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May 2001 No. 33
Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia
The Oromia Support Group is a non-political organisation which attempts to raise awareness of human rights
abuses in Ethiopia. OSG lobbies governments to withdraw support from the Ethiopian government until it
abides by its constitution which guarantees human rights and self-determination for all peoples of Ethiopia.
OSG has now reported 2,607 extra-judicial killings and 840 disappearances of civilians suspected of
supporting groups opposing the government. Most of these have been Oromo people. Scores of thousands of
civilians have been imprisoned. Torture and rape of prisoners is commonplace, especially in secret detention
centres, whose existence is denied by the government.
Addis Ababa and Central Oromia Region: Killing, death following detention, disappearance
Detention, torture etc.
Addis Ababa students detained and beaten
Judicial decisions reversed
OLF members, sentenced in unfair trial, execution
Eastern Oromia Region: Killings etc.
Detentions, torture etc.
Western Oromia Region: Suspected poisonings in Wallega
Killing, detention and dismissal of students in Jimma
Southern Oromia Region: Killings, land and water dispossession, ethnic clashes
Walaita: Killings and wounding of demonstrators
Kenya: Desperate refugees pay bribes for resettlement
Abuses in Kakuma refugee camp
Border incursions, Ethiopian troops kill civilians
Sudan: Repatriation, coercion, TPLF agents, celebration cancelled
Djibouti: Refoulement, rape and killing of refugees, UNHCR denial
Press: More detentions, journalists in exile
Late news: More Addis Ababa University students beaten
Addis Ababa and central oromia region
Killing, death following detention, disappearance.
Getachew Tadesse, father of four from Salale, N. Showa, was arrested in Addis Ababa in November 1997,
during large-scale arrests at that time. OSG’s informant, a clandestine group who wrote from Addis Ababa
early in 2001, reported that Getachew was severely beaten, until he bled from his ears and nose. After a few
months, he was released, but he died as a result of injuries shortly after release.
He was beaten when being questioned about Tolera Tadesse, his brother, father of one and a small-scale
trader. Tolera was detained shortly after Getachew. He was shown on national television as an ‘OLF
conspirator’. Since then, he was believed by friends and family to have disappeared, until his name appeared on
the list of 61 Oromo charged with conspiracy and held for over three years in Maikelawi Special Investigation
Centre and Karchale Central Prison (see Press Release 31).
An informant from within the All Amhara Peoples Organisation (AAPO) reported to OSG on 13 January
the following abuses against a family of AAPO activists in Seladengay, N. Showa, in 1997. Tachbele
Gebrihiwot was killed. Of his children, one son, Lakew Tachbele, was detained. Another son,
Mekonen Tachbele, disappeared.
Hailemariam Gutama, in his late thirties, a teacher in Ambo, W. Showa, was arrested in early 1997.
According to his cousin, who was interviewed by OSG in Geneva, 5-8 March 2001, his family have been
unable to locate him since then. His disappearance has not previously been reported by OSG.
Detention, torture etc
Mohammed Abdulaziz Muktar, born in Addis Ababa, wrote from exile of his detention in 1995, when he
was 17 years old. His parents were active OLF members when the OLF were part of the transitional
government. One year after the withdrawal of the OLF, in 1993, his parents were detained for six months in
an unauthorised detention centre. They were again detained in 1994. His father was tortured and held for 5
months. His mother’s place of detention was unknown.
In mid-1995, ‘TPLF militia men came to our home saying that my mother had escaped from the detention
centre, although we did not know where she was. When they failed to find them [his father was visiting
relatives], they arrested me and took me to our Kebele underground torturing centre. In this centre, I was
beaten with gun butts, kicked with boots, slapped hard on the face several times and had my hands tied
together like a criminal. I was flogged, immersed in cold water till I lost consciousness. I was then taken to a
nearby fighting area and showed new and old corpses in a mass grave. There, they began to interrogate me
about my father and mother, and demanded that I tell them of the people who had some connection with my
parents and were members or supporters of the OLF. They pointed a gun at me as they asked me questions,
then fired next to my ear which scared me so much as I thought I had been shot. Then they took me back to the
cells holding me as I could hardly walk.’
After three months he was released ‘after signing on life to bring information about my parents within two
weeks’. He went into hiding and escaped to Djibouti, where he was sought by Djibouti security men acting
under information given by Ethiopian security. He lost touch with his father when he fled to Somalia, and
thence to Kenya.
Agare Aman Bulbula was an active member of the OLF, when it was legal in 1991. He was a committee
member of the Nazareth Technical College Oromo Students Association and taught other students Oromo
literacy and about Oromo nationalism. He wrote, ‘I was detained in Nazareth Military Camp from September
1994 to April 1995’. He was abducted by three security men and interrogated about the student committee’s
activities before being released under ‘strong warning’.
In 1997, he was arrested again in Lode Jimata, a rural area to which he had fled to escape harassment. He
was accused of spying for the OLF. He was held for only a few days and transferred to Asella police station,
from where he was released after a court hearing and fine of 2000 Birr.
He moved to W. Hararge and got a job with the transport and road authority. In May 1999, he was
returning from work at Mechara when he was arrested in Gelemso and held in the military camp there for
three weeks, before escaping. He was accused of contacting the OLF and reported being interrogated, tortured
and subject to ‘degrading punishment’.
On 11 December 2000, Abdulmejid Abdo Ahmed, a former technician with the Wondo Genet College
of Forestry, Showa, wrote of his being frequently harassed and detained twice, because he was Oromo. Wondo
Genet was one of the foci of the widespread fires which damaged one sixth of Oromia Region’s forests in early
2000; fires which were ‘deliberately ignited by the TPLF’, according to Abulmejid Abdo and all other local
Two Oromo work colleagues were abducted and accused of starting the fires. [The fires were used in many
areas to justify the rounding up of suspected political opponents.] Abdulmejid fled when he heard that he too
Genemo Deksiso Bedaso, aged 45, wrote on 21 December 2000 of his being detained in Maikelawi Special
Investigation Centre, Addis Ababa, from 1 August 1994 and later being transferred to Karchale Central
(Federal) Prison, from where he was released on 14 November 2000.
Omer Shube Gamada, in a letter dated 18 December 2000, described being tortured, threatened with
shooting, whipped and beaten during three episodes of detention; Asela Civil Prison and Hurso Military Camp,
8 July 1992 – 5 September 1993, Malka Wakana Military Camp (notorious for torture, especially at the hydroelectric plant there), 5 November 1998 – 10 April 1999, and again in Malka Wakana from 25 March to 5 June
A professionally qualified 28 year old from E. Wallega wrote from Germany, where he is seeking
asylum, on 26 March 2001, reporting his experiences before and after the OLF left government in 1992:
‘My first imprisonment took place in September 1991 while the OLF was still within the transitional
government. The incident occurred after a public gathering in Bishoftu town (a town 48 km east of the capital
city of the country), which I also attended as a simple resident of the town. It was as soon as the meeting was
over that the Tigre militia men caught me and few other Oromos and took us to the military camp located near
the Bishoftu town on the way to Nazret. After they caught us without any explanation, they detained us for 12
days in a hidden prison, which is on a hill nearly about 100 meters away from the camp. Our condition of
imprisonment was very horrible. We were not allowed to get water or food for the first two days. Even after
those two days, the amount of food and water we were given was so very little that can solely keep us
physically alive. Most worse was the torture we should endure with that feeble physical capacity. We have
been continuously tortured for consecutive eight days long. But as we had nothing secret to really tell them,
they released us on the 12th day of our detention with serious warnings not to tell any body about our
imprisonment or torture.
In December 1991 the OLF supporters in and around Bishoftuu town were assembled on the main street, on
the way to comprehensive high school meeting hall, in order to express our support to the OLF, which was
quite legal at the time. After the meeting was over, I was once again caught with eight other Oromos and put
in Bishoftu police station-prison under the pretext of having disturbed peace in the town. Then after they
detained us, they tied our hands and forced us to lay down, packed our mouth with socks and have beaten us
with rubber stick repeatedly. We passed the whole night without any food and water. We had to bear the same
kind of severe torture for 3 consecutive days. On the seventh day of our detention, they forced us to sign not
to support the OLF and not to participate in any peace opposition any longer. We had no choice except
complying with the order, if we want at all to survive. We signed and got released after 9 day of detention and
7 days of torture.
. . . We were continuously intimidated and harassed by the security force of the government and Tigrean
students, despite our submissive position.
. . . In June 1996 I left for home to visit my parents - my first time to visit my parents after the OLF's
withdrawal. During my stay there, . . . [was] a wedding ceremony of a friend of mine. Simply because the
wedding ceremony was conducted in accordance to Oromo culture, the TPLF/EPRDF militia men opened up
gun fire against us, . . . [and] arrested 12 youngsters of us. On the second day they forced us all to walk on bare
foot to the military camp of Gida-Kiramu district. They were beating, kicking and inhumanely mistreating us
all on the way to the camp. We were detained there in the camp for 21 days under a severe condition.’
The writer was involved in the publication of the Oromo Graduates Bulletin. After the detention of the
chairman of the bulletin’s publishing committee, Kebede Tullu, he and others involved in the publication were
told they were being sought. He went into hiding and worked in the Southern Peoples Region. He wrote ‘Even
though I was employed there, I used to try all my best not to publicly appear, for example, in any professional
workshops, seminar or meetings. Even in this region, my life was always at risk because of the consistent
follow-up of the EPRDF security force.’ [His name is withheld by OSG to protect his family.]
‘Aba Simbo’, a 42 year old from Addis Ababa, was interviewed by OSG on 11 November 2000, in the USA,
where he seeks asylum. He had supported the OLF in his home town of Shambo, Wallega, when the
organisation was part of government. He had been detained and beaten in a military camp in Shambo for two
days following his arrest on 20 October 1992. He was then kept at Shambo civil prison for three months before
bribery secured his release. While in the prison, he was taken at night on five occasions and beaten with boots
In 1993 he was ordered to join the government Oromo party, the OPDO, by his superiors in the radiocommunications department in which he worked. He refused and was restricted to menial tasks thereafter.
