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Remembering the Anuak Massacre: Begin by Lighting Your Candle and then Your Neighbor’s Until Our Candles Bring Light Over Our Nation

December 13, 2018. Addis Ababa--.

Today, December 13th, will mark the fifteen year anniversary of the beginning of three days of killing and destruction in Gambella, Ethiopia that was carried out by TPLF/EPRDF national security forces, backed up by civilian militia groups they had armed with machetes. The Anuak people were targeted, especially leaders and those who were against the TPLF political repression and opposed to the federal government plans to explore oil on their indigenous land without following the legal process as set up in the Ethiopian Constitution or as required in international law regarding indigenous peoples’ rights. There was also a long-term plan to exploit the abundant fertile land and untapped natural resources.

In less than three days, 424 Anuak were killed. The Anuak continued to be targeted for nearly three years.  By that time, over two thousand had been killed and many more human rights atrocities committed, including being jailed, tortured and driven by the thousands to seek refuge in neighboring countries like South Sudan and Kenya. The limited infrastructure in Gambella was largely destroyed, equipment and supplies were pilfered from clinics and schools, and homes, crops and granaries were burned.     Read...


The Anuak Justice Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, is a representative voice for the Anuak community worldwide. Our mission is to advocate peacefully for the rights and security of the Anuak wherever they live.

The Anuak are a small minority group in Ethiopia and Sudan, residing mainly in the Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia. They have been the predominant landowners in the region for several generations, enjoying relative peace and coexisting with other minority groups, although tensions with the Ethiopian government over land ownership have existed for decades. The current regime in Ethiopia has not acted favorably toward the Anuak and over the last decade has become an increasingly oppressive reality for the Anuak.

On December 13, 2003, members of the Ethiopian military and other ethnic groups massacred more than 400 people in the town of Gambella. Since that time, the Anuak have continued to suffer genocide and other on-going crimes against humanity.

In the months following the December 2003 massacre, many Anuak expatriates felt scattered and powerless in their efforts to raise awareness of the oppression against their people and to help family members in immediate danger. Compounding this frustration was the lack of coverage of this tragedy by the international press.

As the atrocities continued, the urgent need for an organized voice for the Anuak became apparent, and in response to that need the Anuak Justice Council was formed. Representatives from the AJC have presented testimony to governmental bodies in the UN, the US, Canada and the European Union.

The AJC has also formed partnerships with international law groups to bring legal pressure to bear against the current Ethiopian regime in international court, and through contacts with other human rights organizations has been instrumental in initiating extensive investigations into the alleged crimes of genocide. Noteworthy among those investigations is the report by Human Rights Watch, a report that strongly implicates the Ethiopian government as a perpetrator of genocide.

The hope of the Anuak Justice Council is that with the help of pressure from the international community, a process of negotiation with the Ethiopian government can begin that would lead to a peaceful solution to the violence in Gambella, and ultimately to a safe and secure homeland to which the scattered Anuak can return.