ON GAMBELA MASSACRE

Systematic killing and genocide by the Ethiopian government
By Nyikaw Ochalla
December 30, 2003
The Ethiopian government has been embarking on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Anuak people in the Gambela region, southwest of the country. The Anuak are indigenous peoples of the region and occupied vast fertile land adjacent to the international border with the Sudan.

Since mid-December 2003, over 500 and 1000 are reported to have been killed and wounded respectively in the hand of government army. The death toll is rising every day since then and the future of Anuak ethnic group is in danger if there is no international community involvement to hold back the Ethiopian authorities action and made it accountable for its genocide act against the indigenous peoples of the Gambela region.

The systematic killing and genocide of the Anuak peoples under the current regime notably begun when unprecedented conflict erupted in 2001 between Anuak and Majanger ethnic groups. There was a devastation of both human resources and properties from both sides. Yet the Ethiopian authorities have remained silence and there had not been public enquiry or investigation of any kind carried out to bring the perpetrators to a court of law. The clash that virtually orchestrated by the regime in power had left many innocent Anuak and Majanger ethnic groups homeless. Until today there remains high level of mistrust between the two traditional peaceful peoples of no history of conflict in the past and future relationship predominantly characterized by mistrust and eminent danger.

Another conflict, that the Ethiopian authorities remain off the hook from the international community through available legal mechanisms and procedures, is the ethnic fighting over the land now used as a pretext in the current genocidal act of the authorities. It is surprisingly enough to hear the authorities in Addis Ababa talking about the land fight between Anuak and Nuer this time when they had been dismissing the same reason for the conflict between the two in the past. The government had been attributing the conflict between the two to power control in the region. The worst of its kind was in 2002 when in the Gambela town and adjacent Anuak villages’ conflict erupted between Anuak and Nuer, leaving many defenseless Anuak homeless and claiming many more lives. This followed another bloody conflict between same peoples in 2001 where many more Anuak peoples were reported dead and wounded. High level of property destruction took place and over 20 Anuak villages were burnt down and settled on. The devastation of the Anuak society in the 21st century is as a result of discriminatory government disarmament policy that left many Anuak defenseless. Today the society is subjected to high level of insecurity threat from other groups who have accessibility to firearms and ammunitions including the Ethiopian army. Yet the government that claims to protect every individual under its jurisdiction is hardly interested to provide any sort of protection to the defenseless peoples.

In all of the above-mentioned conflicts, the Anuak have been wondering the role of the Ethiopian authorities; firstly, in its silence in bringing to an end these unnecessary ethnic conflicts some of which could not be attributed to the parties involved. And secondly, the authorities plan in successive disarmament of ethnic Anuak only. Until today, ethnic Nuer have settled on Anuak land without effort from the government to return the Anuak villagers to their home villages. Any attempt to engage the Nuer ethnic through every possible means is followed by the government killing and torture of the Anuak elites and farmers. There has been no public enquiry neither to the death of innocent civilians and settlement of Nuer on the Anuak villages. However, the current slaughter of the Anuak people which left over 500 dead and many more wounded, have uncovered the true plan and policy of the current Ethiopian regime. Perhaps this confirms to the hidden policy of settlement on the Anuak lands as similar action of burning down the Anuak homes was carried out by the army in the Gambela town, leaving many Anuak ethnic residing in Gambela town homeless and destitute. In the Gambela town and adjacent villages along the Baro (Openo) River, the government policy of clearing the Anuak from the area, is underway and great fear is inflicted upon them.

The massacre of innocent Anuak ethnic in the broad day light in the regional capital, Gambela, was one of its kinds in Ethiopian government history. For four days, the army ruthlessly engaged in brutal killing of innocent Gambela residents, and Anuak ethnic group was the only target of the government brutal operation. Dead bodies were left lying on the streets for several days without families allowed to remove them. Any attempt to do so was traded in with high price- lost of precious human live again. Many feared to risk their lives in a very well plan operation by the army. As a result the decomposed bodies were buried in mass graves where the families were not allowed to see the departure of their loved ones. Gambela is a blistered town and the Anuak are no longer treated as human beings in their own ancestral town and the region as a whole.

Irrespective of calm returning to the town, until today the army is widely reported to carry out sporadic killing and raping of innocent young girls and elderly women whose age ranges from 7-65 years old. Surprisingly, since the killing broke out on 13/12/2003 the government has been given a contradictory accounts; firstly, that the conflict was between Anuak and Nuer ethnics and as a result the army was dispatched to control the situation. Secondly, the government reported that as conflict broke out between the Anuak and high land population living in Gambela town, the army was given order to clam down the situation. Thirdly, the government had engaged in accusing the opposition political parties, mainly the OLF of engaging in the killing of Anuak and the ambush of an ambulance which left 7 highland population and 1 Anuak dead on spot sparking the killing of innocent Anuak civilians in the Gambela town by similar opposition group.

The account of the government cannot be collaborated as it is a mere attempt to divert the international community attention from knowing the real cause of the genocide, who carried out such brutal act and dispatch an independent investigation team into the region. Firstly, at the time of day broad light Anuak killing there was no ethnic Nuer involved in the killing and no conflict between the two took place. Secondly, the highland populations all of which are traders and civil servants like the Anuak counter parts do not possess arms to embark on mass killing. Moreover, there had never been any sign of conflict between these societies in the past. However, the information from the ground indicates that some highland residents in the town were involved in identifying and exposing the Anuak neighbors to the army for genocide acts. In their final attempt to divert the international community attention, the authorities in Addis Ababa accused the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) for being the one that had engaged in the brutal killing of innocent Anuak civilians in the Gambela town. The OLF, on its part, has disputed its involvement in the killing of Anuak civilians in the Gambela town.

Even if one assumes that the government accusation against its political opposition may hold true, one would ask a vital question as to how many soldiers died in engaging the OLF. Such questions and many more remain an answered and are a starting point for international community independent enquiry. Moreover, OLF being an opposition to the Ethiopian government seems to have no interest in devastating innocent civilians leaving its political opponent, the TPLF army and its leaders. Further more, the army killing of the Anuak is not only limited to the Gambela town, but also in other towns where raping and many more killings are now widely reported. In any case the regime genocide acts is clear and cannot be covered up by simple uncollaborated accounts of events all of which convince the TPLF regime only.

The arbitrary killing of innocent civilians contradicts the Ethiopian government’s international obligations and in particular is a violation of “Article 6” of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which the Ethiopian government is a party. According to Para 1:

“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

This is an international obligation that all state parties to the present international covenant cannot derogate from what so ever. It is also vividly stipulated in Para 3 even in the case of those states that have not yet abolished capital punishment, that:

“When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any state party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

The violation of Article 6 of the ICCPR by state party demands immediate international investigation in accordance of the international obligations of state entity to establish the facts surrounding the killing and understanding why the army that serves the public could engage in the massacre of civil population as the case in the Gambela region. In the light of the recent Ethiopian government systematic killing and genocide, there is no slight doubt that it constitutes an act of genocide, prohibited under international law. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious groups. The acts are enumerated under Article II of the Convention-sub paragraph a-e.” Article III of the Genocide Convention can be invoked for similar reason, as the acts constitute genocide as defined above and many others acts enumerated under Article III of the Genocide Convention.

Indeed, the appalling human rights situations of the Ethiopian government are contradictory to its international obligations enshrined in the international human rights bills and are punishable under international law. Since 1995 the army had begun interfering in individual private life. During the period, individual houses were broke into and families beaten in front of young children who today remains under serious psychological and emotional disorders. Fear and trauma had been inflicted on most Anuak families members simply because of their race, ethnicity, and being an indigenous peoples of the vast fertile land. These acts confirm to the genocide acts enumerated in Article II and III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Since 1995 many individuals have fallen victims of arbitrary detention and killings in the hand of government soldiers and the regime has remains dormant or pretends to know nothing of its soldier’s acts. Over 500 from Anuak ethnic group are now suffering in overcrowded Gambela prison and many more transferred to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and are detained without charge. In addition, following the mass killing in December 2003, the army has detained over 400 Anuak while grieving for their lost brothers and fathers murdered in cool blood. Many more could be expected to die in the hand of the army and detained without charge. Indeed, many could be said about the current regime appalling human rights situations against the Gambela populations including its lacks of commitment and conviction to develop democratic culture in the country, in particular in the Gambela region, a distinct territory. The vital question that remains unanswered is the place of the Anuak society and other indigenous peoples of the region in Ethiopia under the current regime.

