By Keith Harmon Snow
The East African nation of Ethiopia is the latest
U.S. terror war ally to turn its guns on indigenous peoples in a zone coveted
by corporate interests for its natural resources. Four months after armed
forces of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Front (EPRDF) and
settlers from the Ethiopian highlands initiated a campaign of massacres,
repression, and mass rape deliberately targeting the Anuak minority of Ethiopia’s
southwest, atrocities and killings continue—and the situation remains in
whiteout by the Western media.
Based on field investigations conducted
in January 2004, two U.S.-based organizations— Genocide Watch and Survivor’s
Rights International—jointly released a report on February 22, providing
substantial evidence that EPRDF soldiers and “Highlander” militias in
southwestern Ethiopia targeted Anuak civilians. The Highlanders are not of
either the agriculturalist Anuak or cattle-herding Nuer, the two indigenous
peoples of the region, but are predominantly Tigray and Amhara people resettled
into Anuak territory since 1974.
The current conflict was sparked by the
killing of eight UN and Ethiopian government officials whose van was ambushed
on December 13, 2003, in the Gambella district of southwestern Ethiopia. While
there is no evidence attesting to the ethnicity of the unidentified assailants,
the incident provided the pretext for the ongoing pogrom against the Anuak.
In the aftermath of the attack, EPRDF soldiers
using automatic weapons and hand grenades targeted Anuak villages, summarily
executing civilians, burning dwellings (sometimes with people inside), and
looting property. Some 424 Anuak people were reportedly killed, with over 200
more wounded and some 85 unaccounted for.
Mass rapes continue in the region,
perpetrated by EPRDF soldiers and Highlander settlers, often at gunpoint. Anuak
schools were reportedly emptied of schoolgirls who were gang-raped in nearby
huts or in the bush. With Anuak males killed, arrested, or displaced, the
vulnerability of women and girls has been grossly exploited. Reports from
non-Anuak police officials in Gambella indicate an average of up to seven rapes
Some resistance has been reported—both
by guerillas of the Anuak Gambella People’s Liberation Force (GPLF), and, more
spontaneously, by targeted Anuak civilians. According to one interview, Anuak
men who resisted attacks by soldiers in Pinyudo town on December 13 or 14 were
able to overcome their attackers and capture automatic weapons. Recent reports
indicate that pitched battles occurred in the Dimma district when Anuak men
retaliated for the unprovoked torture killing of a member of the Anuak
community by EPRDF soldiers. Retaliatory attacks and counter-attacks from
January 28 to February 3 reportedly claimed the lives of scores of EPRDF
soldiers in Dimma. After January 30, EPRDF reinforcements arrived in Dimma with
troops, artillery, and tanks. Troops reportedly massacred non-combatant Dinka
and Nuer refugees from a nearby camp for Sudanese refugees.
First-person reports from the Gambella
region describe Anuak prisoners subjected to forced labor under armed guard by
EPRDF captors. Significant numbers of Anuaks remain unaccounted for; “disappearances”
of Anuak leaders have become frequent. There are unverified reports that
Ethiopia’s central government has dispatched intelligence operatives to
neighboring countries to assassinate exiled Anuak leaders. Reports of
helicopters being used to monitor or hunt down Anuak refugees have also been
Reports compiled by Genocide Watch/Survivors Rights
International (GW/SRI) cited eyewitness accounts of 11 uniformed EPRDF soldiers
working under cover of night on February 1 to exhume bodies from a mass grave
in Gambella. EPRDF
soldiers reportedly worked with masks and gloves to dig up corpses for
incineration in order to destroy evidence of the December massacres.
Refugees are fleeing from Ethiopia into
Sudan. As of January 23, 2004, the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Committee—affiliated
with the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)—in Pochalla,
Sudan was supporting international relief efforts for over 5,297 refugees
fleeing the violence.
Numerous assailants have been
identified, including government officials, soldiers, and civilians. There are
accusations that lists of targeted individuals were drawn up with the
assistance of Omot Obang Olom, an Anuak government official cited by several
interviewees for his involvement. Massacres were reportedly ordered by the
commander of the Ethiopian army in Gambella, Nagu Beyene, with the
authorization of Gebrehab Barnabas, Regional Affairs minister of the Ethiopian
Numerous sources report that there have
been regular massacres of Anuak since 1980. Discrimination against the Anuaks
has been detailed in six reports published in the Cultural Survival
Quarterly beginning in 1981 (see e.g.: “Oil Development In Ethiopia: A
Threat to the Anuak of Gambella,” Issue 25.3, 2001).
Interviews with local residents
consistently reveal that Anuak have been treated as third-class citizens,
denied basic educational opportunities afforded to other ethnicities, and have
been increasingly excluded and displaced from positions in government and civil
society over the past decade.
U.S. Complicit In Ethnic Cleaning
The U.S. government was informed about unfolding
violence in the Gambella region as early as December 16, 2003, through communications
to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Overseas Citizens Division, the U.S.
Embassy in Ethiopia, and other U.S. State Department agencies. Responding to
the GW/SRI report, the U.S. issued a press release on February 22 that urged an
end to violence between ethnic Anuaks and the military in the Gambella region.
The U.S. also called “upon the Government of Ethiopia to conduct transparent,
independent inquiries, and particularly into allegations that members of the
Ethiopian military committed acts of violence against civilians in Gambella
On March 1, 2004, Ethiopia’s Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi issued a statement denying EPRDF involvement in the
violence, claiming, “The Ethiopian Defense Forces acted only to maintain peace
and stability, in light of the weakened condition of the regional police forces
during the incidents.”
Ethiopia is considered an essential
partner of the U.S. in its War on Terrorism. In 2003, the U.S. Army’s 10th
Mountain Division (Special Operations Forces) completed a three-month program
to train an Ethiopian army division in counter-terrorism tactics. Operations
are coordinated through the Combined Joint Task Forces-Horn of Africa
(CJTF-HOA) base in Djibouti.
In January 2004, Special Operations
soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment replaced the 10th Mountain
Division forces at a new Hurso Training Camp, northwest of Dire Dawa near the
border with Somalia, to be used for launching local joint missions in “counter-terrorism”
with the Ethiopian military. Soldiers will continue to operate missions out of
Hurso for several months from a new forward base named “Camp United.”
From April 12-25, 2003, under the U.S.
State Department-sponsored Africa Contingency Operations Training and
Assistance program, CJTF-HOA provided instruction to nearly 900 Ethiopian
soldiers at a base in Legedadi. CJTF-HOA forces from the U.S Army’s 478th Civil
Affairs Battalion also operated in Ethiopia in 2003 in and around Dire Dawa,
Galadi, and Dolo Odo, among other areas.
The 1,800-member CJTF, comprised of
personnel from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, civilian representatives,
and coalition liaison officers, was formed to oversee operations in the Horn of
Africa for U.S. Central Command in support of the global War on Terrorism. For
its “counter-terrorism” mission, CJTF- HOA defines the Horn of Africa region as
the airspace, land areas, and coastal waters of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya,
Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Yemen.
The Central Intelligence Agency is also very active on
the entire Horn of Africa and operates two Predator unmanned aerospace vehicles
armed with Hellfire missiles out of Djibouti.
From 1995-2000, the U.S. provided some
$1,835,000 in International Military and Education Training (IMET) deliveries to
Ethiopia. Some 115 Ethiopian military officers were trained under the IMET
program from 1991-2001. Approximately 4,000 Ethiopian soldiers have
participated in IMET since 1950.
Anuak People & Oil Development
The role of oil in the conflict in neighboring
southern Sudan has been well reported. Multinational corporations now have set
their sights on the natural resources of Ethiopia’s Gambella region as well.
Central Ethiopian authorities thus have powerful economic incentives to seek
control of these resources. Petroleum, water, tungsten, platinum, and gold are
the principal resources in the Gambella region of international interest.
The Anuak situation has grown markedly
worse since oil was discovered under Anuak lands by the Gambella Petroleum Corp,
a subsidiary of Pinewood Resources Ltd. of Canada, which signed a concession
agreement with the Ethiopian government in 2001. In May 2001, however, Pinewood
announced that it had relinquished all rights to the Gambella oil concession.
Pinewood now says it has pulled out of Ethiopia. The concessions may have been
On June 13, 2003, Malaysia’s
state-owned oil company Petronas announced the signing of an exclusive 25-year
exploration and production sharing agreement with the EPRDF government to
exploit the Ogaden Basin in Ethiopia’s east and the “Gambella Block”—a 15,356
square kilometers concession. On February 17, 2004, the Ethiopian Minister of
Mines announced that the Malaysian company would launch a natural gas
exploration project in the Gambella region. There are reports that the China
National Petroleum Corporation may also have signed contracts with the EPRDF
for a stake in Gambella’s oil.
Petronas and the China National
Petroleum Corporation are currently operating in Sudan, where, according to a
2003 report by Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Oil and Human Rights,” the two Asian
oil giants have allegedly provided cover for their respective governments to
ship arms and military equipment to Sudan in exchange for oil concessions
granted by Khartoum.
In 2000, Texas-based Sicor Inc. signed
a $1.4 billion dollar deal with Ethiopia for the “Gazoil” joint venture
exploiting oil and gas in the southeast Ogaden Basin. Hunt Oil Company of
Dallas is also involved in the Ogaden Basin through their subsidiary Ethiopia
Hunt Oil Company. Hunt Oil’s chairman of the board and CEO Ray L. Hunt is a
director of Halliburton Company. U.S. Cal Tech International Corp is also
reportedly negotiating a joint venture with the China National Petroleum Corp.
to operate in the same regions.
Petronas operates in Sudan in
partnership with the Canadian Swedish Lundin Group. Swedish financier Adolph
Lundin, who oversees Lundin Group, is a long-time associate of George H.W.
Bush. African Confidential reported in 1997 that the former president
telephoned then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (today Democratic Republic
of Congo) on behalf of Lundin after Mobutu had threatened to terminate a mining
Anuak artesanal miners in Gambella
district mine gold; thus the interests of multinational gold corporations may
be of further relevance in explaining the terror campaign against the Anuaks.
U.S.-based Canyon Resources has gold operations in southern Ethiopia.
At the time of this writing in late
April 2004, over 1,150 Anuak people were reportedly counted dead, with
thousands of Anauk women raped. The violence continues unabated and unreported.
Keith Snow’s work has appeared in publications in the U.S., UK, and Japan. In Tokyo,
he was staff writer, photographer, and editor at Japan International Journal.
This article was originally published at WW3Report.com.