Sunday, September 1, 2013

Letter to U.S. State Department, Ethiopia-Desk: Death of Mr. Tesfahun Chemeda in Ethiopia, an Oromo UNHCR mandate holder refouled by Kenya

The following letter to the U.S. State Department is from the Macha Tulama Cooperative and Development Association.
Dear Director of Ethiopia-Desk
U.S. State Department
August 30, 2013
During a 2009 speech given by President Obama, preservation of human dignity was stated as the core U.S. policy objective. A portion of the speech was documented by the Congressional Research Service in a July 22nd, 2011 article titled Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa.
“When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems, they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response … And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold on the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa, and the world.”
Although the African Command goals include “confronting common challenges” of genocide and terrorism, the question remains why U.S. government provides military aide to States (including African) that practice “state terror.” Support of “state terror” often results in oppression, human rights violations and genocide as history has proven repeatedly. Such was the case in Iraq, where the U.S. foreign policy, initially, supported Saddam Hussein’s regime during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The foreign policy was instituted despite the fact that the Saddam Hussein regime persecuted occupied people, such as Kurds, and other segments of the Iraqi population. Support of Saddam Hussein at that time emboldened the regime to use brutality to suppress Kurds and the Iraqi people in general, as well as neighboring Kuwait. Operating with impunity caused the death of untold number of Iraqi civilians. Similarly, support of the Ethiopian government has resulted in extrajudicial imprisonments and deaths of many civilians, including nationals from the Oromo, Ogaden, Anuak, Sidama and Southern Nations.
Further analysis of Ethiopia reveals the African colonial nature and desire for perpetrators (Abyssinian elites) to retain the colonial empire as the root of conflicts in the Horn of Africa. The Northern ethnic groups (Amhara and Tigray) have occupied Oromo, Ogaden and Southern Nations for over 120 years. Throughout the occupation, brutality, ethnocide and genocide have been part of the Abyssinian policy for controlling the occupied territory through leveraging international conflicts and ideologies. The policy of ethnocide extended to cultural and linguistic domination by a population (Amhara rulers), who constitute less than twenty percent of Ethiopia.
Gadaa.comWhile Amhara ruled Ethiopia, the Oromo language was banned in public places. The founders of Macha Tulama Self Help Association in Ethiopia, a civic organization made of Oromo professionals and leaders1, attempted to counter the repressive regime, resulting in many of the leaders imprisoned and/or killed. Attached is a 1977 Amnesty International press release that reported on the execution of Mecha Tulama leaders, General Tadessa Birru and Colonel Haile Regassa. Colonel Alemu Qixxessa was arrested and served 10 years in prison for being one of the founding members of Mecha Tulama.
In some such trials in early 1976, defendants were allowed their own lawyers or state legal aid, and relatives could attend the trial. However, in general, trials were in camera, defendants were denied legal representation, and judgement and sentences appeared to be arbitrary. In one well-known case in 1975, two Oromo officers, General Tadesse Biru (whose case had been taken up by AI in the 1967 ‘Galla Trial’) and Colonel Haile Hagassa were sentenced to prison terms by a military tribunal, on charges of joining a counter-revolutionary organization, but the terms were changed to death penalties by the chairman of the Derg, and both were executed.
- Amnesty International 1977
Gadaa.comUnder the current Tigrayan regime, Oromo was included as a state, but our language and culture was suppressed, including Waaqeffannaa, an indigenous Oromo religions. As was the case during Amhara regime, our founding organization’s offices in Ethiopia were looted and closed by government of Ethiopia.
Gadaa.comArbitrary arrests of Oromo were documented in 2007 by Amnesty International
Gadaa.comOromo Support Group Australia letter on Oromo Prisoners of Conscience including Mecha Tulama members and leaders
Although the War on Terror is critical, sacrificing of occupied people, such as Oromo, in Ethiopia sends mixed messages to the world. An underlying message is that our government allows aligned states to commit human rights violations and genocide, under the guise of state security. The inference is that our government stays “neutral” as long as the aligned nation supports the current global initiatives, such as the War on Drugs and War on Terror. It sets a standard for other nations that the world accepts policies that vilify civilian populations in order to carry out a mission to suppress dissents, occupy neighbor states, genocide and/or ethnocide, further weakening the core objectives of the United Nations.
One recent consequence of “Neutral policy” towards human rights violations and genocide by the Ethiopian empire is the death of Mr. Tesfahun Chemada, an Oromo professional who was killed in the Ethiopian Kaliti prison this past week.
Mr. Tesfahun Chemeda fled Ethiopia to Kenya because of persecution of Oromo professionals. In Kenya, Mr Tesfahun approached UNHCR and filed for protection. UNHCR gave him a mandate based on confirmation that Mr. Tesfahun was persecuted in Ethiopia. Tragically, the Kenyan government arrested Mr. Tesfahun along with another Oromo, Mr Mesfin Abeba, for interrogation before refoulment to Ethiopia. According to sources:
“The two innocent victims Tesfahun and Mesfin were handed over to the Ethiopian authorities who took them hand cuffed and blind folded at 2:00 AM local time on May 12, 2007, purportedly to have them investigated for terrorism at the JATT Main Investigation Branch in Finfinne (Addis Abeba) … From April 27 to May 12, 2007, before handing them over, they [Tesfahun Chemeda Gurmessa and Mesfin Abeba] were interrogated at the Kenyan National Bureau of Investigation near Tirm Valley by American Agents and Kenyan Anti Terror Police Unit. The Kenyan officer Mr. Francis, who led the investigation, concluded the innocence of these two victims and requested the Kenyan authority to immediately let them free. However, another Kenyan CID agent Ms. Lelian, who is suspected of having close connection with the Ethiopian agents, opposed the decision and facilitated the handing over of these two innocent victims.”
Kenyan government actions were in violation of international obligations and norms. The standards that Kenyan blatantly violated include:
Gadaa.com1465 U.N.T.S 185, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment2
Gadaa.comand Article 3 of the Convention against Torture3
As a result of these violations, Mr. Tesfahun Chemeda was martyred as an Oromo – having been tortured and killed in Kaliti prison in Ethiopia. The tragedy is that the case of Mr. Tesfahun Chemeda is much too common for Oromo.
Attached are letters by Oromo Support Group to Minister in the UK and Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, which provide a great deal of detail on Mr. Tesfahun Chemeda.
We urge the U.S. government to reform U.S. foreign policies to protect all human rights. The consequences of “neutral policies” have created vast suffering of civilian populations around the world, including Oromo.
Mardaasa Addisu
Secretary of Macha Tulama Cooperative and Development Association

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