Statement by Oromo Advocacy Alliance
A Pattern of Displacement and Disruption in Oromia and Ethiopia Reaches the Border Town of Moyale
Violence Against Civilians Intensifies in 2018
The Moyale Incident
On March 10, an outbreak of gunfire aimed at unarmed civilians rocked a peaceful border town of Moyale located between Ethiopia and Kenya. The unprovoked attacks were carried out by Ethiopian security forces deployed from a military Command Post established under the declared State of Emergency. This assault caused a massive flow of residents, primarily Oromos, escaping into Kenya to seek safety. Inexplicable carnage has become commonplace in Ethiopia. Since the declaration of a second State of Emergency in mid-February a steady drumbeat of reports of killings emerges on a daily basis.
In this latest episode of assault on citizens, the heavily-armed Ethiopia security forces shot and killed 9 and injured 12 civilians in Moyale. This was an unprovoked attack. Most of the victims were young men in their teens and early 20s who were shot from the back around shoulders and above, at close range according to witnesses. They were pulled over on their motorbikes, chased into restaurants, and shot in cold blood on the public streets. Over 10,000 people have fled from Moyale to neighboring Kenya to escape the chaos. The number of those fearing for their lives is growing. People are terrified. Kenyan Red Cross reports most of those are women and children. The government claims this incident resulted from a “mistaken intelligence report.” When the head of the Oromia Justice Bureau, Taaye Dendea, cast doubt on that claim, asserting that this was not a “mistake,” he was arrested by the Command Post.
This kind of punitive attack on the Oromo people in that southern border region is hardly new. Felix Horne, Horn of Africa Researcher for Human Rights Watch says “collective punishment of Borana civilians by EDF [Ethiopian Defense Forces] because of alleged OLF support is something HRW documents far too often around Moyale. EDF punishes civilians on both side of the Kenya-Ethiopia border”.
Ongoing Displacement: Over One Million Dispossessed and Moved in Eastern Ethiopia
Over the past year, the UN reports that 857,000 Oromos were uprooted from their homes in the border between Oromia and Somali regions in Ethiopia. Violent conflict in the formerly peaceful area was instigated by federal government-supported forces. Hundreds of thousands of persons were stripped of all possessions – lands, herds, businesses, housing structures and household effects – and forced into military trucks to be removed from their homes and transported into Oromia. These who were displaced in 2017 joined others who had been forced from the border regions in 2016 to form an internally displaced population of over a million persons. The world has not given attention to the Oromo plight, though the number affected is twice the size of the similarly-maligned Rohingya population forced from Myanmar in 2017. The suffering of the 500,00 Rohingya occurred under the watchful eye of international media throughout 2017. By contrast, the plight of the Oromo in Eastern Ethiopia unfolded in the media black hole created by the authorities, effectively hiding one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.
The declaration of the second State of Emergency by the Ethiopian government on February 16, followed the sudden resignation of PM Hailemariam Dessalegn on the day before. Since that time, abuses by the Ethiopian government have continued resulting a steady drumbeat of reports of killings coming on a daily basis from across the country, particularly from Oromia.
What Can Be Done?
US support for Ethiopia has been a mainstay in keeping the current ruling party afloat. Ethiopia received over 820 million dollars in aid from the US in 2017, in addition to other forms of assistance. Nevertheless, a strongly-worded statement by the US Embassy condemning the State of Emergency has failed to deter the Ethiopian government from extended the activities of this Command Posts. The humanitarian and political crisis in Ethiopia is deepening.
Ethiopia clearly needs a stronger signal from the US and other allies to reverse course.
US policy should include the following:
· Both Houses of Congress should immediately pass existing resolutions (H Res 128 and S Res 168) calling for respect for human rights and inclusive governance in Ethiopia through a set of strong action items,
· Examine the withholding of massive appropriations under the Leahy Law which denies aid to perpetrators of human rights violations,
· Adopt Executive measures which apply meaningful pressure on the Ethiopian government to cease violent and deadly assaults on civilians, reverse the State of Emergency and launch negotiation with opposition parties to meet the demands of the people.
There should be no mistake that the US is currently complicit in the killing of innocent civilians in Ethiopia and both the misery and movement of the Oromo and other peoples from the country by failing to take meaningful action. Continued United States assistance empowers this regime to assault and dispossess civilians with impunity. The US failure to seek accountability for financial and logistical aid has played a role in Ethiopia’s descent into chaos.
Regional stability, which impact US interests, is at stake.