The regime, on the other hand, has been conflicting its international obligations and its promises to uplift the country into a better democratic rule and good governance. The Gambela region and its peoples have been the most victims of undemocratic rule due to the interference of the Federal authorities from the center and its army based in the region. The civil democratically elected members of the regional government have been abolished and replaced by non-elected individuals whose interest is to keep orders of the regime and perhaps reasons for many mass killings in the region. The regime no longer respects the election result of the people starting from 1995 and worsening in the recent years.

At present the region is ruled by non-elected individuals loyal to the regime in Addis Ababa and its army in the region contrary to the democratic principle and the TPLF/EPRDF constitution. Until last elections, while the local elections were held in other parts of the country, the regime had denied the Gambela indigenous peoples a right to excise their fundamental democratic rights. Democratically registered political parties that operates in the region were banned and replaced by ethnic based political clicks again a system that facilitate for the killing of one section of the society in the region. We doubt very much the conduct of forth coming election in the region and the killing of Anuak elites and farmers may sound like preparation for clearing the way for the military rule in the region.

Hence, we call upon the international community to bring the Ethiopian authorities to justice for its aggrieved human rights records against the Ethiopian peoples and in particular the genocide act against the indigenous Anuak peoples. We also call upon the international community to send an independent investigation team into the region to verify the genocide act of the Ethiopian authorities against the indigenous Anuak peoples in the Gambela region. Once more, the authorities in Addis Ababa have failed to control the insecurity situation in the region and the Anuak and many other indigenous peoples have lost hope of Ethiopian authorities to control the insecurity situation in the region and request the international community, the UN, EU, regional organizations, NGOs and human rights orgnaisations to intervene and take control of the insecurity situation in the region. If these peoples remain under the current Ethiopian regime, it will be too late to find any survivor of indigenous peoples in the region given the engagement of the army, which supposed to protect the citizens, into the genocidal act against civilians.

The arbitrary killings of ethnic Anuaks includes the following, just to mention a few:

1.	Rev Okwer Oletho
2.	Owar okedi
3.	Ojulu Okumu
4.	Cham Okech
5.	Peter Deng
6.	Didumo Omot
7.	Ogud Opiew
8.	Kwot Cham
9.	Chedi Yousep 
10.	Omot Ochan
11.	Boka Karu
12.	Ojulu Boka
13.	Opap Ojulu
14.	Oriemi Ojulu
15.	Anuto Ojulu
16.	John Ochalla
17.	Ochan Omot
18.	John Obang
19.	Okech Ojulu
20.	Adfemebel Ogulla
21.	Ojulu Nyigwok
22.	Ognom Omot
23.	Opiew Ongelli
24.	Bang Otuti
25.	Ochalla Ojwato
26.	Chraf Oboya
27.	Amulu Opodhi
28.	Cham Gora
29.	Ochogi Cheny
30.	Chedi Okidi
31.	Gogo Chibi
32.	Omot Jok
33.	Chuor Obang
34.	Chadho Ojulu
35.	Okony Nyigwo
36.	Paulos Akililu
37.	Kassa Ogud
38.	Ochang Oboya
39.	Obang Okelo
40.	Otin Nyigelo
41.	Ognom Opiew
42.	Oboli Jay
43.	Ojulu Ochalla
44.	Okelo Ochudho
45.	Oboli Ochalla
46.	Bang Agwa
47.	Ochalla Olok
48.	Odwella Ochan
49.	Cham Okwey
50.	Gora Oman
51.	Nyang Ochiwiny
52.	Cham Gora
53.	Ojulu Oman
54.	Thiru Jarnyang
55.	Ojang Okwey
56.	Pethri Thatha
57.	Owaaro Oliek
58.	Kuy Akway
59.	Bangabol Obang
60.	Okuch Ogol
61.	Omot Kwach
62.	Ochang Ochan
63.	Ogala Oman
64.	Opiew Ojulu
65.	Okuch Ojulu
66.	Okwom Ojulu
67.	Ojulu Agwa
68.	Thwol Ojulu
69.	Opiew Omot
70.	John Abula
71.	Omot Omot
72.	Okech Ogud
73.	Ogud Obang
74.	Opiew Ojulu
75.	Opap Opiew
76.	Ojulu Okumo
77.	Ochalla Ayijak
78.	Anyaro tiebale
79.	Gogo Chibi
80.	Buba Opap
81.	Opem Nyigwo
82.	Oman peter

Many more were reported to have been buried in another unidentified mass grave.


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