Archive for April, 2010
Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that some protest these exploitive arrangements; however, there is no tolerance for any criticism. One outspoken opponent to the land-grabs was a young Anuak man Mr. Kwot Agole, who was shot and wounded in his home. He was accused of being a thief; however, most believe it was intended to silence him and others.
Similarly, a young outspoken Anuk woman was also shot and wounded—as a bystander—by security forces when they opened fire on what they called, ‘trouble-makers,’ in a secluded location; however, again, most believe it was politically motivated. Those who committed these crimes were never arrested.
Meles regime wants land, but not the people!
The only thing that will stop Meles and his TPLF elitist cronies from killing and oppressing the Anuak, as well as other Ethiopians, is when they have taken all they want from one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in the world. For many years and up until now, the entire region of Gambella, also shared with Nuer, Komo, Opo, Mazengir, Tigrayans and other highlanders, has been one of the most neglected regions in Ethiopia. There are three technical schools, but not even one university. Little of the development money ever makes it to Gambella. No money from the Productive Safety Net Program is designated to this region. Much of the infrastructure destroyed by the Ethiopian Defense Forces at the time of the Anuak genocide and two subsequent years of human rights abuses, still have not been restored.
One example is access to clean water. The one poorly equipped hospital in the region does not have clean water. Many of the wells that were destroyed at the time still have not been repaired. Access to clean water in the largest town in the region, Gambella Town, is still so poor that the new troops coming into Gambella are filling their water tank truck from the well at the church—East Gambella Bethel Synod, parking their large truck at a very narrow location near the gate where the Anuak children used to, but can no longer, play. The water flowage has created erosion that if it continues, will damage the fence of the Synod.
Many of the Anuak intellectuals present in 2003 to help advance the region were either murdered at the time or had fled the region as exiles. Some of those remaining in Gambella have openly aligned with Meles. No one in Anuak history may have hurt the Anuak people more than the present Anuak governor, Omot. Fear of his repressive and often heartless tactics have caused resistance to go underground, causing times to be extremely difficult right now as many are kicked off their land. Considering that the Anuak, perhaps numbering only 100,000 people worldwide, were named as an endangered people by Cultural Survival in 1984, the forces against them since that time have been great.
The Meles government still is a primary threat to their existence as it is obvious that they covet the land and its resources. So, it is only logical that this regime will only due the bare minimum for the people. Investing in the people—their education, health and well being—simply makes it harder for them to take their land and livelihood.
As the TPLF government now seeks to capitalize on Gambella resources, they anticipate new resistance from the local people. As a result, they have sent large numbers of new military troops to intimidate or suppress those Anuak who might “get in their way.” The many new troops in Gambella are again beating up the people. These are the same troops that terrorized the Anuak, raped the women and destroyed homes, clinics, schools, granaries, crops and wells. It is all well documented by Genocide Watch and Human Rights Watch. 
The TPLF/EPRDF government, including Gambella Governor Omot, has encouraged the Anuak who had left the country following the massacre, to come back home. Governor Omot even led a delegation to the US with the objective of convincing those in the Diaspora to return home and invest, saying that things were very good and that there was peace in the region.
Last summer, three Anuak men, Obang Kwut, Obang Thamriu and Omot Obang (Omot Wara-Achan) and another fourth who was an Anuak American citizen, decided to return to Ethiopia from Southern Sudan. They were arrested and accused of being insurgents; responsible for the massacre of the Anuak. They were tortured and then brought to Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa. The Anuak who was a US citizen was released last year after a relative in the US advocated for him. The trial for the three who remained took place in March of this year; however to prosecute them, the government needed witnesses so Governor Omot appointed the head of the government-armed Anuak militia, Kwot Agid and Omot Obang to fly to Addis Ababa to become the needed witnesses on behalf of the government.
After the massacre of 2003, there were Anuak who were resisting in the bush. What the TPLF government did back then was to create their own Anuak militia to fight against the Anuak insurgents. Kwot Agid had become the head of this group; but had carried out his duties in such a way that he earned the respect of the Anuak. However, Governor Omot chose to use them as witnesses, claiming they knew those being charged and believing they would align with the government.
When Kwot Agid and Omot Obang appeared in court in Addis Ababa, they refused to lie. They said that the accused had never been involved in the December 2003 killing of the Anuak. Furthermore, they went on to say that they knew for a fact that the Anuak did not kill the Anuak victims of the massacre. The government prosecutors then asked Governor Omot what to do because they had no evidence now to convict those charged. Insider reports indicate that Governor Omot gave directions to put the two in Kaliti prison. That is where they remain. Word has been received that they have been tortured.
