Ethiopia: Seb-Hidri Civil Society of Tigrai – A letter to Your Excellency Ms Michelle Bachelet, United Nation Higher commissioner for Human Rights (25.03.2021)

Ethiopia: UNHCR reaches destroyed camps in northern Tigray (26.03.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has gained access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for the first time since November 2020, amid ongoing security concerns.

During a joint mission to the area with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, we found both camps completely destroyed, and all the humanitarian facilities looted and vandalized.

In Hitsats, most of the shelters in an area known as zone A, as well as UNHCR’s offices and staff guest house, were found burnt to the ground. The mission confirmed what satellite imagery and accounts from refugees had indicated at the beginning of this year.

UNHCR is deeply concerned for the well-being of the Eritrean refugees who had been residing there, all of whom have fled the camps.

The joint mission was also able to visit Shiraro town; refugees are understood to be scattered in the area and in urgent need of safety and support. A subsequent mission will seek to identify the numbers living there and assess the possibility for UNHCR and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs, ARRA, to deliver assistance and plan for voluntary relocation.

Of some 20,000 refugees that lived in the two northern camps of Hitsats and Shimelba prior the crisis, more than 7,000 have either made their own way or were assisted by Ethiopian authorities to reach the other two Eritrean refugee camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush. In addition, we have so far been in contact with more than 2,000 refugees from Hitsats and Shimelba in Shire, Mekelle, Afar, and Addis Ababa.

In Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, food and core relief supplies have been provided to the relocated refugees. They are currently living with relatives, in schools or other communal buildings in the camps which are already over-capacity, as well in some 500 newly-built emergency shelters. While another 100 shelters are under construction, they will not be sufficient. Urgent identification of alternative locations to accommodate more refugee arrivals is a priority, especially with the coming rainy season.

UNHCR’s individual reception, counselling and registration services have reopened in both camps. UNHCR and its partners are scaling up child protection and gender-based violence support services.

Local authorities have reported the presence of some 95,000 Ethiopians who are internally displaced within Shiraro’s administrative area. About 47,000 people were registered by authorities last month while the rest are estimated to have arrived since. To date, the vast majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) are living within the host community, and some 30,000 are living in five settlements. In Shimelba camp, the humanitarian team found over 2,000 IDPs and vulnerable host community members who had sought sanctuary in the camp.

All of the displaced people in Shiraro and Shimelba are in dire need of urgent life-saving assistance, including food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. UNHCR reiterates the joint UN call for all parties to urgently enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification. We call for the right to seek asylum to be fully respected.

Ethiopia: Office of the Prime Minister – On Discussions with President Isaias Afwerki (26.03.2021)

Ethiopia: Oromo Political Prisoners Defence Team – Hamza Borana Pleads Not Guilty: Full Statement He Delivered in Court (22.03.2021)