On 20 October 1998, his home in Addis Ababa was ransacked, while he and his wife were out. All Oromo
books, magazines and cassette tapes were taken. He reported the incident to the police, but no action was
taken. A fortnight later, two TPLF soldiers came to his house and searched it again. He asked them to show a
warrant, but they said one was not necessary ‘for people like you’. He was repeatedly accused of holding
weapons for the OLF and warned that he would be killed if he continued to do so.
In November, two weeks later, he was suspended after being accused by his boss of using walkie-talkie radio
equipment to contact the OLF. On 13 November, when drinking coffee in a café, he was approached by a
plain-clothed security officer, who took him to Maikelawi Special Investigation Centre. He was accused and
threatened as before ‘Produce your weapons or you will be killed’, he was told.
He was blind-folded and walked for 15 minutes to a room, where there was blood-stained clothing on the
floor and blood stains on the walls. There, he was beaten on the soles of his feet and had his right ankle broken.
He still bears a scar on his head from that beating. He spent two months in Maikelawi, in which time he was
tortured in this room on one more occasion, a few weeks after his first. He was then transferred to Sandafa
prison, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, on the Jimma road.
After two months, in March 1999, he appeared at the Higher Federal Court No. 3 in Addis Ababa. Although
no evidence was presented against him, he was returned to Sandafa prison, from where he was released seven
months later, in October, after a second court appearance.
‘A. Ali’ was interviewed by OSG on 12 November in the USA, where he seeks asylum. He is 42 and left his
native town of Masala, Hararge, to train as a teacher, in Addis Ababa. He was teaching at an international
school when the OLF were in government and was a member of the OLF fund-raising committee before the
A few weeks after the OLF were forced to leave government, the day after he returned from a conference in
Europe, in August 1992, he was detained in Maikelawi Special Investigation Centre for four weeks. He was not
tortured apart from ‘harsh interrogation’ and was held above ground, not in the dark underground cells.
In October 1992, three days after returning from a conference in Kenya, he was taken again to Maikelawi.
This time, he was beaten severely under interrogation. He received wounds to his forehead from gun butts and
was sutured by prisoner-nurses in Maikelawi. He was released after 3-4 weeks with the usual warnings to keep
a low profile and have nothing to do with the OLF.
Despite following these warnings, on 15 June 1995, he and two other board members of the kindergarten,
which they founded, were taken to Maikelawi, and held until 30 July 1995. The kindergarten was closed.
The three detainees were interrogated and suspended while the soles of their feet were beaten. They were
released on bond of 5000 Birr, each.
He stopped seeing friends at all, but was again abducted and detained, this time in Chiro, E. Hararge. He
was taken from a hospital, where he was visiting his mother, on 27 May 1998. In May 1998, there was a large
scale round up of suspected OLF supporters, as the war with Eritrea began.
In Chiro, he was kept in solitary confinement in an unofficial detention centre until the end of July 1998. He
was beaten severely and forced to sign to say he was an OLF agent. After his release, he was telephoned every
second day and warned he would be ‘dealt with’. He was told ‘We’ll get you soon. Death to OLF supporters’.
Security men came again to his house in Addis Ababa, near midnight on 10 April 2000 and took him again to
Maikelawi, where he spent the next 16 days. He was told that this would be his last time.
According the The Indian Ocean Newsletter, March 10, 2001, the wife of Yonatan Dibsa, who defected in
Germany recently, was taken by security men to an unknown destination on 26 February. Mrs Hulu
Hagerish was left behind when her husband defected. She is an army major, heading an administrative
department in a military hospital, the report stated.
Addis Ababa University students detained and beaten
The International Secretariat of Amnesty International released the following Urgent Action appeal on 12
January (Fear of torture AI Index: AFR 25/001/2001).
Mohammad Jamal (m), 3rd year law student
Tita Gonfa (m), 3rd year sociology student
Dula Raggasa (m), 3rd year psychology student
Derese Furgasa (m), 3rd year psychology student
Badada Bayene (m, 4th year history student
Damte Danye (m), 3rd year mathematics student
Tolasa Dabala (m), 3rd year physics student
Tuli Bayisa (m), chair of the Oromo students association
and a large number of other Oromo students from Addis Ababa University.
Up to 150 Oromo students from Addis Ababa University have been in police custody since 22 December
2000. Only 18 were brought to court and charged within 48 hours, as required by law, and Amnesty
International fears that the students, particularly those not yet taken to court, may be at risk of torture or illtreatment.
Police were called to the university on 22 December to break up a fight between Oromo and other students,
which started after a Tigrayan student presented a sociology class paper about the Oromo, the largest ethnic
minority group in Ethiopia, which offended Oromo students. Police reportedly detained 10 Oromo students
and took the names of other Oromo and Tigrayan students, telling them to report to the police later.
That evening a special police unit raided the university dormitories, arresting and reportedly beating about
200 Oromo students (whose names were on a list carried by police). At least four students were seriously
injured, including the chair of the Oromo students association, Tuli Bayisa, and two women who were taken to
hospital with abdominal injuries. Police later released around 55 of the students, but the others are reportedly
still in custody at Maikelawi police investigation centre, and Holeta and Sendafa army camps, without access to
lawyers, their families or adequate medical care. There have been reports in the past that prisoners in these
camps, including students, have been ill-treated.
Thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group (or nationality) are currently detained in Ethiopia without
charge or trial on suspicion of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which is fighting the ruling
coalition government led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). In recent
months there have been several peaceful demonstrations against the government’s decision to move the
Oromia regional capital from Addis Ababa (which is known as Finfine in the Oromo language, and has a large
Oromo community) to the southeastern city of Nazareth (known as Adama in Oromo). Oromo students at
Addis Ababa University had reportedly organized one such protest shortly before the arrests detailed above.
There have been numerous reports of torture of political prisoners in Ethiopia in recent years, particularly in
certain police stations and security centres in Addis Ababa. Prison conditions are generally harsh, medical
treatment is inadequate and complaints of torture are rarely investigated by the authorities.
Oromo students issued a press release on 23 December, reporting that, initially, the police behaved evenhandedly, taking the names of Oromo and Tigrean students and asking all involved to report later. However,
ten Oromo students, involved in the scuffle, disappeared from the campus during the day. According to the
press release, other Oromo students ‘gather and go to the police station to ask what happened to their friends.
They got beaten up and dispersed back to their dormitories.
The same night turns into a nightmare when Tigrean police and security . . . break into the dorms through
doors and windows terrorizing the students. Doors that led out of the dormitories get locked and students
from the other building cannot respond to the screams and cries of students in the locked rooms.
Students who were in the rooms report that they got beaten and kicked with rifle butts, police batons . . .
The men (with the aid of the Tigre students in campus) then proceed to look for the people whom they had
come to collect. Their list is long and comprehensive containing the names of Oromo students . . . They leave
with approximately 30-50 students (the exact number is not yet known).
The Oromo community would like to ask the Federal Government of Ethiopia where their children are and
what is happening to them and would also like the Human Rights Commission, the international community
and the media to investigate the case and bring it to light.’
Although there were serious concerns that some students had disappeared, as far as OSG is aware, all of
those detained have since been released. As this press release was being prepared, the UN news agency, IRIN,
reported the beating of 50 university students in their dormitory on 11 April by riot police – see back page.
Judicial decisions reversed by security forces
OSG received a faxed message, originally written by prisoners in Batu (Zeway) army camp, Arsi, on 16 March
2001, and a letter from a reliable source in Addis Ababa, post-marked 19 March 2001. Both concerned
detainees whose release was ordered judicially, but who remained in detention because of orders from the
TPLF security chief in Maikelawi Special Investigation Centre, and the TPLF lieutenant in charge of an illegal
detention centre at the military camp in Batu, near to the military camp in Zeway, Arsi, which also holds OLF
Message from Batu, Arsi
According to Batu prisoners, the Ministry of Justice, on 12 Tirr 1992 EC (22 or 23 January 2000), ordered the
immediate release of 230 Oromo prisoners, held without trial since 1995 in the army camp detention centre.
Despite this order, ‘Waddii Shaambal’ [literally, ‘Comrade Lieutenant’] cancelled the release of 84 of the
detainees in a letter to his juniors, who were in charge of the detainees.
The fax stated ‘We are kept behind . . . for the last 6 years in Batu (Zeway) without any court order or
criminal offence. . . .’ ‘We are currently under severe situations regarding our treatment. We are totally
denied access to medical facilities.’‘We hereby send our names and appeal to the humanitarian organisations
like ICRC, Amnesty International and others to act on the principles of the law and safe our life.’
The names of the detainees are:
Obsee --Hasan --Girmaa Galgaloo
[The names indicate that the 84 prisoners are from all areas of Oromia Region – Central, East,
West and South]
Letter from Addis Ababa
The letter from Addis Ababa reported the continued detention of Dirriba Kuma since 1995, despite
his release being ordered by the Oromia Supreme Court.
Included with the letter was a copy of a Court Order, made on 27 Yekatit 1993 EC [around 9
March 01], ordering the release of Dirriba Kuma, presumably from Maikelawi Special Investigation
Centre, Addis Ababa, following the Court’s First Criminal Session.
This had already been countermanded by the Maikelawi Federal Criminal Section Head, Taddese
Messeret. He wrote a letter, also copied to OSG, dated 6 Yekatit 1993 EC [around 14 February
2001], to the Oromia Supreme Court, answering a previous demand for the release of Dirriba
Kuma. He refused to release the prisoner because he was a member of the OLF.
He accused Dirriba of ‘notoriously wounding and killing our defence forces’ [mekelakeya
seraawwitachinin] in districts of Horo Guduru, E. Wallega zone, from January to September 1995.
Messeret wrote to the Oromia Supreme Court:
‘1. Dirriba’s behaviour will definitely jeopardise security and stability of the people, if released.
2. Our department/section was not consulted about his background before his release was
3. The Special Prosecutor was not asked.
So, we [this department] ask respectfully that the Court decision to release the accused [Dirriba],
be reversed and, instead, we resume our legal steps.’
OSG’s informant wrote of Dirriba’s transfer, ‘the cell is changed to Woreda 1 [Higher One,] in
Addis Ababa, and he is put under strict imprisonment. We do not know his whereabouts.
Please translate and publicise to the world community.’
OLF members, sentenced in unfair trial, execution
Local informants, via an OSG researcher in the USA, reported the sentencing of 33 OLF members
being held in Zeway, Arsi, on 14 and 15 March. The sentences were passed at two hearings, the
second of which was the Fifth Session of the Federal Court, in Addis Ababa, on 5 January.
According to local sources, Ziggii Dagaagaa (Muhammad-Sani) was executed on an unknown
date. The following received sentences of 25 years:
Ziggii Dagaagaa (Muhammad-Sani)
Sufian Jundi Shaeikh-Aliyi
Muhammad Adam Abdi
Yusuf Muuccaa Shankoor
Ahmed Jibril Abubaker
Solomon Tilahun Galata
Khadir Ibrahim Ahmadee
Addunyaa Shifarraa Qosanaa
Others received from between 15 and 18 years:
Abdussamd Isma'il Ali
Abadir Sheikh-Muhammad Abdulkarim
Yusuf Qasim Muhammad
Bal'inaa Garbi Siibaa
Iskindir Siraj Ahmed
Shafi Tayyib Ahmed
Jaabir Iisa Ibrahim
Isma'il Noure Muhammad
Khadir Mustafa Moumme
Abdosh Moummee Abdalla
Muhammad Ahmed Eegoo
Muhammad-Jamaal Ahmed Moummee
Diinee Abdushekur Tuqee
Derejje Tuuchoo Kuraa
Haroun Haji Idris
Jamal Haroun Ahmed
Alemayehu Guutamaa Gammachuu
Gaaddisa Tunee Bucuree
At the court, the only witnesses were TPLF soldiers who merely stated that they had fought against
the prisoners. Prior to the trial, Ethiopian television had broadcast accounts from ‘victims’ claiming
that the accused men had destroyed property and homes. These people did not appear in court. The
sentenced men were not able to appeal in the three week period which they were given, in theory.
Food which is brought for the prisoners by their families is being diverted. At least three of the
prisoners are said to be in a ‘critical health condition’ because of malnutrition and maltreatment.
The man in charge of the detention centre, Sayid Shifa, is reported to have stated publicly that he
has been ordered by TPLF Second Lieutenant Gebre/Hiwot to stop food reaching the prisoners.
eastern oromia region
Jacob Sero Turi, aged 50, wrote on 24 November of his family’s persecution because of the
support they gave to the OLF. He wrote that early in the transitional period (1991-5), the EPRDF
‘destroyed all of my property and killed one of my brothers . . . They beat me all over my body,
turning me upside down, and made many scars on my different parts.
They killed two of my sons . . . Dawole Jacob and Roba Jacob. Dawole was killed in
1986 EC [1993-4], and Roba was killed in 1987 EC [1994-5]. I was in prison [Agarfa prison, N.
Bale, according to his certificate from ICRC] . . . for three years and sixty days. Also the EPRDF
security men beat my wife and raped her when I was in prison . . .
I am starving with my son here in Nairobi.’
Abdella Ahmed Mohammed, a 27 year old from Defo, near Galamso in E. Hararge, wrote
from exile in Djibouti, in August 2000.
‘We – I, my brother and my father – were accused of supporting OLF and detained many times.
On 5 June 1997, due to armed conflict between OLF and EPRDF in our area, Defo, while we were
in our farm, the EPRDF militias came and opened fire on us. My brother, Khalifa Ahmed, and
my father, Ahmed Mohammed, were killed.’
He was severely wounded in his left thigh and still needs treatment, he wrote.
An Oromo refugee in the USA (name withheld by OSG) wrote on 18 March about the
disappearance of his brother. The two brothers and their father were taken to a military camp near
Deder, E. Hararge, in July 1992, immediately after the OLF left the transitional government – see
Detentions, Torture etc. below. The correspondent and his father were released after four months
of torture, including mock execution, but the correspondent’s brother’s whereabouts remain
unknown. OSG has not reported his disappearance previously.
Detentions, Torture etc
The Oromo refugee who wrote from the USA on 18 March 2001 of the disappearance of his
brother (see above) reported his own four episodes of detention and torture from 1992 -99, thus:
‘Immediately after the OLF withdrew from the transitional government in July 1992 in the town
of Deder [E. Hararge] . . . the Tigrean soldiers surrounded our house and ordered us to open at
night. Knocking my father, my brother, and me to the ground and tying our arms behind our backs
and terrorizing the children, they searched every inch of the house for hours. They beat us
mercilessly to tell them where the guns they claimed we had been given by the OLF were kept.
They took all the valuables from the house, detained us in their military camp, where we were
beaten, immersed in foul water, taken to a hillside-killing field and terrorized with gunshots, and
suspended from a cliff. Harassment and interrogation continued for the rest of the family as well.
My dad and I were released after four months signing on our life that we would not tell about what
we had faced in detention and promising not to move out of the town. We were also ordered to
report at the military forces camp . . . [weekly].The whereabouts of my brother are still unknown.
The next arrest happened in August of 1994 . . . they took me to Iyasu, an underground prison
where they interrogated me. They shoved me to the ground, breaking my tooth and bloodying my
face; they immersed me in a barrel of cold water, and they hit me on the soles of my feet, and kept
my hands tied for long periods of time. I was given only one small piece of flatbread to eat and
water only once a day. I didn't see any light. Every night they came and they beat me. I stayed there
for almost 45 days. . . [They released me] because they couldn't find the evidence to hold me.
My third arrest took place in May of 1995. I had just graduated from high school and I went to
look for a summer job in a place called Burqaa, a remote area, much suspected of OLF activity. The
OLF attacked the Tigrean military camp in Burqaa. That night I was with a friend who was
suspected of supporting the OLF. We were together in his home, and when they came to look for
him, they took me too. They took us to Burqaa police station and detained us in a separate dark
room. The charge made against us was organizing OLF members, supplying the guerrilla fighters'
food, shoes and information, and collecting funds that are sent to the OLF. They beat me on my
soles of my feet and tortured me mercilessly. One of the interrogators beat me on my head with a
stick, and then I lost my consciousness. When I woke up in the morning I found my shirt full of
blood. They kept me for three weeks without any trial. Every night they came and interrogated
me.’ He was released on condition of not meeting OLF suspects.
‘My fourth arrest DireDawa in November 1998. I had an Eritrean friend who used to visit me.
After the Ethiopia-Eritrea war broke out two plain clothed security men came to my home and got
the two of us talking. They interrogated us and warned us not to go out of the city without their
notice and to report to their office on a weekly basis. After a week, four highly armed soldiers came
to my home at night and took me to Arategna Police Station. When I got there, I met with my
Eritrean friend and three officers who interrogated us. We were accused of organizing Oromos to
oppose the Ethio-Eritrean war in favor of Eritrean government. They claimed that OLF's stand is
against the war and on Eritrean side, so they believed we were organizing Oromos and Eritrean
community in DireDawa. . . . They beat and tortured us to tell them what they claimed is true.
They beat me on my genitalia until I fainted, and I still have a problem in my urinary system.
After two weeks, my friend was deported to Eritrea and they took me to Gurawa town where
many Oromos are arrested on suspicion of supporting OLF. I was ‘re-educated’ the EPRDF’s
political program for a month. After taking the course, I was released on condition that I take the
traditional swear in front of the old men not to participate in any anti-government political
activities, and I had to sign on my life that I would be taken if I am found doing so.
Then I went to the capital, Addis Ababa, where nobody knew me. I was safer there than in the
countryside. Before I left the country almost all of the properties of my father had been taken, and
he was forced to leave the country. My mother was left to take care of the only house that
remained, but now she is also forced to leave the house. The government has taken our house and
she lives in exile now. All my brothers and sisters left the country and live in Kenya in a camp with
my mom. And I understood on August 2000 that one of my friends who was teaching with me and
was my roommate has been arrested and disappeared and his whereabouts are still unknown.
Mohamed U. A., shop owner and farmer from Haramaya, E. Hararge, wrote from exile on 7
November of his detention and mistreatment in 1992, shortly after the OLF left the government.
He had been an active supporter of the OLF when they were in government. He was again detained
in 1993 and held in Haramaya for five months. Following clashes between the OLF and
government forces around Haramaya, he was detained in March 1997. He was held at Dangogu,
where he described being ‘brutally beaten with gun butt, fists and stick till I lost my consciousness’.
The torture was ‘beyond measure’ during his 11 month detention.
In 1999, following the death of a local official, his vehicle and shop were looted and he was again
detained. He wrote ‘I stayed incommunicado, was immersed in cold water, I was thrown on hard
ground with my hands tied up behind my back, to my legs . . . forced to walk on rocky ground on
my knees while being beaten inside the soles [of his feet] and on the head. I was taken to nearby
bush and shown new and old skeletons/bodies who had been shot by government militia. They had
been dumped in a mass grave. They put a gun mouth on my ear and fired next to my head and this
scared me so much I fainted.’ He was held for ten months.
In late 2000, TPLF security men came to his house while he was away at a funeral. ‘They took
with them my ailing wife and confiscated our properties’ he wrote. ‘They also took my car.’ He
fled to Somalia, from where he was forced to leave when the OLF were driven from Mogadishu.
Ahmed M. S., a 34 year old from Bedeno, Hararge, wrote from exile on 9 November of two
periods of detention, from 1992 to 1993 and from September 1996 to December 1997, during
which he was tortured.
He described mock execution. ‘The worst experience was when night would come and I would
be taken to the bush and threatened to be shot. The security forces would shoot one or two and
would fire near my ear, making me faint out of fear.’ He was kept in solitary confinement and, as is
usual, slept on a cold cement floor.
