Genocide in Ethiopia- A Case for UNSG Kofi Annan's Special Rapporteur
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
March 12, 2004

“…the approaching 10-year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda must give us pause and compel us to reflect on how to avoid similar atrocities in the future. We can no longer afford gaps in existing capacity to provide early warning of genocide or comparable crimes. I have proposed the establishment of a Special Rapporteur or Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide—to make clear the link, which is often ignored until too late, between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security…”

Ottawa , Canada ,  9 March 2004 - Secretary-General's address to the Canadian Parliament

I read UNSG Kofi Annan's address to the Canadian parliament and was encouraged. It seems that the UN is finally going to take responsibility for genocides that occur under the watch of this world body. Mr. Annan said " we can no longer afford gaps in existing capacity to provide early warning of genocide or comparable crimes ." He said a rapporteur would "compel us to reflect on how to avoid similar atrocities [to Rwanda in 1994] in the future," adding the post would make clear the link "between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security ." I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, because finally, someone was going to pay attention to the impending genocide in Ethiopia .

On March 10 th , 2004 , Insight writer John Powers reported as follows:

“…uniformed soldiers of the Ethiopian government attacked a remote town in the western part of the country on Dec. 13, 2003 , and killed more than 400 members of the Anuak tribe.”

But he is not the only one that has been reporting on genocide in Ethiopia . Mesfin Wolde Mariam, chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) warned the Addis based diplomats on January 13, 2004 that:

"What happened in Gambella verges on genocide as a result of the ethnic policy adopted by the EPDRF government…EPRDF's preference for ruling through an ethnic-based federation… dominated by the minority ethnic Tigrayans… the federal structure in effect divides and rules larger ethnic groups such as the Oromos and Amharas and bars non-members of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front”

BBC reported early this year that:

“Some 16,000 people have fled ethnic clashes in Ethiopia for Sudan over the past month…”

But yet, Melles Zenawi's Minister of Information Bereket Simon dismissed these allegations as being “fabrications”. Genocide, massacres and religious warfare have become the way of life in today's Ethiopia . The Tigrayan regime is trying to hide these facts by using deceptive and diversionary tactics such as the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict. Had the border been demarcated a year and a half ago as scheduled, the headlines about Ethiopia would have read as follows:

How can UNSG Kofi Annan explain/ignore this genocide that is taking place right under the watchful eyes of thousands of international and local NGO's, diplomats, humanitarian aid workers etc. in Ethiopia ? This time, he cannot feign ignorance. These and several other reported incidence of genocide (state-directed or state-authorized killing of populations identified by race, ethnicity, and/or religion, such as the people of Gambela, Somali, Awassa etc. etc.) and politicide (wholesale killing of populations identified by political affiliation, groups such as the OLF and all others opposed to TPLF) is today's Ethiopia and no amount of cover up will absolve Melles Zenawi of these and other crimes against the people of Ethiopia.

I read a most shocking statement from the US Ambassador to Ethiopia Aurelia Brazeal on IRIN about the Gambela massacres, in which she stated:

“we have released a statement on our position on Gambella, which is to support the government's stated intentions to have an investigation to get to the root causes and also to investigate those people who took part in the violence and take them into the legal process here and [so that they can] be tried for being participants in the violence. And from our point of view, we hope that investigation would include allegations that individual military people and police were also participants in that violence...

Ambassador Brazeal obviously chooses to stick her head in the sand, just as all of the other Addis based diplomats seem to have done so far. Asking the TPLF regime to investigate itself is like asking Hitler to head the investigations on the Jewish Holocaust. As if that is not disturbing enough, Insights John Powers reported that:

“…Despite these government-sponsored killings… U.S. tax dollars continue to flow into Ethiopia . The country received $32 million of aid in 2002, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) requested $77.335 million for fiscal 2003 to support programs and initiatives in Ethiopia that, in addition to humanitarian aid, "promote good governance and the rule of law…"  

For those who follow the Ethiopian situation closely this “I have not seen or heard anything” attitude of the international community is not new. For example, in 1984 a prominent international journalist and writer Robert Kaplan in his book “Surrender or Starve” , expressed his frustration with “experts” at the State Department who under the pretext of Ethiopia is strategic ally”, “ Ethiopia is a big country” etc. etc. chose to look the other way and remained silent as successive Ethiopian regimes violated human rights and international law. Robert Kaplan explained that “it was not just the media” that looked the other way at Ethiopia 's transgressions or that “human rights organizations that weren't interested, but Western Governments as well” . Déjà Vu!

Today the minority regime in Ethiopia is:

In spite of all these crimes against humanity and its defiance of international law, the US led international community is treating this spoilt, lawless, belligerent, intransigent and arrogant minority regime in Ethiopia with kids' gloves. Although the crimes committed by the Melles Zenawi's minority regime in Ethiopia are crystal clear, the international community has remained curiously mute. Addis based diplomats and journalists are selfishly reluctant to rock boats. It is about time for the international community took proper punitive measures against this racist and criminal regime, before we see another Rwanda in Ethiopia , and before we see additional innocent Ethiopians being used as cannon fodder and minesweepers in its expansionist war of aggression against Eritrea .

Hopefully, this Special Rapporteur will be permitted to do his work honestly, and will be allowed to call a spade a spade, and will be allowed to act and not remain silent. If not, the people of Ethiopia might not be spared from the genocidal tendencies of Melles Zenawi's paranoid regime. If not, there will surely be Rwanda style genocide in Ethiopia , which will result in the deaths of thousands and threaten the peace and stability of the Horn. According to Genocide Watch:

“Impunity gives the green light to those who commit genocide. If they are not arrested, they and their followers will know they can literally get away with mass murder. They will kill again, and the massacres could become full-scale genocide.”

The rule of law must prevail over the rule of the jungle!