Now the regional government is planning to disarm the Anuak militia, previously under Kwot’s control; believing they no longer hold any allegiance to the TPLF government. They are among the few remaining Anuak who still have guns. With the new influx of troops, the increasing land-grabs, the dislocations of the people, the repression of all political rights, the rumored arrests, the disarmament, the shootings and the increased human rights abuses; all accompanied by intense pressure on the people to cover up for the perpetrators of the genocide, no one knows what will happen next. The last disarmament preceded the genocide. What are they planning now as signs of their desperation are everywhere?
Problems in Gambella happening all over Ethiopia demanding shared response!
The increasing oppression being faced by the people of Gambella are also being faced by people all over the country; from the regions of Afar, Oromia, Beninshangul-Gumuz, Amhara, Ogaden, Harare, Southern Nations and in Tigray. Most Ethiopians have now become either the enemy of this government and a target of their control or they are considered ‘discardable’ people to be forgotten and neglected; that is, until they “get in their way”—like the many voiceless indigenous people whose total way of life will be affected by the opening of the Gibe III Dam.
In Gambella, as the TPLF try to force the Anuak to condemn the VOA and the Genocide Watch report, the Meles regime is also attempting to force students at Jimma University and Haraghe University, as well as in other places, to sign a petition in protest of the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report. They are probably intimidating the students in these locations like they are doing in Gambella.
In the same way, the threats to those who speak out in Gambella are no different from what is happening in other regions. For instance, on March 31, 2010, in Oromia, the regime gave a death sentence to an Oromo nationalist and political prisoner, Mesfin Abebe Abdisa, and a life prison sentence to another Oromo nationalist and political prisoner, Tasfahun Camadaa Gurmessaa. Thirteen other Oromo nationalists were sentenced to ten to twelve year terms.
In another incident, an Oromo opposition candidate from MEDREK, under the sub-party of the coalition, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was recently stabbed, but is recovering. The Meles regime is also preventing UDJ imprisoned political leader Birtukan Mideksa from being treated like all other prisoners, preventing visits from party leaders, friends and most family members. They are also opposing efforts to obtain necessary medical care for her deteriorating physical and mental health.
These strongman tactics are the frantic last ditch efforts of a tottering regime, who have few options right now. If they admit the truth and give the opposition an even playing field, they will lose; yet, deepening the repression will create more solidarity among the opposition. They used to be able to count on Tigrayans to hold them up, but that support appears to be disintegrating. As they make futile attempts to cover up an incriminating history witnessed by countless Ethiopians, their expectations are out of touch with reality; reaching the point of the ridiculous. Instead, with each defensive overreaction to the truth, they are simply making more public their repressive nature and further exposing their crimes to the world.
The suffering, hardship and misery of the Ethiopian people from every region, ethnicity, religious group, political group, viewpoint and background has begun to unity us like the land that has held us together as a people and a country. We must be careful to not be manipulated by some groups with their own hidden self-interests, from both inside and outside of Ethiopia, who can profit by a weak and divided Ethiopia. They fear unity will result in a strong Ethiopia (and Horn of Africa), which stands together not only for one’s own rights, but for the rights of our fellow-Ethiopians both inside and outside of our own groups.
Those who stir up our emotions about our grievances towards each other, pretending he or she cares about us while encouraging never-ending anger, hate and alienation, are NOT working in our best interests. As they attempt to create irreconcilable divisions, calling our country a “fake Ethiopia” or “fake Abyssinia,” they pretend to align with the oppressed and downtrodden, but what is their real goal? Is it to bring about an atmosphere where legitimate grievances—and there are many—are openly confronted and dealt with or is it to keep us divided so as to advance their own interests? Have you ever wondered if someone might be paying such people to put so much energy into keeping the rifts going between Ethiopians? Do not be fooled by such people. They have their own agendas that seek to prevent a strong and united Ethiopia from ever emerging.
The answer to the suffering is when we all are valued as diverse people and the evidence of that is legally carried out in our laws, policies and daily practices. With God’s help, we can overcome those who want to divide us for their own purposes by putting humanity before anything else. Like most every other people and nation in the world, we (Ethiopian) have committed terrible wrongs towards each other; but perpetual hate, revenge, violence and anger are not the answer that will free us.
What will free us is reconciliation where forgiveness, confession and equal justice heals the wounds we have carried with us for years. The wounds are real and hurt, but simply inflicting new wounds on others will do little to heal our own. We need a new paradigm of thinking. It is a conscious decision to discard the destructive thinking of hate for loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the revolution we need in Ethiopia!
We, as diverse people from within the boundaries of Ethiopia, must work together for each other because none of us will be free until we all are free!
May God give us the strength, wisdom and grace to embrace each other as we seek to create that new Ethiopia where we value the humanity of everybody and where our diversity becomes our beauty in the splendor of the new gardens of Ethiopia!May God bless Ethiopia and the beautiful and precious people of Ethiopia!