Rights Abusers: “Watch Out, You May Not Find the
West a Safe Haven Anymore!”
June 17, 2008
As pleased as the Anuak Justice Council is with the
recent decision by Canadian authorities to deny entry
into Canada to Omot Obang Olum, the Anuak governor of
the Gambella region suspected of complicity in the Anuak
massacre of 2003, we are far more pleased with the prospects
of what this means to other Ethiopians suspected of
genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity who
may attempt to seek entry or asylum in the West.
For the Canadian authorities to deny a visa to a human
rights criminal suspect like Olum, is a victory for
justice and is an encouraging indication to other victims
of such crimes within Ethiopia. For perpetrators who
have inflicted unbearable pain on their fellow Ethiopians,
thinking they are above the law of God and country,
it is a stern and chilling warning to find out that
a door in the West has just slammed shut to them as
a potential safe haven.
In Ethiopia, human rights crimes can be committed without
legal consequence if one is “rightly connect”
to the government, but after this action by Canadians,
these perpetrators can no longer automatically assume
they will be able to escape to the West should the brutal
and repressive Meles regime fall.
For the Anuak who were tortured, put in jail or who
lost loved ones at the hands of such suspected human
rights criminals as Olum, they will be encouraged that
finally someone has been held accountable for crimes
covered up and seemingly forgotten, even though it was
done by strangers living over a thousand miles away
from where it was perpetrated.
Even though many Anuak and other victims of oppression
within Ethiopia are afraid to confront their Woyane
governor or Meles himself, fearful of their power to
punish any objecting to their rule, the denial of this
visa into Canada serves as proof that those guilty of
such crimes may finally answer for their actions.
Justice, righteousness and truth are all parts of God’s
holy character and those who violate these principles
violate universal codes set in place not by man but
by God. Most every human being knows this in his or
her heart which is exactly the reason for the extensive
lies, denials and cover-up being advanced by the Ethiopian
propaganda machine of Meles Zenawi.
The truth would demand a just response and they know
it! That is why they continue to offer up pathetically
weak lies in the face of voluminous evidence to the
contrary. In other words, they want to escape the consequences
of their actions, but thankfully, it did not work this
That same desire for truth is the reason why some Anuak
and I boycotted the meeting—because we knew the
truth would be dodged and manipulated. Establishing
the truth is the same reason why the AJC was initially
set up because in December of 2003, something evil and
outrageous happened in a dark corner of Africa when
the Anuak were massacred by their own government.
In arrogance, the Meles regime thought they could get
away with it, but it led to the formation of the AJC
and the truth got out. In fact, with the visit of Olum
the heinous crimes committed against the Anuak were
again repeated in newspapers all over the world through
new press articles.
Now, with the release of the recent Human Rights Watch
report on what is happening in the Ogaden and into Somalia,
more publicity is directed towards the horrific tactics
of the Meles government, but with it, more predictable
denials. It is only a matter of time before incidents
in the Afar region, in Beningshangul-Gumuz, in Oromia,
along the Sudanese-Ethiopian border and in other parts
of the country will be added to the list.
Strangely, the lying is becoming progressively more
absurd in the face of mounting evidence; but the more
it does so, the less likely it seems that Meles and
company will ever change. Everything is pretense on
the outside and fake on the inside—democracy,
justice, stability, development and even our gold—are
all just trappings. Instead, we are left with a hollow
core, expected to live an illusion while desperately
We have become a country of lies and we all are experiencing
the consequences of that. Meles government is even lying
about the hunger and starvation of millions of Ethiopians
in fear of being found responsible. Yet, such lies will
never feed the people. Instead, Jesus Christ said, “the
truth will set us free.”
This is the reason why the AJC has been speaking up
for the last four years and the reason why we are now
also speaking for the rest of Ethiopians as we firmly
believe that unless justice comes to all of Ethiopia,
justice will not come to any one group. The suffering
and pain of all Ethiopians is the same.
The truth that the Anuak are seeking is the same truth
sought by Ethiopians throughout the country. The same
justice Anuak desire, is the same justice for which
other Ethiopians also hunger. That is why the AJC extended
to other Ethiopians and took the initiative to reach
out to others. To seek truth and justice is foundational
to the AJC, but what Omot Olum wants us to do is this—to
settle for less than the truth, for less than justice
and for less than righteous living. This is something
we refuse to do and it is the reason we continue to
speak and advocate for change and will never settle
for anything less.
Be warned, this is not what the Meles regime wants
for Ethiopians. He and his puppets in charge in every
district and region of the country want us to agree
to be silent about injustice and to compromise on the
truth and our morality.
Omot Olum is an Anuak and people within the AJC know
him. As a person we have nothing against him, but we
stand against the evil things he has done. We even know
that no one has ever reported seeing him pull the trigger
to kill anyone, but we have strong evidence that his
actions have contributed to the loss of Anuak lives
and caused great pain to many Anuak. For that reason,
we want him to be held accountable.
We also know he was responsible for the arrests and
imprisonment of many Anuak, especially Anuak leaders
arrested in 2002 who were imprisoned in Addis Ababa
until 2007, losing productive years of their lives.
Their families suffered from their absence. Some of
the prisoners died while in prison.
Mr. Olum arrested them because he was the most trusted
supporter of the Meles regime and because he did was
threatened by his own people who were upholding truth
and justice in the way they conducted their lives. He
was also in charge of security for the region when the
massacre took place. The governor at the time reported
that Olum was the one to give the names to the military
commander who later issued the order to kill the Anuak.
Without his help, the TPLF military would not have
known which Anuak were threats to their total sovereignty.
Now, for them to come to ask Anuak to talk about peace,
investment and development is settling for something
far less than justice and that is unsettling! Olum and
his counterparts in other regions throughout the country
should be found accountable.
We know that Olum is a tiny fish among bigger fish
and we know that he and many more within the TPLF throughout
Ethiopia have done the same for those on the top, but
the benefits will not last. The denial of his visa is
sending a message to Meles and his gang-style government
that seems willing to do most anything to remain in
power even if its own citizens are starving or being
killed that when this government finally goes down,
and it will, like every other one like it, there will
be no room for Meles and his supporters in the West
for safe haven.
This message is not only for lower ranking perpetrators
like Olum, but also for top officials complicit with
gross human rights crimes. Not only is Canada working
on policies prohibiting war criminals and human rights
criminals from entering their country, but similar policies
are being discussed by human rights advocates and policy
makers in the US, the UK and in the EU. This is what
HR 2003 is all about.
Once this is a law, there will be no room for people
like Olum in the West. To Meles supporters who have
helped in one way or another in committing human rights
abuses, your time has come and there is no room for
you to hide. People know who you are and all the authorities
may need is your name, your involvement and your crime.
One by one justice can be done. The choice is yours
to continue supporting this government and committing
crimes against humanity under the short-lived protection
of a dying regime or changing your ways for good.
If you do not, you may never find the same impunity
enabling you to live in luxury in another country that
you have relished in Ethiopia during these fleeting
last days under the Meles regime. To those who are now
working in the administration, take the higher moral
ground and refuse to take part in crimes against your
fellow Ethiopians like one of the delegates accompanying
Olum recently did.
When Olum came, five EPRDF delegates from Gambella
accompanied him. One of them was another Anuak man named
Obang Oman. He gave the government line publicly, but
when it came time to return to Ethiopia, he was nowhere
to be found and remains in America. It is not surprising
that this additional downturn in Olum’s visit,
this defection, was not covered in the EPRDF news
Apparently, Obang Oman stated that even though he and
the others had come to encourage the Anuak to return
to Gambella to help develop the region and to invest,
that what they had told the attendees about Ethiopia
being more democratic, more stable and full of more
opportunities right now was a lie and he did not want
to continue to advance this lie and be part of it. This
man has now stood up for the truth and that is why he
remained in the US. His refusal to return to Ethiopia
speaks more loudly than any words.
In fact, the truth always speaks for itself, much more
strongly than the lie. Even a recent Ethiopian News
agency press release falsely claimed that 2500 Gambella
people had attended the meeting with the Olum and the
other Gambella delegates and that the people wanted
to come back to develop the region.
The truth is, the number at the meetings in both Minnesota
and Nebraska was closer to 300 —combined—
and the article’s writer failed to mention three
important points: the angry response of many of the
people, the fact that one of their delegates remained
in America and the fact that Omot Olum’s meeting
was cancelled in Canada because he was denied entrance
into Canada—not surprising oversights!
This illegitimate government of Meles has demonstrated
a lack of morality accompanied by the willingness to
lie about anything, just to remain in power. Meles Zenawi
even maintained his power during the last election through
lies and force. He and his EPRDF government were never
legitimately elected and they obviously care very little
for the people they are supposed to be serving, like
a parent who has abandoned his own children after abusing
Our encouragement to Ethiopians and peace loving people
is to not give up in our struggle to revive this nation
no matter what obstacles we face because the truth is
on our side. More than that, God is on our side, but
only if we continue to seek Him, His truth and do what
is right. If we do, not only could we bring justice
and hope back to the country, but we could be the ones
to help revive a country where everyone has become an
orphan without a protector or nurturer.
Our only hope is in our only real father, God Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth who loves the children
He has created. Do we return that love with our obedience
to His life-giving principles?
May our God help us to rise up
and to stand, side by side, as humans first, and as
Ethiopians second. May we put our humanity before our
ethnicity and do what God wants us to do to protect,
care, nurture and revive this dying nation. May
God use each of us to help bring such revival to the
soul of Ethiopia!
For more information please contact
Mr. Obang Metho, Director of International Advocacy
Anuak Justice Council, by E-mail: Obang@anuakjustice.org
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