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Ethiopia: The Anuak’s Forgotten Genocide

Alemayehu G. Mariam

A Conversation With Obang Metho[1]

Note: A report by the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program on the Anuak concluded[2]:”From December 2004 to at least January 2006, the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Forces) attacked and abused Anuak civilians in Gambella region – wantonly killing, raping, beating, torturing, and harassing civilians in response to ongoing Anuak rebel attacks. These abuses left Anuak villagers fearful of leaving their homes at night, going to the fields and farms outside of town, or fetching water from the water pumps or streams.”

These are excerpts from an extended conversation I had with Obang Metho, the well-known Ethiopian human rights advocate, in solemn anticipation of the seventh anniversary of the December 13-16, 2003 Anuak massacres this coming Monday. The interview is captioned “forgotten genocide” because very few people know what happened to the Anuak seven years ago was genocide as defined under Art. 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention. In the interest of full disclosure, in September 2006, I was honored to be the keynote speaker[3] at the University of California, Los Angeles premier of “Betrayal of Democracy”, a heartbreaking and gut-wrenching documentary on the Anuak massacre produced by the Anuak Justice Council, Obang Metho, Executive Director, in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Alemayehu: As you know November and December are very sad months for Ethiopians. In November 2005, following the election that year, hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were massacred in the streets. The world knows a lot about those crimes. But I am not sure if too many people other than the Anuak remember what happened in December in 2003. To be frank, with the exception of some Anuak I have met, I don’t recall having any serious conversations with other Ethiopians about what happened to the Anuak people in Gambella seven years ago. Do you think your other countrymen and women really care about what happened at that time?

Obang: First of all, I want to thank you on behalf of the Anuak for joining with them in remembering some of the darkest days of Anuak history and for bringing this tragedy to the attention of Ethiopians now in 2010. I am sure that Meles never expected that seven years after the genocide of the Anuak that others, like yourself, would have joined together to commemorate this day.

You ask whether other Ethiopians really care about what happened to the Anuak. At the time of the massacre, the only Ethiopian organization that came to the defense of the Anuak was EHRCO [Ethiopian Human Rights Council]; otherwise, it was either overlooked or was not known among most Ethiopians. This was not surprising for several reasons. First, the Anuak were a remote, tiny and marginalized ethnic group who were not part of the mainstream of events in the country. Secondly, Ethiopians were very divided by ethnicity, region, skin color, political view, language, culture and to a lesser extent, by religion; so what was important was what happened to one’s own group and the rest tended to be ignored. Thirdly, even today, what happens in Addis Ababa has always received far more attention than what occurs in the rural parts of Ethiopia where most Ethiopians live. Fourthly, the Ethiopian government does its best to cover up their crimes so it does not get out to the mainstream media. If the news does get out, they simply deny their own responsibility, twist the truth and blame others or try to excuse what happened as one of the regrettable consequences of “ethnic conflict” or use other justifications to avoid responsibility. The government even issues a whitewashed report absolving itself of any responsibility in the massacres.

It is true that the November 2005 killing of 194 unarmed protesters in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country created a groundswell of outraged response from many sectors of the Ethiopian community because they could identify with the victims, and the killings were carried out in plain view. It became impossible to hide, even to the international community.

However, this was not the case in the majority of violent incidents that have taken place over the past two decades all over the country. We have over 86 different ethnicities; many of them live in remote, rural and marginalized communities and are silenced violently like the Anuak were in 2003 without too much publicity. In fact, the Anuak genocide is now much better known and more remembered than most of the other incidents that have been perpetrated by the TPLF [Meles Zenawi’s party] against Ethiopians.

For example, in July of 2002, 200 Mazengers — neighbours to the Anuak in Gambella — were brutally killed, but who knows about this? In 2001, 100 Sidamo were massacred. Who remembers these victims today? Ethiopians were killed in 1992 in Badenyo and in Arba Gogu. In all few remember these anniversaries. I say ask the Oromo about the tens of thousands of their people who have been beaten, tortured, imprisoned and murdered in the last twenty years by the Meles regime. How can we remember an anniversary when there are so many incidents and they are still ongoing? Ask the Afar about the displacements and human rights abuses they are facing right now. Ask the Benishangul about the same displacements and human rights abuses in their area. Ask the Ogadeni about the genocide being committed against them as we speak. It is not all about “remembering,” but about standing with the victims against such barbaric aggression. We can keep going on for the list is endless and many cases are still unknown.

This is why the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) was formed. We must no longer mourn alone; it is time to take action. Meles’ government cannot stop on 80 million people if we all stood up for each other and together. I believe we Ethiopians will finally come together in this way to stop this oppression. Only then will we hear the countless stories that have never been told of the immeasurable suffering of our people, and not just the Anuak.

Alemayehu: Let’s nail down the facts about what happened in Gambella during the infamous three days in December in 2003, and in the days preceding and following. What are the established facts?

Obang: Meles and those carrying out the atrocities against the Anuak believed them to be expendable people; they thought of them as road blocks on the way to the oil fields, the fertile lands and abundant water and rich natural resources on indigenous Anuak land. They targeted those individuals who were the voices of the community and have a say in the exploration and development of oil on their land. As you might remember, when the killing squads went through Gambella town looking for the next Anuak to brutally kill, they chanted, “Today there will be no more Anuak,” “Today there will be no more Anuak land”. As they raped the women they said, “Today there will be no more Anuak babies.” Within three days, 424 Anuak were dead.

When I received news, it was the darkest day of my life. My world was turned upside down. Among the 424 Anuak killed, I personally knew 317 of them. They were my family, my classmates and many others with whom I had been working to bring development not just to the Anuak, but to the region. Most were educated and outspoken. I have no doubts that I would have been one of the victims had I been living there at the time.
The Anuak genocide occurred as a surreal event as no one discussed it. When international news covered the massacre, they picked up the Ethiopian government’s spin, which described it as an ethnic conflict between the Anuak and the Nuer. That is not true. Later on, Oromo soldiers, who had not even been in the area, were scapegoated for the killings. When I testified before the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in March and April of 2004, I did not speak only about the Anuak, but spoke of the Oromo and others facing persecution.

However, it was only after I testified before the US Congress in March of 2006 that I became more involved in the mainstream Ethiopian community. By that time, I had been to the capital cities of most of the donor countries in Europe and in North America exposing the Anuak massacre and ongoing human rights violations against the Anuak. After the November 2005 killing of unarmed election demonstrators in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country, other Ethiopians joined in this effort. Unfortunately, most tended to cluster around their own individual ethnic or political party interests rather than joining together as a whole. Sometimes we were working at cross purposes. I often wonder where we would be today had we been willing to collaborate then. I hope we don’t have to ask ourselves that question five years from now.

Alemayehu: I don’t believe many of us in the larger Ethiopian community adequately expressed our outrage against the crimes perpetrated against the Anuak. Perhaps many of us did not particularly care, didn’t know or were just indifferent. After all, the Anuak are a tiny minority. Do you sense indifference among other Ethiopians to the plight of the Anuak?

Permit me to answer this question by asking another question. How many mainstream Ethiopian people you see writing about the ongoing genocide in the Ogaden or about the displacements of people as foreign investors align with this one-party government in grabbing the Ethiopian peoples’ land and resources in places like Benishangul-Gumuz, on the borders of the Amhara region or even in Addis Ababa where graves are to be bull-dozed to make room for someone who seeks “ownership” of the land? This is not just indifference to the Anuak, but it is indifference to the problems our people are experiencing all over the country. The Anuak are only one example. This is why we need a “NEW ETHIOPIA!”

Not seeing the full humanity of each of us is the reason we have so many liberation fronts created not simply to break away from the country, but instead, created predominately to protect the interests and lives of the people that are not valued by others. As long as some feel they are more Ethiopian and see others as being of less worth, we will have indifference to the plight of others. This is why we have formed the SMNE, to fight for a new Ethiopia that values all her children the same way regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, political view or any other distinctions. The reason why many of these separatist groups do not want to associate with “Ethiopia” as they see it because they don’t see much inclusiveness in the larger Ethiopian community. Meles has had an easy time of dividing and ruling; and until we all change from the heart, we will not emerge from our collective suffering.

Alemayehu: When you came out in public in 2006 and sought help to put a light on the Anuak massacres, did you get your much support from other Ethiopians? Did you make an effort to mobilize Ethiopians in the Diaspora, and if not why not?

Obang: In the midst of the genocide and ongoing human rights crimes, I sought organizations and government officials who were in the best position to intervene. Genocide Watch president, Dr. Greg Stanton, was one of the first to respond to my call for assistance. At the same time, some Anuak and their friends in Minnesota had already decided to send a team, which soon included me, to interview Anuak survivors and witnesses to the genocide who had fled to a refugee camp in Sudan. We hoped to gather information and evidence while the memories were still fresh. At Dr. Stanton’s suggestion, we added a seasoned human rights investigator in our group. Following the investigation, we issued a report, “Today is the Day for Killing Anuak.” A subsequent investigation was also completed resulting in the report, “Operation Sunny Mountain,” which linked the massacre to the top officials of Meles in Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch did an investigation and issued two separate reports, “Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region“( 3/24/05) and “Ethiopia and Eritrea: Promoting Stability, Democracy and Human Rights“(5/5/05). The International Human Rights Clinic at the Harvard Law School issued another report, “We Are Now Hoping for Death“, (12/14/06). In all, the Anuak Justice Council was involved in coordinating the completion of five separate human rights investigations on the massacres.

We did not attempt to mobilize Ethiopians until 2006, following my testimony before the U.S. Congress when I made strong connections with other Ethiopians. At the time, ethnic and political divisions created competition between Ethiopians. Rather than working to advance similar goals, some tried to hijack the work of others or refused to collaborate. Even though this continues to be a characteristic shortcoming of many in the struggle for Ethiopian freedom and justice, I believe today Ethiopians are discarding peripheral differences to work together in common cause. I think Ethiopians suffering in the country would be highly encouraged if they saw real progress towards this goal among us in the Diaspora. It is only then that we can work together to mobilize the people within Ethiopia towards a national rather than an ethnic solution!

Alemayehu: How do we keep the memories of the Anuak massacre victims alive? What can we do as individuals and as a community, that is Anuaks and other Ethiopians together?

No one except the Anuak may have cried for them in 2003, but today, millions of Ethiopians know about the Anuak genocide. On December 13th, Ethiopians may remember the pain and suffering of the Anuak; speaking to others about it, praying for the survivors, joining with Anuak they know in a service of remembrance or calling them to personally talk. Many Anuak will shed tears as they remember those dark days and the subsequent grief and hardship resulting from their losses. May this remembrance be a call to all Ethiopians to reflect on the losses of their own loved ones or those of others in the country. We have suffered much as a country. We should try to lift up others with similar losses and wounds.

For me, I will join with other Anuak in Minnesota in a service to remember December 13th; honoring the memory of those who lost their lives and praying for the future of the people and Ethiopia. For me, the pain has somewhat subsided, but my memory of this horrific loss motivates me to work to prevent it from happening again to the Anuak or anyone else. If Ethiopians have forgotten the memory of the Anuak genocide in 2010, the reasons may be somewhat different than 2003.

First of all, we Ethiopians are in great distress right now. It is natural for memories to fade, but when we are still struggling for survival, it is easy to become diverted with one new crisis after another. It is important not to forget so that we can take hold of a better future, but part of remembering “rightly” will take place when peace comes to Ethiopia, when justice is finally served and when the perpetrators and their bosses are held accountable.

Another reason for the memory subsiding is that the Anuak are not alone. Many others have also suffered at the hands of this regime both before and after the Anuak genocide. Look at the genocide going on right now in the Ogaden. Look at the daily beatings, killings and imprisonment of innocent Ethiopians now carried out by this repressive regime all over our country.

Due to the current dictatorial regime, Ethiopians must first become free before official memorials will be constructed, but that time will come. Several years ago I talked about how the death of the Anuak will never be forgotten as long as there are those who care about justice. Even though the current regime would like to obliterate or “whitewash” the memory of these shameful acts, we Ethiopians must be sure they are not forgotten.

When this TPLF government finally collapses, not only do I envision a memorial for the Anuak in Gambella, but also in Addis Ababa where not only will the Anuak be represented, but many others known and unknown who have tragically died at the hands of the Meles regime. At that time, Ethiopians will build a wall of shame where we can go to remember how the government that was supposed to protect the people turned out to be their mortal enemy. It will serve as a sobering reminder of how we must work to preserve a respect for the humanity in each of us.

Alemayehu: Is there anything being done to bring to justice those who committed the crimes against the Anuak in 2003? Are there any efforts underway?

Obang: Yes! We have a very strong legal foundation in place for that day in court where Meles and others will finally be held accountable. This is due to all the human rights investigations and documentation completed by groups like Genocide Watch, Human Rights Watch and others. The case of the Anuak alone is very strong; but when combined with others, all of this abundant evidence may easily form the foundational basis for future prosecutions. The case of the Anuak is before the International Criminal Court (ICC) right now and the UN High Commissioner is looking at the case referred by Dr. Greg Stanton regarding the pattern of human rights abuses in Ethiopia at the hands of this government. I am confident that the time will come for Ethiopians to finally obtain justice. Look at the case of Cambodia where evidence collected and secured over twenty years ago produced convictions just this year. Meles is no different than Omar al Bashir. The tide is certain to change and we will be ready!

Alemayehu: From what you have been able to gather, is there systematic persecution still going on against the Anuak?

Obang: The new systematic persecution has everything to do with the “new fever” for Anuak land and resources. It is being advanced with speed and intensity in the case of the Anuak and other indigenous peoples of Gambella, but is also going on throughout the country; wherever there is resistance to this plan to dispossess the people of their land and assets. People from Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromiya, Afar and Ogaden have officially been put on notice to move from their homes to be resettled in camps. Those who speak out have been harassed, threatened or beaten. In the case of the Anuak, some have turned up dead, floating in the river or have been beaten to death. We do not know what will happen to the people if they refuse to leave their homes; something that is a definite possibility. It certainly could trigger fresh violence by government security forces.

How should we, as Ethiopians, work together to prevent the type of genocide that happened to the Anuak does not happen to any other groups in Ethiopia?

December 13th should act as a reminder of the shared pain of our people and act to bring us Ethiopians together to “mourn under one tent” as has been done in our traditional culture for many years. Inside the tent is the land of Ethiopia and our beautiful and precious people. The roof of that tent is the sky over our beloved country. Because of the pain, misery and ongoing threats to our survival as a nation, we must come together to find a common vision and lasting solution. This is at the heart of everything the SMNE and others have been trying to do.

Now is the time to change our thinking about each other and BEGIN to build a healthier, more inclusive society. No one but the Anuak and their friends cared about them in 2003, but we have a chance to do it over. The land grabs and human rights abuses going on right now; not only to the Anuak but to all the people of Ethiopia should sound the trumpet to gather together. Some only want to gather if they are in charge. This attitude will surely defeat us. We must ask ourselves how much we really care about potential tragedy if egos or hunger for power stand in the way. I do think we are better in 2010 than we were in 2003, but we are still not where we need to be.

The many loved ones I lost can never be replaced, but I trust God that their lives were not lost in vain. Ethnic domination and marginalization of others due to ethnicity, skin color, culture, education, gender or religion is unjustifiable. It was the reason the Anuak were singled out to be slaughtered among the 50,000 people who also lived in the city of Gambella. It was the reason why the government viewed them as a threat rather than as valuable human beings. As most survivors among the Anuak say, the Ethiopian government does not want the Anuak people, but only the resources. These resources on their indigenous land remain today as the chief threat to their survival as they stand in the way of the regime’s ambitions in the area; yet the Anuak are not alone as Ethiopians are becoming more accepting of each other.

Over the last seven years, I have met many wonderful Ethiopians like yourself, who have come into my life, contributing in some unique and special ways. You asked me about a story I have told many times about my experience in Washington DC some years ago with an Ethiopian cab driver who could not believe I was Ethiopian. I must say, Ethiopian cab drivers today are among the most educated and politically astute Ethiopians around. They know about the Anuak and the other diverse people of Ethiopia. Now, when I get in a cab in Washington DC, a more common experience I have is the driver who refuses to accept any fare for the ride saying, “I want to contribute to the struggle.” This is not about me or the Anuak, but about caring about the suffering people of our beautiful country. Yes, we should remember our painful history as a lesson for the future, but we must also embrace each other as we collaborate to create a New Ethiopia where there is room for all of us!

Alemayehu: With all the land-grabbing and population displacement, some 45,000 plus people from Gambella being moved to make way for international land-grabbers, do you have fears that what happened in December 2003 could happen again?

Obang: Yes, because once again, this regime’s greed for “more” is leading to robbing the most vulnerable people of Ethiopia of their land and resources. Because these people “do not count,” they are simply in the way of what this regime wants. If the people resist, the Meles government has been known to use any justification to use military force to subdue them; which could easily lead to ethnic-based killing. I do not think the people will all peacefully cooperate in this plan to displace themselves they have lived on for millennia. In 2003, the genocide was about oil. In 2010, it is about land, gold, potash, natural gas and even sand for concrete.

These are the new precipitating factors that could lead to genocide, crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. However, there is also the passive side of a new form of “genocide” that could lead to putting at imminent risk, large populations of some of the most vulnerable people of our country; not necessarily in terms of direct killings, but in terms of jeopardizing the long-term survival and well being of huge groups of people who are being forced from their homes and land all over the country. How will these people support themselves?

We need to care about the pain of each other more than we care about the power and advancement of one particular group of Ethiopians for “none of us will be free until all are free.” By the time I spoke before Congress in 2006, when our paths first crossed, I had already come to the conclusion that justice would never come to the Anuak until justice came to all Ethiopians; that until we cared about the wellbeing of others based on the God-given worth of every person–putting humanity before ethnicity–that Ethiopia would only produce serial dictators who would take turns preying on the vulnerable.

This is why when I testified I said I was not there not only for the Anuak, but also for the Tigrayans who disagreed with the cruelties of the Meles regime, the oppressed Oromos, the Somalis, the Afar and the other ethnic groups throughout Ethiopia who have been targeted by this regime. I said I was there for the Ethiopian woman whose son or daughter had been shot dead on the streets of Addis Ababa after the national elections and for the CUD leaders and young student protesters who had been taken away from their families and put in prisons and detention centers. I was there for those courageous prisoners of conscience, languishing in prisons throughout Ethiopia. I wanted my voice to not be my own but theirs; warning others that our country was in grave danger; that our nation was dying.

This was an effort to break out of our isolated boxes of caring only for our own tribe or ethnicity. It was the beginning of the SMNE. Today, the danger is greater than on that day and unless we put aside our differences and find common ground to unite, we have no hope. This regime will kill again and are doing so as we speak. Yet, God can help us change and I see a rising momentum for such change coming from many different groups of Ethiopians.

In 2003, we would never be having this discussion; yet, today, you are bringing these issues to the forefront. Both you and I have worked closely over the past four years on many issues. Through your many informed and insightful commentaries and analyses, you have contributed much to the discussion of the current situation by exposing the true nature of the regime and by creating greater international awareness and factual understanding of the dictatorship and repression in Ethiopia. This interview is just another example of your willingness to think beyond the ethnic-based paradigm that has defeated us for so many years. Because of people like you, who are willing to become the voices for a different kind of Ethiopia, a “new Ethiopia” of the future. May it inspire others to join with us! Thank you so much my friend!

Alemayehu: Thank you Obang for sharing your thoughts. It has been an honor working with you all these years. They say, “If you want peace, work for justice.” We all want peace in Ethiopia and for the Ethiopian people. So, we’ll be right there with you working for justice; we are with you in trying to bring to justice those perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It’s only because of scheduling conflict that I am unable to join you and the Anuak community in Minneapolis for the memorial on December 13. But be assured that all Ethiopians join you in observing this tragic date in spirit. I hope the Ethiopians in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, my old “stomping grounds”, will come out in full force and attend the memorial and show their solidarity with our Anuak brothers and sisters.

Obang: Thank you.


[1] Obang Metho is the Executive Director of the Anuak Justice Council and the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia.
Resource links on the Anuak massacres:

16 thoughts on “Ethiopia: The Anuak’s Forgotten Genocide

  1. Elias kifle do you agree with this? Melese and Isayas have the same taste when it comes to politics.It seems to me both get the heck out of torturing innocent citizens,order their sellutes to kill and dump suspected opponents,or lock them up permanetly in their dengens.So there is not much difference between these two in their dealings to wards the people.One big difference is perhaps the one is seated on a vast resources and the other living modestly.


  3. Anyway, Mr. Meles and his gangsters will bring to justice for murdering and torturing innocence ethiopians. It’s a matter of time. But my question to my fellows ethiopians, as we all already know that Mr. Meles is moving off the Anyuaks, Beneshingul-Gumze, Somalians and Afar from thier lands, what should we do to stop him? Do we have to waite for tomorrow’s excuses to say that hey, you know what! nobody heard about it. Or let only the displace people deal with? I think is a good idea for all ethiopians to rise thier voice. Tiny country like Madagascar people were able to stopped land leased to South Korea.Also Kenya,Zembabwe,South Africa and Mozambiq opposed the lease agreement because of their familiarities with the new colonialism system thet called development. Nobody developed firs world nations. They think wisely and work hard to better their life. That’s how they are. So,do Africa nations do the same thing as first world nations?


  5. Most of the genocides have been commited systematically and overtime it made the public unaware of the events.
    Since 1991 Woyane have been identifying individuals , families , communities and so on by pretending to be democrat and leting them feel they have the freedom of expression but the main objective was to identify the ones that care about their country and make an example of them so the rest will be terrorized and stop questioning on any affairs . This terrorism method went on behind the scenes and many true Ethiopians have been killed one by one or as a group as a whole . Whatever murders that have been documented can be easily multiplied by 10 because there are many more that were geting killed daily by Woyane since it got to power.

  6. It is absolutely the duty of all Ethiopians to fight the enemy with no pause,even for a second because the enemy is enemy for both our country and people.

    We shall stand firm and determined and fight this ugly,monster,and cruel enemy tooth and nail and bring the complete removal the enemy from the surface of Ethiopia.

    In just twenty years we’ve lost so many Ethiopians to the enemy;our common enemy.Meles Naziawi,the sickest robber that ever Ethiopians encountered shall one day be captured and grabbed by neck and toss him away in jail where he shall count the numbers from the day he was conceived in the wild to the day he is brought to justice;fellow robbers of this criminal shall aslse be meet their bitter fate as Zinawi the robber will.

    Victory for all Ethiopians!!!

    Eternal death to our common enemy,Zinawianrobbers!!!!!!

  7. Mr.Obang Metho errs when he says only EHRCO was concerned about the massacre. Let hom check the timely statements by SOCEPP and others at the time. Let us remember facts please

  8. The massacre is not forgotten . It will always be remembered as the unfortunate action the government was forced to take in order to ensure the safety of different private and governmental developmental agencies around the region. The people of Anuak will always remember the sacrifice they paid to join the Ethiopian economy that is growing rapidly.

  9. Crimes Against Humanity in Gambella Region

    Army Impunity and Official Inaction Fuel Abuses

    March 23, 2005

    The Ethiopian military has committed widespread murder, rape and torture against the Anuak population in the remote southwestern region of Gambella since December 2003, Human Rights Watch said in a 64-page report released today entitled “Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region.” Human Rights Watch said that the abuses detailed in the report could amount to crimes against humanity. Following the December 2003 massacre of some 400 Anuak civilians in a Gambella town by mobs and soldiers, the military launched a series of attacks on Anuak villages that destroyed well over 1000 homes and left several dozen villagers dead. In numerous smaller incidents, soldiers have severely beaten and sometimes killed Anuak men they encounter along roads or in sweeps of Anuak villages. These abuses have forced several thousand Anuak civilians to flee their homes for camps across the Sudanese border, while others have sought refuge with friends or family in the relative safety of Gambella’s larger towns. “The Ethiopian government must address its responsibility for the horrific crimes that the army has committed against Anuak civilians in Gambella,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. “While serious abuses have continued, the government has focused only on prosecuting a handful of soldiers involved in the December massacre.” The army’s operations in Gambella began as an attempt to root out armed Anuak groups that are believed to be responsible for a number of brutal attacks on the region’s large population of onetime migrants from other parts of Ethiopia. Human Rights Watch said that the military’s response has been to treat Gambella’s entire Anuak population as a legitimate target for attack. Human Rights Watch researchers who traveled to towns in Gambella documented military raids on Anuak neighborhoods and villages throughout the region since the December 2003 massacre. Eyewitnesses told how government soldiers killed more than one hundred Anuak civilians in these attacks. Many of the victims were shot down from behind as they tried to flee attacks on their villages. Others were killed in chance encounters with military patrols in the countryside. Soldiers from military garrisons near Anuak communities have attacked and raped women on their way to fetch water or gather firewood, and have invaded homes and raped the women living there. Military patrols traveling along the region’s roads have also been implicated in rape. Beatings and torture of Anuak civilians by soldiers have become such common occurrences in much of the region that many of the victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they consider it to be a normal part of their existence. “We don’t even bother to take [the victims’] names,” said one Anuak villager. “If all they do is beat you, you are lucky.” In the first four months of 2004, soldiers burned several villages to the ground, and an attack in December 2003 destroyed more than 1000 Anuak homes in the town of Pinyudo. Soldiers have also looted homes as well as cattle and other livestock when they pass through Anuak villages. As one farmer whose home was stripped bare by soldiers from a passing patrol put it, “because everything is in their hands, they take whatever they want.” “The Ethiopian government claims that the military is trying to bring stability to Gambella’s countryside,” Takirambudde said. “But in fact it’s the army that is terrorizing the rural population with impunity.” Human Rights Watch said that the Ethiopian government’s response to the ongoing abuses has been wholly inadequate. The government launched a public inquiry into the December 2003 massacre, but its report ignored overwhelming evidence of the army’s participation in the massacre and absolved the military of any wrongdoing. The government has not taken any steps to investigate allegations of ongoing abuse in other parts of Gambella. Hundreds of civilians have been killed and raped, and numerous villages have been burned to the ground, yet the government has only recently said it would put six soldiers on trial for their alleged involvement in the December 2003 massacre. Several Anuak villagers who have reported abuses to regional authorities told Human Rights Watch that officials said there was nothing they could do to control the military, and urged them to keep quiet for their own safety. Others complained to the military authorities about rapes committed by soldiers garrisoned near their communities, only to be advised that the best way to prevent such abuses was to tell women not to walk the roads alone. In some cases, military officers have responded to complaints of abuse by accusing villagers of supporting armed Anuak groups and threatening them with further violence. The military’s continuing depredations have left many Anuak farmers afraid to travel to their fields, which often lie in isolated areas far from the villages they live in. The total area under cultivation in Gambella dropped by 25 percent in 2004, and relief agencies attribute this alarming development mainly to insecurity in the region. Under international law, offenses committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population are crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch believes the numerous acts of murder, rape and torture committed by the Ethiopian army against Anuak civilians since late 2003 should be investigated as crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch urged donor governments to publicly call on the Ethiopian government conduct a thorough, public and independent investigation into military abuses in Gambella. Testimonies from the Human Rights Watch report “Targeting the Anuak: Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region” One [man], the soldiers tied his hands to his legs and put him on the road and then ran him over with a military truck. This person had been running. The soldiers caught him, between five and ten of them. They tied his hands and legs and were saying, “Why do you want to shoot him? We can kill him in another way instead.” There were some highlander children there and they were crying, saying, “Don’t kill him, don’t kill him!” They [the soldiers] put him on the road, and they yelled, “Go over him, go over him!” and then the truck ran him over once. Then the soldiers and highlanders clapped and cheered together. — Anuak man describing massacre in Gambella town, December 13, 2003 I was on my way to a nearby village and . . . I was caught by soldiers. They beat me and raped me at that time. There were twelve soldiers and all twelve of them raped me. They kept me for three hours. [After this] I became very exhausted and I was bleeding. From Gok Jinjor to Gok Dipatch usually takes two hours, but after I faced this problem, it took six hours. I received no treatment. I reported to my relatives, not to outsiders, because when they see a woman bleeding they may think she has made an abortion. When I was caught by the troops, my child ran away. I reached Gok Jinjor without knowing where my child was. After I arrived, I received information that the child joined another group of people and I sent my relatives from group to group. . . . I have suffered long term harm. It is still difficult for me to walk. The same thing has happened to other women. — Anuak woman describing an attack near Gok Dipatch, early 2004 It was late in the afternoon and we ran into the military by accident. They just shot him [Ojulu Ochala] without asking any questions. . . . After he was shot, he fell down and then we ran. . . . They ordered the old men to throw him away without burying him. So they did this, they threw him in the bush somewhat far from the village . . . but then after the solders left they buried him. — Anuak man describing an attack near Okuna Pino, October 2004.

    All quotes are from interviews done in Gambella, Ethiopia, or Ruiru, Kenya, late 2004.

  10. Lets come back to our senses. We live in a globalised world, no crime is hiden from Ethiopians or the international community. We don’t need either archeologiacal studies to criminalize the Meles Zenawi regime. The graves are still warm, the dead bodies didn’t still decay and turned to ashes. Grieving mothers and family members are still alive. The only problem we have is the undying support of the western countries to the murderous and tribalist regime in Ethiopia. They prolong our suffering by assisting him financially and especially the invation of Somalia made Meles Zenawi a loyal ally to the west. This is the only reason Ethiopians couldn’t fight or overthrow the Meles regime. Many of us accademics in exile are witness that the west betrayed democratic forces for the sake of short term political and strategic advantage.We are betrayed and Ethiopians are unlucky that we have no loyal allies. The Arabs hate Ethiopians and the emergence of strong Ethiopia is something they don’t wish. The westren countries don’t like the democratic forces of Ethiopia and especially those who advocate the national unity of the country. There Meles and his former EPLF brothers have intensively convinced the west that all who claim Ethiopian unity are Amharas, oppressors and chuvinists.Whenvere they criticize him he pull that Amhara card just like the pig in animal farm used to say if you don’t follow my orders “John will come back”. Still anyone who listens attentively western political analysts, we hear their anti-Amhara sentiment. Even acknowledging the brutality of Meles regime, they prefer Meles because supportring anybody else is like supporting those oppresive Amharas.The western diplomats and politicians fail to support democratic forces just because of the hidden hatred and suspicion that opposition leaders who support the idea of Ethiopian unity are labled as war-lovers. Ethiopians, as long as we become loyal to our country and willing to free ourselves nobody will come to rescue our country.All of us in the diaspora must first acknowledge that Ethiopia is invaded by tribalist forces who sold the countries national interest. If we see Woyanes only as dictators, we are doomed to live under their power and controll. First Ethiopians must accept the fact that they are beyond dictators, enemies of the state. Lets stop for a while and look back. lets avoid short memmory. Ethiopians were not consulted when Meles and his tribalist warlords decided to give away Asab. This clearly shows that they are enemies of the state and this is valid reason to fight them by hook or by crook.

  11. I wonder why the former Gambella governor’s name not listed among the people committed Anyuaks massacare? Was any his relatives excluded his name during the report process? His name is Okelo Akway and he was in charge when TPLF genocide Anyuaks. I believe he should not be free. Therefore, he’s responsible for the killing too.

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