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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Between June and August, a large number of ethnic Sidama were arrested in the SNNP region. This was reportedly in response to further calls for separate regional statehood for the Sidama. A number of arrests took place in August around the celebration of Fichee, the Sidama New Year. Many of those arrested were detained briefly, then released. But a number of leading community figures remained in detention and were charged with crimes against the state.

Head of state
Girma Wolde-Giorgis
Head of government
Hailemariam Desalegn (replaced Meles Zenawi in August)
The state stifled freedom of expression, severely restricting the activities of the independent media, political opposition parties and human rights organizations. Dissent was not tolerated in any sphere. The authorities imprisoned actual and perceived opponents of the government. Peaceful protests were suppressed. Arbitrary arrests and detention were common, and torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres were rife. Forced evictions were reported on a vast scale around the country.


In August, the authorities announced the death of Prime Minister Zenawi, who had ruled Ethiopia for 21 years. Hailemariam Desalegn was appointed as his successor, and three deputy prime ministers were appointed to include representation of all ethnic-based parties in the ruling coalition.
The government continued to offer large tracts of land for lease to foreign investors. Often this coincided with the “villagization” programme of resettling hundreds of thousands of people. Both actions were frequently accompanied by numerous allegations of large-scale forced evictions.
Skirmishes continued to take place between the Ethiopian army and armed rebel groups in several parts of the country – including the Somali, Oromia and Afar regions.
Ethiopian forces continued to conduct military operations in Somalia. There were reports of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, and torture and other ill-treatment carried out by Ethiopian troops and militias allied to the Somali government.
In March, Ethiopian forces made two incursions into Eritrea, later reporting that they had attacked camps where they claimed Ethiopian rebel groups trained (see Eritrea entry). Ethiopia blamed Eritrea for backing a rebel group that attacked European tourists in the Afar region in January.
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Freedom of expression

A number of journalists and political opposition members were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges for calling for reform, criticizing the government, or for links with peaceful protest movements. Much of the evidence used against these individuals consisted of examples of them exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.
The trials were marred by serious irregularities, including a failure to investigate allegations of torture; denial of, or restrictions on, access to legal counsel; and use of confessions extracted under coercion as admissible evidence.
  • In January, journalists Reyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and Elias Kifle, opposition party leader Zerihun Gebre-Egziabher, and former opposition supporter Hirut Kifle, were convicted of terrorism offences.
  • In June, journalist Eskinder Nega, opposition leader Andualem Arage, and other dissidents, were given prison sentences ranging from eight years to life in prison on terrorism charges.
  • In December, opposition leaders Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa were sentenced to eight and 13 years’ imprisonment respectively, for “provocation of crimes against the state”.
Between July and November, hundreds of Muslims were arrested during a series of protests against alleged government restrictions on freedom of religion, across the country. While many of those arrested were subsequently released, large numbers remained in detention at the end of the year, including key figures of the protest movement. The government made significant efforts to quash the movement and stifle reporting on the protests.
  • In October, 29 leading figures of the protest movement, including members of a committee appointed by the community to represent their grievances to the government, and at least one journalist, were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.
  • In both May and October, Voice of America correspondents were temporarily detained and interrogated over interviews they had conducted with protesters.
The few remaining vestiges of the independent media were subjected to even further restrictions.
  • In April, Temesgen Desalegn, the editor of Feteh, one of the last remaining independent publications, was fined for contempt of court for “biased coverage” of the trial of Eskinder Nega and others. Feteh had published statements from some of the defendants. In August, he was charged with criminal offences for articles he had written or published that were deemed critical of the government, or that called for peaceful protests against government repression. He was released after a few days’ detention and the charges were dropped.
In May, the authorities issued a directive requiring printing houses to remove any content which could be defined as “illegal” by the government from any publications they printed. The unduly broad provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation meant that much legitimate content could be deemed illegal.
  • In July, an edition of Feteh was impounded after state authorities objected to one cover story on the Muslim protests and another speculating about the Prime Minister’s health. Subsequently, state-run printer Berhanena Selam refused to print Feteh or Finote Netsanet, the publication of the largest opposition party, Unity for Democracy and Justice. In November, the party announced that the government had imposed a total ban on Finote Netsanet.
A large number of news, politics and human rights websites were blocked.
In July, Parliament passed the Telecom Fraud Offences Proclamation, which obstructs the provision and use of various internet and telecommunications technologies.
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Human rights defenders

