Ethiopia and Sudan: 'From Today Forward There Will Be No Anuak' The Attempted Elimination of the Anuak People
World Organization Against Torture (Geneva)
April 13, 2004
Posted to the web April 13, 2004
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received information from reliable sources concerning of ongoing crimes against humanity and acts of genocide being perpetrated by the Ethiopian Armed Forces and "highlander" militias against the Anuak (or Anywaa) indigenous ethnic group, which comprises around 100'000 persons, in rural areas of Gambella, Ethiopia.
Since December 2003, there have been numerous reports of attacks leading to massacres of civilians, mass rapes, forced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detentions, burning of homes and crops, and the forced displacement of thousands of persons. These acts have caused a humanitarian crisis which may lead to a significant number of additional casualties if steps are not taken immediately by the Government of Ethiopia and the international community.
Reports indicate that during the period between the 13th and 15th of December, 2003, 424 Anuak were killed by Ethiopian Government troops in uniform along with local people from highland areas, in Abobo, Itang, Gog and Gambella town in the Gambella region. The pretext for these massacres is reported to have been an attack on a van carrying eight UN and Ethiopian Government refugee officials on December 13th, 2003, which was blamed, without conclusive evidence, on members of the Anuak ethnic group.
It is alleged that the troops used this incident to incite the highlanders to commit violence. They also led attacks on Anuak civilians in Gambella and the surrounding areas. The killings were reportedly ordered by the commander of the Ethiopian Army in Gambella, Nagu Beyene, with the authorization of Government official Dr. Gebrehab Barnabas. Mr. Omot Obang Olom, an Anuak Government official is reported to have drawn up lists of individuals within the community to be targeted. Soldiers, using automatic weapons and hand grenades, reportedly targeted the Anuak population, summarily executing civilians, burning houses and looting property. During this three-day period, 424 people were reported to have been killed, with over 200 wounded and approximately 85 people remain unaccounted for. Victims who had been beaten or shot by Government forces were then reportedly set upon by highlanders, who mutilated and dismembered the bodies, while chanting slogans such as "From today forward there will be no Anuak," "There will be no Anuak land" and "Today is the day of killing Anuaks."
Genocide Watch has compiled a list of the 424 people killed, which can be found at: http://www.genocidewatch.org/EthiopiaANUAKSMASSACREDGAMBELLAREGIONDEC13-15.htm
Recent reports allege that killings and other acts of ethnic cleansing are continuing and it has been estimated that as of March 31st 2004, the total number of persons killed had reached 1'137. Reports indicate that entire villages have been burnt to the ground, sometimes with the occupants still in their homes, and that the Anuak's crops have also been destroyed. Many villagers have been forced to flee, and thousands have travelled to a refugee camp in Pochalla, Southern Sudan. Reports also indicate that this destruction is widespread, with hundreds of homes and crop-fields having been set ablaze, leaving thousands of persons without shelter or food. There are serious concerns that, due to the upcoming rainy season, these persons will be exposed to disease and starvation unless immediate humanitarian action is taken. Most recent information received by OMCT indicates that around 5'000 Ethiopian troops have been engaged in fighting against Anuak farmers at Tedo village since April 10th, 2004, and have burned down all of the village's houses and crops. There are concerns that they may now be moving towards Pochalla refugee camp in Southern Sudan in order to attack the camp's refugees.
Our sources estimate that between 5'000 and 9'000 persons are taking refuge in the Pochalla camp. 75 percent of the refugees are reportedly under the age of 20, with 12 percent under the age of ten. The camp is facing grave shortages of food and water and diseases, including cholera, have reportedly broken out. Since the refugees first started arriving five months ago, there have only been two food drops by the World Food Programme: one on January 28th and another on March 12th. On each of these occasions, the food has not been close to meeting the camp's requirements. The UNHCR has allegedly resisted setting up a more permanent camp in Pochalla, on the basis that the refugees should soon be able to return home. However, our sources indicate that continuing violence, the amount of destruction of Anuak homes, the confiscation or destruction of their property and the burning of their fields and granaries leaves little prospect for them being able to survive in the near future should they return. Furthermore, their overall health is so poor that they lack the physical stamina necessary to travel.
Certain groups are being specifically targeted: Anuak women and girls have been systematically raped. A regional police officer recorded 138 cases of women who were raped in Gambella town in December 2003, before being ordered to stop recording cases. Schools have reportedly been emptied of schoolgirls, who have then been gang-raped. In one case in Pinyudo, assailants allegedly shouted "we are going to kill your men and the next generation of Anuaks will be produced by us." Educated men are being subjected to selective, politically-motivated extra- judicial executions. Several hundred persons, including community leaders have been arbitrarily arrested, many of whom are being detained incommunicado and allegedly been subjected to torture.
OMCT expresses its grave concern at the widespread and targeted killing of civilians, mass rapes, burning of homes and crops and other acts mentioned above. The massive targeting of a specific ethnic group, with the clear intent of destroying a part or the entirety of the group, bears all the hallmarks of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Ethiopian authorities must immediately halt all operations against the Anuak and withdraw all defence forces from the region. They should furthermore launch independent and impartial investigations in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. Immediate access to the region by international monitoring groups and humanitarian assistance must also be guaranteed. Finally, OMCT would also like to urge the international community to react with all speed to provide the refugees and other war-affected Anuaks with adequate food, shelter and medication, both within the Gambella region and the Pochalla refugee camp, in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and to provide international protection for civilians if necessary.
For more information contact OMCT at:
Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT)