Response to "Events leading to the genocide of Anuaks" written by Dereje Feyissa and PAX Christi Netherlands

By Anuak community in Oceania
Posted: Wed Aug 11, 2004 7:58 am  

I have read the articles "Events leading to the December massacre and its aftermath in the Gambella region" written by Dereje Feyissa and similar article on PAX Christi Netherlands. Dereje has come up with the events lead to the genocide as follow: Anuaks and Nuers conflict, killing of highlanders' settlers and Civil servants (doctors, engineers and constructors, Nurses and Teachers), opposing the new civil service reform which it objectives is to promote the development of an effective, transparent, accountable, ethnical and performance-oriented civil service and unwillingness to share regional power with highlanders including others regional ethnics. 

I did fully agree with root cause of the problem between Nuers and Anuaks as a fighting over land ownership and resources, which is true. The report stated that Anuaks are the first comer to the region and their claim on ownership base on seniority, which is wrong according to my knowledge. The reporter lacks the knowledge of the regional history. If the Anuaks are the first settlers who were there from the beginning? If it was empty with out any person, while still Anuaks have a legitimate claim. What we know is that Majanger inhibits the mountain part of the region up to the border with Southern Region and Anywaa, Komo and Opoo inhabit the low land. The Anuaks occupation stretch from the foot hill of Wellega and Illubabor up to present day Nasir in South Sudan. If the writer has done his research properly, he would have come across this piece of reality.

"Gambella has a history dating back over 2,000 years. A good starting point in analyzing the country's status is the period referred to as Gambella's "Freedom age", when the entire Pa-Anywaa (Anuak country) was first united under one ruler. There is no serious dispute over the existence of Gambella as an independent state during this period. Even Ethiopia's own historical records concluded the 17th century period refer to Gambella as a strong state." Dr Robert O. Collins. Professor of History, Emeritus Department of History University of California Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, California 

If the founder of Ethiopia Empire Minilk II knew, the existence of Anuaks in Gambella region in the 17th century, we the young generation with better communication and technology we should have known this fact. This information was kept secret from the reach of Anuaks for centuries in fear of demand for self-administration. Anuaks have not migrated from anywhere they were there with their neighbors (Majanger, Komo and Opoo) before the formation of the empire.

What the reporter has not mentioned as an event or deliberately he neglected is that, Anuak people want to live in freedom and dignity in their own lands, in their historically constituted traditional lands without the domination of external forces. They want to protect their national identity pursing the development of their language, culture and economy. However, our neighbors Nuers including the past and present regime came with mentality of assimilation and uprooting the Anuaks form their ancestral land using violence as means.

To respond to both Dereji and Pax Christi Netherlands, the Anuaks - Nuer conflict over ownership or power sharing is not the event that would have led to the government-sponsored genocide. As both of you stated that Nuers used violence as means of getting their voice heard in the federal government, I think this not the right way to get their demand across while they have many ways of getting their voice heard. They have MP in the federal government's parliament and one Ambassador in foreigner affairs. They would have used them if they were really, oppressed by the Anuaks. I do not see the point of using violence as means of communication. If you saw the clash between Anuaks and Nuers in Gambella town it had happened after regional government has already restructured by EPRDF in the way suit them. The structure that EPRDF believe is fair and equitable power sharing among the ethnics and formed ethnics base parties (Anywaa, Nuer and Majanger.)

The reality is that government is dedicated to kill the Anuaks. Otherwise, it would have responded to Nuers demand by implementing its action mentioned above without any body killed. We have witnessed many occasions that Nuers came to Anuaks villages attack the people, pulling down their houses and put their own on the Anuaks places including Gambella town in the present of EPRDF. Nuers have walked away free with out any person held accountable for it. Where and which government will allow one citizen to pull down someone property and let him go free with out any justice? What made one citizen immune to justice and another is subjected to? Is this a legitimate way of getting your voice across? I think this is an area where government should have exercised law and order but it did not. Government wants to see Anuaks fighting Nuers day on day off.

