Ethiopia : US State Department Reports Wide Spread Abuse in 2009

2009 Human Rights Report: Ethiopia Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

March 11, 2010


Ethiopia is a federal republic led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. The population is estimated at 77 million. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF won a majority of seats to remain the ruling party for a third consecutive five-year term.

In local and by-elections held in April 2008, the EPRDF and allied parties took virtually all of the more than three million open seats contested nationwide. Prior to the vote, ruling coalition agents and supporters used coercive tactics and manipulation of the electoral process, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters. Political parties were predominantly ethnically based, and opposition parties remained splintered.

During the year fighting between government forces, including local militias, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an ethnically based, nationalist, insurgent movement operating in the Somali Region, resulted in continued allegations of human rights abuses, particularly diversion of food aid from intended beneficiaries suffering from a severe drought. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were numerous instances in which elements within those forces acted independently of government authority.

Human rights abuses reported during the year included unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces, often acting with evident impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of suspected sympathizers or members of opposition or insurgent groups; police, administrative and judicial corruption; detention without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; use of excessive force by security services in an internal conflict and counterinsurgency operations; restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of assembly and association; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation (FGM); exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and religious and ethnic minorities; and government interference in union activities, including harassment of union leaders.


Section 1 – Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

Security forces committed arbitrary and politically motivated killings during the year.

Government forces, including militias, and armed elements of the ONLF were responsible for targeted killings in the Somali region during the year (see section 1.g.).

On January 7, local police shot and killed Debasu Yengusie Mengesha and teacher Gobeze Wudu, residents of Yetnora kebele (neighborhood) in the Amhara Region while they were leaving a bar. The perpetrators were detained and remained under investigation at year’s end.

On February 25, students at Gedo Secondary School (West Shoa Zone, Oromiya region) found a flier containing hateful remarks about Oromos. When the school principal delayed in investigating the case, Oromo students refused to attend classes and demonstrated inside the school compound. The principal called local police, who ordered students to disperse. When they refused, police shot and killed Wendimu Damena, a 19-year-old student. Another student, 20-year-old Belay Motuma, was shot in the chest and remained hospitalized at year’s end. Two students, Berecha Folesa and Tamari Melaku Weyesa, were arrested during the demonstration and were released on bail on March 9. On March 17, six school administration employees and one agricultural bureau employee, all of whom were opposition Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) candidates in the 2008 local elections, were arrested and charged with inciting violence. The case remained pending at year’s end.

In October 2008 local police and militia in Zeba kebele (Dejen woreda, East Gojam zone, Amhara Region) shot and killed three brothers–Yayeh Yirad Assefa, Negusu Assefa, and Temesgen Assefa. The brothers were reportedly suspected of killing a militiaman from Najima kebele on the same date. There was no official investigation into the incident.

There were no developments in the July 2008 killing of opposition political party All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) supporter Aschalew Taye.

In 2007 Welelaw Muche, a supporter of the former opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) in Enamrit town (West Gojjam zone, Mecha woreda, Amhara region) was shot and killed, reportedly by a government militiaman. On May 6, a government newspaper acknowledged the death but said that the killer remained unknown.

According to a May government report, Tamene Tadesse, Gue town security chief, was charged with use of excessive force and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 2007 fatal shootings of two students in Gue town (Oromiya region).

There were no developments in any cases of other 2007 killings.

Addis Ababa and other areas experienced bombings that killed civilians during the year. Although no one claimed responsibility, the government charged the bombings were the work of insurgent groups or agents of Eritrea. On April 14, a land mine exploded in the Danakil Depression area of the Afar Region, killing two persons and wounding two. The government claimed the South Red Sea Rebel Liberation Front was responsible, although this remained unconfirmed.

There were no developments in the following 2008 bombing cases: the Humera public bus bombing; the Humera school explosion; the Addis Ababa gas station bombing; the minibus bombing allegedly committed by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF); the bombing of two hotels in Negele Borena, Oromiya region; the Merkato bombing; and the Jijiga hotel bombing.

On December 15, two hand grenades thrown into a crowded cafe in Kebri Dehar town, Somali region, killed one woman and wounded nine. The government claimed the perpetrators were four Eritreans supporting the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front. Perpetrators are in police custody pending investigation.

— Full Report (U.S. State Department 2009 Country Report)

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