His wife was pregnant when she too was detained and beaten. The pregnancy was lost at four
months. His 12 year old son was also detained in a military camp and suffered a broken leg and
bleeding from his ears.
He reported his brother and an Oromo doctor were shot dead for supplying the OLF with
Another, younger, brother was a first year student in Hawasa Agricultural College when he also
was detained in a military camp.
Western Oromia Region
Suspected poisonings in Wallega
Two brothers died unexpectedly within one month of each other in mid-2000, according to their
brother, in exile in Norway, on 11 April. He informed OSG that Tulu Barsissa, a 26 year old who
was sacked from his technician’s job in the government road authority about eighteen months ago,
died in his home village of Amachale, Guduru district, Horro Guduru, E. Wallega. He was
dismissed because of suspected support for the OLF. He was young and fit.
One month later, his brother, Wulli Barsissa, aged 38, died unexpectedly, in the same
place. He had been refused re-employment with the Electric Light and Power Authority, after
dismissal during the Derg period for suspected support of the OLF.
Although Wulli had a history of abdominal problems, both he and Tulu are believed by their
brother in Norway to have been poisoned to death.
Killing, detention and dismissal of students in Jimma
An OSG informant wrote from Ethiopia on 13 November 2000 about abuses in Jimma, now in
In addition to the previously reported killing of 2nd year accountancy student, Alemu Disassa, in
March 2000, the informant reported the fatal shooting of Temesgen Asfaw Tura on the
campus of Jimma Teachers College on 10 November 2000. His assassin emptied a pistol, which he
had grabbed from a policeman, at close range into six students, killing student Temesgen Asfaw
Tura and wounding five others, one seriously. The body of Temesgen was returned to his parents
in Mettu, Illubabor, the following day ‘without investigation’.
Oromo students had been complaining to the college dean and local police about rape and
harassment by other students. They believe that a Tigrean shop owner, Abraham, whose premises
are close by Jimma Teachers College, acts as a spy on them and encourages and supports those
students who abuse and insult Oromo students.
Abraham is believed to have been implicated in the suspension of several Oromo students at the
end of June 2000, following their complaints about insults and harassment.
On 8 November, after an Oromo student was beaten up, others protested and started attacking
property to which the student’s assailants had fled. The police, who had done nothing in response
to the mistreatment of Oromo students, took over the campus.
On 10 November, an ex-Derg commando, Gezahegn Ketsela, accompanied police in a pick-up
to the college campus and began mingling with the students. The police did not intervene when he
took a pistol from a policeman and completely discharged the weapon into surrounding students.
The incident, like the murder of Alemu Disassa in March, was not mentioned in the media.
Ketsela, the assassin, later ‘submitted himself’ to police and was held, at least initially, in the
Zonal Police Office ‘not as a murderer, but as any simple criminal’.
About 11 students were detained in the same place. The Chief of Police, Getinet, said that the
killer could have killed many more. Because of the media silence about the incident, ‘there is a fear
that the murderer will be set free’, wrote OSG’s informant.
Information which reached OSG via a contact in the USA on 22 February reported the dismissal
of seven Oromo students from the Jimma Teachers Training College on 10 February. The students
were accused of ‘co-operation and sympathy’ with student unrest in Addis Ababa. Jamal Firrisa,
the student’s representative to the zonal authority, was held in Jiren police station for 13 days.
The same source stated that Oromo who were detained for suspicion of Islamic fundamentalism
on 3 January were still in detention.
SKM wrote from Kenya on 15 January. His family were victimised by the Derg regime and six
cousins died fighting the TPLF in Wallega zone in 1992. He was detained in Gulliso military camp
from 9-24 July 1992, when he was taken blind-folded to Dhidessa camp. In Gulliso, he was
severely beaten, causing permanent scarring, and ‘intimidating me alive by tying me to a tree far
from the camp after mid-night every night’. He was released from Dhidessa on 9 March 1993 and
returned to his home town of Nejo, Gimbi district, Wallega. He wrote ‘In 1994, I was approached
by security personnel and told “unless you accept and become member of OPDO, take care for
your life”. Following this, I was scared and left the area for Gimbi.’
He got a place at Nekemte Teachers Training Institute. ‘I was detained by security personnel
from this institute, allegedly for supporting and spreading OLF networking in the area.’ He was
kept for a week at Gutogidda Administrative Office in Nekemte and released after being ‘made to
sign not to do anything involving politics’.
‘In 1995, I was detained by 3 policemen for a week’, again accused of spreading OLF literature
and having to sign agreeing to appear on demand.
‘In September 1996, TPLF security men picked six of my friends from their houses in Nejo, for
allegation of supporting the OLF, tortured them, killed them and threw their bodies into an open
field at Shimal Tokkee. From among the victims, Henoch [Yonatan] Isaak was my friend from
Kebele 01, Nejo. When Henoch’s death appeared in URJII newspaper and the news spread all over
the country . . . Security men started propagating that I was the one . . . sending the news to
URJII.’ He ran away to Addis Ababa.
In the capital, he studied law at Addis Ababa University. On ‘February 7, 1998, on my second
semester, TPLF security men came to my room and said “you are still an OLF cadre . . . you are
organising anti-government, OLF groups in the university, so get into the car now!” Then they
took me to Maikelawi [Special Investigation Centre, Addis Ababa].’
He was transferred, with 150 other Oromo to Nazareth, E. Showa, where most were released
after one month’s indoctrination. He fled from Addis Ababa when associates, who had co-written a
letter to the General Secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan, began to be arrested.
The death of Henoch Yonatan and the detention of 150 Oromo in Nazareth were reported by OSG – Press
Releases February 1996 and June-July 1998, No. 23. See the account of SKM, on opposite page.
A professionally qualified Oromo who is presently seeking asylum in the West wrote in
March 2001 to OSG. At his request, he remains anonymous to protect family members. He is from
Wallega zone. He was an active OLF supporter during the transitional government period when
the organisation was legal. Excerpts of his report follow:
In February 1996 ‘ . . . at about 9 o'clock in the morning three fully armed gun-men (two
EPRDF militia men and one police man named . . .) took me from my office to the military camp
known as . . . The official reason for my arrest was that I was suspected to be an OLF member. As I
arrived at the military camp, I was intimidated and harassed to speak out everything I know about
the OLF. . . . Then they shifted me in the afternoon, to the . . . military camp situated near the
town of . . . , where they begun to torture me by all means at their disposal. I was kept in a cell of
2m² with metallic wall. In that hot climate the room was just like a cooking oven. The same date at
about 9 o'clock in the evening, I was taken outside of the military camp to the hill side of the . . .
river. Here, after having taken off all my clothes my arms were tied together at the back and forced
me to kneel down on the rocky surface. Then, three armed men begun to interrogate me with
harsh and unbearable beatings for hours. . . . The torture was so brutal that words fail me to
explain. My arms and my fingers were to burst out because they were so tightly tied up together
that my blood circulation would virtually stop. Having felt weak and helpless, I was crying and
sobbing like a child. But they were laughing at me. Late in the evening when they came to know I
had nothing to tell them their chief knocked me down with his pistol on my right cheek, after
which I went unconscious. On the next morning, as I became conscious of my self, I realized that I
was in my cell. My mouth was full of clotted blood and my right upper tooth was broken.’
The next evening ‘I was taken to the same torturing place, on that rocky hill, and endured the
same procedure of torture. Again after an extensive interrogation, at late night one of the militia
men brought a fresh stool [i.e. human faeces, excrement] with the tip of a stick and inserted it into
my mouth. While I was vomiting endlessly, they were again laughing at me. Later on, I was told to
stand up and walk while my arms were not still untied. But I couldn't. Then they pulled me on the
ground all the way to the camp. Even then after, the torture continued on the next day until 24/
06/ 1988 [Ethiopian calendar – 8 days into his detention], but it was in a small room equipped with
two metallic tables, sticks, electric wire and ropes, no more on the rocky hill.
Eventually . . . [after 10 days of detention], the officials of the camp gathered 12 Oromo
detainees including me, early in the morning in the torture room and ordered us to put our
signature on a paper written by them. We knew nothing about the content of the paper. If we were
not to sign, we were told that we would be shot dead. . . . After having warned us not to disclose
this secret any time in the future . . . The main content of the paper was a confession that we were
OLF members and that we now voluntarily condemn the OLF as a terrorist and anti-peace
organization and ask EPRDF for amnesty.’ He remained in detention for one year.
‘After having been released from the prison, TPLF's security forces were continuously calling,
intimidating and harassing me. My name was usually mentioned even at public meetings as a bad
example in the community life. . . . And those security workers . . . kept up on closely following
up all my daily activities and my whereabouts.’
SOUTHERN Oromia Region
Killings, land and water dispossession, detentions,
government’s role in ethnic clashes
An OSG correspondent in Nairobi wrote on 30 March 2001 with information from Borana zone.
‘Recently, the TPLF government . . . proposed to give the land of Oromia, in Boran region, part of
Liban, Dirree and Moyale. These lands are very important pasture land and permanent water points
. . . without these grazing lands and water points, our people can face serious problem . . . This
decision is made by the TPLF government suspecting that the Boran Oromos are supporting OLF.’
It is feared that the proposal may be put into practice soon. Strong but peaceful protest by elders
and youth groups have gone unheeded. He continued:
‘Very important lands of Oromia in Boran administrative region had already [been] given to
Region Five [Somali Region] people, for example Bulayu, Gofa, Lahe, very important water points
and grazing lands in Moyale district, and ‘Bede’, known for its precious minerals, given to Region
Five settlers. From Arero district, Udet had been given to Region Five people. The newly arranged
proposal is to eliminate the life of our people and destroy their property.
The Gada leaders [traditional political, social, legal and religious leaders], the elders of the Boran
Oromos had made immense contribution to make negotiations peacefully but the consequences
were persecution, atrocity and murder . . .
At Negele, there is land claim conflict between the Boran Oromos and Region Five settlers. The
conflict is pre-planned by the TPLF government to loosen security in the area . . . The government
is on the side of Oromo enemies, assisting them with heavy machine guns and logistics.
Very recently, armed men from the Garri tribes suddenly attacked the village of Haro Duba and
killed eight people and seriously wounded six others:
Killed in Haro Duba:
Mrs Dhaki Haro
The wife of Ali Huqa
The daughter and son of Jatani Godana
Seriously wounded in Haro Duba:
(One name not known)
By the end of the year 1992 Ethiopian Calendar [September 2000], the armed men from the Garri
tribes killed five Boran elders at Moyale:
Dalu Boru Aga
Things are getting worse in Boran administrative region. Our beloved people are sentenced to
death, torture and confiscation of their wealth by the TPLF government.’
Finally, the writer expressed a wish that this information would be published.
The writer named some of the recent detainees in Moyale district (in Dirree and Arero) and in
Guyo Gobba (designated to be next Aba
Gada – overall leader)
Roga Gufu (policeman)
Alema . . . (policeman)
Molu . . . (policeman)
The wife of Qatale Shunaa
In Negele prison:
Kadir and Nura Badhu
According to a written statement by the Walaita Natives in UK organisation, 24 January 2000, the
following violations were committed between September 1999 and January 2000 in the Walaita
area. The Walaita number over two million and have no separate identity or administration within
the Southern Peoples Region. The violations were in response to protests about the imposition of a
conglomeration, Wogagoda, of four separate but similar languages on the administrations of
Walaita, Gamo, Goffa and Dawro peoples, creating chaos in the education system. Names of two of
the killed and three of the detainees were reported in February 2000 (Press Release 30, p. 14).
Killings and wounding of demonstrators
Demissie Bugge, and Abera Beyene, a student, were shot dead on 8 November 1999.
Dinkinesh Wadetta and Marta Jutta, both 10th grade female students, were beaten to death on 23
Over 70 students were ‘seriously wounded’ by gunfire.
‘More than 500 people are imprisoned without charge in concentration camp type conditions . . .
The whereabouts of about 100 people are unknown’
Two elders, Tekle Takiso and Bishop Israel Lolamo, and businessman Birhanu Mena and his 20 year
old son, student Napoleon Birhanu, were put in solitary confinement according to the report.
Ten teachers have been dismissed without warning.
264 schools were closed for six weeks.
136 teachers were transferred to remote areas against their wishes.
Over 100 businessmen and high profile people left their homes and businesses, to avoid abduction
‘The whole Walaita region is under siege by more than 3000 members of the army, who are at
liberty to arrest, torture and imprison ordinary citizens.’
Desperate refugees pay bribes to be resettled
Since November last year, the Oromo Relief Association (ORA) has been complaining of
corruption throughout the whole refugee program run by UNHCR in Kenya. Refugees have long
complained of being asked for bribes in order to even approach UNHCR.
New York Times and Newsweek articles, which exposed the scandal in February, claimed that foreign
embassies were involved. Although not specific, this corroborates OSG’s information. Ethiopian
embassy staff organise ex-Derg soldiers and functionaries and co-operative members of Kenyan
security forces to harass, beat, threaten and sometimes kill Oromo refugees.
The ostentatious use of the Hagere Fikir logo has ceased since it was publicised in Sagalee Haaraa in
October 1999, but the ultra-nationalist group remains active. It hired a Kenyan soldier to shoot an
innocent Oromo refugee in Nairobi in early November 2000 (see next issue for details).
The UNHCR scandal involved mainly Kenyan employees and one Italian, who were asking for
money to arrange resettlement. ‘Guisepe’ has not had his contract renewed. The others are still
employed, but with less responsibility. Protection officers Wondere, Juma Musa and Samuel,
Social Counsellor, Ceril, a Nigerian, and Senior Protection Officer, Peter Orengo, are reported to
be implicated. Office guards are also accused of receiving bribes for entry.
Four UNHCR staff, reported to know of the scandal, were moved from Nairobi in late 2000,
after receiving death threats. News articles claimed that foreign embassies were involved in the
bribery scandal only. The death threats involved the only officials whom OSG knew to be honestly
sympathetic to Oromo refugees and who could be relied upon to keep sensitive information secure.
Refugees claim that UNHCR is difficult to access without paying bribes. After waiting six
months or so for an interview, several bona fide refugees, including those with International
Committee of the Red Cross documentation of their illegal detention in Ethiopia, have reported
being denied refugee status, and thus any hope of resettlement.
One wrote that ‘a number of pro-government agents are being granted resettlement in Canada,
the US, Norway and Australia, posing as Oromos, their resettlement process being facilitated by
[Ethiopian] embassy documentation’.
Refugees, physically or mentally damaged by torture or rape, have been sent to Kakuma camp,
despite recommendations for resettlement from the Kenyan Home Office and the agency, GOAL.
ORA estimates there are 30-35,000 Oromo refugees in Kenya, with only one in five receiving
UNHCR recognition. The Oromo Refugees Community in Kenya claim that over 10,000 Oromo
and their families are living in ‘unbearably difficult conditions’ in Nairobi, alone.
Although 9,383 refugees, mainly from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, were resettled in year 2000
(New York Times), less than 5% of refugees in Kenya can expect to be resettled. Their desperation
results in large amounts (up to $5,000) paid in bribery.
UNHCR, Nairobi, is budgeted to look after only a few hundred refugees, from the whole of the
Horn of Africa. It hasn’t the resources to follow up refugees changing addresses in the city and has
stated that resettlement will only be possible from Kakuma, to where it refers almost all refugees.
Kakuma refugee camp houses about 100,000 refugees, the majority from Somalia and Sudan.
Only 3,000 were said by UNHCR to be ‘Ethiopian’, last year. OSG’s researcher in Nairobi
estimated 30,000 Sudanese, 10,000 Somali, 2,500 Amhara, 1,000 Oromo, 400 Ugandan and 250
from central Africa, lived at the camp.
According to Jeff Crisp, head of UNHCR Evaluation and Policy Analysis, writing in the journal
of the Royal African Society (African Affairs, 99, 397, 601), refugees at Kakuma camp are abused,
demoralised and brutalised. ‘[I]n Kenya’s refugee camps . . ., incidents involving death and serious
injury take place on a daily basis’, he wrote. Camp refugees say that their main problem is that their
‘safety is under constant and serious threat’. They live in a lawless, violent society.
Human Rights Internet reported last year that glue sniffing, alcoholism and violence, especially
against girls and women, were serious problems in Kakuma. Although amenities such as water and
medicines, are adequate, there is virtually no rule of law. Kenya handed this over to UNHCR.
Action by UNHCR is ‘seriously inadequate’ and the organisation is itself part of the security
problem, according to G. Verdirame, in the Journal of Refugee Studies, 1999. Agency workers are
‘inclined to become habituated to high levels of violence and insecurity’, wrote Jeff Crisp.
UNHCR provides local Kenyan police with vehicles, fuel and spares. It supplements their
income and is involved with training. The Lutheran World Federation employs the 120 Kakuma
camp police/guards, taken from the local Kenyan population and from refugees in the camp. It
equips them with flashlights, radios and bicycles. These police are frightened to patrol. They are
late and reluctant to investigate violent incidents, and, more seriously, are open to bribery. At
night UNHCR and other agency staff are confined to their compounds.
Refugees have written to OSG again and again, complaining that incidents of assault are ignored
and not investigated. Attackers, detained briefly, if at all, are then set free again in the camp.
Local, refugee-run, and often arbitrary, judicial processes are undergone and UNHCR admit that
crimes of violence, including murder, are rarely punished in Kakuma. Fines are pocketed by those
sitting in judgement, who are thus open to bribery.
Insecurity leads refugees to react violently and unpredictably, perpetuating a vicious circle.
Friction with the local Turkana community and gun running increase the insecurity.
Kakuma camp is five times the size (20,000 or under) recommended by UNHCR in its
publications. It houses several groups of people who are antagonistic to each other; SPLA and
Moslem Oromo and Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians, even Hutu and Tutsi. The violence
committed against Oromo and Sidama by ex-Derg members is only one of several violent
The Oromo Refugees Community in Kenya organisation has asked for support in urging the
Kenyan government to allow Oromo refugees to stay in a camp far away from the Ethiopian and
Somali borders – far from the insecurity and mayhem in Kakuma.
Abuses in Kakuma
Much of the below information was available for publication last year, but OSG was requested to
wait for the results of UNHCR investigations before publishing.
18 February 1999. AMR, detained and tortured in Ethiopia in 1992, was attacked by a Turkana
man, believed by the Oromo Community in Kakuma to have been hired by ex-Derg members.
AMR received a knife wound to his left hand, which was documented by a police report. The
community organisation and the victim reported the incident to UNHCR, to LWF and to local
Kenyan police. No action was taken. The community organisation wrote in January 2001 that he
was living in hiding, because his attacker is still at large and seeking him out.
17 July 1999. Mohamed Siraj, a friend who was staying at the home of JBA, ‘disappeared from the
camp after he went out at night to buy food items from the shop. The case was reported to
Lutheran World Federation there by Kenyan police but nothing has been done to search for
Mohamed Siraj, wrote JBA on 28 August 2000. Since then, JBA has ‘received death threats from
active Ethiopian agents in the camp . . . I have fear and problem to approach UNHCR protection
officer for protection. In Kakuma, every door is under Ethiopian agents who are working with
UNHCR and other agencies in the camp. I am in great fear of ‘Hagere Fikir’ action group, who are
suspected to be armed.’
19 October 1999. STA, a peace education teacher at the camp, wrote on 7 September 2000, ‘On
19 October 1999 at 2 pm, I was abducted from the Somali community by Ethiopian mobile men
and two Kenyan off duty policemen. After [being] taken to the refugee cemetery, I was beaten and
interrogated. I was saved by fellow refugees from being taken back to Ethiopia.’
He continued ‘On 27 August 2000, I was threatened by Ethiopian ex-Airborne Commander, a
Kenyan police informer . . . . After, I was reported to the camp security office. On 29 August, I
was arrested by the compound police. Without asking anything they forced me to enter a police
cell [a container] . . . interrogated politically by the policeman who victimised me for a second time
for not breaking any law. Even though the incident was reported immediately by the Oromo
chairman, UNHCR did not take any action to release me immediately. I was detained five days.’ He
fears being abducted and taken to Ethiopia.
14 June 2000. HHA, a previous detainee and torture victim, was attacked by hooded men at night,
he wrote, in October 2000. The attackers fled when his wife raised the alarm. He received wounds
to his face, head and limbs, documented by Kenyan police the following day. He reported the
assault to UNHCR, but received no reply.
20 June 2000. AAK, a Sidama Liberation Front supporter, was attacked by three ex-Derg soldiers,
Mihret Kinfu, Abebe Meles and Teferi …, armed with a knife and spear. He was wounded but
escaped. They bribed Kenyan police and the camp police. AAK was imprisoned in Lodwar prison
for three months. AAK had been ordered from Kakuma by Ethiopian (ex-Derg) community leaders
on three occasions. They ordered him to be ostracised by other Ethiopians and, according to his
friend who wrote from exile in Norway, the community leaders organised three people, Messay,
Eyaderu and Ambaw, to assassinate him. His 9 year old son was abducted and found 34 days later in
Nairobi. He now lives in hiding, away from the camp.
2 October 2000. OKW was attacked by a Somali, and received deep knife wounds to his neck,
documented by Kenyan police. OKW’s assailant had been pursuing him since making an attempt to
abduct him early in the year, when he had been released with the help of Oromo elders. He wrote
that his attacker ‘has connection with Ethiopian agency and his cousin in Ethiopia is a minister’ and
‘his [other] cousin is a chief of Kakuma town’. After the attack in October, the assailant was
detained, but released within nine days. On 11 October, ‘he searched [for] me three times around
10.00 pm with unknown person in order to take revenge on me’, wrote OKW. He has left his
home and gone into hiding. He wrote again in January 2001, saying that on 29 November, men
armed with guns ‘came at my place and they were talking in Somali and Turkana language’. He
believes his former assailant was one of the group. He informed UNHCR security and Kenyan
police, but again nothing has been done, despite the Oromo Community organisation writing that
his life was at risk in Kakuma.
10 October 2000. YMG wrote ‘I am in great need of your assistance for serious insecurity in the
camp . . . by Ethiopian agents. I was saved from being kidnapped . . . by fellow Oromos’. But his
friends have now left the camp after ‘frequent trials’, he wrote.
17 October 2000. AHA wrote of his spending over four months in Nairobi in 1995, trying to
arrange repatriation. He was refused by the Ethiopian embassy, after being questioned by embassy
officials about Oromo political movements. After this, ‘the agents started attempting seriously to
kill my life in Kakuma camp’, he wrote. No action has been taken, despite his insecurity being
reported to UNHCR, LWF and Kenyan police. ‘Due to blockage and systematic control, I became
unable to appeal to UNHCR [in Nairobi]’, he reported.
7 November 2000. OSA and his family were attacked by four Sudanese men (believed to be SPLA
supporters). They were attacked at their residence in Kakuma III, because they were Moslem and in
revenge for fighting between the OLF and SPLA during the fall of the Derg in 1990/91.
‘I reported to UNHCR and Kenyan police. No action takes place’, he wrote, on 12 December.
He had also written on 5 June, about previous attacks. He was first attacked, in his home, during
the night of 23 March 1995. The incident was reported to LWF, Kenyan police and UNHCR.
Nothing was done. In 1996, he was hospitalised after an attack on him and his family, and advised
to go to Dadab camp. In 1999, he was transferred to Kakuma III, ‘about 6 km from the Ethiopian
[Amhara] Community camp for the remains of Mengistu’s army.
On 24 April 2000, I was abducted from Kakuma III by three Ethiopian men with masks,
equipped with knives, at night time. They took me to Kakuma I, through the stream, and tied my
hands together’. Local Sudanese refugees scared his attackers off. He needed suturing for a 4 cm
knife wound to his scalp. The incident was reported to the police and to UNHCR, in vain.
9 November 2000. A 32 year old mother of three, wrote of her repeated rape during a two
month detention in 1996, when she was interrogated about her disappeared husband. After her
release ‘they came and chased away my children and forced me for sexual intercourse repeatedly,
inhumanely, until I got tired’. She entered Kakuma, having left two of her children in Ethiopia, in
1996. Since then, she writes that she has been recognised by Ethiopian security men who travel
between Kakuma camp and Ethiopia. She is tormented with fear that she will again be detained and
raped. She has physical symptoms and cannot sleep. ‘Always I appeal my problems to UNHCR
office, but no response’, she wrote.
27 December 2000. The head of one of only 12 Sidama families in Kakuma wrote that ‘Sidama
letters and applications have been sorted out by the Ethiopian government agents who have links
with local UNHCR staff . . . for the last four years, communication became difficult for Sidamas.’
He stated that, for the last seven years, Sidamas had been denied their full right to shelter and that
access to water is restricted by Ethiopian community members ‘unless [we] confess Ethiopian
nationality’ [ie denounce the Sidama right to self-determination]. He had written earlier in the year,
complaining that Sidama people had no representation at the camp and that UNHCR did not
recognise their problems. ‘Sidamas, under the control of Ethiopians, have lost all rights and
freedom in the camp. . . . Sidamas are under great fear and influence of the Ethiopian Nationalist
Group’ he wrote. ‘I fear our survival will not be sustained in Kakuma. Our lives are monitored all
the time by Ethiopians.’
3 January 2001. The Kakuma Oromo Community organisation wrote complaining that Ethiopian
government security personnel had infiltrated Kakuma and were working in collaboration with the
camp Ethiopian community. Since being appointed in 1999, the UNHCR social service head,
Alemsteye Zeleke, has been passing information to the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi, the group
25 March 2001. DLA wrote from Kakuma claiming that Ethiopian government sympathisers were
posing as Oromo in Kakuma, in order to be resettled. He reports being told that long-term
refugees, without supporting documents, do not get resettled. He also reported the non-fatal
shooting of an Oromo in 1995 and the abduction of ‘political men’ in 1998. He wrote ‘please try to
inform our problem to all Oromo communities all over the world’.
23 October 2000. IJZ was rejected mandate refugee status by UNHCR, despite presenting
International Committee of Red Cross verification that he was detained in Didhessa military camp
from July 1994 to March 1995. He wrote in November 2000 of his being tortured during detention
and of his rejection by UNHCR.
9 November 2000. AMS wrote that he was suffering physical and psychological effects of torture.
He sent copies of recommendations for resettlement and for not being ordered to Kakuma from the
Kenyan Ministry of Home Affairs, Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the Refugee Consortium
of Kenya. Despite these recommendations, he was told by UNHCR to go to Kakuma in May 2000.
14 November 2000. BWF was rejected mandate refugee status, after waiting four months from
registration. He was tortured, including being immersed in cold water, during detention in a
cramped dark cell at a military camp, in Ethiopia.
28 November 2000. HDG was interviewed on 10 November, within two weeks of arriving in
Kenya, but was rejected refugee status, despite being detained in Dembi Dollo military camp for
three months from December 1999.
2 February 2001. Ten Oromo community activists in Nairobi were taken at night from their
homes and detained by Kenyan police on 2 February. They were held incommunicado at an unknown
location until 29 February. They were named by a correspondent from Nairobi:
Ahmed Abdosh Omer
Sufiyan Hassan Mohammed
Hamadaa Kinoo Tufaa
Amaan Hullufe Agaate
Mohammed Taha Mohammed
Abdulhakim Use Adam
Hassan Aliyyi Baati
Kamal Aliyyi Baati
Sadiq Balaaku Baashu
Feyisal Ibrahim Mohammed
Initially it was feared that they may be deported. The correspondent wrote,
‘Kenyan security detains refugees all the time to get ransom money from them or their relatives.
This time, however, no-one knows who to ask. It is scary’.
Border incursions. Ethiopian troops kill civilians.
The following information has been reported widely in Kenyan media and corroborated by local
February 2000, 500 Ethiopian troops were reported crossing into Kenya from their base in the
border town of Moyale. Boran Oromo in Kenya complained of their movement being restricted,
Later in February, three Kenyan Boran Oromo who were visiting a market on the Ethiopian side
of the town were abducted and detained in Ethiopia.
2 May 2000, over 50 Boran Oromo were killed by Kenyan soldiers, following clashes between
Oromo and Degodia people, moving into Boran territory and being armed and backed by Ethiopia.
Later in May 2000, six Boran were killed and 100 cattle stolen by Ethiopian troops at Sabare,
June 2000, three Boran Oromo were killed in Wajir district by Ethiopian troops, who stole 6,000
animals. The animals were later returned.
30 November 2000, seven women and two elderly men were killed by Ethiopian soldiers in a two
hour gunfight in North Wajir district. Over 150 heavily armed troops in Ethiopian uniforms
attacked the outpost at Gurar. Eight houses were burnt down. The Kenyan press claimed that 49
civilians in that area were killed by Ethiopian soldiers in October and November alone.
2 December 2000, twelve civilians were killed by Ethiopian soldiers in Gurar trading center in
Wajir North. A four year old girl was reported missing after the attack.
The Ethiopian embassy stated that the fighting was between Ajuran and Garre people and denied
any involvement, but two dead Ethiopian soldiers were identifiable from Ethiopian battle fatigues.
11 January 2001, more that 200 EPRDF forces backed by pro-government Tabaqa militia men
crossed into Kenya and engaged Kenya security forces at Kiltipe in Uran, Moyale District. The
clashes left ten people dead, including eight policemen.
One policeman, Dulacha Halaka Dida, was captured and interrogated during 16 days of
detention at Indilola army camp, 5 km inside Ethiopia. He later said that the eight policemen and
two civilians were killed because they were suspected of supporting the OLF. He told reporters
that he was forced to sign a declaration on his release, stating that he and his slain colleagues had
been on Ethiopian soil during the incident.
There followed angry and violent demonstrations in Sololo, where non-Oromo were beaten and
their property destroyed by Oromo youths.
15 January 2001, EPRDF soldiers again attacked Uran and engaged Kenyan security forces for
three hours. Students from schools around Moyale took to the streets and demonstrated violently.
Businesses and schools were closed. Six hundred families fled.
8 February 2001, over thirty Boran Oromo were killed in a dawn raid by Samburu people,
between Samburu National Park and Isiolo. Fifteen thousand cattle were stolen. The peoples have
co-existed peacefully for many years and Ethiopian government involvement is suspected.
Kenya’s Daily Nation reported in February that recent attacks by Ethiopian militiamen at the
common border had resulted in over 160 deaths of civilians and policemen.
2 March 2001, a 14 year old girl, Amina Wako Galgallo, was killed by a stray bullet during a
gunfight which closed businesses in Moyale.
Local MPs have protested in parliament but Kenyan ministers have blamed the OLF for the
violence. There has been no official criticism of the Ethiopian government.
Repatriation, coercion, TPLF agents, celebration cancelled
In February 2001, the Union of Oromo Community in Sudan wrote an open letter to UNHCR
protesting about the screening of refugees for repatriation to Ethiopia. The so-called cessation
clause, agreed between UNHCR and the governments of Sudan and Ethiopia, called for the
screening by UNHCR of refugees who fled from the previous regime in Ethiopia, i.e. before 1991.
In October 1999, UNHCR guaranteed that refugees who had reasons to fear the present regime
would not be repatriated and that only pre-1991 refugees would be screened. The Union of Oromo
Community, however, reported that seven post-1991 refugees in Madene, who had fled from
abuses committed by the present Ethiopian government, were misinformed by UNHCR and the
Sudanese refugee organisation, COR. They were forced to give up their identity cards and to join
the repatriation program. ‘They were denied by the concerned authorities to present their cases’
the community stated.
The screening, beginning December 2000, was not a neutral process, according to the refugee
community. Refugees were urged to return. ‘They were definitely pushing the refugees to accept
repatriation by putting them in political tension. Besides, they lack the knowledge of the current
political situation in Ethiopia. They were claiming . . . the conditions in Ethiopia have improved.’
When screened, refugees were asked about political organisations, their structures and officials.
‘This is just to expose the refugees to those TPLF/EPRDF agents who have been employed by the
screening committee’, the letter stated.
On 22 January, the Sudanese press reported the dismissal of a screening interpreter. The
community complained that interpreters were agents of the Ethiopian government. ‘In Port Sudan,
refugees who came after 1991 were compelled to be registered and were interviewed’ beyond the
cessation clause remit. ‘The interpreters during their interview were the agents of the Ethiopian
government . . . as happened everywhere in Sudan. At their interview, the interpreters were
deliberately diverging the refugees’ argument to make them unsuccessful in their interview.’
An Oromo refugee wrote on 2 January from Khartoum, reporting that a new year celebration,
to which the community in Jereve were accustomed, was disrupted by Sudanese security forces.
Refugees, after extensive preparations, ‘were forbidden to celebrate this Holy Day. They were
forcefully chased by the Sudanese government security men from the area, for no crime . . .’
Refoulement, rape and killing of refugees, UNHCR denial
The UN news agency, IRIN, reported on 27 December that 5000 refugees had been returned to
Ethiopia by Djibouti security forces on 21/22 December 2000. Information sent by the Oromo
Refugee Community in Djibouti and a more detailed letter sent by hand from its chairman, stated
that 28 refugees had been killed in the process and that at least 127 of those subject to refoulement
were registered as asylum seekers with UNHCR. Their names and UNHCR numbers are
reproduced below. Copies of UNHCR attestation papers for five of the individuals who were shot
dead were included with the chairman’s letter.
OSG has reported the refoulement of Oromo refugees, mostly UNHCR-registered, on several
occasions. OSG has reported one case from 1997, at least eight in January 1998 and twenty (all
UNHCR-registered) in December 1999 (see Press Release 31, July 2000).
The chairman of the Djibouti Oromo Refugee Community wrote:
‘On 21 December 2000, 5000 persons were refouled officially. Nobody screened the statute
refugees and asylum seekers. The two UNHCR staff, called Fatiha and Abdullahi, who went to
Nagan [Negad] deportation centre, were not allowed to enter the fence, and many refugees [were]
refouled to Ethiopia . . . where they would suffer harsh persecution and loss of life. . . .’
The first report, released by the Oromo Community in Djibouti on 26 December 2000, stated
that the 5000 deportees included 80 pregnant women, 40 with babies under one month old, and
150 nursing mothers. ‘All their properties’ were looted. They were thrown into overcrowded
prisons. The overcrowding was so severe that 20 became unconscious and two died. Thirty female
detainees were gang-raped. Instead of eating, early next day ‘they were beaten and made to be
loaded to the cargo train, more than 300 people in one cart, locked from outside. In this manner
the train started to march to Ethiopia. . . . When the train reached a place called Shabelle, some
people broke a cart and escaped from the train. The army opened fire and killed 15 persons when
they jumped from the train to escape. . .’ At another station (Dare? Biyyo), ‘they threw, knocked
down a pregnant mother of eight, Fatuma, from the train and she died. In addition, 12 persons died
on the train due to overcrowding in carts locked from outside. Eight were females.
[Note from the lists of names below that five of the men who were shot dead were husbands of
women who died of asphyxia. Presumably, suffocation drove them to break out of the carts.]
When the rest were unloaded at the border of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian border army refused to
receive them, saying they had no identity. So, more than 2000 people were chased to Djibouti by
Ethiopian army . . . these people disappeared into the desert due to hunger and thirst, becoming
stateless between Ethiopia and Djibouti.
More than 1000 persons were taken by Ethiopian security to unknown place.’
The community chairman continued ‘UNHCR has stopped to renew attestation papers of
refugees . . . UNHCR has transferred all the files of such refugees to the Djibouti eligibility office.’
He stated that over 90% of those registered with the National Eligibility Committee have not had
their refugee status affirmed – making them more likely to suffer refoulement. He expressed severe
disappointment in the lack of help from UNHCR. He complained that the protection officer ‘and
her staff below her, are very active during their resettlement market which they use to grant to
illegal merchants by the favour of financial bribe’.
[The National Eligibility Committee (NEC) was revived with help from UNHCR by the end of
2000, after ceasing to function in 1986. It is now responsible for granting refugee status. Of an
initial list of 60, considered in December 2000, only nine were given refugee status.]
According to UNHCR’s Global Appeal 2001, only 250 ‘Ethiopian’ refugees live in Djibouti.
OSG’s informant in Djibouti reported that police had screened residents of one of the seven
districts of Djibouti, in which Oromo refugees are believed to be evenly distributed. In this one
district alone, the police found 5000 Oromo with attestation papers. He estimated that at least
10,000 Oromo had UNHCR registration and that at least 20,000 lived in Djibouti without papers.
The Oromo Community organisation estimates more than 20,000 Oromo are seeking asylum in
OSG’s informant in Djibouti said recently that the NEC has established itself ‘between the
refugees and UNHCR’. Refugees can only approach UNHCR through this body now. The
committee officers ask for bribes. Refugees are ‘squeezed for three or four months’, the body is
‘highly corrupt’ and refugees get through to UNHCR when enough lobbying has been done and
enough money has changed hands. He also reported that thousands of Oromo arrived in midFebruary, fleeing fighting between the OLF and government troops in Hararge. He corroborated
reports that TPLF agents were infiltrating Oromo refugees, using assumed Oromo names.
OSG has written letters of complaint to UNHCR headquarters, about the inaccessibility of
UNHCR in Djibouti, the lack of protection from refoulement for registered refugees, the poor
chances of resettlement and the likelihood of biased decision-making by the head of delegation in
Djibouti, because he is Ethiopian.
Francesco Ardisson, of the Bureau for Europe, UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, wrote in reply
on 12 March 2001. She denied any recent refoulement of recognised refugees. From the following
excerpts from her letter, it appears that UN headquarters is out of touch with events in Djibouti.
‘The Government of Djibouti is faced with a serious problem of illegal economic migrants from
Ethiopia and Somalia who flock to the capital, Djibouti town. These migrants are estimated to
number about 130,000 . . . In their efforts to control this situation, sporadic round-ups are
conducted and any illegal migrants are escorted to the border. This problem has actually increased
in intensity since 21 December 2000, and the authorities have responded by increasing the
frequency of round-up measures.
If asylum seekers registered with UNHCR and ONARS, (Office National pour l’Assistance aux
Réfugiés et Sinistres) are accidentally rounded up during these occasions, they are released as soon
as attestations confirming their status, either as asylum seekers or refugees, are produced or when
UNHCR otherwise intervenes on their behalf.
Perchance, the majority of urban Ethiopian asylum-seekers and refugees are from the Oromo
ethnic group and may therefore proportionately constitute a large percentage of those rounded up ...
The following UNHCR-registered asylum seekers were shot dead on 22 December at Sabelle
station, between Djibouti and Dire Dawa, by Djibouti troops. Names and UNHCR registration
numbers are given:
Ahmed Jemal Muhamed
Elias Abdi Ahmed
Abdelaziz Ali Adem
Abdi Jelil Ahmed Tuke
Abdulaziz Ali Ahmed
Saadadin Abdallahi Said
Ahmed Suleyman Omar
Usman Ahmed Umer
Abdulhakim Ame Baker
Namo Ibro Ali
Said Ahmed Mohamed
0021/98, aged 23, from Deder, E. Hararge
0412/97, aged 31, from Wallo Labis
0412/98, aged 33, from Chercher, E. Hararge
00273/98, aged 24, from Badayssa
305/95, aged 30, from Dire Dawa, E. Hararge
Death from asphyxiation
The following died of suffocation in the train carts, which were sealed from the outside:
00273/98 – wife of Saadadin Abdallahi Said, shot dead
Muluka Ame Baker (his wife) [same Reg. No.]
