By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Finland has six development partners in Africa, namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania and Zambia. This cooperation has entailed Finland providing Ethiopia in development assistance about euro 20 million in 2015, according to data by Finland’s Foreign Ministry.
The partnership strategy between Ethiopia and Finland for 2014–2017 is premised on Finland‘s support and contributions to Ethiopia‘s national development goals, as enunciated in the Growth and Transformation Plan and the partnership strategy by the countries.
Therefore, the partnership between Ethiopia and Finland aims are determined to achieve the goals of:
1. poverty reduction at small-holder farmer level through support to agriculture-based economic growth;
2. improved rural land tenure security and sustainable management of natural resource in order to improve livelihoods and economic wellbeing of the rural population;
3. improved access to potable water and improved sanitation and hygiene services in rural Ethiopia;
4. improved quality of general education;
5. reduced inequalities especially with regard to children with special educational needs.
Of late, however, the violence by the ethnic minority regime – the Tigray People‘s Liberation Front (TPLF) – has imposed over the country has proved unsuitable and counter to realizing the nation’s developmental goals, as they appear in official documents.
If only wisdom and maturity prevails over the TPLF narrow-minded politics that aims at serving the interests of those in power, it would have shown them that this state–led intolerance and violence around Ethiopia has been facing severe severe castigations from the international community, including on international forums, even from their known backers.
During the life of the four-year country partnership, Finland has undertaken projects in water development, education, rural economic development sector and program planning. It‘s possible the current resort to violence and the consequent killings by the state may derail many of these undertakings.
In Helsinki, Ethiopians held a mass rally on September 2, 2016 requesting Finland to support UN efforts to undertake investigations into the killings. Finnish Ethiopians and Ethiopians resident in the country have also taken their concerns to officials of the Finnish Government and Parliament concerning Ethiopia’s unrestrained and increasing lurch into violence, with already several hundred Ethiopians killed by the regime, according to international human rights organizations.
As a democratic country, a member of the United Nations and the European Union (EU), the protesters have called on the Government of Finland to support the demand by the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner on August 10, 2016 with a view to helping ensure:
(a) the implementation without delay of an international-standard investigation into the massacres by the regime of peaceful protesters; and
(b) the prompt release of the tens of thousands of Ethiopians that have been imprisoned for peacefully demanding respect for their legitimate rights.
Already on August 30, the Ethiopians have submitted to officials of Finland’s ministry for foreign affairs, detailing their concerns about the evolving violent situation in their country. They have addressed a letter to H. E. Timo Soini, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, over which they have held discussions with the officials.
In part, the letter by the Ethiopian community in Finland, which is part of the on–going global plea by and concern of compatriots around the world, urges Finland and the international community to engage to ensure the safety of Ethiopians. The letter begins by stating that they are compelled “to bring their serious concerns to His Excellency’s attention [to] solicit the Government’s assistance regarding the critical and dangerously escalating situation at this very moment in Ethiopia.”
The letter by the concerned Ethiopians further reads:
“With the memories of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, or probably an even worse situation in Ethiopia on our minds, our intention in soliciting the assistance of the Finnish People, Finnish Parliament and the Government of Finland as a member of the European Union (EU) to help prevent, along with other democratic nations, the looming nightmarish disaster from being realized in our country.”
To read the full text, press PDF
On September 2, 2016, Finland issued travel advisory for its citizens in Ethiopia. In advising Finns during travels to and in Ethiopia, it suggests: (a) to use “extreme caution”, and (b) to “avoid altogether unnecessary travels”.
In that regard, while in the case of Oromia, it advises the “use of extreme caution”, for Afar, Amhara, Gambella, Somali and Tigrai, the advisory recommends to “avoid unnecessary travels” at all.
In the assessment of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Ethiopia is embroiled in ethnic tensions and conflicts. In part, the statement reads:
“Ethiopia has been in a rising internal unrests and conflicts, ethnicity as its main characteristic. Beneath the surface, the situation seems tense due to internal political problems and ethnic conflicts, as well as the regional situation in Somalia, South Sudan and between Ethiopia and Eritrea borders.”
In the case of Amhara and Oromia regions, the security precaution measure states:
“In particular, since July 2016 the situations in Oromia and Amhara regions have witnessed a number of deadly unrests and demonstrations. The situation is difficult in Amhara region, in particular in Bahir Dar and Gondar and the nearby localities. The main road may be closed in areas. It is advisable to avoid needless travels to those areas. In addition, travelers are urged to ensure the safety of the route and the destination regions ahead of time. Also, the capital city of Addis Ababa, has witnessed demonstrations, which are broken up with the use of force.”
As of mid–August 2016, the United Nations has started openly expressing its concerns about the danger of crimes against humanity in Ethiopia, especially in Amhara,rights Oromia and Konso. Opening the 33r session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 13, 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ra‘ad al Hussein has again stated:
“…We are deeply concerned about repeated allegations of excessive and lethal use of force against protestors, enforced disappearances, and mass detentions, including of children, as well as by worrying restrictions on civil society, the media and opposition. I have requested my Office be given access in order for it to conduct a human rights assessment, particularly to the Oromia and Amhara regions.”
In that context, the high commissioner reiterated his request before the council the TPLF regime to ensure neutral international investigations into the killings of peaceful citizens demanding their legitimate rights. In its response, crafty as it is, the TPLF has insisted on carrying out the investigations by itself. For many who very well know Ethiopia under the TPLF, the ironic twist behind this is unmistakable for regime which has been winning elections by above 96 percent for the past 20 years and in May 2015 by 100 percent.
The good thing is that the United Nations has taken firm stand, as indicated in its August 19 statement, this time around the investigations should be carried out according to international standards. Regarding this, the high commissioner‘s office has stated its readiness to provide the necessary assistance. It has also detailed the specific actions to be taken by the regime.
Unfortunately, the TPLF leaders are insisting they must remain in power. The high commissioner did not hesitate to publicly speak out about the TPLF regime‘s disinterest in looking inside itself. He therefore, pointed out:
“In response, the Government has claimed the recent violence was inspired by outlaw and terrorist groups, and argued it will conduct its own national investigation into the killings of protestors.”
It remains to be seen whether member states in the Human Rights Council seated at its 33rd session would shoulder their responsibilities and act against impunity and the massacre of Ethiopians, innocent children included.
There is nothing more revealing extent of the TPLF’s cruelty than its setting on fire on a prison for political prisoners at Kilinto, in which an unknown number of political inmates have been imprisoned. The idea behind this is to cast darkness to and frustration to the protesters.
Ethiopian do hope in earnest that there should be accountability to the impunity in which those citizens have lost their lives!
TPLF notifies UN intent to undertake ‘independent’ investigation into its crimes against humanity in Ethiopia