The killing of doctors, constructors and civil servants including the settlers has been a government version of the story for long. Anuak do not kill somebody who hasn't committed some thing wrong against him. The killing of highlanders that still keep mentioning here is in the early 1991 during the change of the government. I do not think that Meless Zenawi would have lets Mengestu H/Marim go free if he met him at Bole Airport leaving for Harare. Anuaks were mistreated, displaced, dispossessed, tortured and some killed by the regime using settlers as a tool. In that kind of turmoil where there were no law and order, if you met some body who had tortured, possessed your farm and killed your son, what would you do? However, this was not the main reason of conflict as EPRDF puts it. It was a plot of that regime not to leave people in peace. One Officer had gun down one Anuaks child on his run and left the Anuaks in conflict with settlers. The conflict was escalated when EPRDF was looking for revenge rather than reconciliation and that led to serious confrontation between EPRDF and GPLM. This resulted into imprisonment, abducting and disappearance of Anuaks from time to time up to the present. More than 40 Anuaks young boys were gunned down by EPRDF in different occasions. Regarding the constructors or civil servants killed on the road including UN plate vehicle attacked, Anuaks would not be held responsible for it what so ever. There were no an investigation done that indicated that the killer were Anuaks. It was simply stereotyped that the killers were Anuaks. No evidences were found leading to the involvement of Anuaks in the attack of the vehicle. It is well known by EPRDF that OLF and others political organizations such as Ethiopians patriotic united Front was operating there through former Party's Secretary of Gambella region. EPRDF have clashed with them and captured numbers of OLF in Abobo district in 2001. EPRDF have been abducting Oromo's people whom they suspected that they had a link to OLF. If such incident occurred, it should have been investigated very carefully. Regarding doctors, Nurses and teachers killed in Gambella, it didn't take place and we haven't heard it if not a fabrication. Highlanders Nurses and teachers are everywhere all over the region no body has killed them.

You have mentioned the exclusion of highlanders form regional power sharing, political appointment and employment. On other hand you talked about the maltreatment of Anuaks on Addis Ababa streets swearing at them as bariya (slaves) and mocking at them as lemma ( verdant, greenish or develop.) In addition, you have mentioned highlander's lack of interest to invest in the region to the point that they are repatriating the income they have generated from the resources of Gambella to the highland (homeland). If the people of Gambella generally, are maltreated and not considerate as citizens or second-class citizens how could they integrated into highlander culture or related to each other? If I asked, a simple question how many people from Gambella have been given positions whether in political arena or civil servant in Oromiya, Ahmara, and Tigray regional states. Was it because they are not educated or no body qualified to work in these regions. Not at all. Each individual knows the reason; it is pure discrimination. I do not see any point here to blame on Anuaks. It is the policies of the regimes. The constitution must be changed and implement equal power sharing or employment opportunity in all regions.

There is no point to say that Gambella region should be a multinational state while others regions are not welcoming others. It is not what you have said that Anuak have ill feeling towards educated people and they don't want them to come and serve in the region. This is far from the reality. In 1991 the regional government have invited all educated Anuaks, Nuers, Majangers including highlanders and put them on positions, but this didn't last long the regional government had been instructed by Ato Zeray from Ministry of regional affairs to fire them overnight and replaced them with combatants (Tegadelay). They were told, "Educated people were doing nothing. They are simply signing the letters all day long. Therefore, you can do that. You brought this government to existence at the gunpoint why people who haven't sacrificed their lives lead you." I think not the Anuaks who have the sentiment of hater, but the regime of EPDF itself does so.

However, this was not the case. The case was that the highlanders who were superior bureaucrats upon the people of Gambella for centuries were not happy with this change. There were highly educated Ethiopians who were expelled from Oromiya and Tigray, but no one raise a voice. For example, in 1997, Oromiya Regional state fired 6000 teachers who were non-Oromo speakers; we did not hear any reaction from the government. Gambella people are the only citizens in the country who have invited others citizens to live and work in the region. Even there were a time that government has dumped ineffective staffs rejected by others regions into Gambella region including metal disorder staffs as experts for the region. We haven't complained, but we did wel-come them. Were they coming to develop the region or to turn it upside down? The result was that Gambella became well know of returning the capital budget of the fiscal year into government's safe. In other words, those regions who have implemented their budget and wants additional budget they could get it from Gambella. These experts were there for corruption and embezzlement. What else, do highlanders want to let Gambella people do for them? The fact is that highlanders don't believe in leadership of Black skin person the inferior or slave (bariya) as they called it. This is what had taken place in Gomuz - Beneshagul regional State when the highlanders ripe off black community from regional administration and took control of regional power. Even before the genocide, highlanders have already formed an interim regional administration to take over the existed one. 

Anuaks has proverb says," The beer is difficult to strain." One Rev. puts it this way," This Anyuak proverb confronts head on the problem of boundaries. It stresses the need for inviting or welcoming the other, the "different" across lines of demarcation and identity. Invitation brings with it respect and recognition of the other as someone like ourselves. It enables the stranger to participate in our lives as family, almost as one sharing a bloodline with us. We will drink the beer prepared for others when we are invited to do so. We will involve ourselves in others' lives when welcomed into their family or social group. To bridge the growing boundaries whether ethnic, religious, socio-economic, political, etc that separate us within the human family, we must be willing to respect others' uniqueness and identity and invite them or be invited by them to share the wonderfult of life we all have received from the other." Rev. Richard Baker

Therefore, December 13, 2003 massacre of the Anuaks has nothing to do with Anuak - Nuer conflict. It is crystal-clear that the genocide is planned by the government to exterminate the indigenous population from the surface of the land and made highlanders occupied it. The government has created chaos among the ethnics and orchestrated the conflict to exist among the indigenous in order to prevent common understanding. Today as I am writing this article, the government is after Nuers killing them indiscriminately in the pretext of invasion or displacement of Ethio-Nuers by Sudanese Nuers. If displacement of one citizen is wrong why the Anuaks considerate as discriminators when they confronted Nuers who were forcing them out of theirs ancestral land? Anuaks did complain about the infiltration of Sudanese Nuers into Gambella region as well as into regional government, but the government took it as unwillingness to share the power with Nuers and declared that any person who lives in the country for more than two year is a citizen. What makes it different now that government could go after Nuers and killed them? A group of Nuers displaced the Anuaks and it was legitimate according to EPRDF doctrine. Now another group of Nuers displaced Nuers. So where is the different? Are we not looking for population growth? Both have use violence as means of integration. Which one is illegitimate or legitimate, the displacement of the Anuaks or displacement of Nuers? I have been telling the readers many times that EPRDF is using a tactic of killing two birds with one stone at one go. That is the bottom line. 

The Anuaks political objective is to ensure that their people should live in freedom and dignity in their homeland enjoying the right of self-rule. If this political objective could be realized by peaceful means, they are prepared to adopt that method. 

The objective of the Anuak struggle is based on the concept of self-determination as articulated in the UN Charter and other instruments. The Anuak have always been consistent with their policy with regard to our struggle for self-determination. The Anuak homeland, Anuak nationality and Anuak’ right to self-determination are the fundamentals underlying our political struggle. The Anuak have been insisting on these fundamentals. Their position is that the Anuak national question should be resolved on the basis of these core principles. The Anuak constitute themselves as a people, or rather as a national formation since they possess a distinct language, culture and history with a clearly defined homeland and a consciousness of their ethnic identity. As a distinct people, they are entitled to the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination has two aspects: internal and external. The internal self-determination entitles a people to regional self-rule.

Anuaks are prepared to consider favorably a political framework that offers substantial regional autonomy and self-government in our homeland on the basis of our right to internal self-determination. However, if their people’s right to self-determination is denied and their demand for regional self-rule is rejected they have no alternative other than to secede and form an independent state, which is what the EPRDF's constitution had constituted. 

Gambella has a part of Ethiopia should not be administrated differently from others regions. What is fair for others Ethiopians is fair for Gambella people too. Otherwise, leave them alone in the hand of God who had created them.

Dereje Feyissa himself is a beneficiary of the region as he was accepted to work in the community of Anuaks and earned his living and doctorate. He should stop making business in the name of Anuaks who were the victim of state sponsored genocide. If he needs an acceptance from Meles, he should not make Anuaks as a ladder. If he in need of gaining experience to write a thesis let him not use Anuaks as a ground of getting experience.

Ojulu Odola
Location: Australia




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