Asfaw Regassa —
On August 6 and 7, 2016, the EPRDF-led Ethiopian Government security forces massacred dozens of peaceful protestors in the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.
The protestors exercised their basic rights of peaceful protest that is enshrined in Ethiopia’s Constitution to express their pent up frustration on the government’s despotic rule that has reigned for a quarter of a century. In an unprecedented fashion, the protestors came out in large numbers from all walks life including men, women, young, elderly, students, farmers, and those employed in government and private sectors despite an earlier warning against the protests by Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn. Instead of addressing the issues and concerns raised peacefully, the government resorted to using snipers and machine guns resulting in the killings and injuries of hundreds of protestors and the detention of thousands in different parts of the country.
The said killings and mass detentions were covered by the international media as well as human rights organizations. Amnesty International reported that nearly 100 people were massacred by the Government security forces during the two days protests. 1 The Washington Post in its editorial questioned the continued financing of the Ethiopian Government by the US Government and the European Union despite its abysmal human rights records. The Post stated, “The weekend’s bloodshed should prompt the West to reconsider its aid to the regime… The Obama administration should encourage a credible investigation into the killings and publicly make clear that Ethiopia’s continued crackdowns are unacceptable.” Furthermore, the Post stated, “If Ethiopia continues its pattern of abusing its citizens and stifling dissent, and if it fails to credibly investigate the recent killings, the European Union should make clear to the regime that it risks being dropped from the migrant agreements.”2 Following the killings of peaceful protesters by the security forces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requested the Ethiopian Government to provide access to its staff to parts of the country to investigate the killings. In response, Getachew Reda, the Communications Minister told the Al Jazeera Channel that his Government will not provide access to the Commissioner for Human Rights.
In EPRDF’s customary condescending parlance to the international community, the Minister said UN already had a large presence in Ethiopia and hence no need for additional staff of the Commissioner to come into the country to probe the killings. The Minister further added that the Ethiopian Government would do its own investigation into the killings to see if there was a use of an excessive force by its security forces. 3 Ethiopia is a founding member of the United Nations. This writer believes that the Ethiopian Government has the obligation to respect the demands of the High Commissioner and provide access to its staff to conduct an independent investigation into the killings of the peaceful protestors.
To say that the UN already had a presence in the country only shows the Minister’s condescension to the international community since it is obvious that the branches of the UN that have presence in the country, such as the UNDP, are not mandated to conduct such investigation. The Minister was further heard on Al Jazeera Channel saying that the protestors were violent justifying the brutal measures carried out by his government. If the government’s actions are so defensible, as the Minister claims they are, then why not allow the Commissioner to conduct its impartial and independent investigation? The Minister’s claim that the EPRDF would do its own investigation into the massacre of protestors is a mockery at best and as stated above it only shows the government’s excessive arrogance and contempt to the international community.
Suffice it to say that the international community is well aware of what is going on in Ethiopia – various human right reports that were issued by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (currently Human Rights Council), US Department of State, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and other organizations and the international media over the past 25 years have documented with evidence the human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, mass detention, crimes against humanity and possible genocide, etc. by the totalitarian Ethiopian government in different parts of the country, including Gambella, Amhara, Ormoia, Ogaden, Awassa, Addis Ababa, etc. It is worth noting here that, as we have witnessed the experiences of other countries, those who once believed that they were invincible have ended up in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the crimes they committed against their own people. The EPRDF (read TPLF) minority regime, which claims to represent 6% of the Ethiopian nearly 100 million population, divided the country into ethnic enclaves a quarter of a century ago for its ulterior motive of disintegrating the country. Since it came to power, the regime has left no stones unturned to reduce the great nation of Ethiopia into a collection of ethnic groups with the view to divide and conquer its subjects. Furthermore, the regime has been promoting division and hatred among the different ethnic groups pitting one against the other in order to extend its rule.
This has resulted into ethnic tensions among the different groups threatening the very integrity and unity of the country. As described by many, Ethiopia is now at a cross-road. Unless the international community, particularly the US and UK governments as well as the European Union intervene to turn the current trajectory with a sense of urgency, Ethiopia could easily implode with catastrophic consequences not only for itself but also for the East Africa region. As a concerned citizen of Ethiopia, I implore the international community to demand the tyrannical regime:
1. To stop its brutal measures against its own people immediately and address the concerns and issues of its citizens peacefully;
2. To provide access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the recent killings of peaceful protestors in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
3. To bring to justice those who were responsible for the killings of peaceful protestors in the Oromia and Amhara regions;
4. To release all political prisoners, journalists and civic society leaders immediately and unconditionally and open the political space for a dialogue with opposition parties and other stakeholders;
5. To allow free speech and assembly as provided in its own Constitution and refrain from stifling the free press, television and radio broadcasts as well as social media; and
6. To desist itself from pitting one ethnic group against another, which could possibly lead to the much dreaded civil war and disintegration of the country. The dire need for the intervention of the international community cannot be overemphasized. It is only through such an immediate action that the looming regional catastrophe can be averted.
Asfaw Regassa The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .