The following is a statement from the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA).
February 23, 2015
Since the downfall of the military government of Ethiopia in 1991, the political and socioeconomic lives of the country have totally been controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front/TPLF leaders and business institutions. As soon as the TPLF controlled Addis Ababa, the capital city, in 1991, the first step it took was to create People’s Democratic Organizations (PDOs) in the name of different nations and nationalities in the country. With the help of these PDOs, the TPLF managed to control the whole country in a short period of time from corner to corner. The next step that the TPLF took was to weaken and/or eliminate all independent opposition political organizations existing in the country, including those with whom it formed the Ethiopian Transitional Government in 1991. Just to pretend that it was democratizing the country, the TPLF signed seven international human rights documents from 1991 to 2014. These include the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”. Despite this, it is known that the TPLF has tortured many of its own citizens ever since it assumed power, and has continued to the present day.
The TPLF Government adopted a new constitution in 1995; and, based on this Constitution, it formed new federal states. The new Ethiopian Constitution is full of spurious democratic sentiments and human rights terms meant to inspire the people of Ethiopia and the world community. The TPLF’s pretentious promise to march towards democracy enabled it to receive praises from people inside and outside, including donor countries and organizations. The TPLF government managed somehow to maintain a façade of credibility with western governments, including those of U.S.A. and the UK. In reality, the TPLF security forces were engaged in intensive killings, abductions, disappearances of a large number of Oromo, Ogaden, Sidama peoples and others whom the TPLF suspected of being members, supporters or sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogadenian National Liberation Front (ONLF), and Sidama People’s Liberation Front (SPLF). TPLF – from high officials down to ordinary level cadres in the various regional states – engaged in enriching themselves and their family members by looting and embezzling public wealth and properties; raping young women in the occupied areas of the nations and nationalities in Ethiopia; and committing many other forms of corruptions.
After securing enough wealth for themselves, the TPLF government officials, cadres and members declared, in 2004, an investment policy that resulted in the eviction of indigenous peoples from their lands and all types of livelihoods. Since 2006, thousands of Oromo, Gambela, and Benishangul nationals and others have been forcefully evicted from their lands without consultation or compensation. Those who attempted to oppose or resist were murdered and/or jailed by the TPLF1. The TPLF government then cheaply leased their lands, for terms as long as 50 years, to international investors and wealthy Middle East and Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia2. The TPLF government has done all this against its own Constitution, particularly article 40 (3)3, which states that “The right to ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia. Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange”. These acts were also against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17 (1 & 2)4, which says, “1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. 2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”
In order to facilitate further corruption and embezzlement, the money paid for the leases as long as 50 years were received in cash. For example, the Indian agro investor Karaturi explained to a Guardian newspaper’s reporter that the TPLF government officials asked him to pay in cash in order to get the land, which he called “green gold”5. These gross human rights violations by the TPLF leaders against the Oromos, Gambelas, and Benishanguls have been condemned by many civic organizations, including Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, the Oakland Institute and others.
The giving away of Oromo land in the name of investment also includes Addis Ababa, the capital city situated at the center of Oromia Regional State. 30,000 Oromos were evicted by the TPLF/EPRDF Government from their lands and livelihoods in the areas around the Capital City and suburbs, and their lands were given to the TPLF officials, members and loyal cadres over the past 24 years. In order to grab more lands around Addis Abba, the TPLF government prepared a plan called “the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan,” a plan that aimed at annexing about 36 towns and surrounding villages into Addis Ababa. This Master Plan was first challenged by the Oromo People’s Democracy Organization/OPDO in March 2014.
The challenge was first supported by Oromo students in different universities, colleges and high schools in Oromia, and then spread to Oromo farmers, Oromo intellectuals in all corners of Oromia Regional State and to Oromo nationals living in different parts of the world. The Oromo nationals staged peaceful protests all over Oromia Regional State. In connection with this Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan, which had the risk of evicting more than two million farmers from around the capital city, about seventy Oromo students from among the peaceful protestors were brutalized by the special TPLF Agizi snipers and more than five thousand Oromos from all walks of life were taken to prisons in different parts of Oromia Regional State. The inhuman military actions and crackdowns by the TPLF government against peaceful protestors were condemned by different international media, such as the BBC6, human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and the HRLHA7. The government admitted that it killed nine of them8. The unrest that started in central Oromia suddenly escalated to such a high level that the TPLF leaders suspended the expansion plan for a while.
However, recently, without the slightest regret and sense of remorse over the massacres committed against peaceful protestors of Oromo Nationals by his government in May and April 2014, the TPLF’s co-founder, top official and the current Prime Minister’s (Hailemariam Dessalegn’s) special advisor, Mr. Abay Tsehaye, vowed in public that anyone who attempts to oppose the implementation of the so-called Addis Ababa Master Plan would be dealt with harshly. In his speech, he confirmed that the TPLF government is determined to continue with the master plan, no matter what happened in the past or what may come in the future. In a manner that Abay Tsehaye was reiterating that the annexations of towns and cities in central Oromia into the capital Addis Ababa will go ahead as planned regardless of the absence of consultations and consent of the local people and/or the officials of the targeted towns and cities. Besides displaying his extreme arrogance and contempt for the Oromo Nation, Mr. Abay Tsehaye’s speech was in direct breach of constitutional provisions of both federal and regional states.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its deep concern that this TPLFs leader’s speech not only encourages violence against the country’s own citizens, but also invites further bloodshed and losses of lives; it leaves no room at all for dialogue, consultation and consent – norms which are at the core of a genuine democracy. This is still happening despite the killing of more than seventy Oromo youth and the arrest and incarceration of thousands of others as a result of violent and deadly responses by armed forces of the TPLF and the government to peaceful demonstrators in May and April 2014.
The HRLHA believes that the gross human rights violations committed by the TPLF government in the past 24 years against Oromo, Ogaden, Gambela, Sidama and others were pre-planned and intentional all the times that they have happened. The TPLF killed, tortured, and kidnapped and disappeared thousands of Oromo nationals, Ogaden and other nationals simply because of their resources and ethnic backgrounds. The recent research conducted by Amnesty International under the title “Because I am Oromo”: SWEEPING REPRESSION IN THE OROMIA REGION OF ETHIOPIA’9 confirms that peoples in Ethiopia who belong to other ethnic groups have been the victims of the TPLF. The TPLF inhuman actions against the citizens are clearly a genocide, a crime against humanity10 and an ethnic cleansing, which breach domestic and international laws, and all international treaties the government of Ethiopia signed and ratified. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa wants to hold the TPLF government accountable, as a group and as individuals, for the crimes they have committed and are committing against Oromos and others.
The HRLHA calls on all human rights families, non-governmental civic organizations, HRLHA members, supporters and sympathizers to stand beside the HRLHA and provide moral, professional and financial help to bring the dictatorial TPLF government and officials to international justice.
* The HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It works to defend fundamental human rights including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It also works on raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and those of others. It encourages respect for laws and due process. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.
We Fight for Human Rights!
HRLHA Head Office
February 23, 2015
1. Genocide Watch, http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html; The Oakland Institute, Engineering Ethnic Conflict, http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/Report_EngineeringEthnicConflict.pdf
2. Saudi Company Leases Ethiopian Land for Rice Export, http://www.pri.org/stories/2011-12-27/saudi-company-leases-ethiopian-land-rice-export
3. Proclamation No. 1/1995 Proclamation of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/Proclamation%20no.1-1995.pdf
4. UDHR, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
6. Ethiopia protest: Ambo students killed in Oromia state; BBC; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27251331
8. BBC TV Reported
9. Ethiopia: ‘Because I Am Oromo’: Sweeping Repression In The Oromia Region Of Ethiopia, https://www.amnesty.org/En/documents/Afr25/006/2014/En/
10. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Articles 6&7,