Somalia: Political Uncertainty As Protests Spread in Ethiopia

At least 15 people were killed on December 11, 2017, when members of the Ethiopian Defense Force fired on peaceful protesters.

00431511 8bfd6ad8f908fcb591cc5c2377705091 arc614x376 w285 us1

The demonstration was prompted by the killing of an individual by members of security forces of Ethiopia’s Somali Region, in the latest chapter of a longstanding border dispute between Ethiopia’s two largest states — Oromia and Ethiopian Somali in Eastern Ethiopia.

According to reports from local authorities, one person died after being transferred to the hospital following the attack, and more than 12 were injured in the violence which began in Chelenko, a district town in eastern Oromia:

Reports on social media said that members of the Ethiopian Defense Force fired live bullets on peaceful demonstrators. The Ethiopian government has released a belated statement on the incident, but in an unusual move, the party governing Oromia — the Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO), a member of Ethiopia’s governing coalition, the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) — released a strong statement accusing members of the Ethiopian Defense Force of violating the Ethiopian Constitution and vowing to investigate the killing of peaceful protesters:

Some suggested that the statement is merely a symbolic initiative. Others considered it as a signal of the power struggle raging within the multi-ethnic governing coalition, the EPRDF, which comprises four ethnic-based parties: the Tigrayan People Liberation Front (TPLF), the Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM):

The power struggle involving the four EPRDF parties has been simmering since last summer. The row between the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), was exposed when Abdula, the speaker of the Ethiopian Parliament and a prominent member of the OPDO, resigned from his position in October:

Power is heavily concentrated among members of the TPLF. However, there is some fear that if the OPDO continues down this road, it will be looking to defend itself using weapons, which could plunge Ethiopia into a civil war that will make the current conflict seem like just fisticuffs:

Despite the fact that the Oromo and Somali people who live along the border of Oromia and the Ethiopian Somali regions share close familial, religious and cultural ties, tensions are high along most of the disputed 1,000 km border. A brutal crackdown on the Oromo community living in Ethiopia’s Somali region has triggered a massive humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Ethiopia. By now, roughly 50,000 Oromos have fled into Ethiopia’s historical town, Harar, since last August.

Protests raged elsewhere in Ethiopia as well. A clash between followers of two football clubs from Ethiopia’s northern states, Amhara and Tigray, led to the death of a football fan from Tigray, which in turn caused episodes of violence in three universities located in the Amhara, Oromia and Tigray regional states.

Last week saw one particularly violent night at Adigrat University (situated in the Tigray region), where a student from the Amhara region was killed. Gruesome images of the victim subsequently went viral on social media:

In what appears to be reprisals, two students from Tigray were reportedly killed at Welega University, located in the Oromia region. The number of incidents and casualties, as well as the number of people involved and the ethnic tone of the conflict over the past few days, has raised the prospect of even greater violence in Ethiopia, according to analysts.


Zimbabwe: Chombo Found With Us$10 Million Cash – Claim

00441444 cf399f06b548a6ad65da907f3892db43 arc614x376 w285 us1

Finance minister Ignatius Chombo was reportedly found with US$10m in cash at his Harare home after the property was raided by the military Wednesday morning.

The minister, said to be one of President Robert Mugabe’s most corrupt officials, was among the first ministers detained by the army as Generals deposed the 93-year-old Zanu PF leader from power.

The unverified claim that Chombo had bags of cash at plush home was made by independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa.

Join Influenster

“Just for your own information, Minister Chombo’s house which was invaded as he got arrested had US$10 million,” Mliswa claimed in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, also reported to have been detained were higher education minister Jonathan Moyo and local government counterpart Saviour Kasukuwere.

The two were said to have sought refuge at Mugabe’s private Harare home where the veteran leader was being held hostage.

Source : New Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Saga in Dramatic Twist

00430751 57d57673269f7869180ec0cf3a212502 arc614x376 w285 us1

Fired vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa is still holed up in South Africa and isolated despite claims that he is in China, sources said amid indications President Robert Mugabe has ordered that his finances must be closely monitored.

Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe two days after he was fired by Mugabe on Monday for “disloyalty and deceit”.

A statement attributed to him threatened that he would return in a few weeks to topple Mugabe, but sources yesterday said far from being in a fighting mood, Mnangagwa was desperate to re-open lines of communication with his boss.

“Mnangagwa is in Pretoria and did not go to China as is being claimed,” the source said last night. “He is broken, terrified and scared.”

The source said the former VP was also being shunned by his business associates, including the Indian owners of the Africa Chrome Fields (ACF).

ACF owners refused to provide Mnangagwa with a private jet last Tuesday and have not been in touch with him since his arrival in South Africa

“He is desperate to reconnect with Mugabe and his wife so that he can be allowed to return home,” the source added. “He has told his children that he is not feeling well and is desperate to return home and rest but his supporters are putting pressure on him to fight his dismissal.”

Mnangagwa is said to be with his son Emmerson Junior.

War veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa, who addressed a press conference in Johannesburg last week and announced that the former VP was on his way to South Africa, promising he would join the opposition ranks, was tongue-tied yesterday.

On Friday he promised to answer about 10 questions from The Standard about the Mnangagwa debacle, but eventually delivered two lines before going quiet.

“I am focused on the future, not this parochial history. The Mugabe era of monumental misrule is in imminent sunset,” was all Mutswanga could say about the questions, including whether he penned the statement attributed to Mnangagwa or not.

Meanwhile, in Harare state security agencies were said to be investigating a number of Mnangagwa’s alleged crimes, including suspected money laundering that could see the once powerful VP being arrested on his return.

“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe financial intelligence unit has been instructed to keep a close eye on his bank accounts and his business interests because there are fears that he could be funding terror and violence within Zanu PF structures,” a senior government official said.

“His close allies, both in the business sector and outside the country, are under monitoring and surveillance — be it mobile money or their business operations — from the amounts they are banking to sales.”

The former VP is said to have interest in sectors such as banking, hotel and leisure, energy, mining and agriculture.

Mnangagwa has allegedly been linked to a case where a local company was using bank transfers to mop up foreign currency in contravention of the Exchange Control Act.

The matter was partly investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission under RR 27/10/17 but was dropped under unclear circumstances.

Companies identified as Europium Star Investments, Spartan Security and Makanaka Investments are involved in the saga.

Spartan is owned by Mnangagwa’s close relative, Tarirai David Munangagwa who initially tried to leave the country for Mozambique via Forbes Border Post.

Makanaka Investments, also trades as Pote Investments and operates largely in the Zvishavane area, is owned by for former VP’s ally, Antony Clever Pote.

The directors of Europium and Spartan are being investigated for allegedly violating the Exchange Control Act by selling money through bank transfers.

A Billy Tanhira, who is believed to be opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s late wife, Susan’s brother is also being investigated as part of the case.

According to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) documents, the matter came to light after two men, Fordias Nyerere and Onesimo Ndoro; accused of converting $100 000 to personal use by Tanhira, who claimed to be the owner of Europium, were arrested for theft of property.

Tanhira’s, whose name does not appear on the ownership documents of the company but is the complainant in the matter, claimed Nyerere and Ndoro were supposed to give $201 000 from Makanaka Investments realised from the transfer of $232 000.

Nyerere and Ndoro’s lawyers, Bherebende Law Chambers have now written a complaint against the police claiming their clients were being victimised because they were small fish.

The lawyers said several transactions of a similar nature where several millions of dollars were sold by Makanaka Investments to several companies including Spartan were conducted through t Nyerere and Ndoro.

Sources this was part of many cases that could be used to put Mnangagwa behind bars.

Source : The Standard

West Africa: Yaya Jammeh Has No Chance of Winning Ecowas in War

00380784-75f28714a8e90fbba041547d30266f4b-arc614x376-w292-us1  Visit Iva Store

With all his bad mouth and loud noise, Yaya Jammeh is least prepared for the war against ECOWAS forces. Should he refuse stepping down when his mandate expires on 19 January 2017 December electoral defeat here are simple facts at hand that suggest Yaya Jammeh does not have what it takes to win war on him:

By provision of Gambian constitution Yaya Jammeh assumes the title “Commander-In-Chief Gambia Armed Forces”. In reality, Yaya Jammeh is not trained to command even active scouts group let alone armed forces.