The Charities and Societies Proclamation, along with related directives, continued to significantly restrict the work of human rights defenders, particularly by denying them access to essential funding.
  • In October, the Supreme Court upheld a decision to freeze around US$1 million in assets of the country’s two leading human rights organizations: the Human Rights Council and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. The accounts had been frozen in 2009 after the law was passed.
  • In August, the Human Rights Council, the country’s oldest human rights NGO, was denied permission for proposed national fundraising activities by the government’s Charities and Societies Agency.
It was reported that the Agency began enforcing a provision in the law requiring NGO work to be overseen by a relevant government body, severely compromising the independence of NGOs.
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Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners were widespread, particularly during interrogation in pre-trial police detention. Typically, prisoners might be punched, slapped, beaten with sticks and other objects, handcuffed and suspended from the wall or ceiling, denied sleep and left in solitary confinement for long periods. Electrocution, mock-drowning and hanging weights from genitalia were reported in some cases. Many prisoners were forced to sign confessions. Prisoners were used to mete out physical punishment against other prisoners.
Allegations of torture made by detainees, including in court, were not investigated.
Prison conditions were harsh. Food and water were scarce and sanitation was very poor. Medical treatment was inadequate, and was sometimes withheld from prisoners. Deaths in detention were reported.
  • In February, jailed opposition leader, Andualem Arage, was severely beaten by a fellow prisoner who had been moved into his cell a few days earlier. Later in the year, another opposition leader, Olbana Lelisa was reportedly subjected to the same treatment.
  • In September, two Swedish journalists, sentenced in 2011 to 11 years’ imprisonment on terrorism charges, were pardoned. After their release, the two men reported that they were forced to incriminate themselves and had been subjected to mock execution before they were allowed access to their embassy or a lawyer.
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Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The authorities arrested members of political opposition parties, and other perceived or actual political opponents. Arbitrary detention was widespread.
According to relatives, some people disappeared after arrest. The authorities targeted families of suspects, detaining and interrogating them. The use of unofficial places of detention was reported.
  • In January the All Ethiopian Unity Party called for the release of 112 party members who, the party reported, were arrested in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region during one week in January.
Hundreds of Oromos were arrested, accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front.
  • In September, over 100 people were reportedly arrested during the Oromo festival of Irreechaa.
Large numbers of civilians were reportedly arrested and arbitrarily detained in the Somali region on suspicion of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
  • The authorities continued to arbitrarily detain UN employee, Yusuf Mohammed, in Jijiga. His detention, since 2010, was reportedly an attempt to get his brother, who was suspected of links with the ONLF, to return from exile.
Between June and August, a large number of ethnic Sidama were arrested in the SNNP region. This was reportedly in response to further calls for separate regional statehood for the Sidama. A number of arrests took place in August around the celebration of Fichee, the Sidama New Year. Many of those arrested were detained briefly, then released. But a number of leading community figures remained in detention and were charged with crimes against the state.
There were reports of people being arrested for taking part in peaceful protests and publicly opposing certain “development projects”.
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Excessive use of force

In several incidents, the police were accused of using excessive force when responding to the Muslim protest movement. Two incidents in Addis Ababa in July ended in violence, and allegations included police firing live ammunition and beating protesters in the street and in detention, resulting in many injuries. In at least two other protest-related incidents elsewhere in the country, police fired live ammunition, killing and injuring several people. None of these incidents was investigated.
  • In April, the police reportedly shot dead at least four people in Asasa, Oromia region. Reports from witnesses and the government conflicted.
  • In October, police fired on local residents in Gerba town, Amhara region, killing at least three people and injuring others. The authorities said protesters started the violence; the protesters reported that police fired live ammunition at unarmed people.
Security forces were alleged to have carried out extrajudicial executions in the Gambella, Afar and Somali regions.
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Conflict in the Somali region

