Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia: Letter to Ban Ki-moon

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Ethiopian democratic forces of political and civic organizations, letter to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

April 19, 2013

His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

1st Avenue, 46th Street

New York, NY 10017

Dear Your Excellency,

Subject:  Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia

First, we, the leadership team of the undersigned Ethiopian civic and political organizations, present our compliments to Your Excellency. It is with deep anguish and regret that we should like to alert you and appeal to your office, and through your office, to the Security Council of the United Nations concerning the unprecedented level of human displacement and ethnic cleansing that is currently taking place in Ethiopia. You will agree with us that ethnic cleansing is an affront to human worth and dignity and endangers peace and stability in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. It must be halted without any delay. These recurring and well documented violations of fundamental human rights are perpetrated by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) the ethnic-elite coalition government that has been ruling Ethiopia for the past 21 years.

Your Excellency,

As you know, Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with an established history of peaceful coexistence, mutual acceptance and tolerance. This tradition is being torn apart by the governing party. There is disturbingly accumulated anecdotal evidence which shows that ethnic cleansing is planned systematically by the governing party and executed at the regional or Kilil level by officials who are accountable to the central government. The specific incident in the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state involved an estimated 8000 people of the Amhara nationality, the second largest ethnic group in the country. This latest unprovoked removal and displacement of innocent families from their farms and livelihoods follows a similar and large-scale ethnic cleansing of the same Amharic speaking population from the Gura Ferda District of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regional state. Displaced Ethiopians have no legal or constitutional recourse to secure their livelihood, personal safety, personal property and or to seek compensation. On the contrary, they are forced to expend their meager savings for transport and to support themselves in temporary shelters.

The fundamental principle we should like to flag is that such a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing against any specific ethnic, linguistic or religious group is a violation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and must cease in order to avert escalation of conflict in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Your Excellency is fully aware that the Horn of Africa is one of the most conflict ridden and prone regions of the world. In light of this, we are deeply concerned that, unless the attention of the UN family of nations under your leadership is drawn and responds to this ongoing crisis, we fear that the world is about to witness, once again, another cycle of violence in one of the oldest nations of the world and one of the founding members of the United Nations. Your Excellency will agree with us that the world cannot afford another Somalia or Rwanda. Such an occurrence should be averted before it is too late.

Your Excellency,

The collapse of the Military regime in May 1991 and the cessation of hostilities, albeit temporarily, had raised hopes for peace, stability, democracy and inclusive development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. These expectations have been dashed by a dictatorial regime that is determined to remake Ethiopia by tearing it apart along ethnic and other sectarian lines. The current administrative structure is much more akin to the defunct Apartheid system of South Africa than a genuine federal system of government. The governing party’s core ideology was founded on ethnic-based divide and rule, hate, prejudice and narrow ethnic elite rivalry for riches and resources. Its international diplomatic facade has been camouflaged by its opportunistic pretentions of respecting international law on paper rather than in practice. Inadvertently, the United Nations itself has used the services of this sectarian regime and paid huge sums of money for peace keeping in various parts of Africa.

For all practical purposes, Ethiopia is ruled by a brutal minority ethnic elite-led regime with the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) in command. It has a puppet Prime Minister and a ceremonial president. It runs farce elections so that 99.6% of the seats in the parliament are controlled by the TPLF. There is credible documentary evidence from Human Rights Watch and others that show that the minority regime has been and continues to be the cause of death, destruction, extermination, internal displacements, incarcerations and forced migration. Ethiopia’s largest export is human capital. The number of refugees has increased dramatically and is unlikely to decline unless the system of governance changes. Thousands of young girls and children are entrapped by human traffickers. State-sponsored, deliberate and planned ethnic cleansings will, we are convinced, sooner than later turn an already ethnically fractured Ethiopia into a failed state.

Ethiopia’s current fragile situation is worsened by the government’s absolute politicization of ethnicity, faith, politics and economics. The governing party predetermines winners and losers. People are evicted from prime lands in cities to pave the way for the newly rich, and forced to vacate their ancestral lands in favor of international investors who now own hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands and water basins. There is massive land grab in Addis Ababa, Afar, Bahir Dar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia and Southern regions of the country. Indigenous people in the Omo and Gambella regions and centuries-old monasteries like Waldiba had to give way to the government’s own sugar plantations and to satisfy foreign investor demand from China, India, Korea, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Such an unprecedented level of land grab causes massive human displacement and environmental catastrophe. This is compounded by recurrent ethnic cleansing that threatens the very existence of the country.  In direct contravention of the country’s Constitution and all international laws and conventions, many of the leaders of the ethnic enclaves are now implementing a federal policy of ethnic cleansing and coercive villagization that benefits ethnic elites. At present the Amhara nationality and Amharic speakers whose members traditionally live in various parts of the country are the targets. However, we fear that the government’s strategy of minority rule through “managed ethnic conflict” will result in a civil war of all against all as citizens are forced to seek protection from the state rather than by the state.

