Ethiopia: Brutal Crackdown on Protests (HRW)

May 6th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopian security forces should cease using excessive force against students peacefully protesting plans to extend the boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa. The authorities should immediately release students and others arbitrarily arrested during the protests and investigate and hold accountable security officials who are responsible for abuses.

On May 6, 2014, the government will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for the country’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record.

“Students have concerns about the fate of farmers and others on land the government wants to move inside Addis Ababa,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director. “Rather than having its security forces attack peaceful protesters, the government should sit down and discuss the students’ grievances.”

Since April 25, students have demonstrated throughout Oromia Regional State to protest the government’s plan to substantially expand the municipal boundaries of Addis Ababa, which the students feel would threaten communities currently under regional jurisdiction. Security forces have responded by shooting at and beating peaceful protesters in Ambo, Nekemte, Jimma, and other towns with unconfirmed reports from witnesses of dozens of casualties.

Protests began at universities in Ambo and other large towns throughout Oromia, and spread to smaller communities throughout the region. Witnesses said security forces fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters in Ambo on April 30. Official government statements put the number of dead in Ambo at eight, but various credible local sources put the death toll much higher. Since the events in Ambo, the security forces have allegedly used excessive force against protesters throughout the region, resulting in further casualties. Ethiopian authorities have said there has been widespread looting and destruction of property during the protests.

The protests erupted over the release in April of the proposed Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan, which outlines plans for Addis Ababa’s municipal expansion. Under the proposed plan, Addis Ababa’s municipal boundary would be expanded substantially to include more than 15 communities in Oromia. This land would fall under the jurisdiction of the Addis Ababa City Administration and would no longer be managed by Oromia Regional State. Demonstrators have expressed concern about the displacement of Oromo farmers and residents on the affected land.|

Ethiopia is experiencing an economic boom and the government has ambitious plans for further economic growth. This boom has resulted in a growing middle class in Addis Ababa and an increased demand for residential, commercial, and industrial properties. There has not been meaningful consultation with impacted communities during the early stages of this expansion into the surrounding countryside, raising concerns about the risk of inadequate compensation and due process protections to displaced farmers and residents.

Oromia is the largest of Ethiopia’s nine regions and is inhabited largely by ethnic Oromos. The Oromos are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and have historically felt marginalized and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian governments. The city of Addis Ababa is surrounded on all sides by the Oromia region.

Given very tight restrictions on independent media and human rights monitoring in Ethiopia, it is difficult to corroborate the government crackdown in Oromia. There is little independent media in Oromia to monitor these events, and foreign journalists who have attempted to reach demonstrations have been turned away or detained.

Ethiopia has one of the most repressive media environments in the world. Numerous journalists are in prison, independent media outlets are regularly closed down, and many journalists have fled the country. Underscoring the repressive situation, the government on April 25 and 26 arbitrarily arrested nine bloggers and journalists in Addis Ababa. They remain in detention without charge. In addition, the Charities and Societies Proclamation, enacted in 2009, has severely curtailed the ability of independent human rights organizations to investigate and report on human rights abuses like the recent events in Oromia.

“The government should not be able to escape accountability for abuses in Oromo because it has muzzled the media and human rights groups,” Lefkow said.

Since Ethiopia’s last Universal Periodic Review in 2009 its human rights record has taken a significant downturn, with the authorities showing increasing intolerance of any criticism of the government and further restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association. The recent crackdown in Oromia highlights the risks protesters face and the inability of the media and human rights groups to report on important events.

Ethiopian authorities should abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which provide that all security forces shall, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means before resorting to force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, the authorities must use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. Law enforcement officials should not use firearms against people “except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.”

“Ethiopia’s heavy handed reaction to the Oromo protests is the latest example of the government’s ruthless response to any criticism of its policies,” Lefkow said. “UN member countries should tell Ethiopia that responding with excessive force against protesters is unacceptable and needs to stop.”

  1. tasse
    | #1

    The fascist Tigre liberation front, thrives on inciting inter ethnic and tribal war. Murder and violence is in the nature of tplf.

    It is a violent organisation from its inception and even though they are now dressed in diplomatic suits and looted billions of birr, they still do not have satisfaction with out murdering people and causing pain to innocent people.

    it is surprising that after 23 years of non stop violence, harrassment, murder and persecution people continue to play the ethnic agenda crafted by TPLF to divide and rule and to polarise the society.

    When are people going to wake up? If there is no united resistance this violence of tplf will continue.

    When amhara is attacked by Tplf, every body else should see this aggression as being directed at all Ethiopians. When the oromo is attacked it should be seen as agression on all Ethiopians. when afar, ogaden, gambella …. are attacked it is the affair of all of us.

    we should stand together and protect each other.

    TPLF wants us to believe and think like ethnic entities , group entities not as united people under one slogan. Every ethnic group for itself is the motto of the divisive, fascist TPLF. UNLESS we get out of this mentality , and if we continue to throw blows at each other, this will only make TPLf happy.

  2. Sam
    | #2

    HRW states “Ethiopia is experiencing an economic boom and the government has ambitious plans for further economic growth. This boom has resulted in a growing middle class in Addis baba and an increased demand for residential, commercial and industrial properties.” How I wish that is really to be true. But not. HRW also fell for the spell of EPDRF. No matter what anybody says EPDRF is proficient at commercializing the party. Even HRW fell for their ploy. True, HRW scores EPDRF the worst in its human rights report card. But about the economy they got it all wrong. There is no a “growing middle class in Ethiopia.” There are a tiny overnight millionaires, I admit. But those did not become what they are working hard. They rather became rich milking the system. Their contribution to the overall economy is naught. That said opposing the expansion of the city at face value should not be a rallying political cry. Demanding what should be done for those whose lives will be affected by the city’s swallowing neighboring small cities is a right question. Those with money should not be the only one who should have a say. But that does not mean those who claim they have an interest to pass their village unchanged from generation to generation are right. A right balance should be made. That requires an input from visionaries who put the interest of the country and its people more than partisan politics.

  3. Tiyit
    | #3



    በኖርዌይኦዳከተማ የሚኖሩኢትዮጵያውያን “የምእራባውያንእርዳታበኢትዮጵያየንፁሐንዜጎችማፈኛተደርጎመዋሉንለማሳየት“ ያዘጋጁት ውይይትበተሳካሁኔታተጠናቀቀ።
    ሚያዚያ ፳፯ (ሃያ ሰባት)ቀን ፳፻፮ ዓ/ም .በኖርዌይየፓርላማአባላትን፣ፖለቲከኞችንእንዲሁምየተለያዩየማህበረሰብክፍሎችን
    ባሳተፈው በዚህ ዝግጅት ፣ ገዥውስርዓትበሐገርናበሕዝብላይያደረሰውንአፈናናግድያ ፤ የዜጎችመፈናቀልንናየሰብአዊመብትጥሰቶችን የሚያሳይ ተንቀሳቃሽ ፊልሞች ቀርበዋል።
    የምዕራባውያንለጋሽአገሮችድጎማ አገዛዙ ለሚያደርገው አፈና አስተዋጽኦ ማድረጉን በአቶከሊፋባርቱራእንዲሁምበወጣትሎሚታባህሩ የቀረበው ዝግጅት ያሳያል።
    ከተጋባዥእንግዶችመካከል ሮድ ፓርቲን በመወከል ሚ/ርቴሪያኮልቦትን፣ ሆይሬ ፓርቲን በመወከል ኒልሰን ፒተርየተገኙ ሲሆንጉዳዮንከአጋሮቻቸውጋርበመሆንለፓርላማለውይይትለማቅረብየበኩላቸውንእንደሚጥሩ ገልፀዋል።
    ከዚህቀደም ተመሳሳይ ዝግጅትበሰሜንኖርዌይሎዲንገንከተማተካሂዷል። በሌላ ዜና ደግሞበዲሞክራሲያዊለውጥበኢትዮጵያስታቫንገርቅርንጫፍ የፖለቲካናየሕሊናእስረኞችንለማሰብቅዳሜሜይ 3 ቀንየተካሔደውዝግጅትበተሳካሁኔታመጠናቀቁን አበበ ደመቀ ከኖርዌይ የላከው ዘገባ ያመለክታል።

  4. Amare
    | #4

    @ Tiyit

    Some Egypt bought and sponsored fools in Norway may had attempted to stop donation, but they did not succeed, they had failed! because the Egypt governments is behind it and trying to stop the hydro dam project, it will not happen, we Ethiopians will not allow that to happen.

  5. Zemenu Abate Gemeda
    | #5

    Who is to blame for the Current unrest in Ethiopia?
    1. Who is to blame for the Current unrest in Ethiopia? It should not be a question at all, right? It is the TPLF ethnic government who spilled hate to one another and displaced poor farmers without having them compensated, disrupting their way of life.
    2. Who is also to blame? The Jawarain thinking is also to blame. Jawarian thinking is driven from the ethno-centric political thinker Jawar Mohammed, which basically teaches oromos that almost 90% of the land in Ethiopia belongs to oromo , the only people who have the right to live on this land are Oromos and others had to be driven out of it or face death (by beheading by machets).
    It is anybody’s democratic right to oppose the Addis Ababa City’s expansion. However, according to this opposition, it seems that the Federal Government does not have any right to plan and execute any development that could benefit the local communities and the Ethiopian at large. Basically, what the Jawairian Students need is since their ancestors took over from non-oromiffa speaking people the land currently inhabited by them four hundred years ago, the remaining people who lived on that land for thousands of years or those who returned to the land after their ancessitor were forced to leave four hundred years ago should live or face death by machetes. They should be beheaded, Jawarian way.
    Jawarian Students were attacking non-Oromigna speaking students as well.
    They will come in pack of ten or more. They would start speaking Oromiffa. If you know the language your are expected to respond in oromiffa. If you do not speak Oromiffa or if you are oromo and chose not to respond to them, you would face severe beatings by the gang. The Jawarians are determined to oust any individual from the land which they call Oromia. Nobody is allowed to tell them any history. According to them, except Gondar, Gojjam, and Tigray, all other former provinces of Ethiopia including the Northern Kenya belongs to Oromia. If somebody tries to tell them that before the Oromo Migration, the Oromos used to live in the Borena areas only is a fiction created by Woyanne. Hence, no bodya could dare and tell them Wollega used to be inhabited by the Gojjma Damot Amharas, or Keffa, Illubabor, Gamo Gofa, Shoa, Wellega, Harar, Northern Part of Sidamo, Arusi, and Wello,a nd Tigray used to be inhabited by other Cushitic or Semitic, or Nilotic groups will cost you your life or safety.
    3. What is the solution? Good or bad the government of any country aspires to make better developments in any country. However, any development has its advantage and disadvantage. The disadvantage always tends to be disrupting the existing way of life. In that, very often people who live in rural lands would be affected. Good governments always make arrangement to the people who live on the land and compensate them. Bad governments do not compensate the farmers and simply expel them.
    When it comes TPLF, we all know that it is a bad government and does not do the right thing, fairly compensate the farmers for their land. However, we also know since the Derg regime took power, all land belongs to the people (government). These farmers have the right to use the land, but do not have the right to possess or own the land they till. They pay tax for using it and not possessing or owning it. The owner is the government. As the owner, the government has the right to use the land as it sees it fit. Alas, this land was taken from this people by the previous regimes. Hence, they deserve fair compensation.
    TPLF/OPDO pays compensation to the farmers and lease the land for far more amount to the investors. Hence, my proposed the solution is this:
    a. The Government has to pay the farmers fair and adequate compensation when new development disrupt their ways of life
    b. The Jawarian should stop preaching hate, beheading, displacing non-oromos from their homes just for the sake of their self-centered interests. They should know the Local, Regional, and Federal government can make development plan and execute it. This is not knew for any country. Grow up.

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