Governor: Truth and Justice First!
May 28, 2008
The Anuak Justice Council has learned that Omot Obang
Olum, the governor of the Gambella region of Ethiopia,
is coming to Minnesota on May 30th and Canada on June
4th for the purpose of meeting with the Anuak.
Who is Omot Obang Olum? We Anuak know him to be a loyal
collaborator with the EPRDF government of Meles Zenawi.
He has paid dearly for his favored relationship with
the Woyane with our Anuak blood. Official reports back
According to investigative reports completed by such
human rights organizations as Human Rights Watch and
Survivors Rights, he was a pro-EPRDF government official
of Anuak ethnicity who collaborated in the genocide
of his own people carried out by Ethiopian National
Defense Forces on December 13-15, 2003. These reports
allege that he, as head of security, compiled a list
of Anuak leaders who were later killed.
Those targeted were Anuak who were educated, who were
against federal control of regional interests, who were
opposed to the oil explorations being planned for their
region by the federal government without local involvement
or who were a threat in some other way, like Pastor
Okwier, the pastor of a growing church.
As early as 2002, Omot Obang Olum allegedly was responsible
for the imprisonment of 45 Anuak intellectuals, who
were seen as possible threats to government control
in the area. These individuals were released four to
five years later, with no charges.
Following the massacre of 2003, many more Anuak were
victims of human rights crimes, including extra-judicial
killings, torture, false imprisonment, rape and the
destruction of property. He later received his post
as governor—a possible payoff for his faithful
complicity in these horrendous crimes against humanity.
A month ago, on April 26, delegates from Gambella came
to meet with the Anuak in Minnesota and the AJC made
a statement following that meeting that the meetings
failed to meet the expectations of the Anuak. Those
delegates avoided the topic of the genocide; yet, because
they individually, were not believed to be personally
responsible for it, like Omot Obang Olum, Anuak were
willing to listen. However, Omot Obang Olum is different.
He is seen as carrying major responsibility for the
deaths, torture, rape and imprisonment of family members
and friends of those in the Anuak community here in
the United States of America and Canada.
Many in the Anuak community here and in Canada, where
he is expected to go after this destination, oppose
his coming even though some in the Anuak Community Association
of North America (ACANA) are hosting him. It is questionable
whether those in ACANA really support his coming leaving
some questions of who is the driving force in this.
The AJC position is clear. We are strongly opposed
to his visit as he is someone who has committed crimes
against humanity as reported in the reports by
Genocide Watch and Human Rights Watch. Any meeting should
be taking place under some other venue—a legal
hearing in a court, a truth and reconciliation hearing
or at least an Anuak traditional approach where there
is accountability for what one has done and where establishing
the truth is held in high regard. Any meeting that does
not address the loss of Anuak lives ends up devaluing
those lives and the lives of those who loved them. Yes,
people will need to forgive, but forgiveness is not
the same thing as accountability. Perpetrators must
still be held accountable.
Additionally, forgiving someone does not mean pretending
these egregious acts never occurred. The fact is, they
did occur! No amount of repressing the truth will take
away the facts of what happened. Yet, what most perpetrators
want from their victims is for them to just “move
In an oppressive society like in Gambella and across
all of Ethiopia, if citizens speak out, they might be
imprisoned, tortured, killed or punished in some other
way. Ethiopians have become fearful and the companion
of fear is silence. However, we are in America. What
we need from the Anuak community is not more silence
or more fear. Yes, many are good-hearted people who
want to genuinely help their people back home, but can
we not find ways to do so without falling into the trap
of Woyane who believe they can entice good people to
invest, develop Gambella and divert us from holding
We should be the voices of those we loved who are now
gone. If the Woyane government had changed their ways,
it might be at least somewhat more acceptable, but they
have not. They have become more repressive instead of
less. They should be upholding the rights and dignity
of the people more instead of the reality that Woyane
abuses of the people are widespread across the country.
We should be the voices of those now suffering under
the human rights atrocities still being perpetrated
by EPRDF in other regions of the country like in the
Ogaden, in Oromia and into Somalia.
We believe that the purpose of this meeting, if it
follows the lines of the last meeting, is exactly opposite
of what needs to happen.
Acknowledging the truth of what happened is essential
as a first step, followed by admissions of wrongdoing
if there is to be any healing and reconciliation. Any
meeting that avoids truth and accountability is simply
another way to prolong injustice.
As most people know, the Anuak Justice Council was
created as an organization following the massacre of
the Anuak with the goals of advocating for the respect
of their human rights and in order to see the perpetrators
brought to justice. The Anuak in Gambella are not the
only ones affected but the Anuak Sudanese and the Anuak
who live in the Diaspora have also been greatly impacted
by what happened.
The pain felt by those in Gambella is the same pain
being felt by Anuak worldwide. It has never gone away
because those who have committed crimes against humanity
have never been brought to justice or even admitted
to the crimes. Not only that, many, especially the children,
are still traumatized by the terror they witnessed when
they saw their fathers or brothers hacked to death and
executed in front of them. The widows of many of the
slain still do not know the location of the mass graves
of their husbands.
No one has explained why the Anuak were killed and who
gave the orders from the top. Most of the people believe,
including the former governor who was there, that the
current government of Meles was responsible or his troops,
but no one has been brought to justice other than a
few that we all know are being scapegoated.
For instance, where are the two Ethiopian commanders
who were in charge of Gambella who allegedly were the
ones who ordered the troops to kill? They later disappeared
as documented in the Human Rights Watch and Genocide
Watch investigative reports. Other perpetrators within
the military and security forces who were accused by
the witnesses have never brought to justice and now
you never hear about them anymore.
We in the AJC say that anyone who has been accused
of being involved in the massacre, should be brought
to justice regardless of who he is and whether or not
he is an Anuak. Much evidence exists that Omot Obang
Olum has betrayed his people over time.
- Consistently, investigations completed by Human
Rights Watch, Genocide Watch, Survivors’ Rights
and other witness statements give evidence that Omot
Obang Olum provided the names of those Anuak to be
killed and was involved in other aspects of the planning.
- In October of 2005, many believe he was responsible
for the arrest of former Governor Mr. Okello Negllo
and for forty-five other Anuak who were then imprisoned
in Addis Ababa for five years.
- He is believed to be responsible for the arrest,
detention and torture of many other Anuak leading
up to the massacre and in the many months following.
- While governor, countless extra-judicial killings,
rapes and beatings were carried out by the ENDF with
impunity in the Gambella region.
- Many Anuak are still languishing in jails, detention
centers and prisons in the region.
- He appears to be highly trusted by the Woyane government
and continues to be feared by the Anuak. Because of
his acts against the Anuak, at one time, he discharged
his Anuak bodyguards and replaced them with TPLF fighters.
All of this evidence points to the conclusion that
he is guilty; however, he deserves a genuine trial in
a fair and just court of law regarding his many suspected
crimes. It would also be his chance to attempt to provide
any evidence to the contrary before his accusers, but
it is unlikely any real justice will be carried out
in Gambella or elsewhere in Ethiopia. Regardless, Omot
Obang Olum is not the right ambassador to come to the
Anuak until justice is served.
This man cannot sweep all of this under the carpet.
He is not the one to talk about development and this
is not the time. What the Anuak have been waiting for
since the massacre is to find out the truth regarding
(1) who killed the Anuak, (2) who ordered the killing,
(3) why were they killed and (4) why their killers have
never been brought to justice. These are the issues
that the Anuak should be talking about and if he comes,
these are the topics he should address.
We are not surprised with his intent to tempt Anuak
to forget about the genocide and to “work with
this government.” That is what the government
propaganda reported after the last meeting, that the
Anuak wanted to work with the government. This is his
intent to make it look like the Anuak are ready to be
quiet about their pain and losses and to act as if everything
is now okay in Gambella. If he cared about the Anuak,
he should be meeting the Anuak in Sudan, in Kenya and
in Gambella or exploring ways to give adequate reparations.
He should care about the Anuak who are still suffering
in the region.
For him to look at the Anuak in the Diaspora for a
solution when he should first be dealing with those
close by appears to be another diversionary tactic by
the EPRDF. We won’t fall for this game. The priority
should not be to come to Minnesota, but if here, the
priority should not be development and investment but
he should talk about the injustices committed, apologize
and then offer what he and the Woyane government will
do about it—not only for the Anuak, but also for
others in the region and in the country. Anything less
is not enough.
As we have said it before, we stand for justice, whether
now or later. The AJC is working for the justice for
all Ethiopians because we believe justice will not come
to the Anuak or others in Gambella, until it comes to
all. We call others to stand with the Anuak who oppose
the coming of this man. Divide and conquer politics
of single, isolated groups dealing with only their own
issues with the Woyane, must end for they will not bring
a sustainable justice.
We are speaking against him and call others to stand
with us until all the killers of the innocent are brought
to justice. We will never rest unless justice comes
to all Ethiopians whose precious lives have been taken
away and whose blood has been split for no other reason
than for speaking up for their God given rights. We
will never rest until those people who are still in
prison, guilty of nothing but the hunger for a country
where there is freedom, peace, stability and prosperity.
Until they are freed, we are not going to rest.
We call Anuak and all Ethiopians from east to west
and from the north to the south. May the blood of those
people who died unify us as one while together we fight
to free our country. May their blood be the rain that
creates fertile ground so that new life can emerge.
May their deaths help us to stand together as one to
create a new Ethiopia where we are proud of our ethnicity
but most of all, we are connected by our humanity
This is a moral stand for truth and justice. Let us
put aside all that might separate or distract us and
stand together as one. May God empower and guide us!
For more information please contact
Mr. Obang Metho by email at: Obang@anuakjustice.org
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