Subtle Genocide and Religious Conflicts in Ethiopia
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
January 16, 2004

When I read the report on Reuters under the headline “Ethiopia rights group says clashes killed 300”, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, because finally, someone was paying attention to the impending genocide in Ethiopia. Mesfin Wolde Mariam, chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) told the international community 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” (Reuters, Addis Ababa January 13, 2003)

It was just two days ago that the BBC reported:

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

These headlines are encouraging, and they mean that at least some people are finally waking up to the ethnic cleansing and religious killings that have been taking place in Ethiopia for the last thirteen years. Melles Zenawi’s Tigrayan minority regime continues to violate basic human rights and his ethnic based policies have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Ethiopians.

On July 9, 1999 when asked about the inhumane mass deportation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, Melles Zenawi said that his government would deport anyone “if we don't like the color of their eyes”. With his racist remark in place, his government went on to expel over 80, 000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin and confiscated a billion-dollar's worth of properties. So it comes as no surprise that the TPLF regime’s Minister of Information, Bereket Simon, would today dismiss the latest EHRC’s report as a “fabrication”.

"Fabrications" or not, 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:

· "ETHIOPIA: TPLF’s Policy of Genocide against the Anuak and Nuer intensifies"

· “ETHIOPIA: 40 University students massacred in cold blood by the Tigrayan regime in Addis Abeba”

· “ETHIOPIA: Tigrayan Prime Ministers security and police forces beat and kill journalists”

· “Apartheid regime in Ethiopia uproots and slaughters peasants in Oromia, Somali, Gambela etc. etc”.

· “The minority regime in Ethiopia massacres more than 100 people in Awassa”

· “ETHIOPIA: More than 200 people died in ethnic conflicts between the Walaita and Kambata people”

· "Ethiopia:, Oromo and Somali ethnic groups clashed in Western Hararge; 19 dead, 21 wounded and over 287 houses burnt"

In today's Ethiopia, what we see is not only ethnic cleansing but also deadly confrontations and bloody conflicts amongst the different religious groups. Here are just some of the many incidents that took place in Ethiopia, as presented in the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2003:

· In July of 2002 in Merawi, Mecha district, West Gojam Zone, Amhara Region a Full fellowship leader was killed by an Orthodox mob

· In January 2001, in Harar, a riot broke out between Muslims and Christians; the army was called in to restore order and reportedly shot and killed five persons.

· On December 29, 2002, Orthodox followers clashed with Mekane Yesus Protestant followers in Mekelle, Tigray region…Orthodox followers approached the stadium and began throwing rocks at Mekane Yesus followers taking part in the service…Police shot and killed two men on the spot. Police severely beat a third man, who died 3 days later in a hospital. Several hundred people were wounded in the fighting. Police detained dozens of individuals.

· On November 18 and December 27, 2002, confrontations between members of Lideta Maryam Orthodox Parish in Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Orthodox Church officials… turned violent when police raided the church compound and forcibly dispersed members of the congregation who were assembled in prayer. Police killed one man and injured dozens. According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), police indiscriminately beat many persons in the compound, including nuns, monks, elderly women, and other bystanders. According to EHRCO, after the raid, police detained approximately 700 persons at Kolfe police training camp and subjected them to physical abuse. Many complained they were doused with water, forced to crawl naked on gravel, and denied food and water for most of the 5 days they were in detention

· On July 17, 2002, a Full Gospel Church fellowship leader named Dantew was killed in his home in Merawi, in the Amhara region, in front of his family by a mob of Orthodox Church priests and other adherents wielding machetes and axes

· On January 19, 2002, in Kemisse, the capital of the Oromiya Zone, in the Amhara Region, one person was killed during a clash between Muslims and Christians.

· In December 2001, in Addis Ababa, Muslims and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fought over a parcel of land that both groups claimed to be their own…According to reports from the Islamic Affairs Council, 2 Muslims were killed during those clashes, and police arrested an estimated 100 persons.

· In January 2001, in Harar, a riot broke out between Muslims and Christians after several members of a Christian procession entered a mosque and disrupted Muslim services…the army was called in to restore order and reportedly shot and killed five persons.

These reports about gruesome ethnic cleansing and religious conflicts far surpass any “Ethiopian famine” headlines that we have become accustomed to seeing. I suppose the minority Tigrayan regime’s motto must be, “if you can’t feed them, kill ‘em or have them kill each other”. How else can we explain 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?

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. were looking the other way and remaining silent as successive Ethiopian regimes violated human rights and international law.

But there were some people that voiced their concerns and Alan Keyes was one of them. Alan Keyes is on record in Kaplan’s book as saying:

“ If the Ethiopian government does away with tens of thousands of people nobody is interested, while if the South African government does away with thousands of people over a period of several years you can’t keep the media away”

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”.

At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in February-March 1986, Alan Keyes confessed to Kaplan that he:

“… Actually got the feeling that Europeans wanted it all swept under the rug. They didn’t even want to investigate… It came through pretty clearly that their attitude was, “What’s all the fuss about? This is the way the Ethiopian government has treated its people for centuries”

So it comes as no surprise then that the Tigrayan dominated regime in Ethiopia continues propagating ethnic cleansing and promoting religious conflict in the country, and that the international community is still deafeningly silent.

Today the TPLF regime in Ethiopia is:

· A regime that is violating all tenets of human rights

· A regime that has defied international law and believes in the law of the jungle

· A regime that is reneging its international commitments, obligations and treaties The case in point being, its rejection of the final and binding Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commissions decision of April 13, 2002.

In spite of all these crimes against humanity and its defiance of international law, the world is treating this spoilt, lawless, belligerent, intransigent and arrogant minority regime in Ethiopia with kids' gloves. Although the crimes committed by the 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 to take 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.

Ethiopians who once moved freely throughout their country, working and living in places of their choice; living in harmony and mutual respect for centuries, should not be compromised today by the international community so that the minority Tigrayan regime and its Prime Minister can stay in power.

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