March 15, 2021
I am a journalist. I didn’t become journalist off the streets. I studied journalism and have over 10 years of experience. That’s why I do my job very well. Unfortunately, journalism doesn’t have respect in this country. The government silences those who criticize its actions and policies.
We thought there were some reforms in our country and decided to get to work.
Dr. Abiy’s administration silences anyone whose ideas don’t align with his, and for that reason he targets journalists. I am targeted because of my qualifications and because I do my job with the utmost professionalism. I am not guilty of the fabricated charges against me. I am being punished by the same government that continues to crack down on journalists and suppress media in this country.
Melese Diribsa was a journalist at Oromia Media Network before he was arrested on June 30, 2020.
March 15, 2021
Mr. Tafa’s statement:
The charges brought against me aren’t clear and are not sufficient to plead guilty. The Criminal Code provision I am being charged with states the use of a firearm was used to incite violence. Yet, the content of one of the charges brought against me is inciting violence by the use of stones and sticks. The charges against me and the Criminal Code provision I’m being charged with are unrelated. I was arrested one week after Hacaaluu Hundessa’s assassination. I was surrounded and arrested in my home, not on the way to the funeral home. The weapon charge has already been dismissed by this court. The prosecutor presented stones and sticks to charge Oromos with possession of weapons. We believe that the only nuclear weapon Oromos have is to use our farming products, including wheat and other crops, for peaceful struggle.
I am also being charged for saying “the government, particularly the House of Peoples Representatives, would lose its legitimacy on Sene 30th (July 7th, 2020).” It’s my right to say that and I will repeat it without hesitation: the current government has finished its term and there is no legitimate government in place currently. The incumbent, knowing very well that Dr. Abiy’s government term has expired, has interpreted the law to accommodate the expiring term.
The other thing I’m being charged with is for saying, “there needs to be a transitional government.” Yes, I still believe there needs to be a transitional government. For many years, the struggle of the people for freedom and democracy has been aborted by successive oppressive governments. Now, we don’t want another fake election, like the one Prosperity Party is currently preparing. We need an inclusive transitional government. The way things are going currently, it is inevitable that a transitional government will be established.
In some health facilities across Tigray, the looting of health facilities continues, according to MSF teams.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 15, 2021 – Health facilities across Ethiopia’s Tigray region have been looted, vandalised and destroyed in a deliberate and widespread attack on healthcare, according to teams from international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Of 106 health facilities visited by MSF teams between mid-December and early March, nearly 70 per cent had been looted and more than 30 percent had been damaged; just 13 per cent were functioning normally.
In some health facilities across Tigray, the looting of health facilities continues, according to MSF teams. While some looting may have been opportunistic, health facilities in most areas appear to have been deliberately vandalised to make them non-functional. In many health centers, such as in Debre Abay and May Kuhli in the North-West, teams found destroyed equipment, smashed doors and windows, and medicine and patient files scattered across floors.
In Adwa hospital in central Tigray, medical equipment, including ultrasound machines and monitors, had been deliberately smashed. In the same region, the health facility in Semema was reportedly looted twice by soldiers before being set on fire, while the health centre in Sebeya was hit by rockets, destroying the delivery room.
Hospitals occupied by soldiers
Every fifth health facility visited by MSF teams was occupied by soldiers. In some instances this was temporary, in others the armed occupation continues. In Mugulat in east Tigray, Eritrean soldiers are still using the health facility as their base. The hospital in Abiy Addi in central Tigray, which serves a population of half a million, was occupied by Ethiopian forces until early March.
“The army used Abiy Addi hospital as a military base and to stabilise their injured soldiers,” says MSF emergency coordinator Kate Nolan. “During that time it was not accessible to the general population. They had to go the town’s health centre, which was not equipped to provide secondary medical care – they can’t do blood transfusions, for example, or treat gunshot wounds.”
Few health facilities in Tigray now have ambulances, as most have been seized by armed groups. In and around the city of Adigrat in east Tigray, for example, some 20 ambulances were taken from the hospital and nearby health centres. Later, MSF teams saw some of these vehicles being used by soldiers near the Eritrean border, to transport goods. As a result, the referral system in Tigray for transporting sick patients is almost non-existent. Patients travel long distances, sometimes walking for days, to reach essential health services.
Many health facilities have few – or no – remaining staff. Some have fled in fear; others no longer come to work because they have not been paid in months.
Devastating impact on population
“The attacks on Tigray’s health facilities are having a devastating impact on the population,” says MSF general director Oliver Behn. “Health facilities and health staff need to be protected during a conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law. This is clearly not happening in Tigray.”
Before the conflict began in November 2020, Tigray had one of the best health systems in Ethiopia, with health posts in villages, health centres and hospitals in towns, and a functioning referral system with ambulances transporting sick patients to hospital. This health system has almost completely collapsed.
MSF staff conducting mobile clinics in rural areas of Tigray hear of women who have died in childbirth because they were unable to get to a hospital due to the lack of ambulances, rampant insecurity on the roads and a night-time curfew. Meanwhile many women are giving birth in unhygienic conditions in informal displacement camps.
In the past four months, few pregnant women have received antenatal or postnatal care, and children have gone unvaccinated, raising the risk of future outbreaks of infectious diseases. Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, as well as psychiatric patients, are going without lifesaving drugs. Survivors of sexual violence are often unable to get medical and psychological care.
“The health system needs to be restored as soon as possible,” says Behn. “Health facilities need to be rehabilitated and receive more supplies and ambulances, and staff need to receive salaries and the opportunity to work in a safe environment. Most importantly, all armed groups in this conflict need to respect and protect health facilities and medical staff.”
Due to the confusion created by a particular splinter group, organized and financed by external body, from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), our organization was required by National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to conduct an extraordinary General Assembly meeting to clear this confusion, particularly in the leadership. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has also supported the intention of OLF to call a general assembly to resolve the confusion around the OLF leadership before the forthcoming National election. To this end, OLF Preparatory Committee priorly elected by Central Committee, and since then started working toward its implementation according to our constitution and internal procedures of conducting a General Assembly. NEBE is informed by formal letter of this committee to this effect. In the meantime, the committee has continued closely working and making appropriate communication. For instance, we have been formally updating NEBE with our progress and milestones of organizing the Assembly. At the same time, OLF has been appealing to the NEBE to facilitate the Assembly by, for example, opening our headquarter office in Finfinnee, which was closed forcefully by Addis Ababa police force. Even, OLF has written an official letter on 25/02/2021 to the NEBE demanding to facilitate the opening of our headquarters and create a conducive environment for the Assembly to be held.
As can be recalled that on 01/08/2020 the Addis Ababa police commission forcefully closed our headquarters without due court process. Since this day, our headquarter was under the Addis Ababa police commission’s surveillance who oversees all the activities that take place in the office and around the compound. However, according to the information we are receiving, an illegal conference is currently taking place in the office by a splinter group with heavy government police presence. Based on the information we had, on 12/03/2021 OLF has written an official letter to the Addis Ababa police commission to stop this illegal meeting before it is being held, and failing this, the police commission would bear the responsibilities they took when they evacuated us.
We believe that this conference currently running in our headquarter is entirely illegal and should not be allowed to a splinter group. Also, this is a lack of accountability to the body that knowingly concedes this unlawful conference. The splinter group has no legal ground or constitutional mandate to undertake this General Assembly, which also violates the organization’s constitution and internal procedures and the NEBE registration rules of A6112/2019. It is important here to note that the Addis Ababa police commission has no legal mandate to allow this splinter group to carry out a conference in our office without the chairman of the organization’s knowledge and endorsement, particularly after forcefully vacating us, the OLF leadership, including the chairman, staff, and members since August 01, 2020.
Therefore, the OLF would like to inform the Oromo people, the Ethiopian peoples, and the international community that illegal, unfair, and political sabotage is taking place against OLF and push out the country into more chaos. The whole responsibility lies on the government and its institutions on the impact of this illegal act.
We would also like to demand independence and impartiality of key institutions again in the country, including the NEBE, the judiciary, and the government’s law enforcement branch, particularly the Addis Ababa Police Commission to correct this gross mistake.
We thank our members and supporters for their vigilance and total boycott from this bogus meeting and call for continued perseverance to protect their organization.
Oromo Liberation Front
March 12, 2021