Amnesty Says Ethiopia Detains 5,000 Oromos Illegally Since 2011

October 28th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia’s government illegally detained at least 5,000 members of the country’s most populous ethnic group, the Oromo, over the past four years as it seeks to crush political dissent, Amnesty International said.

Victims include politicians, students, singers and civil servants, sometimes only for wearing Oromo traditional dress, or for holding influential positions within the community, the London-based advocacy group said in a report today. Most people were detained without charge, some for years, with many tortured and dozens killed, it said.

“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” Claire Beston, the group’s Ethiopia researcher, said in a statement. “This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”

The Oromo make up 34 percent of Ethiopia’s 96.6 million population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Most of the ethnic group lives in the central Oromia Regional State, which surrounds Addis Ababa, the capital. Thousands of Oromo have been arrested at protests, including demonstrations this year against what was seen as a plan to annex Oromo land by expanding Addis Ababa’s city limits.

Muslims demonstrating about alleged government interference in religious affairs were also detained in 2012 and 2013, Amnesty said in the report, titled: ‘Because I am Oromo’ – Sweeping Repression in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia.

Government Denial

The state-run Oromia Justice Bureau said the findings were “far from the truth” in a reply to Amnesty included in the report. “No single individual has been and would not be subjected to any form of harassment, arrest or detention, torture for exercising the freedom of expression or opinion.”

The majority of detainees are accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front, which was formed in 1973 to fight for self-determination, according to Amnesty.

Senior Oromo politicians Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa were jailed in 2012 for working with the group, which was classified as a terrorist organization by lawmakers in 2011.

“The accusation of OLF support has often been used as a pretext to silence individuals openly exercising dissenting behavior,” Amnesty said.

The bulk of Amnesty’s information came from interviews with 176 refugees in Kenya, Somalia and Uganda in July this year and July 2013. More than 40 telephone and e-mail conversations were also conducted with people in Ethiopia, it said.

Some interviewees said they fled the country because of conditions placed on them when released, such as being told to avoid activism, meeting in small groups, or associating with relatives who were political dissenters, the report said.

Amnesty has been banned from Ethiopia since 2011 when its staff was deported.

  1. Dawi
    | #1

    5000 is too many but, to give us some perspective with the where we reside, the United States have the largest per-capita prison population in the world.

    In 2014 “.the rate at which human beings are incarcerated in the United States criminal justice system has not abated. Characterized by the increasing incarceration of the poor, the illiterate, and the racially marginalized, mass incarceration of human beings in America has become “normative” for both violent and non-violent offences..”

    The black population in the United States is about 12%; which is about 35,000,000. The Oromo population in millions is similar to blacks in the US, if I am not mistaken.

    According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009 (841,000 black males and 64,800 black females out of a total of 2,096,300 males and 201,200 females).

    This doesn’t paint the full picture of the U.S. incarceration system. Many have estimated the total number of U.S. incarceration to be more than 2.4 million.

  2. Danny
    | #2

    It is shameful to compare sentenced prisoners with innocent civilian who was detained for mere suspicion or ethnic origin. If you understand english and read the article properly you shouldn’t rushed to judge. It says ” illegally detained” without trial.

  3. Ittu Aba Farda
    | #3

    This is another fuel being poured around by elements in the ruling party back there. It is 2014 and do they know the rest of the world scrutiny has reached to a point of being unavoidable? Torturing of dissidents, jailing of journalists, reports of disappearances and past killings of prisoners of war and rigging of elections make it very difficult even for the pro-regime individuals we occasionally encounter on this and other websites lambasting at everyone bemoaning the behavior of the government back home to defend it at all times. Everything is bound to come to a full circle. It may take time but it will happen. One of the allegations hard to believe is the gang raping of women. To be honest with you, I was thinking about giving the new PM the benefit of doubt for a few reasons. He was not with either TPLF or EPLF when they were in the bushes. He was not there with them calling the name of the Lord in vain. He is a new comer and he is a devout religious person who belongs to our Christian brothers and sisters sect. It is in his creed that torture is a sin. A true devout in any religion would even put his own life in line to stop such inhumane acts if one is alleged. I was also encouraged by one of his interviews he gave in which he admitted that some arm twisting and violence was used by members of the ruling party to secure votes during the previous elections. You can forget such admissions by the ones before him. It looks though that he is shedding the teachings of his creed for the worldly goods. But ta\hat said, I am not giving up on merits of peaceful means of standing in the opposition of some of the despotic policies of the government. With me, no peace, no dice. Violence only begets violence except the legitimate war being waged against terrorism being perpetuated by these Eyal-al-Souk thugs in the Middle East and Somalia.

  4. Daaba
    | #4

    The weyanne or hodam using the alias Dawi is insulting our intelligence. The US is a country where the rule of the law is supreme and citizens will not be impriosned becasue of their political views. Dawi has brought his false and stinking argument/figures from his big belly he fills with the woyanne firifari (petty benefits).

  5. Fasiledes
    | #5


    The WHITE DOMINATED RACIST Amnesty international now exposing its hidden agenda (by Poisoning AFRICANS mind and psychology in to tribal line) by turning one AFRICAN tribe against other AFRICAN tribes through exaggerated lies and false reporting.

  6. Getaw
    | #6

    So Dawi the woyane apologist. You are out of argument. The US per capita income in 2014 is more than $54,000. Can you put that in perspective to woyane’s per capita income? The report indicate about political arrest and discrimination not for violent or non-violent arrest. Or is your intent to categorize Oromos ethnic group as violent offenders to arrest them in mass without any charges? You are imbecile and a country is run by your kind of racist people

  7. Dawi
    | #7

    Samy boy,

    [[..It is shameful to compare sentenced prisoners with innocent civilian who was detained for mere suspicion or ethnic origin...]]

    The shame is on you. “sentenced” for what?

    Did you read what I quoted? I wrote it for gullible like you.

    “..increasing incarceration of the poor, the illiterate, and the racially marginalized..”

  8. Adem
    | #8

    Hodam or weyanne Dawi,
    You are the most disgraceful weyanne or Hodam because yout brain/belly ratio is the lowest in the weyanne/hodam camp as your arguments reveal. The TPLF leaders abuse persons of no caliber like you who can not see outside of their big bellies. There can not be any analogy between the mass arrest and incarceration of citizens by the TPLF and the US legal system. The US legal system ensures the rights of all to justice (fair and free trials).

  9. Tesfa
    | #9

    This report reveals how deplorable the situation in Ethiopia is for the majority of our people. TPLF must be thought she can not silence Ethiopians from demanding their freedom to assemble, to vote to speech and have a say in the affairs of their country. The voice of the prisoners is calling many of us to rise and defend our people. We demand our dignity to be respected our humanity affirmed and respected. We will fight until the racist TPLF is ousted from power.

    The former fighter and perhaps a current holder of member card of Tigray People’s Liberation Front central committee is as usual in this forum trying to draw parallel between the U.S justice system the TPLF terrorist and fascistic front justice system. The topic of this professional report is about the illegal, real or assumed crackdown of Oromo dissent by the terrorist TPLF.

    Without saying anything about the issue at hand why do you always feel obligated to defend the criminal TPLF by introducing another topic altogether and lecturing us( U.S justice system)about something else. Why do you feel any way always you have an answer for everything that deals with TPLF’s crime? It is a well-known fact one of TPLF’s unique future is Lie and secrecy. After your Communist rug tug army invaded Addis 23 years ago your party has attempted to erect her two pillars as main stay policy, and is now coming back on to bite her.

    The fact of the matter is this Ethiopianism or Ethiopiawinet has a root that stretches back to thousands of years and on the other hand TPLF is root less and is the making of yester year. Just as GOD removed both the leader of the TPLF and TPLF APPOINTED religious leader in ONE WEEK the death of TPLF is also inevitable. Therefore, pillars of TPLF whose foundation is lie, secrecy, divide and rule is awaiting all of Ethiopians to rise and buried in the dust bit of history. Ethiopians have the ability, man power and resource to just do that.
    Release all journalists!
    Release all political prisoners!

  10. Dawi
    | #10

    Tesfa……..bis! said:

    [[..Without saying anything about the issue at hand why do you always feel obligated to defend the criminal TPLF by introducing another topic altogether and lecturing us( U.S justice system)about something else…]]

    Human rights violations are admitted by EPRDF government and they have set up a commission in the past. They call it national human right action plan. That includes others besides just Oromo.

    The US congress has done similar things on racial profiling, death penalty and drug offenses disproportionally putting blacks in prison.

    It is actually a similar topic with one being in a “democratic” country where I reside and I wanted to compare the situation. Amnesty wrote about both countries. Check it out if you haven’t read about the USA one; it may save your behind because many of our children are in that ugly system. I am just looking at the facts on the ground squarely.

    You are mad because you want to make it unique to Ethiopia but, not to the place that feeds you belly; :-) that is understandable however, they are both violations of human rights and I don’t think you can hide the US’s because they feed you.

    I have learned a thing or two from like of Jawar Mohammed; they defend OPDA/EPRDF for the gains they have achieved so far but, support OLF for their other pipe dreams.

    You & brothre Yelma on the other hand, want to overthrow everything and create chaos in our country.

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