We the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) strongly condemn the deportation of an estimated 78,000 Ethiopians from their homes in the Southern Nations and challenge Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Supreme Court, the president of the Southern region and the Ethiopian Parliament under both Ethiopian and international law to stop this illegal action! This is a serious dereliction of duty to the Ethiopian people and is just one more example of how this regime is unfit to govern and should be recalled.
This is an ethnic-based deportation of only the Amhara residents of Benji Maji Zone in the Southern Nations region, many of whom were forcibly resettled in this region up to thirty years ago under the Derg and now, the TPLF/EPRDF regime is forcing them to leave the region—immediately—with nowhere to go!
A large number of these Ethiopians were born in the Southern Nations and have built lives there; some are now of mixed descent. How much “Amhara” blood does it take to evict someone? The fact that they no longer have homes or connections in the Amhara region is a given; yet, even if they did, it is not the main point. Instead, what the TPLF regime is doing is wrong and we suspect that the real reason behind these evictions is that these people have become an obstacle to the regime’s claim on the region’s resources.
According to the Rome Statute, Article 7, (d) prohibiting the “deportation or forcible transfer of population,” is part of international human rights law. Deportation is further defined in section 2 (d) of this article as:
“Deportation or forcible transfer of population” means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law…”
Which Ethiopian law prohibits the movement of Ethiopians of any ethnicity from one region to another? On the other hand, Ethiopian law does give some protection to the people from being evicted from land they have occupied. Despite this, the Meles regime admits to plans to deport 1.6 million Ethiopians from their homes; not only these Amhara, but also large numbers from Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, Afar and the Ogaden as well as more from the South, especially the indigenous people in the Omo Valley area which shows that it is not about how long someone has lived in the region. It is about resources. They have already started the process in some of these areas such as Gambella.
The regime is hoping that no one will care about the suffering of others, a fundamental pillar of the ethnic policies of this one-party regime. This happened to Eritreans who legitimately had lived and raised their families in Ethiopia for many years before having their homes, property and assets confiscated by the regime in 1998 when they were forcibly deported to Eritrea. Meles boasted that he could do this to any group even if he did not like the color of their eyes![i]
In fact, the TPLF/EPRDF policy of ethnic-based federalism is based on principles of building hatred, fear and division. It is a contrived way for an “elite” part of one minority group to stay in power while exploiting the nation’s resources for themselves. Attempts are constantly being made by this brutal and corrupt regime to manipulate the two largest groups who are the greatest threats to them, the Amhara and the Oromo, one moment dehumanizing and demonizing the Amhara and the next moment doing the same to the Oromo; all in an attempt to make sure they are deeply alienated from each other. The same motives are in place to foment inner divisions within each group through a calculated misuse of politics and religion.
We Ethiopians are not perfect people; neither do we have a perfect past, but keep in mind, it is in the interest of the TPLF to make sure old animosities never die. For that reason, Ethiopians of every ethnic, political and religious background should be very wary of the various covert tactics—and pseudo-spokespeople—this regime uses to stir up dissension.
Now the regime is demonizing and targeting the Amhara living in Southern Nations; expecting no one else to care about them; however, they are us and we Ethiopians must stand up to protect them. During the last census, data showed a two million person decline of people of Amhara ethnicity. Where did they go? Did they die or has the TPLF intentionally minimized their numbers in an attempt to mislead and minimize their power or representation? This may be another case showing that the regime wants to weaken or destroy the people in order to exploit the resources and prolong their power. Meles has now manufactured a way to claim the very fertile area of Welkait, which has always been in the Amhara region, as part of Tigray simply by reconfiguring the map.
We in the SMNE condemn this assault on the Amhara and call on all Ethiopians to stand with the people against the deportation of these fellow Ethiopians. They are citizens of this country and should be entitled to live anywhere they want. The TPLF/EPRDF are not just evicting “Amhara” or “settlers,” but Ethiopians whose home has been in the Southern Nations for many years. When they are evicted, they are evicting all of us for “no one will be free until all are free.”
All Ethiopians have a moral obligation to support these people and to tell them not to go anywhere for it is a violation of international human rights law. Can this regime assault all of us if we stand together in this? Their cause is ours and we will stand with them until we have an Ethiopia where we are free and can enjoy our God-given rights. We now have the duty to look after each other wherever this kind of inhumane injustice against our people is happening. There is no “us” and “them.” Our Ethiopian nationality does not have a regional boundary just like our humanity has no national boundaries.
At the same time that these Amhara were resettled in the Southern Nations, thousands of Tigrayans were resettled in Gambella, but the people of Gambella are not telling them to leave the region so why is it being done in the Southern region? What would happen today if the regional governors of Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia, Afar and the Ogaden evicted thousands of Tigrayans from their regions? How would Meles react? If it would not be right and good for them, it is not right and good for anyone else. In fact, the TPLF/EPRDF is accommodating outsiders more than Ethiopians! They are bringing Indians, Chinese and other foreigners to live wherever they want in Ethiopia but they do not want Ethiopians living in their own country! It is absurd, morally wrong and we cannot tolerate it!
The entire ethnic-federalism model of the TPLF is really a disguise for ethnic-apartheid and it does not work. It has been extolled in public for years, but it really is a charade that no longer masks the greed of its creators for power and riches. This is one of the reasons why we are declaring war on these ethnically-narrow liberation fronts which are dividing us and preventing us from seeing the full beauty, worth and rights of others. We Ethiopians must seek national liberation; not ethnic liberation for one group. What may have not been clear to us ten, twenty or thirty years ago is now clearer than ever in 2012.
God created us all as equal but the TPLF wants to demonize various groups of our people, going from one to another, so we attack each other. This is all done for their own survival. We have had enough! When these Amhara children are displaced from their homes with nowhere to go; not only are they being robbed of their futures, so are all of us Ethiopians who have a shared future.
This regime is built on fiction. Meles talks about unity when he is fomenting division. The TPLF/EPRDF pretends like they care about the people, but they do not. They pretend that their regime represents all the people when it does not. They pretend there is equal distribution of resources when there is not. They pretend there is equal opportunity when there is not. They pretend that there is equal development when there is not. They pretend that there is regional self-determination when there is not. They pretend there is a system of justice when there is not.
If Ethiopia is to move ahead, the truth must be revealed, even if it hurts or our failure to do so will destroy the future of everyone. Denying the existence of this ethnic apartheid system is not benefiting anyone but instead is holding everyone hostage to a lie. In Ethiopia there are two sets of laws; one that applies in Tigray—particularly to regime cronies—and the other that applies to everyone else. This must be confronted by everyone, especially the Tigrayan, because everyone has a part in either maintaining the lie or exposing the truth. Some of you Tigrayans have been pushed to the extreme by this regime and you must speak up; especially those in the Diaspora.
The regime wants you to support this unbalanced opportunity and to side with them out of fear of what will happen without Meles, but this is wrong and we want more of you to speak out and say, “NOT IN OUR NAME!” Pretending it is not happening is not good for anyone but the TPLF/EPRDF. Our Tigrayan brothers and sisters are part of our beautiful family and a transition to a New Ethiopia must be done with your help.
Justice for the Amhara and other victims of the Meles regime will never be found in Ethiopia as long as the Meles regime uses violence, corruption and systemic domination to ensure its continuation. This “crime of apartheid” is a violation of Article 7, paragraph 1 and as defined in paragraph 2 (h) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as follows:
“The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime…”
The lie of saying there is equal regional distribution of benefits, equal power sharing and equal regional development when it is not true will affect our shared future unless we deal with it in a meaningful and civil way now. We are putting all those involved in these violations of laws on notice. All of this will be documented and anyone who has violated the law—from the federal to the district to the local levels—will be found accountable and face serious consequences and justice. With that in mind, we call on the TPLF/EPRDF and the regional authorities in Southern Nations to put a stop to these evictions.
We in the SMNE strongly condemn this as legally wrong under the Ethiopian Constitution and international law; ethically wrong under universal laws between human beings and morally wrong under God’s holy laws. As one of the oldest countries on earth, this land was given to us by God and belongs to us. It was passed on to us by our ancestors who fought, bled and died for it to protect and preserve it to pass it on to us. The beautiful people of Ethiopia are not trespassers in our own motherland and it is not reserved for only one group. It is a shared land.
May God protect these thousands of Amhara that are being displaced as well as the many other Ethiopians who are also suffering in the country and worldwide; helping us to bring an end to this regime which is working day and night for the destruction of our people and nation.
May God help us as we build a strong and viable alternative government that is ready and equipped to usher in a New Ethiopia that will value all our beautiful people, which will bring peace and greater productivity to our land and which will honor God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
Please do not hesitate to e-mail your comments to Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE at: [email protected] . You can find more about us through our website at: www.solidaritymovement.org