The Great Displacements of 2017: Acts of Genocide in Ethiopia.

AuthorDugo, Habtamu

"Our human, intellectual and material resources are scattered, abused and misused, internally and externally. We must work together for our very survival." Asafa Jalata, Global Gumi Oromia Meeting October 15, 2017


In December, 2016, well-armed Somali Region Special Forces, also known as Liyu Police, crossed the border from Somali State into Oromia State (1), and began a year of violent displacements of over 1.2 million ethnic Oromo victims. We posit that those so called "border skirmishes" (2), which took place during the year 2017, were not the usual petty disputes, but were coordinated episodes of genocidal attacks on unarmed and disarmed Oromo civilians. What was touted as ethnic clashes was merely the facade of another episode in the government pattern of perpetrating slow genocide mediated by hunger and neglect. Events may be disguised in order to cover culpability of the central government, but no matter how massive the cover-up might be, the fact remains that leaders as high in the government as Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, advisor to then-Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, was responsible for the violent plan and also for preventing life-sustaining charity from reaching victims after coordinated displacements occurred.

There is a strong, but covert, link between the Ethiopian government and those who carried out acts of killings and forcible displacement. This link indicates that the existence of intent to destroy a group, which is the difference between genocide and other mass killings, is present at the highest level of government. In a news release, The Oromo Studies Association (OSA) confidently charged, "these conflicts are taking place with encouragement from, and an active participation of, the powerful group that currently dominates the Ethiopian government, aka the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF)." (3)

The present regime came to power in 1991 as alliance of satellite parties created by TPLF known as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after the fall of the Derg (Committee) regime. It consisted of four groups, however, the minority Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) quickly and effectively took control of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and the central state government. Nahome Freda elaborates, TPLF "has become indistinguishable from the government." (4) The Liyu police were formed in April 2007 as another arm of the ENDF by Abdi Mohamed Omar, aka Abdi Illy, who is known as one who is firmly allied to the central government. (5) The intial purpose of setting up Liyu Police was to use them as proxy in the counter-insurgency campaigns against the Ogaden Liberation Front in Ogaden Somali region. (6) The central government used the group against Oromo civilians in order to weaken mass protests and uprsings in easern and southern Oromia more recently. This tactic of creating a paramilitary group is commonly used by genocidal states "to establish a degree of deniablity" and to limit evidence of regime control of acts which may be understood as genocidal intent. (7) Illy is now President of Somali state and is beholden to General Gabre Dela for his rise to power. The Liyu police, who are armed minions of the Ethiopian army (ENDF) and who are funded by the UK and the US, have been at the forefront of the attacks. The resultant deaths of Oromos with forcible displacement and destitution of the remaining victims should be recognized as part of Ethiopia's continuing pattern of occult genocide.

The key to understanding TPLF behavior is that the regime is dependent on massive foreign aid of about USD 3.5 billion per year, which is 50% - 60% of its yearly budget. (8) The elite leaders are cognizant of the sensibilities of donors and foreign investors who eschew even a slight hint of genocidal atrocities. Excess deaths must be easily explained without blame to the regime, because without fungible financial aid from donors, government by the Tigray cabal would colllapse.

Therefore, in order to destroy certain targeted subject groups, while avoiding opprobrium of foreign friends and donors, the TPLF regime uses a low-tech policy which is more easily hidden. These acts are described in Article 2c of the UN Convention on Genocide and include "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction" as a genocidal act. (9) Those who die from hunger and illness show no marks of violence. The acts lead directly and indirectly to death, and so the denial of culpability becomes almost unnecessary. However, for those who choose to question government policies that cause hunger and illness, it becomes obvious that death is the desired outcome. Those survivors of Article 2c acts are nevertheless also victims of Article 2b acts, "Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group."

By using policies that lead to mass displacement and the concentration of many people into hidden, small, easily controlled areas (makeshift IDP camps), the government can be covertly responsible for many deaths in those areas. It is now understood by global scholars that casualties from the initial violence of mass displacement are dwarfed by deaths occurring afterward, in the camps, from Article 2c violations. There, people can be kept in cramped conditions separated from food, water and hygiene, with the result of starvation and disease outbreaks. The Lancet confirms that in Darfur 80% of deaths after the dislocations were from communicable disease. (10)

By using these tactics of slow genocide in the past TPLF has been able to avoid the complications of charges of genocide and so, emboldened by early successes, they continue to orchestrate the kind of chaos that leads to deaths. Because of the tragic consequences of previous systematic mass displacements that occurred in Oromia and Ethiopia, there should be no doubt that government was fully aware that many would perish. (11)

In the segment The Notion of Genocide we explain the progression of understanding that leads from acts of ethnic conflict to ethnic cleansing, which is not usually considered genocide, to the charge of genocide. In the segment Acts of Forcible Displacement, we show that organized government controlled militia forcibly and without notice removed Oromo victims from their homes with only their clothes and placed them in locations certain to lead to starvation, illness and harm to the group. In Acts Preventing Charity, we show that both international and local charities were denied access to victims. We bring the culpability for preventing charity directly to the Tigrean rulers in Addis Ababa.

In the segment, Slow Destruction of a Group, we quantiify the magnitide of the destruction of the group and we more fully explain how the term 'slow genocide' relates to the Oromo victims on the state border between Oromia state and Somali state during the 2017 year. In the final segments, "The Perpetrators: The TPLF and the Formation of the Liyu Police," and "The Role of Ethnic Federalism: A Glut of Violence," we give background information which would be especially of interest to those not familiar with the country of Ethiopia.

The Notion of Genocide

There is a huge difference between border skirmishes and ethnic cleansing. Because government tightly controls the flow of information, the fact that there is leakage of information from the border area demarking Somali state from Oromiya state indicates that there is actually a great deal more carnage and displacement (12) than is recognized. It is unreasonable to expect that several skirmishes over the course of a year, or even many skirmishes, would lead to the displacement of the UN estimated figure of a million people. (13) In April, 2018, The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa released its final estimate of 1.2 million Oromo nationals forcibly displaced from their homes since late 2016. (14)

If the narrative of sporadic ethnic violence were to be viewed with unbiased honesty a different picture would emerge. However, even as the government narrative of a strong country is begining to fray, the story that is accepted by global media and global elites is that the present strife is just another episode of ethnic violence. (15) But that is not correct.

With 1.2 million displaced Oromos, the narrative must change from one of ethnic squabbles to one of ethnic cleansing. (16) An earlier, incomplete UN report confirms the high estimate and indicates that there may be as many as one million displaced including some who were displaced prior to 2017 and also including some ethnic Somalis. (17) It is obvious that ethnic cleansing, the removal of people from their homes in order to make the area ethnically homogeneous, has occurred. This was accompanied by violent deaths of victims, followed by many excess deaths in the camps. However, although the removals were violent, and whether the people feared further violence if they remained, there is no crime of genocide unless there is also evidence of intent to destroy the group. This essay proves that that there was intent to destroy the Oromo through massive displacement directly by Ethiopian Defense Forces and indirectly by colluding paramilitary groups such as Liyu Police.

Ethiopia is a country with a lock on media access to information, and so one would ask what truth is really behind that curtain. If there were people dying, and if there was a cover-up that protected those who were responsible, no charges of genocide could be brought in a relevant court. But if the cover-up also disguised the fact that those individual deaths were intentional and the acts were committed upon targeted individuals with intent to destroy the group, that would meet the definition.

One would need to show that the acts were accompanied by a dolus specialis, or special intent to destroy, not just victims, but victims as part of the ethnic group. (18)

The legal...

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