Ethiopians held a rally in front of the US State Department to protest the widespread violation of human rights in the ogaden region of Ethiopia. – By the organizers
More than one hundred Ethiopians showed up at a rally organized to protest the widespread human rights violation against innocent civilians and systematic repression of ethnic Somalis that is taking place in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. As reported by several sources of the international media and the recent extensive report made public by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, in areas inhabited by Ogaden people in eastern Ethiopia, the TPLF/EPRDF regime security forces have raped and sexually assaulted numerous women; displaced entire rural communities and destroyed dozens of rural villages; forced residents to flee to the neighboring countries; summarily executed several hundreds of civilians; arbitrarily detained thousands of civilians; intentionally restricted the delivery of humanitarian assistance on access to food and medical supplies in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Similarly, in the southern and western parts of Ethiopia inhabited by Oromo communities, hundreds have been detained, tortured or otherwise mistreated.
At the rally organized on Friday October 24, 2008 in front of the US State Department Mr. Fitsum Achamyeleh Alemu, a Virginia based Attorney at law and human rights activist, representing the organizers, talked about gross violation of human rights committed in the past 17 and half years by the TPLF-EPRDF regime. Mr. Alemu said that from 1992-2008 the TPLF EPRDF regime killed tens of thousands, forced millions to be displaced or to leave their country, detained and tortured hundreds of thousands. Mr. Alemu based his statement from reports US State Department, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. He also stated that the TPLF-EPRDF also instigated ethnic and religious violence.
Mr. Alemu also emphasized that in the past two years only the TPLF –EPRDF security forces killed hundreds, raped numerous women, and forced thousands to flee their villages, burned villages. Mr. Alemu also mentioned that TPLF-EPRDF government intentionally restricted access to water, food and grazing areas, confiscation of livestock and trade goods, and obstructed of humanitarian assistance in the Ogaden region. In conclusion, Mr. Alemu asked the US government to take leadership and stop the violence, the killing, the torture of Ethiopians. He also asked a new, independent commission to investigate the human rights situation in every province of Ethiopia and the US, the UN and the European Union to take the human rights situation in Ethiopia seriously and to bring perpetrators of the crimes to be brought before justice. If needed international justice.
Mr. Guled Kassim, a human rights activist in the Washington DC area and originally from Ogaden, also spoke at the rally. Mr. Guled challenged the US government, US lawmakers and the international community for looking the other way when such a gross violation of human rights is committed in the Ogaden. He demanded that US tax payers’ money should not be funneled to dictators like Meles Zenawi. Guled moved the crowd by chanting “Shame on You!” after every sentence. USA, Stop financing the Meles regime! , Meles is a war Criminal! Stop the violence against innocent civilians in the Ogaden; Stop the repression in the Ogaden! Human rights and Justice for all Ethiopians!, Bread , not Bullets for the people of Ogaden, Bread , not Bullets for the people of Ethiopia!, Bring Meles to International Criminal Court!! US stop supporting dictators in Africa! Etc. were some of the placards carried and slogans chanted at the protest rally. The Ethiopian Television Network (ETN), the VOA and members of the Ethiopian media were present to provide news coverage at the rally,
Before the end of the rally, the organizers of the protest rally—Mr. Fisum Alemu, Mr. Neamin Zeleke, Dr. Kassa Aylew, and Dr. Mekdes Befekdau—expressed the gave concern of Ethiopians over the ongoing gross violation of human rights in the Ogaden to Mr. John Wysham, head of Ethiopia Desk at the State Department, and handed him the letter addressed to Her Excellency Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State. The letter urges the US government to hold the Meles Zenawi regime accountable for its widespread and gross violation of human rights against thousands of innocent civilians in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia as in other places of Ethiopia. It also urges the US to send a fact finding mission to the region in order to conduct an investigation of the wide spread and systematic human rights violations by the security forces of the Meles regime, identify those who are directly involved, and ensure that they receive no assistance or training from the United States, as required under the “Leahy law”.
Picture by Tewodros Mekebeb