Okok Ojulu’s Speech Delivered at the World Bank Panel Discussion | October 11, 2014
Honorable Panelists, Distinguish invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored and privileged to represent the voice of millions of indigenous populations of the Southwestern regions in particular, and many other oppressed groups elsewhere in Ethiopia. My speech echoes a big “No To Ethiopian Apartheid” and presents the anguish and death of the voiceless indigenous populations, languishing in blood, suffering insecurity, torture, and life imprisonment in Ethiopia. It also presents the voice of many refugees in the neighboring countries from Gambella, Lower Omo Valley area, and Beneshangul/Gumuz regions of Ethiopia who are living under difficult conditions facing threats to their lives; insecurity, cross border killings, and deportations from the neighboring countries.
Southwestern Ethiopia is a sanctuary to more than 28 indigenous Nilotic and south Omotic tribes namely Anywaa (Anyuak), Arebore, Berta, Bodi, Bena, Bale, Brile, Bacha, Dasenach, Gumuz, Hamer, Kwegu, Kara, Komo, Majenger, Mursi, Minit, Murle, Male, Mao, Nuer, Nyangatom, Opo, Suri, Sheko-Majenger, Tsmayeko, Tirma, and Zelimama. Their population is estimated to be between 4-5 million people who live in geographical location that stretches out from Lake Turkana via Gambella to Beneshangul/Gumuz regions, at the border with Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan.
Southwestern Ethiopia abounds with the most fertile land and many other natural resources. Ironically, the Ethiopian government has failed to recognize its people as full citizens. It engages itself in ethnic cleansing and policies aimed at getting rid of the indigenous populations from their lands in order to utilize the resources in their absence. The government is keener on the resources than the peoples of the land. This development strategy adopted by the Ethiopian government has finger prints of the World Bank and moves forward with its blessings.
In a recent press release on Oct. 3, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture claimed that over 30 million people have benefited from the Sustainable Land Management Program, operating with the support of the World Bank. The Bank and other donors have been active supporters of the current policies of the Ethiopian government through this and several other programs, ignoring the reports of human rights abuses and forced displacement coming in from organizations like the Oakland Institute, Human Rights Watch and the others.
As the Bank officials come together for the annual meetings in Washington DC, at least 3-5 of the indigenous peoples die every day on account of land grab, hatred and discrimination against their color, race, culture, and religion. As we meet here, the Majenger tribe in the Godere district of the Gambella region is being massacred by the illegal settlers from the Northern regions, the government soldiers disguised as civilians, and many others sponsored by foreign investors, while the government military forces and police deployed in the area attend the killings and the eviction of the tribe.
These killings are reminiscent of the Anyuaks’ massacres, many of which were reported by the international media, such as the December 13/2003 Anyuak genocide and the 1984/5 mass killings. The Suri people have also undergone such massacres in the past, the latest being in May – June/2013; Bodi, Mursi and many other indigenous tribes in the Lower Omo Valley of SNNPR have also undergone through such massive killings; likewise the tribes of Beneshangul/Gumuz region, the Gumuz, Berta, Komo and Mao who have also undergone the ordeal of recurring mass killings, tortures, life imprisonments in the prisons where their relatives cannot visit them.
The indigenous populations of Southwestern regions live in terror and death, to no end. One of the Bodi farmers lamented about one such massacre:
The settlement of highlanders and Konso people in our land in 2002 who were lighter in skin than us, was a government plan to claim our land and to get rid of us. In the incident of 2005 we were killed like dogs in the markets, not leaving even the pregnant women, whom their stomachs were opened with knives, and left their babies on top of their dead mothers crying for help until they died slowly of hunger. In particular cases some women, sticks were pushed into their stomachs. In relating this story he shed tears in the meeting, recalling the human tragedy they had gone through and he took deep breath and said “I don’t know where I can get someone who can show me the road leading to God; whatever it may cost of my life I would go to face God with reality why He created us and handed us to this painful life under the Ethiopian regimes and Ethiopian highlanders, and we are dying without future. Ethiopian highlanders treat us like dogs and even dogs are better treated than us.” .An Anti–Ethiopian Apartheid Movement to bring credible freedom, democracy, justice, and prosperity to all different nations in Ethiopia is urgently needed.
The indigenous populations are not impediments to the development as the TPLF government says while promoting investment policies to attract investors. This it is a cover to serve the government intentional killings with the desire to wipe away these people from their lands. Indigenous populations govern by their traditions and cultures– they are welcoming people to any friendly guest, and they would like to share their lands with good neighbors but not murderers and criminals like the TPLF government land grabbers like the Saudi Star and other investors they have invited from India, Malaysia, and elsewhere.
The ongoing killings and massacres against the indigenous populations in the southwestern regions cannot cease unless the international community intervenes to support the vulnerable tribes and ensure that they do not disappear from this world. There is a moral obligation to stop the Ethiopian government from killing them like animals.
Stop land grabbing and the eviction of the indigenous people. To them the theft of their land, their forests, their natural resources and their way of life, is the last nail in their coffin.. The international community needs to intervene to rescue the indigenous populations from the ongoing killings and massacres.
- International community intervention to stop the ongoing killings of the indigenous peoples from their land and consider their self determination of Southwestern regions.
- Campaign that the indigenous people are not an impediment to the development of Ethiopia but they are welcoming people, seeking good neighbors not murderers.
- Support or join Anti-Ethiopian Apartheid Movement to eliminate racial discrimination in Ethiopia.
- The World Bank, which gets a large part of its funding from the United States, must adhere to the 2014 US Appropriations bill that contains provisions to ensure that US development funds are not used to support forced evictions in Ethiopia.