In September, the government and the ONLF briefly entered into peace talks with a view to ending the two-decade long conflict in the Somali region. However, the talks stalled in October.
The army, and its proxy militia, the Liyu police, faced repeated allegations of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions, and rape. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were widely reported. None of the allegations was investigated and access to the region remained severely restricted.
  • In June, UN employee Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan was found guilty of terrorism offences over alleged links to the ONLF, and sentenced to seven years and eight months’ imprisonment. He was arrested in July 2011 after negotiating with the ONLF over the release of two abducted UN World Food Programme workers.
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Forced evictions

“Villagization”, a programme involving the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people, took place in the Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, Afar and SNNP regions. The programme, ostensibly to increase access to basic services, was meant to be voluntary. However, there were reports that many of the removals constituted forced evictions.
Large-scale population displacement, sometimes accompanied by allegations of forced evictions, was reported in relation to the leasing of huge areas of land to foreign investors and dam building projects.
Construction continued on large dam projects which were marred by serious concerns about lack of consultation, displacement of local populations without adequate safeguards in place, and negative environmental impacts.
2.16 Intermarriage between Conflicting Groups: The Case of the Arsi Oromo and the Sidama

(Girma Negash)

The basic objectives of this study can be summarized as follows:

      1. To bring to light and properly document the age-long intermarriage between the Arsi and the Sidama about whom little seem to be known thus far.

      2. To investigate the puzzling paradox how two peoples who perceive one another as enemy, and often at war with each other, happen to intermarry.

      3. To identify specific reasons that induced Arsi-Sidama neighbours to look for a partner from a hostile group.

      4. To analyse the attitude of members of the two respective communities towards such cross-border marriages.

      5. To examine the progress of the intermarriage issue in a time perspective.

      6. To investigate the possible impact of this intermarriage on the conflict between the Arsi and the Sidama.

In pursuance of the outlined objectives of the study, a qualitative method of research was employed. Historical sources of three categories were carefully collected and analysed: oral data, archival data and previous literature. Oral data are of great value where relevant written materials are few or hard to find. The oral data used in this study were collected through several trips to different localities along the Arsi-Sidama border. Despite the current dismal condition of our provincial archives, attempts have been made to get access to pertinent materials. The archives of Zeway Warada provided some valuable data to corroborate and countercheck the oral information. Relevant secondary written materials (published and unpublished), though very few, were also consulted. The following were the findings.

      1. Despite incessant and still active conflict between the Arsi and the Sidama, a large number of people belonging to the two hostile groups are knitted together by cross-cultural marriages.

      2. The most important factor for the ever-increasing rate of Arsi-Sidama intermarriage is the extremely high rate of the Arsi gabbara (bride-wealth or bride-price). In consequence, those Arsi who either are unable or unwilling to pay the rather high Arsi gabbara have made it a strategy, since the distant past, to look for their partner in life among their southern neighbours (the Sidama) for a tolerable bride-price.

      3. Owing to the gabbara factor and other established traditions, intermarriage between the two has always been of the pattern that the Sidama almost exclusively provide the bride and the Arsi the bridegroom, and not vice versa.

      4. Intermarriage between an Arsi and a Sidama has never been an object of social disapproval. Arsi young men have been taking the hands of Sidama girls for marriage just as they would take those of fellow Arsi girls.

      5. There has been a considerable rise in the number of Arsi-Sidama marriages in the wake of the Second World War. The state of affairs during the Derg regime (1974-1991) seems to have created an environment conducive to the further growth of the rate of Arsi-Sidama intermarriage.

      6. At a given locality, the extent of intermarriage and the intensity of the conflict are mutually interdependent. As one goes to the east, the relationship between the Arsi and the Sidama appears to be relatively more cordial than conflictive. Similarly, it is in this part of the common border that intermarriage between members of the two groups is rife. On the contrary, the western borderlands, where tense relationship and a high frequency of conflicts are inherent features, show a very low record of cross-border marriages. In sum, wherever there is a high rate of intermarriage the relationship is friendlier, and a low rate of intermarriage presupposes strained relationships.

From the history of the conflict during the past fifty years alone, the western borderlands to the west of the Addis-Awasa road have been haunted by frequent Arsi-Sidama conflicts. The realities in the east have been quite the opposite. The eastern borderlands have experienced major conflicts between the two groups in about fifteen years' intervals. Marriage ties and settled way of life seem to have been the most important contributing factors for the relative peace that the Arsi-Sidama neighbours of the east enjoy, as opposed to their western counterparts. This evidently is a substantial revelation, pertaining to the overall Arsi-Sidama relations, which can serve as a principal stepping-stone for policy makers, experts and civil servants ready to partake in any endeavour aimed at enduring peace and development in the region. For instance, the government can devise integrative projects that would narrow the distance between the two peoples and promote a sense of amity and togetherness. One such project could be poly-ethnic settlements at some volatile sites along the common border. The experience of Shamana, a locality exactly on the Arsi-Sidama border about 35 km to the west of Lake Awasa, is a useful lesson in this regard. Shamana, which used to be a traditional battle ground for the two peoples, dramatically changed to become a peaceful area following as resettlement scheme carried out by the Imperial Government in pursuance of the " Third Five Year Plan (1968-1973)". Establishment of commonly shared social services, such a schools and medical institution, at some border localities can gradually erode feelings of animosity and bring members of the two communities closer. Furthermore, as far as resource, particularly land, has increasingly become the most conspicuous cause of disagreement, the government should facilitate grounds for equitable utilization of resources.

Source: http://www.ossrea.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=279
By OPride Staff

(OPride) – Paul Trevor William Baxter, who spent nearly six decades studying the Oromo, has died this week in a hospital in Stockport, England, his grandson Mark Baxter confirmed to OPride on Tuesday.
Baxter is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Pat, his son Adam as well as four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.His elder son, Tim, unfortunately predeceased him.

Baxter began his anthropological study in the early 1950s as a graduate student, combining academic analysis, field research and unconventional insights about imperial Ethiopia into his work. In 1978, Baxter published his seminal article “Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: the Oromo” in the esteemed British JournalAfrican Affairs. As his long time friend and colleague Bonnie K. Holcomb, Senior Research Associate at George Washington University’s Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies explains, “with that act, he lent his intellectual and moral support as an established and respected scholar to those of us who were struggling to be heard as we confronted Ethiopianist scholarship which was exceedingly resistant to Oromo studies in those days.” Baxter’s undeniable arguments solidified the exigency of Oromo scholarship and marked a turning point for scholars focused on this systematically ignored group.

Born in 1925, Baxter studied at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. His interest in studying the Oromo, Ethiopia’s single largest ethnic group, dates as far back as 1952 when he first sought permission from Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime to conduct research on the Gadaa system. When Ethiopia, whose policies systematically repressed the Oromo, denied him permission, Baxter went to Northern Kenya, where he spent two years studying the social organization of the Borana Oromo. His 860 page dissertation, “The Social Organization of the Oromo of Northern Kenya”, which became an indispensable resource was published in 1954.

“He was one of the first brave and courageous intellectuals who put the Oromo nation on the intellectual map of the world and opened the door for Oromo studies in the Diaspora,” said Dr. Asafa Jalata,  a professor of Sociology at University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We can say that all Oromo scholars are his students in indirect ways. He remains an intellectual model for Oromo scholars and others who do not bow down for powerful elites and states to receive benefits and prestige in the mainstream institutions.”

His commitment to telling the Oromo story has inspired a generation of Oromo social scientists. 
Being and Becoming Oromo, a book edited by Baxter in the 1996 remains a fundamental text on Oromo identity, culture and political consciousness. The book is one of the earliest on the topic and provides the most extensive coverage of how sociopolitical shifts within Ethiopia continue to influence identity and belonging. What is evident in Being and Becoming is that even when he disagreed with Oromo scholars on the relationship between identity and political consciousness, Baxter respected their scholarly interpretations and allowed for a multitude of perspectives to be present in the text.

Baxter was also a loyal friend to all who knew and worked with him. “Paul Baxter was the quintessential "gentleman and scholar."  His warmth, humanity, humility, and compassion made him a wonderful, approachable person and generous friend,” Holcomb told OPride in an email.  “Those qualities were matched by intellectual courage, superb teaching, brilliant insights and meticulous scholarship. I met Paul Baxter in 1972 in Manchester England where he was full professor of anthropology.  I had spent one year in Oromia and was preparing to return for a second year.  He encouraged me to continue to focus on the Oromo, pointing out the challenges that anyone involved in Oromo scholarship would face.  He was right.”

His grandson Mark who says, “he was one of my guiding lights,” remembered Baxter as  always reassuring, honest and reliable. “Together with my grandmother Pat, they made a difference in this world, not by grandiose gestures or political statements, but by simply caring for those they met and welcoming anyone who needed it into their home,” he told OPride from London.   

Baxter began his work when it was unpopular to undertake scholarly studies on the Oromo. He faced persistent opposition from two major sources, on the one hand, the Ethiopian State, which “criminalized the production and dissemination of knowledge on the Oromo” and on the other, Ethiopian scholars who disapproved Baxter’s focus on “studying and sympathizing with this downtrodden and hidden people” in the words of Jalata. Baxter remained connected to the Oromo; living among the Borana, Arsi, Ittu and Karrayyu tribes during a long academic career that spanned half a century.

Baxter’s academic work irreversibly challenged official Ethiopianist hagiography. He called into question the Amhara cultural dominance that was taken for granted, and the monolithic portrayal of Ethiopia’s diverse peoples in the image of it’s socially and politically dominant minority. In his seminal article, he argued, “much of the history of Ethiopia can be viewed as a struggle between the Amhara and the Oromo and if the Oromo, almost certainly the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, were able to realise their own cultural and political aspirations, the balance of power in Ethiopia would be completely altered.” Baxter’s writings remain as important today as ever before.

In recognition of Baxter’s enduring legacy and tireless contribution to Oromo studies, the Oromo Studies Association bestowed its highest honor, OSA's Lifetime Achievement Award, on him in 2010.  

A generation of scholars have been and will continue to be inspired by Baxter’s dedication and unrelenting spirit. In the words of Holcomb, “those of us who had the great privilege of collegial and personal relationship with Dr. P. T. W. Baxter, who we knew as simply "Paul," mourn his passing with a profound sense of loss.  At the same time we celebrate with great joy and gratitude that he turned his talents toward breaking down walls and creating open doors for rigorous scholarly study of the Oromo -- a people for whom he held enormous affection and respect throughout his long lifetime.  Among his many other accomplishments it should not be forgotten that Paul Baxter was a pioneer and a champion of Oromo studies at an exceedingly difficult time.  He was truly a great man.”

In a statement released to OPride.com, his family said, “we are touched and humbled by the number and warmth of messages of condolence that have already arrived from across the globe, particularly from the Oromo diaspora that he so enjoyed working and living alongside as he recorded their culture and tradition for posterity.”

Baxter has left an indelible mark on scholarly knowledge about Horn of Africa’s largest ethnic group. His legacy will live on in the work of those who will build upon what he and others began so long ago. Baxter will forever remain a scholar who affirmed, in the words of Arundathi Roy, that “There's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

*  Dr. P.T.W. Baxter's photo from the late 1980s, taken at the University in Leipzig in Germany. Courtesy of Baxter's family.