Reports on Human Rights Practices in Gambella, Ethiopia

By US State Department
Posted to the web on April 4, 2009


In December, there were credible reports that military forces participated in the killing of Anuak civilians in the Gambella region. Precise information about the role of the military in that violence was not available at year's end.

On Feb. 20, 2004 The United States deplores the ongoing killing of Anyuak in Gambella

During the year, ethnic clashes resulted in numerous injuries. On December 15, 2003 according to credible reports, soldiers raped two Anuak women at gunpoint in the town of Echeway, Gambella Region, during the outbreak of violence against Anuaks.

But no information was available on the status of the investigation into ethnic clashes that resulted in the deaths of 41 Dinka and Nuer refugees in Fugnido camp in November 2002. Authorities arrested and detained several officials of the Fugnido municipal government and several Gambella regional officials in connection with the 2002 massacre.

In April 2003 the state-run Ethiopian News Agency reported that the federal high court sentenced three persons to up to 14 years' imprisonment for the 2002 ethnically motivated murder in the Gambella Region of 28 Nuer refugees from southern Sudan.

At year's end, approximately 32 thousand Nuer and Dinka refugees remained in Fugnido camp in the Gambella Region.

In some instances, security forces were involved in ethnic clashes during the year. For example, in December 2003, there were a number of reports of individual killings of members of other ethnic groups by ethnic Anuaks, and vice-versa. On December 13, 2003, unknown assailants ambushed a vehicle and killed eight government officials, of ethnic groups not indigenous to Gambella Region, near the village of Itang, in Gambella Region. From December 13 to 16, a mob including police, military, and civilians reportedly killed more than 100 members of the Anuak tribe in retaliation for the deaths of the 8 government workers. The Government reported only 40 persons killed. There was a government investigation ongoing at year's end; however, no action had been taken against persons involved.

The government reported that prosecutions had begun against several individuals suspected of the December 2003 to May 2004 extrajudicial killings of 13 Anuak civilians in the Gambella Region. In March Amnesty International reported that government soldiers had killed, raped, and tortured hundreds of Anuaks in the Gambella Region during that period.

Throughout the year in the Gambella Region, the government continued to monitor and sometimes control the passage of relief supplies and access by humanitarian organizations, explaining that it was doing so as a matter of security for those traveling in the region.

There were no reports that the Government took action against those responsible for the July 2002 clash between the Anuak and Nuer clans in the Gambella region, the September 2002 grenade attack in a student dormitory at the Gambella Teachers College, and the October 2002 grenade explosion in Gambella town.

A parliamentary commission investigated potential government human rights abuses in conjunction with ethnic violence in the Gambella Region in late 2003 and 2004. Human Rights Watch reported in March that the commission grossly underestimated the number of deaths associated with the ethnic violence and contended that neither the military or federal authorities took steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The military remained an ethnically diverse organization; however, members of the Tigrayan ethnic group dominated the senior officer corps. During the May elections and subsequent demonstrations, there were many reports of Tigrayan or Gambellan troops being used in Addis Ababa and other urban centers where the opposition was strong, and where officials did not consider Amhara members of the armed forces sufficiently reliable.






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