Your Honours,
I, Hamza Borana, plead not guilty to the charges levelled against me. I am innocent of all the charges and I consider the case political. I am charged with:
(1) Inciting violence between nations and nationalities
(2) Inciting the people against the government
(3) Inciting the Oromo people against the Amhara and Orthodox Christians,
(4) Stating that the Neftegna will not govern us and that the Neftegna system has been killing the Oromo people
(5) That I have stated that people should not carry the federal flag during national holidays in Oromia and agitated for measures to be taken against those found carrying it
(6) That I have stated that Oromo nationalists are being killed and the Oromo people should arm itself and rise up.
Before I enter a plea on these charges, I would like to take a few minutes to tell the court about myself.
This is the first time in my life that I have been accused of a crime and stood before a court to plead to a criminal charge. Unless we work towards building a democratic order, I don’t believe this will be my last. Politically motivated legal proceedings against political foes will continue until we address the central political challenges and practices. If we fail to address our country’s original political sins and continue on this path of manipulation and oppression, innocent citizens will continue to be victims and the oppressor will continue to oppress.
I am here today before this court accused of committing a crime because I wanted to play my part in the struggle against this politics of manipulation and domination.
I was not surprised by the detention and the charges. Before joining this struggle, I knew quite well that there is always a risk of detention, suffering, and being killed like my forefathers. I was not surprised because I joined the struggle after preparing myself to pay the necessary sacrifice. Before becoming a politician, I was forced to flee my country and live-in exile for seven years because I fought for equality and justice. Within those seven years, I founded Radio Daandii Haqaa (RDH) and served as its director and journalist to amplify the voice of my people.
The whole nation and the programs we did and the guests we invited are a testament to the fact that I used the Radio to lead the people’s struggle by peaceful means only, while building bridges between communities, and focusing our energy on the dictatorial system. The dictatorial system was eventually overthrown by the bitter struggle of our people and the sacrifice of more than 5000 youth. When the government changed in April 2018, I was one of those who returned home. Having said that much about myself, I would like to address the accusations:
First, I was accused of inciting violence among nations and nationalities. Before I address the issue, let me provide a quick background about myself. I was born and raised in Borana, Southern Oromia. Borana shares a large border with the Southern Peoples region and I grew up and attended school among multi-ethnic groups. I was shaped by the Gadaa system and values of tolerance and accommodation is an integral part of our culture and way of life. After returning to Ethiopia, I traveled to Gambella for peaceful discussion between the nations and nationalities. We had fruitful discussions with representatives of both sides to establish peaceful relations between the people of Gambella and the Oromo people. I was also invited by both sides to contribute to the peace process between the Afar and Wollo Oromos, which I attended in Batte, Wollo. I also attended a peace conference convened by the leaders of the Oromia and Somali regions as part of the ongoing dialogue to resolve the conflict between the Oromo and Somali people and tried to fulfil my civic duties. Similarly, I attended the Oromia Conference in Ambo by the invitation of the President of the Oromia Regional State and supported the efforts to establish a solid foundation for relations between the Somali and Oromo nations. Finally, in the event of ethnic clashes in the universities, I was able to hold an emergency joint meeting with Amhara Region activists to discuss the steps to be taken to prevent the conflict from spreading to the public.
Second, I am accused of inciting violence between the Oromo, the Orthodox Christians and the government. I do not think it makes sense for religion to be the basis for social and political conflict because I view faith as primarily a private matter. I was born to an Orthodox Christian family. My parents and all my relatives were and still are followers of the Orthodox Christian faith. I learned the Amharic language I speak today at a church. For someone in my position to want to instigate violence against Orthodox Christians or Orthodox churches would mean encouraging violence against my mother, who is today attending this very trial travelling more than 600kms from Borana. She should not have been here to see her son if I were in any way capable of even imagining such a thing. The same goes for my father and my brothers.
Third, with regard to the accusation that I have incited people against the government, I would like to raise two points. As soon as I returned to my country, I was engaged in widespread efforts to encourage people to support agents of reform in government to the point that I was perceived by the public as a member of the ruling party. But as events on the ground shifted and Oromo nationalists began to be arrested and killed and killings become widespread and the transition process went off the rails, I approached leading members of the ruling party and offered my advice. When this failed, I then began to publicly criticise the government’s handling of the situation, and once this too failed, I was forced to join the opposition. There is no doubt that Oromo nationalists have been killed; many human rights reports confirm this, many farmers’ houses have been burnt down. Does anyone deny this? How can anyone who advocates for victims gets detained and made to stand trial while the murderers remain free? Because I am a peace-loving person, I had a 12-day discussion with Abba Gadaas and prominent elders in Borana, in an effort to bring peace to the forces that are sincerely in power and fighting in the name of peace. I was fulfilling my civic duty as a caring citizen.
Next, I would like to raise the issue of the flag: I am basically a citizen who believes in the rule of law, legality, the constitution & constitutionalism. I also believe that the rule of law should be upheld until it is changed or amended. We have a flag that is enshrined in our constitution. Green-yellow-red with a yellow star in the center of the blue circle indicating the equality of nationalities and religions. We also have a law that says where, when, and why we should use this flag. In recent times, we have seen the use of the old Ethiopian flag in different ways and often to incite conflict. As a peace-loving and law-abiding citizen, I have expressed the view that during public holidays only the federal flag should be used and that other symbols that reflect the interests of a single group or provoke conflict should not be allowed, which is well within my constitutional right to free expression. As you know, I am not a government official, I do not have an army to command. I argued that the problematic symbols and insignias should not be carried because remaining silent in the face of an illegal use of the old Ethiopian flag that symbolises ideas contrary to our present constitution would have been a dereliction of my duty. However, my respect for the flag is never in doubt. Lastly, the message I want to convey on this agenda is that I see artists posting the same banner in different ways on music videos and films. For me, this is the illegality that should be condemned. One ethnic group’s view doesn’t represent the rest of Ethiopia and their ideas shouldn’t be imposed on other ethnic groups.
Finally, I was accused of stating that it was the Neftegna who were executing the Oromo people and that the Neftegna will not rule over us. While agreeing with the points made by the second defendant, Bekele Gerba, I will add the following on what Neftegna means for me.
For me, the Neftegna violently displaced my father’s grandfather, Obbo Dhana (Dhaanaa) Roba Gunjo, and his family from the Tulama land and forced him to settle among Gujii Oromo. The Neftegna massacred my mother’s father family in the Dharra District of Salale (North Shoa) and they too similarly fled to Borana. My mother’s father great grandfather Gayo Kumsa, has been uprooted by the evil Neftegna system from the South West of Sheger and forced to flee to Borana. I am the offspring of these displaced families. Yes, this is the system that committed ethnic cleansing on the Oromo people. That is why I am fighting hard to keep this system from coming back. Is it those who support this system or those who opposed it who should be accused? We are forever grateful for the debt of Borana, Guji, Arsi, Bale and Itu-Hubbena (Hararge) Oromo, who reached out and embraced the Tulama Oromo during the displacement of Oromos at the time. I would like to use this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and respect.
Honourable Court, those of us who returned to our country after the process of democratic transition commenced – former activists, journalists, politicians – many of them chose to turn a blind eye to clear evidence of a slide-back to authoritarianism because they were provided with resources such as land belonging to our farmers, power, and temporary state rents. I felt that the only way I can make a meaningful contribution to the ongoing struggle of my people is by joining a viable opposition party, and I joined the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). My comrades, my organisation and I were seen as an enemy because the ruling party know of the acceptance and support we have among our people and decided to lock us up because they knew they cannot win an election against us. A clear evidence of this is the current situation where the ruling party has jailed us all and removed our party from the election so that the ruling party will run for the election on its own. Therefore, Honorable court, I want to express with great respect, that I am innocent of all charges and I am here because I am falsely accused by the government, so that they can win the election and impose their views on us all.
It was Haacaaluu. They killed him and they prevented us from attending his funeral and properly mourn our loss. It was while I and my friends were on our way to the burial of our hero that we were arrested from the street and jailed. We have not committed any crime.
Thank you.
March 22, 2021
Hamza Borana
Finfinne, Oromia, Ethiopia

Ethiopia: OPM – Government Support to Displaced Gedeo (16.03.2019)

Ethiopia: ONLF Press Release (23.01.2019)

The Somali people in the Somali regional state(Ogaden) have a legal right to manage their political affairs and full self-rule upheld both by the Ethiopian constitution and international law. The most fundamental tenet of these entitlements is the right to choose their own leaders. Furthermore, Premier Abiy has promised to all peoples in Ethiopia to respect their democratic rights and open the political space.

ONLF calls for both the ruling party and the federal government to respect the wishes and dignity of the Somali people and desist from any acts that could jeopardise the stability and the wellbeing of the Somali regional state and the people.

Any political differences shall be resolved in a transparent manners where all stakeholders are consulted.

ONLF is committed to peace and democratic governance in the Somali state and Ethiopia in general and calls upon all stakeholders to adhere to the same principles.

Finally, ONLF calls upon the ruling party in the Somali state to resolve any difference internally in an amicable and transparent manner.

ONLF

23/01/2019

A Silent War: Persistent fatalities in the Ogaden Region

People are steady praising the reforms of Addis Ababa without recognizing that the state and the authorities are still violently oppressing people. The Oromo isn’t in the same regards as before, because of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defence Force (EPRDF) have now Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, who is a Oromo himself. That is why the besieged regions of the past isn’t as much. Even as the Amhara and Ogaden, still has it coming.

The Prime Minister have made peace with Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Where the troops close to the border with Eritrea is promised to cease to exist or to be redeployed. The Ethiopian troops is steady and active within the Federal Republic of Somalia. Still, the narrative, that everything has turned funky dory in Ethiopia. Isn’t all true.

That the ones who asked for better pay and went to the Prime Minister office in Addis Ababa, the young soldiers doing so is charged with 14 years in prison. That is a proof, that the state still expect respect first and later will retaliate.

The EPRDF is also trying to make peace with opposition groups, that is to show signs of betterment, but still, there should be doubts. Since there are still violent activity and killings going on. There is steady ambushes and killings in the Ogaden Region. It has been going on all of the month of December and November. Not, that it has hit the headlines, because the agreements made with Ginabot 7 (G7), Oromo Liberation Front, (OLF), Afar People’s Liberation Front (APLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM).

All of those agreements and movements are good news. But, likewise the sad news is that in Moyale on the 15th December, there was report of 25 Somalian killed in the town. This as Oromo militias are targeting the Somali citizens of the region and does it systematically. That should be worrying, but not like the Police either. Why I am saying it is systematic, is that on the 13th December, the same militia assaulted 60 people in the same town and killed another 17 Somali citizens there. That means around 40 people died within a week. If that isn’t striking, nothing is, but because the reforms and positive vibes comes from the capital. That overshadow the dire distress and hurt done in the Ogaden region. Which shouldn’t be forgotten in the scheme of things. Just like the distress and hurt under the State of Emergency in Oromia and Amhara of recent years. All of this should be messaged about.

Because this is lives in general, that is taken out by one group going against another. This is the group (Oromo) who was oppressed strongly during the EPRDF era. Now they are generating a para-military militia avenging their own oppression with killings in the Ogaden. This is the Oromo people attacking and killing Somali civilians. That should be told and not forgotten, as the authorities are not stopping them. The continuation of the killings should be remembered and the lost ones. Shall, not be revenged, but get justice for. So, that the ones who are in-charge and the ones who pushes this to happen. Get their punishment through court of justice.

The lives taken in Ogaden must be remembered. These lives has value and their lives deserves credit. As they were lives taken for another groups will to annex and control it.

The EPRDF if it was a reforming force, who cared about the lives in the Republic. They would have reacted and not let the continued violence happen, but they do. It continues and the Police Force, the army doesn’t stop it. Even when it persist, they are looking the other way. That is the sad reality. What is even worse. Is that the amounts of killings doesn’t make headlines or bothers any of the allies of Addis Ababa. As the villages, the border-town and other places are burning, the people are dying and the Oromo para-military groups are allowed to their part in the Ogaden region. Peace.

Ethiopia congratulates the people and the Government of the State of Eritrea on the lifting of the sanctions (14.11.2018)

Joint Declaration between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (21.10.2018)

Joint Press Statement following the visit by the Foreign Ministers of Eritrea and Ethiopia to Mogadishu Somalia, October 2018 (17.10.2018)