Your Excellency,

The TPLF’s animosity against the Amhara nationality group dates back to the 1970s and originates from the leadership’s poor understanding of the history of Ethiopia. The animosity continues unabated.  An organized ethnic cleansing is being carried out in several parts of the country, including in Benishangul-Gumuz, Gura Ferda, and the Ogaden.  Regional governors and the cadres of the ruling regime are routinely giving written eviction orders and warnings to the Amhara to leave their homes, farms and other establishments. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have become victims of this methodical ethnic cleansing by the ruling party. The human toll and the gravity of the situation call for immediate and urgent attention, protection and support of the international community in general and the United Nations in particular. We are especially troubled by the notion that the displaced and dislocated who sought refuge in Addis Ababa and Finote Selam  are “being protected  by the same Federal  security forces in undisclosed locations,”  the same forces who were instrumental in  “uprooting”  them in the first place.  As Your Excellency knows, Ethiopia is a signatory to international and human rights laws and conventions that govern “crimes against humanity” and its officials must be held accountable

We believe that the rights of all human beings are inalienable and universal and should be respected as such. Your Excellency will agree with us that there cannot be two international standards of justice. As you know  the warrant of arrest against General Omar Al Bashir of the Sudan was issued on a list of 7 counts of his individual criminal responsibility (article 25(3)(a) including five counts of crimes against humanity: murder–article 7(1)(a); extermination– article 7(1)(b); forcible transfer–article 7(1)(d); torture–article 7(1)(f); and rape–article 7(1)(g); two counts of war crimes: intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities–article 8(2)(e)(i); and pillaging – article 8(2)(e)(v).  Similar and numerous human rights violations have taken place in Ethiopia and well documented by authoritative and independent organizations (please see below for references).

Your Excellency,

We believe that the tragic events that have been recurring in Ethiopia fit the definition of crimes against humanity.  There is an overwhelming and credible prima facie evidence for the United Nations Security Council to initiate a formal investigation without delay. We urge you to consider the fact that, the April 2013 ethnic-cleansing perpetrated against the Amhara population in Benishangul-Gumuz, enhances greatly earlier depositions that are similar and or identical in nature. These “crimes against humanity” committed by Ethiopian officials in different parts of the country have been disclosed to the UN Human Rights Commission. Accordingly, we believe that there is sufficient ground to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court without any delay.

We, therefore, appeal to Your Excellency to give proper attention to the matter. We are fully confident that you will agree with us that the United Nations cannot and must not be seen to have double standards for different countries and peoples.  Given the gravity of the situation, the UN can no longer ignore or pay lip service to the degradation of human dignity and honor. It cannot afford to defer interventions when such glaring and “recurring crimes against humanity” are committed by a member government. If the United Nations continues to ignore this call and request for justice, it would be repeating its previous mistakes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Somalia. It should take preventive steps urgently in order to bring about the cessation of the human rights violations and “crimes against humanity” in Ethiopia.

We also appeal through your good office to the international donor community to provide urgent humanitarian aid that is specifically targeted in support of the displaced people in various parts of Ethiopia.  In light of the recurrence of human rights violations and systematic corruption and illicit outflow of massive foreign exchange from one of the poorest and aid dependent countries in the world, we feel strongly that the international aid community in Ethiopia has a moral obligation to refrain from supporting programs that aggravate “ethnic-cleansing and the displacement of indigenous people from their ancestral homes”, and the diversion of aid funds for political repression and control.

Finally, we the members of the organizations whose names appear below avail ourselves for meaningful dialogue and consultation. Please accept our highest consideration and appreciation for your leadership.

Sincerely,

Sponsoring organizations:

Alliance for Liberty, Equality and Justice in Ethiopia (ALEJE)

Biruh Ethiopia Democratic Movement (Biruh)

Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee

Ethiopian National Transitional Council

Ethiopian People’s Congress for United Struggle (Shengo)

Ethiopiawinnet: Council for the Defense of Citizens Rights (ECDCR)

Global Civic Movement for Change in Ethiopia (Beka)

Oromo Liberation Front (Led by Gen Kemal Gelchu)

 

Distribution:

Members of the UN Security Council

H.E. President Barak Obama, President of the United States of America 

H.E. Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of States, United States of America

H.E. Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

H.E. President Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Union

H.E. Ambassador Catherine Ashton, European Union

H.E. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Secretary General, African Union

H.E. Nabil Al-Araby, Secretary General of the Arab League

H.E. Francois Hollande, President of France

H.E. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia

H.E.  Xi Jinping, President of China

H.E. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

H.E. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

H.E. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

H.E. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

H.E. Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy

H.E. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

H.E. King Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia

H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

H.E. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

H.E. Navanethan Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Dr. JimYong Kim, President of the World Bank

Madame Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF

H.E. Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General, FAO

H.E. Kenneth Roath, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

H.E. Barry Coates, Executive Director, Oxfam International

H.E. Stephen Corry, Executive Director, Survival International

H.E. Jean-Francois Julliard, Secretary General, Reporters without Borders

H.E. Rajul Pandya, Member of the Executive Team, IFPRI

H. E. Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch

References:

USDOS (state.gov), Ethiopia:  U.S. State Department 2011 Human Rights Report.

Human Rights Watch (hrw.org), Ethiopia:  Donor Aid Supports Repression, October 19, 2010.

Human Rights Watch (hrw.org), World Report, Ethiopia (2013).

Oakland Institute (oaklandinstitute.org), Update from Gambella, Ethiopia:  Human Rights Violations Impact the Annuak, February 19, 2013.

 

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