Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed accused of presiding over disarmed and insecure Omo Valley population

16 Oct

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

Editor’s Note:

TEO is sympathetic to the case this article makes and rejects the  practice that denies the Omo Valley Ethiopians of their human rights and dignity as human beings. Partly thanks to them on this part of Ethiopia, there has not been violation of our borders on the southern or any other frontiers of our country. Last thousand kilometers march into the heartlands was in 1978, via the Ogaden invasion. It has costed our nation enormous sacrifices, which compelled it to mete out effective punishment on the aggressor.

In keeping with Ethiopian tradition, border people are allies of the central government, especially when there is awareness of the need as now. Otherwise, government has irresponsibly left them out to their own devices. Under the imperial government they used to be given weapons for self-defence.

However, when the return from land grab became most attractive to the TPLF, it began to disarm them. We recall when Metec did evil to the Omo Valley population, about which many Ethiopians read and engaged in the campaigns bloggers such as TEO had condemned called international attention.

After all, Ethiopia through the ages has been protected not by a regular army from the center. Rather it was those armed Ethiopians who used their personal weapons to protect themselves and their families, including from ‘adventurers’ walking into the country to rod and corrupt its cultures and traditions. From mid-19th century onwards, border population were encouraged, in some parts to the present, to protect the contributions of border peoples in protecting and defending the nation cannot be ignored. Was it not the border farming population that stopped Sudanese aggression?

If the government had not irresponsibly ignored this practice, could Afar have been attacked —be it either Al-shabaab (as some politicians try to make it, or Somali/Isa marauders trying to create trouble—if the local population remained with its weaponry?

Commonsense informs negating this history of the country by a government that cannot defend the population is irresponsible. Even the explanation by the Defense Ministry is inconsistent with the reality, in which its defenses of the attacker was not Djibouti was the sole point whereas an attack had occurred, which had proving right the claim of the local security officials. Afar stood on facts, showing they have evidence the invaders came from Somaliland (car plates, ID cards seized, etc)!  It being the age of contraband trade of all categories, standing with the border peoples and villages is an imperative for protection our national sovereignty and defense of our people

That’s why on hearing news of the attack by Djibouti (as presumed then), or later brigandage by a certain group or Al Shabaab, TEO reacted, below, with anger, wondering why the Defense Ministry should be on such a long, long holiday, as follows:

Take it from this current signal, there is eminent danger and, as the law also requires of the government, citizens need to be protected. And explanations offered without any excuses or delay! The federal police too are busy, engaging in persistent human rights violations, as we had especially witnessed since Mesqel, during Ireecha, etc.

The Defence Ministry that has proved total failure in this situation, must be held to account! We understand the economics is tough to call the defense forces line up every inch of our border.

For that, the remedy is the legacy our history has offered us, that is to encourage the border population to protect our country, unlike the self-serving TPLF. This Omo Valley disarming was also started and exacerbated by none other than the corrupt TPLF.

======000======

“As of early October, the disarmament of the Bodi was “90-percent finished”,

Lore Kakuta, an adviser to the chief administrator in Jinka said.”

Lower Omo Valley (Ethiopia) (AFP) – For decades, herders in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley have relied on guns to fend off rivals as well as hyenas and lions roaming the forests and plains.

But over the past month, security forces have embarked on a campaign of forced disarmament that pastoralist leaders say has been accompanied by shooting of civilians, mass detentions and beatings.

Witness accounts from the Lower Omo Valley bolster critics who contend that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — named the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — is presiding over a deteriorating security situation, worsened by the actions of the military and police.

The violence is unfolding ahead of elections next year in one of the country’s most volatile and ethnically diverse areas: the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.

Elders from the Bodi community, the main group earmarked for disarmament in the Lower Omo Valley, told AFP nearly 40 people had been killed as of mid-October but the toll could be far higher.

Officials deny this account and defend the disarmament campaign as crucial for peace in this sensitive region.

“They are killing without any reason,” said Shegedin, a Bodi elder who was detained for several days and asked that his full name not be used because he feared reprisals.

“They just go to the villages, and if you run they start shooting.”

 

A government campaign to disarm Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley has led to indiscriminate shootings, jailings and beatings, say ethnic leaders. Credit: AFP

Government and security officials in Jinka, the administrative centre for the South Omo zone, said the disarmament campaign was necessary to secure state development projects including sugar plantations in the area.

But as reports of abuses multiply, human rights groups and researchers who work in the region are calling for investigations.

“The accounts I have seen are sufficiently shocking and come from sufficiently reliable sources to make it imperative that they are investigated by an internationally respected human rights organisation,” said David Turton, an anthropologist at the University of Oxford who has worked in the region for 50 years.

Failure to investigate “will only add to suspicions that the accounts we’ve heard are in fact accurate”, he said.

-A major escalation-

Tensions between the Bodi and the government are long-running, fuelled by Bodi anger at what they describe as the loss of their land to Ethiopians resettled from other regions and to development projects like the Gibe III dam and sugar plantations.

But the elders said the latest violence represents a major escalation.

They said Bodi men and women detained in the town of Hana had been deprived of food and forced to stand for hours in the sun.

They accused security forces of digging up the buried remains of a Bodi spiritual leader and shooting them.

And they said security forces shaved off the hair of one man who had grown it long following the death of his brother — a traditional Bodi mourning custom — and forced him to eat it.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Shegedin, one of three Bodi elders who spoke with AFP.

– Southern unrest –

Federal security forces assumed control of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region back in July.

The move followed weeks of unrest resulting from a bid by the Sidama ethnic group to form a new regional state.

Ten other groups are pursuing similar statehood bids, and it is unclear how the government plans to respond to them.

Security in the ethnic patchwork of the Lower Omo Valley is crucial to the government in light of plans to install 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of sugar plantations there along with processing factories.

Troops and federal police are among those participating in the disarmament operation, said Lore Kakuta, an adviser to the chief administrator in Jinka.

Seized weapons include AK-47s assault rifles bought from traders shifting arms from conflict-ridden South Sudan.

Lore said disarmament was the only option following unprovoked shootings by the Bodi targeting sugar plant workers — allegations that the Bodi elders denied.

Lore said he could not comment on reports of human rights abuses.

“We don’t know what the security forces are doing,” he said. “Actually, that’s not our job.”

A senior police official in Jinka, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss disarmament, disputed claims that Bodi people had been killed.

“The allegations that dozens of Bodi have been killed is false,” he said.

-Other groups on edge-

As of early October, the disarmament of the Bodi was “90-percent finished”, Lore said.

He added that the operation could be expanded to include the Mursi, another agro-pastoralist community based in the area.

A Mursi leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons, said he was concerned that tactics used against the Bodi would be repeated against his people.

“Now the Mursi are all worried because maybe the police will come and kill us,” he said.

Laetitia Bader of Human Rights Watch said the Ethiopian government had a history of using violence and intimidation to force vulnerable communities from their land.

“The federal government should take measures to ensure that any disarmament efforts are not perceived as a continuation of this heavy-handed approach,” she said.

The authorities should also consult with local communities and ensure that alleged abuses by its forces “are immediately investigated,” Bader said.

%d bloggers like this: