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Egypt denies anti-Ethiopia backlash complaints

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Written by Mohammed A

(OPride) – Egyptian officials on Tuesday denied receiving discrimination complaints as Oromo refugees in Cairo protested for the 10th straight day. The protesters say they are facing increasing backlash from Egyptians angry over Ethiopia’s controversial dam on the Nile.


“We welcome our Ethiopian brothers,” said Ali al-Ashiry, assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs and Egyptians Abroad, according to
Egypt Independent. “Throughout its history, Egypt has been a sanctuary and safe haven.” The minister noted his office did not receive any complaint “alleging ill-treatment or discrimination from Ethiopians,” according to the report.

Ashiry called on the UNHCR office in Cairo to forward the complaints to his office.


The minister’s comments raise red flags given that the protests have been widely covered by Egyptian media. In addition, since the protests began over a week ago several human rights groups have sent appeal letters to the ministry.

 

The Oromo Studies Association, Oromo refugees in Egypt, and  a UK-based human rights organization the Oromo Relief Association have all written to various organs of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry detailing accounts of repeated attacks and discrimination against Oromo refugees.

Last week, as OPride reported, UNHCR Regional Representative in Cairo Mohammed Dairy called on Egypt to protect the refugees per its international obligations. “UNHCR is concerned about these allegations and calls upon the Egyptian public opinion to protect the physical integrity and other rights of Ethiopian refugees in accordance with international obligations of Egypt and the traditional hospitality of Egyptian people,” Dayri wrote in a press statement.

 
The comments from Ashiry came as Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr wrapped up an agreement with his Ethiopian counterpart in Addis Ababa Tuesday morning.

The officials agreed to carry out further studies on the dam’s impact to downstream countries. The latest agreement comes after dramatic weeks of media campaign by Egypt and a threat of war against Ethiopia.

 
“We are embarking on a period of mutual cooperation,” Amr told reporters in Addis according to Bloomberg News. “We’re looking to the future and I think the future will be very good for both of us.”

Observers say Egypt is denying the refugee situation to cool down the diplomatic standoff between the two countries. Earlier this month, unaware that they were being filmed, Egyptian politicians discussed a possibility of arming Ethiopian rebels to destroy the dam. “35 percent of Ethiopians belong to the Oromo people…they have a thing called the Oromo Liberation Front,” one politician said noting that Egypt could also support the Ogaden National Liberation Front, another rebel group fighting against Addis Ababa.

It was not immediately clear if the two ministers discussed OLF or Egypt’s embarrassing military strategy session on live TV during their meeting in Addis Ababa yesterday. However, the denial by Egyptian official of complaints lodged by Oromo protesters and human rights groups does raise some eyebrows. The protesters say they left Ethiopia and sought refugee in Egypt due to ethnic and political persecution. Oromo dissent is criminalized in Ethiopia often because of real or imagined support for the OLF.

Founded in 1973 to fight for Oromo rights, the OLF has waged a low-key guerrilla warfare against Ethiopian regime since their fallout in 1992. Ethiopia considers the later a terrorist group, as it does with all opponents including critical bloggers and journalists.

 

Cairo-based blogger and activist Ivanova Novinha had the following account on Twitter:

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