Appeal to International Community to help the innocent Anuak People in
Gambella Western Ethiopia.
December 18, 2003
Ethiopia is one of the African countries that suffer from grave human
rights violations, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detention and
torture. Such human rights violations in Ethiopia have been increasing
in recent years. Since 1991, the Melese led government of Ethiopia
has detained and executed many innocent Ethiopians. The special police
and armed forces ruthlessly suppress peaceful groups that request
their constitutional right to self-administration and self-expression.
The Anuak people are one of the nationalities in the Gambella regional
state. When the present government came into power in 1991, the traditional
lands of the Anuak people were renamed as Gambella People National Regional
State (GPNRS). The Anuak People strongly opposed the EPDRF interfering
in the regional affaire and repeatedly appealed for the right of self-administration.
Many Anuak people who peacefully objected the government's actions to
their constitutional rights were either killed or arrested by the intervention
force (Tigrean Special army), which was deployed into the region. The
killers of these people have never been brought to justice.
The December 13, 2003 genocide in Gambella city in the south western
Ethiopia is the most recent example of the government's harsh policies
and the lack of justice in the region. The genocide in Gambella city
broke out after a car was ambush roughly 20 kilometers from Gambella
city, on the road leading to Jikawo district and when the car arrived
in the Gambella city carrying the bodies of seven local Ethiopian and
one Anuak who had been killed.
At 12 pm, several Ethiopian troops together with the civilian’s
Ethiopian “Highlanders” who were armed with guns, clubs,
spears and machetes took to the streets of the city in a genuine manhunt,
beating and striking dead all Anuak who crossed their path but their
target were educated Anuak men. The Ethiopian government troops began
approaching those Anuak that were previously identified as "troublemakers".
This list of Anuak has been well-publicized and is made up of those that
are sympathetic to the former regional government, those that hold positions
in the present regional government, and those that are outspoken against
the federal government's policies in the region. Of the Anuak on this
list, some were arrested with no charge, but the majority were shot and
killed in cold blood.
This mass killing, which followed - more than 400 people are thought
to have died - was carried out by the government's special police force.
By the order of the federal government the security men and women were
instructed to mix with the civilians Ethiopian or Highlanders and chant
anti-Anuak slogan from today forward no Anuak, No Anuak land and create
chaos. They massacred and burned Anuak houses and properties. This created
the mixed communities, which coexisted for centuries to go after each
other and kill. Then the government security pulled out and blamed one
side or another. This was a calculated murder aimed at divide and rule
According to the constitution of Ethiopia, the army is under the control
of the federal government and has no administrative connection with the
regional and local authorities. The special police force, which is used
to clampdown on any opposition within each area, is under the control
of each regional government and operates according to the orders and
in the full knowledge of the central government.
Our joint campaign, with other concerned groups, on behalf of the indigenous
people of the Gambella region, successfully encouraged the European Union
(a major donor to Ethiopian government) to request the Ethiopian government
to carry out public inquiry in December 13, 2003 into the events at Gambella
city. We were very encouraged by this inquiry and hoped justice would
be seen to be done. However, the government of Ethiopia has dragged its
feet and is doing everything it can to impede progress towards justice.
It established a committee to investigate the genocide in Gambella city
and to investigate who was responsible for the deaths of 400 innocent
Anuak people. This committee showed surprising independence and came
up with findings and recommendations that were not palatable to the ruling
The findings were that:
• The Anuak people of Gambella region have suffered immensely.
• Unlike other ethnic regions, the Gambella region was neglected and had
no proper infrastructure and none of the services that other Ethiopians
take for granted. They had to walk 60 kilometers to the nearest health
• The people are subjected to a regime of corrupt bureaucratic practices,
which leads to many grievances.
• The Anuak people are forced to learn foreign languages to obtain education
and the most basic social services and, as a result, are losing their
own language and culture.
• The Anuak people should have representation and impoverishment.
The government was shocked by these findings and reacted aggressively,
as the recommendations were against their system of divide and rule.
The committee could not make an independent investigation into responsibility
for the deaths and the government does nothing - indeed, actively discourages
- attempts to establish who ordered the army to carry out the mass killings
in the Gambella city.
Annoyed at the findings of the committee, the government of Ethiopia
is currently trying to re-write history by appointing a second investigative
committee which will stick more closely to the government's agenda. The
government clearly wants to divert the responsibility for the deaths
from central and regional government leaders to lesser local authorities.
The government of Ethiopia cannot be trusted - it has ignored the demands
of the international community to carry out a fully independent public
inquiry on this atrocity. The government's investigative approach and
its procedures are quite blatantly subject to political interventions
by regional officials and the prime minister's office.
The second investigative committee has also been assigned to arrest
members of opposition parties and those individuals who opposed the mass
killing in the Gambella. There is a great fear among the people because
government is stirring up further inter-ethnic clashes in order to create
instability in the area, so that it can continue to delay bringing the
authorities responsible for the atrocities to justice. We accept and
welcome the inclusion of some local government officials in the list
of those detained, as there is considerable evidence that they were involved
in numerous killings in the Gambella region over the last 10 years. However,
the new investigative committee, far from properly investigating who
was responsible for the atrocities, has also detained many innocent people
who opposed the atrocities!
What is given with one hand is snatched away by another! We call upon
the Canada, the EU, the USA, the UK and other governments to act now
and demand that the Prime Minster of Ethiopia should institute a genuinely
independent enquiry into recent events and that he should be prepared
to take responsibility for events that have taken place in the Gambella
region at the direct initiative of the central government.
It is tragic that, in the name of justice, the new government investigation
committee has brutally attacked innocent farmers in Pinydio town. More
than two hundred Anuak men have been detained in Gambella town, and 44
more are in federal prison in Addis Ababa.
Currently the Anuak towns are under tight military curfew. The people
live under continuous fear and uncertainty. The people view the army
as an army of occupation and as a government tool that is there to harm
them. As a result many people are leaving their land, fleeing into exile
or becoming internally displaced. This has allowed the government to
bring subservient people and allies into the area, to be settled on the
lands that have been abandoned because of this climate of fear.
As a result people from other regions are populating this conflict stricken,
but fertile land area. The government's policy closely resembles the
practice of gradual 'ethnic cleansing' practiced by the Russian Soviet
government towards their subject peoples during the Cold War. Such government
intervention in the Gambella people's affairs is the violation of the
Ethiopian government's own constitution, which grants to all Ethiopian
ethnic groups self-administration in their area. The army and the security
forces continuously harass the majority of the Anuak community - the
only individuals who feel safe in Ethiopia are those who are prepared
to be 'yes-men'.
We request - with all our heart - that the international community to
put pressure on the Ethiopian government:
• To establish a truly independent public inquiry into the atrocities carried
out in the Anuak land, both recently and in the past.
• To bring to justice those individuals from the federal and regional governments
who are responsible for the death of more than 400 innocent Anuak people
in the Gambella region.
• To pull out the politically motivated security forces from Gambella and
to respect the people's constitutional right to self-rule.
• To acknowledge the findings of the first investigative committee, who
made some attempt to get to the roots of the problems in the region.
We ask the EU, the Canadian government, the British government, the
US government and other peace loving nations and individuals to put pressure
on the Ethiopian government to bring justice to the Anuak people.