544/96 – wife of Sado Mohamed Abdurahman, shot dead
Ibrahim Adem Abdullahi
382/96 – his wife, Fatuma Ibrahim, was refouled
0014/96 – her husband, Taher Hussen Tufa, refouled
0707/96 – wife of Usman Ahmed Umer, shot dead
196/96 – wife of Mohamed Ibro Ahmed, shot dead
Umma Keyri Haidarus
1570/96 – wife of Haidarus Imam Ahmed, shot dead
654/97 – wife of Jemal Dula Ibrahim, shot dead
Abdella Ali Waday
Three of the women listed below reported the gang-rape of a total of thirty women, including
themselves. [Presumably by Djibouti security forces.]
Returned to Ethiopia despite UNHCR registration
The following had UNHCR attestation papers (the second figure is the year of attestation), but
were subject to refoulement nonetheless:
1 Ahmed Abdulla Hamid
2 Dima Gammachu Goba
3 Jemal Abdella Hasan
4 Dumer Abdella Moussa
5 Mume Yonis Sultan
6 Abdo Said Ibrahim
7 Abdulaziz Bakar Amade
8 Roras Hasan Mume
9 Umer Mikael Abdi
10 Hussen Waday Mullata
11 Karima Said Dadi
12 Salah Mohamed Ahmed
13 Chimsa Kabso
14 Saada Ahmed Yousuf
15 Kalifa Mohamed Abdullahi
16 Ibrahim Adem Ali
17 Amina Abdoulaziz
561/96 - wife of Abdoulaziz Ali Ahmed (shot dead)
Aisha Mohamed Abdo
Rumia Abdullahi Omard
Najath Abdullahi Omar
Amina Ali Ahmed
Sufian Ahmed Abdi
Nasir Ahmed Dadhi
Taher Hussen Tufa
Naima Jibril Mohamed
Usman Ahmed Umer
Mohamed Said Yusuf
Mohamed Ali Badaso
Abdusalam Hassan Ali
Ahmed Sham Mume
Zahra Ahmed Sham
Hassan Mohamed Moussa
Mohamed Hasan Mohamed
Mohamed Ibrahim Hasan
Mohamed Ali Sabo
Najib Mohamed Ibrahim
0421/98 - husband of above
0421/98 daughter of above
0421/98 - daughter of above
544/96 - husband of Antu Sado (asphyxiated)
544/96 - son of Antu Sado
382/96 - wife of Ibrahim Adem Abdullahi (asphyxiated)
382/96 - son of Ibrahim Adem Abdullahi
382/96 - daughter of Ibrahim Adem Abdullahi
382/96 - son of Ibrahim Adem Abdullahi
299/77 - wife of above
299/77 - son of above
240/95 - wife of above
298/97 - wife of above
298/97 - daughter of above
298/97 - daughter of above
298/97 - son of above
0014/96 - husband of Zeynaba Taher (asphyxiated)
0663/97 - husband of above
1934 - wife of above
046/97 - wife of above
0127/98 - wife of above
0127/98 - sister of above
0127/98 - sister of above
0127/98 - sister of above
033/98 - wife of above
256/96 - wife of above
422/96 - wife of above
320/96 - wife of above
005/98 - wife of above
009/96 - wife of above
0979/96 - wife of above
Oumer Ibro Ali
Oumer Adam Ali
Razia Bakar Ali
Ahmed Ali Abdi
Tajudin Omar Said
Usuf Mohamed Adam
Dumer Adam Roba
Abdi Jabar Aliyi
Yahya Ahmed Hasan
Damte Chanyalew Mosisa
Gamada Roba Boru
Abdurahman Ali Waya
Abdi Ahmed Ali
Ziad Ibrahim Musa
Kamal Abdullahi Ali
Safia Ahmed Ali
Mohamed Yesuf Abdulle
Zeynaba Hasana Hamid
Bahiya Siraj Usman
726/96 - wife of above
726/96 - wife of above
270/95 - son of above
1482/96 - husband of above
380/96 - wife of above
380/96 - son of above
773/96 - wife of above
577/96 - wife of above
0909/96 - wife of above
654/97 - son of Jemal Dula Ibrahim (shot) and Shamso
567/96 - wife of above
In the letter from the community organisation chairman was also the report of an Oromo asylum
seeker, Hassan Ahmed Mohammed, UNHCR-registered, who was attacked by unknown men and
had his right leg broken, on 30 December 2000, in Djibouti.
Claims of corruption are not limited to UNHCR. MYA wrote from Djibouti on 13 January 2001,
complaining that the resettlement of himself and his family in Australia had been thwarted because
of a fraudulent chest X-ray report, from an Ethiopian doctor, stating he had tuberculosis.
The young professional man who wrote about detentions in 1991 and 1996 (see pages 3-4) also
described being under surveillance in Germany, where he seeks asylum.
‘Even here in Germany, I was being consistently inspected by TPLF's security agent named
Enqu-baay Kassaye, who is a Tigrean, as well as a member of EPRDF even during this short period
of my stay in Germany. He has been following me and Oromo colleagues constantly. For example,
as I was participating the Oromo demonstration organized by the Union of Oromo Students in
Europe here in Berlin on the 16th February 2001, this person was watching us from a distance.’
More detentions, journalists in exile
According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, Ethiopia is one of four countries responsible for half of the
world’s imprisoned journalists (Burma – 13, China – 12, Iran – 9 and Ethiopia – 9).
On 8 November 2000, the editor of Ethiop , Melese Shrine, was imprisoned for a short period
before being released on payment of 10,000 Birr ($1,200) bond.
On 13 November, Tewodros Kassa, former editor of Ethiop, was taken from prison to face
further charges, concerning an article written in 1997. He has been detained since the beginning of
Zemedkun Moges, former editor of Atkurot newspaper, was released from Addis Ababa central
prison (Karchale) on 17 November. He had been detained since December 1997.
The EFPJA reported the detention in Maikelawi, on 23 November, of Zegeye Haile, publisher of
Genanaw newspaper and vice-President of the EFPJA,
The editors of Goh, Abyssinia, and Mahlet newspapers were questioned in Maikelawi on the same
day and later released.
Israel Saboka, editor of Seife Nebelbal, the only surviving newspaper written from an Oromo
perspective, fled the country in December after numerous court appearances and periods of
detention. He had accumulated a record of eight outstanding charges against him, under the vague
Press Law. Samson Seyoum, former editor of Goh and reporter for Ethio-Time, also fled the country
On 12 and 13 December, Shimellis Asfaw, editor of Ethio-Time, and Kifle Mulat, President of the
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFPJA), were ordered to Maikelawi Special
Investigation Centre for questioning.
Reporters Sans Frontieres reported the arrest of Befekadu Moreda, editor of Amharic weekly,
Tomar, on 13 February 2001. He was taken from his office following a report in the newspaper on
31 January about self-determination for the Berta people in Benishangul Region. Moreda was being
held in Addis Ababa, but is due to be transferred to Benishangul – nearly 800 km from the capital.
Unity College, the publisher of the successful, pro-government Amharic daily, Eletawii Addis,
ordered the paper’s closure on 28 March, with the loss of 150 jobs, following the paper’s coverage
of the recent disagreement within the TPLF leadership, two weeks earlier. Within one year of
being established the paper had become very popular, according to the EFPJA. President of Unity
College, Dr Fisseha Eshetu, despite repeated assurances of non-interference in editorial policy,
imposed a 500 Birr fine on the chief editor and insisted on no further press coverage of the TPLF
split. When met with the non-co-operation of the entire editorial staff, he closed the paper down.
Riot police kill 41 in Addis Ababa
On 11 April, riot police invaded the campus of Addis Ababa University, IRIN reported. The
students had refused to attend lectures since 9 April, in protest over the continued suspension of
the Student Council since last September. Two government informers, who had infiltrated the
students, were discovered. According to some sources, the safety of these informants precipitated
the military-style operation. The students were complaining of lack of political and academic rights
and the presence of police on the campus.
Eyewitnesses described hearing gunshots and seeing bullet marks on walls and dormitory floors
being spattered with blood. Broken limbs and serious head injuries were reported, by Reuters.
Numbers killed or detained are not known. At least 50 were reported to have been injured.
The student protests, encouraged by recently deposed TPLF dissidents, spread to involve high
school students and other civilians. On 17 April, general rioting overpowered the police. Special
Riot Forces were brought in when Ministry of Education windows were smashed. Hundreds of
men, equipped with riot shields, guns and batons, stormed the city centre and cornered about 100
protestors in a small road. A journalist eye-witness described brutal shooting, beating and kicking
of bodies on the ground, including those of women and children taken from their homes. His
camera and tape recorder were smashed. Next day, violence erupted at 10.00 am in the north of
the city. There was widespread looting, especially of Tigrean and government property in the
Mercato area. Vehicles were burned, government property damaged and shops looted. Again the
riot police attacked the crowd. Local hospitals recorded at least 41 shot dead and over 250 with
serious head and limb wounds.
The violence spread to many towns and cities, but reports are scant. One Oromo university student
was found dead in Mekele, Tigray, the day after demonstrations there.
Addis Ababa University was due to open on 24 April, one day after secondary and high schools.
However, ‘gunfire was heard all day’ in Addis on 23 April, although the streets were quiet. Oromo
Student Chairman, Tuli Bayissa was detained and tortured by police in December (see p. 6). He
and four other young men were reported detained on 22 April. Amnesty International reported
hundreds of arrests and fear of mistreatment. Commentators report that the last time there was
student and public unrest to this extent was when Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974.
All Amhara Peoples Organisation
Ethiopia Free Press Journalists Association
Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (government
umbrella party, led by TPLF)
International Committee of the Red Cross
Oromo Liberation Front
Oromo Peoples Democratic Organisation (government Oromo party)
Oromia Support Group
Sudan Peoples Liberation Army
Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (dominant party in government)
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees