Friday, April 26, 2013

Illegal and forced eviction of Citizens linked to “corrupt officials”

April 24,2013 (Borkena)In recent months thousands of Ethiopians were forcefully evicted from their settlements in the western part of Ethiopia, specifically the part that constitute what is now Benshangul Gumuz regional state.

Apart from the unconstitutional and illegal aspects of the eviction, the way the eviction was carried out seem to epitomize gross human rights violations. Ya’icob Hailemariam, legal scholar who was part of the legal team investigating the Rwandan genocide, seem go to the extent of asserting that the eviction of settlers bears a considerable manifestations of “ethnic cleansing.”

Indeed, the eviction appears to have been enforced in a spirit of hatred against the Amharic speaking Ethiopians, which comprises of one of the largest language speaking groups in the country, and the evictees were made to return to the part of Ethiopia where they believed to have “emigrated” from without any arrangement. Moreover, evictees were dispossessed of their property which they toiled for a good part of their lives, children and pregnant women were abused.Some were even beaten and arrested. Still some are reported to have died in connection with the eviction process also no exact figure or supporting evidence is given by media which reported about it.

While government was silent about the eviction in a way worse than a case of omission for weeks and weeks, local radio stations affiliated with the government in general and the dominant party in the coalition- TPLF – in particular have been trying to craft a narrative to legitimize the inhuman eviction of citizens from the region.

For these radio stations, the eviction was rather a consequence of an “illegal settlement which caused destruction of forests” – a narrative that does not even give a room for the fact that some of the evictees settled in the area well before the coming to power of TPLF led government. If one was to presume that narrative of “destruction of forest and illegal settlement” true, it still appears to be ignorant of due process of law to deal with what the ruling party or a party that acted on their behalf considered to be “illegal settlement.”

The eviction was a serious incident involving thousands of citizens and yet, it was under reported. Government owned media did not report this considerable human rights crisis until after government bodies intervene to return the evictees back to where they were evicted from, Benshangul regional state. Even human rights violation during the process of returning the evictees was not reported.
In the parliamentary session held on April 23,2013 to report on “eight months performance” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne admitted illegal eviction of citizens. Notably, humanitarian crisis of great magnitude due to the illegal eviction of thousands of citizens was not good enough on its own to cause a parliamentary session.  Hailemariam  Desalegne’s explanation seem to make the eviction appear as systemic failure related to corruption and corrupt government officials rather than a policy outcome.

Given the recurrent nature of the problem and government tendency to give a deaf ear to voices of activism against similar evictions, Hailemariam’s rather inarticulate explanation is prone to be greeted with mistrust as he is viewed as a mere surrogate,apparently rightly, of the dominant party in the coalition.

Major opposition parties seem to hold the view that the eviction was planned and deliberate with sinister motives and is pursued in a very cunning way. In an interview with VOA Amharic service Hailu Shawul, leader of AEUP, was bold enough to assert that the problem has little to do with local government officials and rather pointed to Federal government.

Semayawi Party, another opposition party in the country, sent a fact finding mission,composed of senior party officials, to the region. According to party officials, members of the fact finding mission were said to have been detained for about five hours by the order of local authorities and claim that some of the audio and video evidences they collected were deleted while they were under detention. In the video clip below, which apparently survived confiscation, evicted farmers tells their side of the story.

Click  Video

Indeed, it is puzzling, as many Ethiopians think, as to why a government forced eviction of this magnitude is under reported and even ignored all together by major international news agencies.

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