After 22 July 1994 coup that placed Jammeh in the seat of Gambian presidency by forced rule he has no interest about management of the army. Jammeh’s preoccupation is all about getting rich quick. Gambian army only exists by name with senior personnel being bribed to play in Jammeh’s interest. They enjoy the loot with him and pretend to be captains or generals by name.

2. Gambia does not have warring army

It is an open secret that Gambia does not have a warring army. Captains and generals acquired their colourful titles on the sofa chair and not at war front.

In the event of any serious war, many of those captains and generals will run for their life broad day light. They are not prepared for war and their commander-in chief (Yaya Jammeh) has never commanded even basic military exercise. He spent over 22 years stealing Gambian public money and squandering resources.

3. Untested, rusted weapons in the hands of untrusted soldiers

Over the 22 years of his dictatorial misrule Yaya Jammeh also engaged in drug dealings, arms trade and money laundering. He bought some weapons stored at various locations. Some of these weapons have not been tested and for the longest time collecting dust. There is no doubt lot of Jammeh’s weapons have gone rusted.

Besides, Jammeh was all the scared to arm Gambian soldiers just in case they may decide to dislodge him by coup. So we are thinking about an army with rusted weapons. They are not trained to use those weapons. Jammeh stored weapons as cover up but never seriously prepared for real war. He is unfit and unprepared for war.

4. Jammeh is unable to manage crisis

He seized by dislodging an established government. Jammeh however is so deficient in managing anything good. By occasion of his total incompetence, Jammeh mismanaged entire government. He broke down all structures, deviated standards, and created total lack of orderly dispensation.

If we have to go by experience of Yaya Jammeh regarding management he is total failure. Someone who is unable to manage orderly process is most certainly at risk of failure in managing crisis. When Jammeh invites ECOWAS for war by his refusal to step down, he will be seriously defeated. He cannot manage crisis and has nobody around him prepared for what real war entails.

5. Putting his supporters in trouble, shame and scandal

Supporters of Yaya Jammeh are put to shame and trouble. In the event of war Jammeh is unable to create safety for his already petrified, hopeless supporters. The whole nation will be facing same terrible situation. It is big shame, scandalous, and highly troubling that a man who bragged about his commitment in advancing Gambia is now bent on bringing war as reward for those who believed in his loud mouth rantings.

When Jammeh manages to escape after war starts or even before, he will leave his supporters with tongue biting regrets. None of his past and present generals or retired ranks of Gambia army will stand the heat. They all want good life and will avoid getting killed.

In the end, ECOWAS forces will prevail, giving Gambians lasting confidence that their tormenting dictator Yaya Jammeh is no more. Jammeh lost elections he will never recover. Gambia has population of over 2 million out of which better choice can be made for suitable leadership. Jammeh is seen to be so deluded by his imagination that right thinking Gambians will accept his return as ruthless tyrant and selfishly grabbing economic criminal. He is calling for war most certainly too heavy to keep him in that seat.


Game over for Yaya Jammeh along his gang of economic criminals and ruthless murderers. There is end of tyranny. Beyond dark days lasting 22 years is now light for better times in Gambia.

Source : Ghana Star

Ethiopian Newspaper Editor, Bloggers Caught in Worsening Crackdown


Nairobi — Ethiopia should immediately release all journalists detained amid an intensifying crackdown on the media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In recent weeks, Ethiopian authorities have jailed a newspaper editor, as well as two members of the award-winning Zone 9 bloggers’ collective, which has faced continuous legal harassment on terrorism and incitement charges. A fourth journalist has been missing for a week; his family fears he is in state custody.

The crackdown on the media comes amid mass arrests following large protests that led the government to declare a state of emergency on October 9. Security forces have detained more than 11,000 people since the state of emergency was declared, Taddesse Hordofa, of the Ethiopian government’s State of Emergency Inquiry Board, said in a televised statement on November 12.

“Silencing those who criticize the government’s handling of protests will not bring stability,” CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal said from New York. “The constant pressure on Zone 9 bloggers with repeated arrests and court appearances is clearly designed to intimidate the remaining independent journalists in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia’s Supreme Court on November 15 continued hearing prosecutors’ appeal of a lower court’s October 2015 acquittal of four bloggers from the Zone 9 collective–Befekadu Hailu, Natnail Feleke, Abel Wabella, and Atnaf Berhane–on terrorism charges, campaigners reported on social media.

Security forces again detained Befekadu–a co-founder of the collective, which CPJ honored with its 2015 International Press Freedom Award–from his home on November 11, according to news reports. Authorities have not yet announced any new charge against the blogger. The Africa News Agency quoted Befekadu’s friends saying that they believed he may have been arrested following an interview he gave to the U.S.-government-funded broadcaster Voice of America’s Amharic service, in which he criticized the government’s handling of the protests.

An Ethiopian journalist in exile in Kenya, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told CPJ that Befekadu’s criticism of the government’s handling of protests in the Oromo and Amhara regions of Ethiopia on his blog may have also led to his detention.

When the terrorism charge against the bloggers was dismissed by the judge in October last year, Befekadu was informed that he would still face incitement charges, according to media reports. That case is still before the courts.

Ethiopian Information Minister Negeri Lencho did not respond to CPJ’s calls and text messages seeking more information.

Security forces also detained another Zone 9 blogger, Natnail Feleke, on October 4 on charges he had made “seditious remarks” in a restaurant while criticizing security forces’ lethal dispersal of a protest, according to diaspora news websites.

Separately, a court in the capital Addis Ababa on November 15 sentenced Getachew Worku, the editor of the independent weekly newspaper Ethio-Mihidar, to one year in prison on charges of “defamation and spreading false information” in connection with an article published in the newspaper alleging corruption in a monastery, the Addis Standard news website reported.

Abdi Gada, an unemployed television journalist, has not been seen since November 9, family and friends told diaspora media. The journalist’s family and friends told the Ethiopian diaspora opposition website Voices for Voiceless that they fear he is in state custody.

Ethiopia ranked fourth on CPJ’s 2015 list of the 10 Most Censored Countries and is the third-worst jailer of journalists in Africa, according to CPJ’s 2015 prison census.

Source : CPJ

Congo-Kinshasa: Lack of School Drives Girls Into Armed Groups in Eastern Congo – Charity


Dakar — Dozens of armed groups in eastern Congo prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves, and girls forced to join militia groups for food, money and protection

Girls in conflict-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are joining armed groups because they cannot afford to go to school, while former girl soldiers struggle to return to class amid stigma from their communities, a charity said on Monday.

Many girls in the region join militia groups to obtain food and money, to seek protection against violence, or because their families cannot afford to pay their school fees, according to a report by Britain-based Child Soldiers International (CSI).

Eastern Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups that prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves. Millions died between 1996 and 2003 as a regional conflict caused hunger and disease.

Around a third of all children in armed groups in the country are estimated to be girls, who are often married off to militants and are vulnerable to abuse and rape, activists say.

“It is deeply shocking that, because their families cannot afford to pay school fees, some girls see joining an armed group as their only option, and decide to throw themselves in harm’s way,” said Isabelle Guitard, director of programmes at CSI.

While primary education is free and compulsory by law, most schools in Congo charge fees for books and uniforms, CSI said.

“Despite the horrific abuse the girls go through while with armed groups, it is the rejection from their families and communities which distresses many of them the most,” Guitard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from London.

While civil society groups have had some success in getting boys out of armed groups and into reintegration programmes, this shame and fear of rejection back home has kept many girls in the bush, according to CSI’s report.

“If we leave the group, we’re going to be targeted … so many girls accept and continue to live with their bush husband,” said one of the 150 former girl soldiers interviewed by CSI.

Most of these girls said going to school was the best way to regain acceptance from their communities, and that it helped them to deal with trauma suffered while with the armed groups.

CSI said it was working with local partners to help former girl soldiers go back to school, provide catch-up sessions and literacy classes for those who have never been educated or who are too old to start.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation(London)

Africa: SA Woman Among Activists On Boat Captured By Israelis


A South African woman on Wednesday made a plea for help after the Israeli government intercepted a boat carrying pro-Palestinian female activists to Gaza.

Leigh-Ann Naidoo said she was “kidnapped” during her humanitarian mission.

In a video posted on YouTube, Naidoo said: “If you are seeing this video, we have been intercepted and kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces. I want to put [out] an appeal to all my comrades, brothers, sisters and families to put pressure on the South African government to insist that they release me as soon as possible.”

Another crew member, Mairead Maguire, from Northern Ireland, said they were intercepted in international waters and taken into Israel.

Naidoo wrote in a diary entry, published by, that most boats in the “Freedom Flotilla” were rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the Israeli Defence Force would question, process, and deport the women.

“From here we will either be moved to a prison or our deportation will be done while we are being held at the detention centre. Our embassies will come to help us and our legal representatives will do the same. Hopefully our mission will highlight the unlawful and inhumane blockade of Palestine.”

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation could not be reached for comment.

The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a solidarity movement, composed of campaigns and initiatives from all over the world, trying to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Source: News 24

Burundi: Political Unrest Leaves Burundi Facing Food Shortage


About 2.3 million people in Burundi are staring in the face of a severe food shortage this year, UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Tuesday.

The Crop Prospects and Food Situation report released by FAO indicates that civil insecurity and an economic downturn caused disruption to markets, farming activities and livelihoods in the East African nation led to the current shortage.

This is in addition to limited humanitarian assistance and Burundi’s declining food import capacity.

“Despite the recent favourable “2016B season” harvest, the number of severely food insecure people continues to escalate as a consequence of displacements and poor macroeconomic conditions. The continuing depreciation of the local currency and the low foreign reserves is also severely reducing the country’s capacity to import food,” the UN body said in the report.

Households in Kirundo, Muyinga, Rutada and Makamba provinces, as well as rural locales near Bujumbura, are particularly affected.

The food crisis comes in spite of abundant and well-distributed rains in April and May that favoured crop development in farming regions of both Rwanda and Burundi.

Burundi is one of the countries in the region where conflict and effects of La Niña have pushed the number of those in need of humanitarian aid to 40 per cent.

According to FAO, 28 African nations currently are in need of external assistance, with the East African region alone having over 24 million people who are in need of humanitarian help.

Particularly, the report indicates that an estimated 5.9 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in eastern and southern conflict-affected provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where a mass influx of refugees, fleeing Burundi and South Sudan, is straining the already limited resources of host communities.

Source : The East African

Zimbabwe Police Forcibly Disperse Rioters in Harare

00351603 d1f34524a9bdc349158692847620572f arc614x376 w285 us1

Police have fired tear gas at a crowd of opposition supporters amid an outbreak of violence in Harare. Clashes have broken out all over the city.

Zimbabwean police on Friday used tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest against President Robert Mugabe that was authorized by court order, triggering violent clashes throughout the capital, Harare.

Opposition supporters who wanted to march to the offices of the electoral commission to deliver a petition calling for electoral reforms ahead of 2018 elections were told to leave by police. When some refused to comply, the officers violently broke up the crowd, which included opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru. Tsvangirai and Mujuru fled the rally in cars.

The dispersed protesters then fought running battles with police in the streets of Harare, burning tires, throwing rocks and burning a popular market to the ground. Several people were reported injured in what was some of the worst unrest in the country since food riots in 1998.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba accused protesters of looting shops, saying a number of arrests had been made.

Growing unrest

Zimbabwe has seen months of protests against alleged human rights abuses, a weakening economy and high unemployment under the 92-year-old Mugabe, who has held power since 1980 when the south African country obtained its independence from Britain.

Government critics want international observers, including the United Nations, to monitor the poll in 2018. They are also calling on Mugabe to dismiss corrupt ministers, scrap plans to introduce local bank notes and end cash shortages.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday accused opposition leaders of being “foreign agents” who were trying to bring about international intervention in Zimbabwe’s affairs.

Source : DW

Ethiopia’s Bloody Crackdown On Peaceful Dissent

00311423 9d2ffe16c007b65575801ebd144cfa23 arc614x376 w285 us1

Since November 2015, Ethiopia’s Oromia region has been rocked by widespread protests. State security forces have responded to the largely peaceful protests with lethal force, resulting in the loss of more than 400 lives. Thousands have been wounded. Tens of thousands have been arrested and many remain in detention without charge. Many of those killed or detained by security forces are students. Human Rights Watch’s Birgit Schwarz talks to Ethiopia researcher Felix Horne about what triggered the protests, why the government’s brutal crackdown has received so little attention, and how he went about gathering credible evidence for his latest report, “Such a Brutal Crackdown,” in a highly repressive country that refuses to let in human rights researchers.

What triggered the Oromia protests?

The initial trigger was the Addis Ababa Master Plan, a very ambitious growth plan, which proposed to expand the municipal boundaries of Addis Ababa twentyfold in order to manage the capital’s rapid growth. This would force mainly ethnic Oromo farmers living around Addis to move. Many of these people have repeatedly been displaced from their land over the last decade without adequate compensation. The protests soon spread — we know of about 500 incidents of protests across all 17 zones of Oromia. Many are taking place in rural areas, where people have been displaced because of investments in commercial agriculture projects.

What options do displaced farmers have?

Ethiopia is a country of 100 million people, with high population density, especially around the capital. As with many expanding cities, there simply is no available land near the capital. So this is a difficult issue to resolve. However, in most cases we found that there was no attempt to compensate or provide alternate land for those farmers. They either have to live with family members elsewhere, flee the country, or go to Addis and search for low-paid work. Some farmers ended up working on their own land as watchmen or laborers.

Ethiopia is considered a development success story. Is this the price of its success?

Ethiopia is making major strides economically and its population does benefit from the country’s growth. But the government has a very authoritarian approach to development. The ruling party occupies 100 percent of the seats in the federal parliament as well as in all regional parliaments. When the government earmarks land for major investment projects, such as sugar or cotton plantations, flower farms, or manufacturing, the communities living on the land are hardly ever consulted and residents are often displaced without compensation. Those who express any kind of dissent are frequently targeted for harassment, arrest or even torture. Ethiopian law has made virtually impossible the operation of independent organizations that can represent victims of abuse or work against injustice. And the courts are not remotely independent when dealing with politicized cases.

Who are the protesters?

Initially the protesters were young, rural secondary and primary school students. They are much more aware of what is happening and of their rights than many in the older generation. University students are also involved. There was a period when the farmers joined in. But the older generation has been through these crackdowns many times; they know there will be harsh consequences if they raise their voices too loud. For example, farmers are largely dependent on the government, which provides fertilizers and in some cases, seeds or food aid. Those who actively speak out against government policy risk their access to these critical resources. So farmers avoid criticizing the government because it puts their ability to grow food in jeopardy.

How did students mobilize in a country that restricts any independent media and where surveillance is pervasive?

“Who is mobilizing? Who is behind this?” were questions the intelligence services constantly put to those they interrogated. Most of the students don’t have an answer. There is no puppet master who is pulling the strings. This has mainly been a spontaneous, grassroots movement. When I asked students how they know what is happening in other parts of Oromia, they said they knew through friends in neighboring villages, through Facebook – before the government restricted Facebook in Oromia – and occasionally through the Oromia Media Network, an independent diaspora television station.

How did the government respond to the protests?

After first responding with local police in Oromia, the government deployed the military, claiming that the protesters had been hijacked by outside forces and were bent on destroying government property. We did indeed find some cases in which protesters acted violently or in which there were attacks on government offices near the protests. But the vast majority of the protests were peaceful. Nevertheless, the security forces made tens of thousands of arbitrary arrests and shot live ammunition indiscriminately into the crowds. Because young children were often at the forefront of the protests, many of those struck by bullets were students. We estimate over 400 mostly young people have been killed since the protests began.

But didn’t the government halt the plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa?

In January the government announced the cancellation of the Master Plan. This was a rare concession for a government that is not used to making them. But by that time, the protesters’ concerns had become much broader. Not only were they talking about the plan, but also about the brutal response of the security forces to the protests, the jailing of students and children, and the decades of discrimination that ethnic Oromo have endured. So the announcement had little impact on the protesters. And the conduct of the security forces did not change either. They have continued to use live ammunition and make mass arrests.

How did you collect and corroborate the evidence for this report?

Surveillance is heavy, sources are targeted, and interpreters are at risk. In some cases, both local and foreign journalists have been detained. Despite this, we did manage to find ways to interview a number of protesters inside Ethiopia. We compared what they said with information given to us by people who had recently fled the country. We corroborated their accounts with photos, videos, police documents, health records. To confirm the authenticity of videos, we checked the footage’s metadata. We also spoke to the people who shot the videos, confirmed who the protesters in the videos were, and interviewed some of them. And we spoke to several local government officials who had fled the country.

There was one 17-year-old student who had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues. When he saw his friend get shot in the chest and go down, bleeding, he just ran and kept running.

We supplemented all of this with information we had gathered over the years for many of the locations where these protests took place. We know places of detention. We know about specific interrogation techniques that have been used. Nothing appears in our report that has not been confirmed by multiple sources.

What are some of the worst atrocities you documented?

Some of the protesters who had been in detention had weights tied to their testicles. We also documented cases of students arrested in their dormitories, blindfolded, taken to unknown places, hung upside-down by their ankles, beaten and told to reveal who was behind the protests.

Which stories moved you most?

There was one 17-year-old student who had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues. When he saw his friend get shot in the chest and go down, bleeding, he just ran and kept running. I interviewed him as he crossed the border into Kenya. One minute, he was worrying about school and his grades. The next minute, he realized that he might never see his family again, all because he joined a peaceful protest.

The other was the story of a young girl from the Arsi zone, a grade 8 student. Of the 28 students in her class, 12 had been arrested and their whereabouts were unknown, 3 had been arrested but later released, 4 had run away, 1 had been shot and killed, and 2 had been injured. When the teacher was arrested, and classes stopped, she fled.

Given the repressive climate, how were you able to protect your sources from retaliation?

We have seen many examples in the past where individuals who supplied information to international journalists and occasionally to human rights organizations were arrested or had to flee the country. The threats are real. Individuals only open up when they believe that we will protect their information and ensure their confidentiality. That’s why we do not supply names of those we interviewed or of locations nor any other detail that could identify our sources.

What effect has the crackdown had on the Oromo community?

Even though the government has cancelled the Master Plan, people remain skeptical. After decades of broken promises, many feel that those announcements are solely made for the benefit of an international audience, and that the government has no real intention to back down on its abusive approach to development.

Most of the mothers and fathers we spoke to have at least one child either in detention or in some refugee camp across the border. Some have no idea what happened to their children. They know they went to the protests, and that was the last they heard of them.

Thousands of student protesters have been forced to flee their homes and have sought asylum in neighboring countries, where they face numerous security risks and economic hardships. Often they find themselves stranded in a country whose language they don’t speak and where they are unlikely to be able to finish their education. For them, the future looks very bleak.

What has the international response been?

The United States and Ethiopia’s other allies like to highlight the regional counterterrorism initiatives Ethiopia is involved in, but turn a blind eye to domestic repression. The fact that Ethiopia hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees, and is the seat of the African Union, makes it even more difficult for other governments to publicly criticize the country’s response to these protests. However, if they continue to disregard the crackdown, Ethiopia’s long-term stability will be at risk. The situation is tense. The kids I talked to just want a future. But after hundreds of students have paid with their lives for taking their grievances to the streets, a growing number of people feel that there is no avenue left for peaceful expression of dissent.

What ought to be done to end the crisis?

The US and other allies should take a much firmer stance against these abuses and let Ethiopia know that it is not ok to arrest tens of thousands of students and shoot at kids who are peacefully protesting. There needs to be an independent, transparent investigation into this crackdown. Since the Ethiopian government has not shown that it is able or willing to conduct such investigations, allied countries and international entities ought to lend their support to ensure that members of the security forces responsible for abuses are held to account, whatever their rank.

Source : Human Rights Watch