to build their homes is found it’s their source of traditional medicines and food. It’s where their ancestors are buried and where their history rests. By driving these people off their land and into large settlements or camps, the government is not only destroying their homes, in which they have lived for generations, it is stealing their identity. Indigenous people tell of violent intimidation, beatings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in military custody, rape and extra-judicial killing. State criminality breaching a range of international and indeed federal laws, that Genocide Watch (GW)[vi] consider “to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres”, against the Anuak, as well as the people of Oromia, Omo and the Ogaden region.
The Ethiopian government is legally bound to obtain the ‘free, informed and prior consent’ of the indigenous people it plans to move. Far from obtaining consent, Niykaw Ochalla in Unheard Voices, states that, “when [the government] comes to take their land, it is without their knowledge, and in fact [the government] says that they no longer belonged to this land, [even though] the Anuak have owned it for generations”. Consultation, consent and compensation the ‘three c’s required by federal and international law. Constitutional duties and legal requirements, which like a raft of other human rights obligations the regime dutifully ignores. Nyikaw Ochalla confirms that “there is “no consultation at all”, sometimes people are warned they have to move, but just as often OI found the military “instruct people to get up and move the same day”. And individuals receive no compensation “for their loss of livelihood and land”. In extensive research The Oakland Institute “did not find any instances of government compensation being paid to indigenous populations evicted from their lands”, this despite binding legal requirements to do so.
‘Waiting here for death’
The picture of state intimidation in Gambella is a familiar one. Refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, recount stories of the same type of abuse, indeed as do people from Oromia and the Lower Omo valley. Tried and tested Government methodology used to enforce repressive measures and create fear amongst the people. “The first mission for all the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us”, a former commander of the Liyuu police told me. And to achieve this crushing end, they are told “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals”. From a wealth of information collated by HRW and the OI, it is clear that the Ethiopian military in Gambella is following the same criminal script as their compatriots in the Ogaden region.
We were at home on our farm, a 17-year-old girl from Abobo in Gambella (whose story echoes many), told HRW[vii] “when soldiers came up to us: ‘Do you accept to be relocated or not?’ ‘No.’ So they grabbed some of us. ‘Do you want to go now?’ ‘No.’ Then they shot my father and killed him”; a villager from Gooshini, now in exile in South Sudan, described how those in his settlement “that resisted…. were forced by soldiers to roll around in the mud in a stagnant water pool then beaten”.
The new settlements that make up the villagisation programme, are built on land that is “typically dry and arid”, completely unsuitable for farming and miles from water supplies, which are reserved for the industrial farms being constructed on fertile ancestral land. The result is increased food insecurity leading in some cases to starvation. HRW documented cases of people being forced off their land during the “harvest season, preventing them from harvesting their crops”. With such levels of cruelty and inhumanity the people feel desperate as one displaced individual told Human Rights Watch, “The government is killing our people through starvation and hunger . . . we are just waiting here for death”.
And should families try to leave the new settlement (something they are discouraged from doing) and return to their village homes, the government destroys them totally, burning houses and bulldozing the land. “The government brought the Anuak people here to die. They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back,” HRW record in ‘Waiting Here for Death’[viii]. People forced into the new villages are fearful of government assault, parents “are afraid to send their children to school because of the increased army presence. Parents worry that their children will be assaulted”. (UV)
In the face of such government atrocities the people feel powerless; but like many suffering injustice throughout the world, they are awakening demanding justice and the observation of fundamental human rights. “We don’t have any means of retrieving our land” Mr.O from the village of Pinykew in Gambella, told The Guardian (22/01/2013)[ix]. “Villagers have been butchered, falsely arrested and tortured, the women subjected to mass rape”. Enraged by such atrocities, he is bringing what could be a landmark legal case against Britain’s Department for International Development (DfiD). Leigh Day & Co, solicitors based in London, have taken the case, “arguing that money from DfiD is funding the villagisation programme”, that “breaches the department’s own human rights policies.” DfiD administer the £324 million given by the British government to Ethiopia, making it the biggest recipient of aid from the country. They deny supporting forced re-location, but their own documents reveal British funds are paying the salaries “of officials implementing the programme and for infrastructure in new villages”, The Daily Mail 25/05/2013 [x] reports. Allegations reinforced by HRW, who state that “British aid is having an enormous, negative side effect – and that is the forcible ending of these indigenous people’s way of life.” (Ibid)
In an account that rings with familiarity, Mr.O, now in Dadaab refugee camp, says he was forced from his village at gunpoint by the military. At first he refused to leave, so “soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) beat me with guns.” He was arrested, imprisoned in military barracks and tortured for three days, after which time he was taken to the new village, which “did not have water, food or productive fields”, where he was forced to build his house.
Government duplicity donor complicity
The government unsurprisingly denies all allegations of widespread human rights abuse connected with land deals and the ‘villagisation programme’ specifically. They continue to espouse the ‘promised public service and infrastructure benefits’ of the scheme that “by and large” OI assert, “have failed to materialise”. The regime is content to ignore documentation provided by human rights groups and NGOs and until recently had refused to cooperate with an investigation by the World Bank into allegations of abuse raised by indigenous Anuak people. The Bank incidentally that gives Ethiopia more financial aid than any other developing country, $920 million last year alone. Former regional president Omod Obang Olum oversaw the plan in Gambella and assures us resettlement is “voluntary” and “the programme successful”. Predictable duplicitous comments that IDI said “are laughable.”
An independent non-profit group working to advance human rights in development, IDI, has helped the Anuak people from Gambella “submit a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel implicating the Bank in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ethiopian Government“. The complaint alleges, “that the Anuak people have been severely harmed by the World Bank-financed and administered Providing Basic Services Project (PBS)”. A major development porgramme which is described as “expanding access and improving the quality of basic services in education, health, agriculture, water supply and sanitation”, OI report[xi]. However IDI make clear that “villagisation is the principle vehicle through which PBS is being implemented in Gambella”, and claim “there is “credible evidence” of “gross human rights violations” being committed in the region by the Ethiopian military. Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that donors are “paying for the construction of schools, health clinics, roads, and water facilities in the new [resettlement] villages. They are also funding agricultural programs directed towards resettled populations and the salaries of the local government officials who are implementing the policy”. (Ibid)
IDI’s serious allegations further support those made by many people from the region and Mr.O in his legal action against the DfID. The Banks inspection panel have said the “two programmes (PBS and villagisation) depend one each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.” The panel found “there is a plausible link between the two programmes but needs to engage in further fact-finding”. It is imperative the bank’s Inspection Panel have unrestricted access to Gambella and people feel safe to speak openly about the governments brutality.
All groups involved in land sales have both a moral duty – a civil responsibility – and a legal obligation to the people whose land is being leased. The Ethiopian government, the foreign corporations leasing the land and the donors – the World Bank and DfID, who, through PBS are funding the villagisation programme.
The Ethiopian government is in violation of a long list of international treatise that, in- keeping with their democratic pretentions, they are happy to sign up to, but less enthusiastic to observe. From the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and all points legal in between. Investors if not legally obliged, are certainly morally bound by the United Nations (UN) “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework,[xii] which, amongst other things, makes clear their duty to respect and work within human rights. Donor’s responsibility first and last is, to the people of Ethiopia, to ensure any so-called ‘development’ programmes (that commonly focus on economic targets), support their needs, ensures their wellbeing and observes their fundamental human rights.
To continue to turn a blind eye to widespread government abuse, and to support schemes, whether directly or indirectly, that violate human rights and cause suffering to the people is to be complicit to State criminality that is shattering the lives of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people, in Gambella and indeed elsewhere in the country.
[xi] Development Assistance Group Ethiopia, PBS, (accessed May 2013).
– See more at: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/29243-land-in-gambella.html#sthash.KSyJ2R3d.dpuf
MOUNT VERNON — A boy of about 12 has post-traumatic stress disorder because of the way his adoptive family treated him, a mental health therapist testified Wednesday.
Larry and Carri Williams adopted the boy from Ethiopia in 2008, along with a girl believed to be older than him. Three years later, the girl, Hana, collapsed in the family’s Sedro-Woolley backyard and died, reportedly of hypothermia hastened by malnutrition and a stomach infection.
Wednesday was the third day of testimony in the trial, and the sole witness was Dr. Julia Petersen, a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Hospital. Petersen works exclusively with children who, like her, are deaf or hard of hearing.
The adopted Williams boy testified Monday through an interpreter.
He started meeting with Petersen in December, when he had been in foster care for more than a year. One of the goals of those sessions was to address behavioral problems his foster parents reported, including tantrums and opposition.
Petersen said the boy fit the diagnostic criteria for acute PTSD based in part on his nightmares about being physically harmed and the fact he was constantly afraid of making mistakes or expressing himself lest he be “punished.” His behavior problems would come up when his PTSD was triggered, she said.
He said multiple times in therapy sessions he felt like he wasn’t supposed to talk about what happened in the Williams home, but that he didn’t want to go back there, Petersen said.
“The issue of safety came up a lot,” Petersen said through a sign-language interpreter. She noted she tried to let him know he would be “protected in what he told me.”
Discipline the boy experienced in the Williams home, plus seeing Hana in pain and dying, is traumatic enough to lead to PTSD, Petersen said. The boy’s experiences in Ethiopia and in foster care do not appear to be the reason for it, she said.
Defense attorney Rachel Forde, who represents Larry Williams, questioned that conclusion.
“Hypothetically speaking, (your patient) being abandoned by his parents and left in a field, rescued by police and dropped off in an orphanage — in a hypothetical where those things are true, it’s your belief that those just made (him) sad?” she asked Petersen.
The boy never said he was abandoned or expressed anxiety or fear over that experience — just sadness and grief, Petersen said.
Forde also asked whether Petersen’s diagnosis would change if the therapist learned some of the boy’s symptoms began when he arrived at the Williams home. The therapist resisted drawing conclusions based on hypotheticals and said she would need to speak to the child, know the context and look at the “big picture.”
Records from Seattle Children’s Hospital show the Williamses brought their adopted son there in 2008, but did not return for the recommended annual follow-up visits.
Also at issue Wednesday was whether two of the biological Williams children will testify. Both plan to assert their Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions on the stand.
Their adopted brother said Monday one of the older boys took part in some of the beatings he described getting in the Williams home. This testimony made that biological son even more wary of speaking in court, his attorney said.
Judge Susan K. Cook has not yet ruled as to whether the biological sons will have to testify. She asked the attorneys for both sides to review case law on the matter and get back to her.
Young Eritrean refugees in Sudan
The situation of human rights in Eritrea remains grave with rampant cases of extra judicial killings, enforced disappearance, incommunicado detention, torture and inhumane prisons conditions, according to a UN Human Rights expert.
Ms. Sheila Keetharuth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea says the policy of compulsory military service was akin to forced conscription as those recruited are forced to work without adequate remuneration.
In a report to the UN, Ms Keetharuth says up to 4,000 Eritreans among them hundreds of unaccompanied minors, are fleeing the country every month to escape repression and lack of basic freedoms.
“Excessive militarization is affecting the very fabric of Eritrean society, and its core unit, the family. The indefinite national service is depriving the women and men of Eritrea of their most productive years. They are unable to provide for their families, which exacerbates the living conditions in a society where many people struggle to meet their basic needs. Severe curtailment of freedom of movement, opinion, expression, assembly, association and the right to freedom of religion warrant serious concern. The restrictions of these rights, which are the very cornerstones of democratic societies, create a climate of fear fuelled by rumours, propaganda and suspicion. The result is an all-encompassing feeling of fear and distrust, even within families. The arbitrary use of power by the State is violating the most fundamental principles of the rule of law. This is coupled with a complete absence of accountability mechanisms to bring those responsible for the human rights violations to justice.”
She says although Eritrea was on track to attaining six out of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this must be accompanied by respect for human rights and basic freedoms.
Eritrea has rejected the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and has declined to invite her to visit the country.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.
The Ethiopian government has Temporarily suspended 40,000 work visas for modern day slaves disguised as housemaids destined for Saudi Arabia .
Saudi Arabia last week announced the temporary recruitment ban while it investigates the alleged murder of children by Ethiopian maids.
A six-year-old girl died at her home in a town near the capital Riyadh last month after her throat was apparently cut with a knife. Her family has accused their Ethiopian slave maid of murdering her as a cover up.
Several similar incidents have led to discussion on social media websites about the apparent growing number of children dying falsely accusing slave maids.
A hashtag on Twitter calling for the deportation of all Ethiopian domestic modern day slaves has gained traction in recent weeks,since our site start exposing the modern day slave trade.
Others have blamed parents for leaving their children with African slave maids.
An official from the slave recruitment committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Arab News the Ethiopian government had stopped processing visas, including those started before the kingdom’s latest recruitment bandue to recent media exposure of the unjust trade.
He said Saudis who had initiated the visa process to hire an Ethiopian salve workers would have their money refunded.
There are an estimated 40,000 Ethiopian modern day slaves entry visas for Saudi Arabia in process.
Saudi Arabia had been forced to increase its intake of Ethiopian domestic slave workers after other labour exporting countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines banned their citizens from working in the kingdom because of disputes over exploitation and workers’ rights and modern day slavery.
In March, Saudi Arabia refused to sign a draft deal with Indonesia that would allow domestic slaves s to again seek work in the Gulf kingdom, claiming the Asian country was attempting to interfere in disputes involving Indonesian nationals in Saudi courts. Indonesia banned maid slaves from travelling to the country f in mid 2011 after requesting raises in minimum salary, weekly time off and reassurances over human rights after a number of cases of abuse by Saudi employers. Saudi responded by applying its own ban.
Last week, Saudi Arabia also passed historic modern day slave legislation outlining the rules and responsibilities of both domestic slaves.
The slaves only asked to respect or penalized if they do not respect Islam, obey Saudi law or “carry out their duties perfectly”. They also must obey their employer and his family members, protect the family’s property, preserve family secrets and not harm children or elderly members, the new slave law reportedly states.
It is impractical to stop recruitment of housemaids from Ethiopia, said Dr. Mutlaq Al-Hazmi, member of the recruitment committee at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Al-Hazmi was responding to the demand made by several citizens following fatal crimes committed by Ethiopian housemaids recently.
To stop their recruitment, Al-Hazmi said, is difficult for the time being because there is no alternate country from which the Kingdom can recruit domestic helpers. He added that recruitment from Ethiopia can only be stopped permanently when recruitment procedures from the Philippines and India are completed. But, he said, so far nothing has been done in this regard.
“Calls to deport all Ethiopian housemaids and cease recruitment from that country come from people who base their judgment on a few isolated cases,” Al-Hazmi said. “But let me say this, Ethiopia is the only country around the world which can currently meet the large demand of Saudi families for domestic servants,” he said.
Each month, around 7,000-10,000 Ethiopian domestic helpers arrive in the Kingdom. Dr. Al-Hazmi called for setting up companies that farm out labor just like companies in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. These companies have reduced many of the violations committed by expatriate workers in the UAE and Kuwait. They select their labor carefully, test them medically, and provide them with proper training before sending them to work.
Abdul Baqi Ajlan, Saudi Ambassador to Ethiopia, said earlier that the Kingdom would require each housemaid to undergo psychological tests before moving to the Kingdom to work for a Saudi family. He added that this would definitely reduce violations and crimes committed by Ethiopian housemaids.
Meanwhile, the Philippine overseas labor department required all Filipino domestic helpers who want to travel to the Kingdom for work to enroll in an Arabic language program to learn the language and the Saudi culture, according to Manila Standard Today daily, which is issued in the Philippines. It was reported also that the labor department would provide future labor with classes that focus on self-control and ways to integrate with society and families in general. Domestic helpers will learn basic Arabic words and phrases that are used on daily basis at households.
The head of the national committee for recruitment, Saad Al-Baddah, has called for an immediate ban on the recruitment of maids from Ethiopia.
Al-Baddah had previously called on ministers of health in the Gulf to conduct mental examinations on workers who are recruited to work in these countries.
He said the Kingdom recruits 80,000 workers a month of both genders.
The BBC’s Yalda Hakim visits a so-called ‘torture camp’ Efta is just 17 but has experienced shocking brutality.
The Ethiopian teenager survived a treacherous boat journey being smuggled across the Red Sea.
But on reaching Yemen, she was kidnapped and driven at gunpoint to a mud brick house.
She said: “They tortured other girls in front of me. They beat us and they raped us at gunpoint. I was terrified.”
She is one of 80,000 Ethiopian migrants who undertake this dangerous journey every year.
They hope they will find work in the wealthy Gulf state of Saudi Arabia and be able to send money home.
Hafton Ekar, 23, made the journey from Ethiopia to Yemen with a group of friends.
Their aim was to find work in Saudi Arabia to support their families but they were kidnapped shortly after being smuggled into Yemen.
Hafton’s father was told he needed to pay $300 to free his son but after the ransom was paid, Hafton was sold on to a ‘torture camp’.
The new gang wanted another $250 but there was no money left. Hafton was brutally tortured.
“They hurt me very badly. I can’t use the bathroom any more. I’m paralysed,” he said.
His friends carried him on their backs when they escaped. Hafton now lies on a mattress in the refugee centre in Haradh.
But they risk being exploited by criminal gangs and the Yemeni military in the 500 km (310 miles) trek across Yemen to the Saudi border.
‘Raped and burned’Efta was held at what is known as a “torture camp” for three months.
She was too ashamed to ask her parents for money to set her free so she was raped every day.
Once it became clear that no ransom was going to be paid and after Efta fell ill, she was thrown out on the street.
She is now being cared for in a refugee centre run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Yemeni border town of Haradh.
She remains traumatised by her experience.
“The women get raped and the men are burned. They break bones. They take people’s eyes out,” she said.
“Everything you can imagine, they do it. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Most of the Ethiopians we met came from the Tigray region in the north of the country.
They crossed the mountains into Djibouti and then paid people smugglers to take them across the Red Sea at its shortest point, Bab al-Mandab (or the Gate of Grief).
It was a harbinger of the trials and tribulations ahead of them where thousands are tortured and sexually exploited by people smugglers.
And if they make it to Haradh, many die trying to get across the heavily-fortified border into Saudi Arabia.
Saleh Sabri is the local undertaker. He has lost count of the number of migrants he has buried.
“Some people are shot at the border. Some have been hung. Some are beaten to death,” he said.
“They all die from unnatural causes.”
Inside ‘torture camp’For centuries, Haradh has thrived on gun-running and drug-smuggling. Now, the commodity is people.
The Medecins Sans Frontieres charity says there are an estimated 200 “torture camps” in this area alone.
We become the first journalists to enter one after we are promised safe passage by a local judge.
One of the judge’s soldiers accompanies us for our safety.
We drive across sand dunes to reach a mud brick house on the outskirts of town.
As we enter, there appear to be five migrants sitting on the ground with two armed men guarding them.
We ask them if they have been abused.
“For the last three days, they have threatened to beat us if our families don’t pay,” said one migrant.
We then spot the entrance to a small room at the edge of the compound.
The soldier says this is where the migrant women are taken.
We ask to go inside but the soldier says what is going on behind the door could be haram, meaning forbidden.
We are told there could be a man and a woman in there.
We are not allowed to knock on the closed door but there are two pairs of shoes outside.
A man then appears with a pistol who says he was the owner of the camp. We ask him if torture exists on this farm.
“That’s forbidden,” he said.
“There’s no torture here. If we were capturing them by force, we’d have plenty of migrants there. They come here willingly.”
We also ask if there are women here.
“No, there’s no women in this farm,” he said.
After we left, we visited a senior local police officer and told him what we had seen.
We understand that the next day, all the migrants in the camp were released.
The International Organization for Migration says it is dealing with an “international humanitarian crisis”.
Failed stateBut Yemen is ill-equipped to solve this problem when it is fighting two insurgencies that have displaced tens of thousands.
Yemen: The most dangerous journey in the world
See Yalda Hakim’s Our World documentary at the following times:
BBC News Channel: Saturday 20 July at 02:30, 05:30, 14:30, 21:30 and Sunday 21 July at 03:30, 05:30, 10:30, 14:30, 21:30. All times BST.
BBC World News: Friday 19 July at 23:30; Saturday 20 April at 11:30, 16:30; Sunday 21 July at 17:30, 22:30. All times GMT.
International aid is mainly directed towards them and the 200,000 Somali refugees in the south.
In the vacuum, gangs of kidnappers and torturers seem to operate at will.
But many Ethiopian migrants say the Yemeni army is complicit.
Efta said the men who kidnapped her were dressed in military clothing.
“They were wearing army uniforms,” she said.
“So that’s why we did what they said. We didn’t think they would do all of this to us.”
She also said the same men – Yemeni soldiers – raped her at the ‘torture camp’.
And 16-year-old Asma said the same. She nearly made it past the Yemeni guards at the Saudi border.
“Then the Yemeni army came,” she said.
“They caught us. They sold us to the torture camp.”
Asma was raped by up to three men every day for two months. She got out because one of her captors, she said, felt pity for her.
She is also living in the refugee centre in Haradh.
We requested an interview with the Yemeni government about the treatment of migrants but our request was declined.
The undertaker of Haradh is used to operating without government support.
“I have 40 bodies in the morgue and I have only six draws to store them,” said Saleh Sabri.
He still washes and prepares the bodies in the traditional way.
“I’m a simple man with a simple job,” he said.
“I take care of the morgue so I must take care of these poor unknown people. I do it for God.”