Open letter to UN

UN Head Quarter Office

405 East 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10017, USA

Tel: (+ 1) (212) 963-9999

Date: 16/02/2017

Dear Secretary General António Guterres:

We represent a civic organization called Ethiopian Anywaa Development Foundation (EADF) Inc which based in U.S and has its branches all over the world (Africa, Australia, Canada and Europe). Our organization is non-governmental and non-political organization which commits to provide basic development in the areas of agriculture, education, health, and human rights to the local people of Anywaa tribe in South western part of Ethiopia.

We would like to thank you for the opportunity we have got to write you an issue which is overlooked by most governments of Ethiopia as well as the United nations for 62 years since 1955. As this case is overlooked for more than six decades, we are obliged to bring it to your attention for the first time and looking for urgent action due to its severity and devastating impact on our community which currently at brim of extinction.

To give a brief history and territorial occupation of Anuak tribe; Anuaks’ territory lies between Ethiopian escarpment, South West to Pibor river and to the West up to Nyium the present-day Nasir in South Sudan. It is a land dissected by four main rivers the Akobo, Gilo, and Alworo and Openo (Baro). This territory has seven Administration States, Adongo, Ciro (Akobo), Nyikaani, Lul, Tier Naam, and Openo under one Nyeya (king) rule. Each state has its own autonomous administration. They have right to choose from the two Anuaks’ political Systems Nyech (king) or Kwar (headman-ship). “Nyech” is a system that is inherited from family to family and “Kwar” is a public administration decided by people.

Under these political systems and geographical location Anuaks have/had been productive, self-content and lived in peace without any threat to their lives and environment.

However, their lives started deteriorating after British occupation of Sudan. Because of the influence of British in Sudan, Anuak territory and political system didn’t remain intact as it was. British had divided their territory between two countries (Sudan and Ethiopia) and their political system structure and culture was dismantled by the ruling governments in both countries systematically.

Now the survival of Anuak as a tribe has reached a critical stage where they need protection from world communities and United Nations in particular because of heartbreaking mass killing, arbitrary arrest, torturing, detentions, extra judicial killings, displacement, land grabbing and destruction of their livelihood and environment.

For the last 62 years, Anuaks have been subjected to extinction by both governments (Ethiopia and Sudan) using different techniques from assimilation to genocide to wipe out the entire tribe from the surface of world.

Currently, Anuaks’ population has been decreased dramatically and their cultural, values and self-esteem was tormented to the point where they cannot survive any longer unless a rescue effort has been made.

The phenomena started in 1955 when South Sudan liberation Movement (Anya-Nya) was operating from Anuak’s territory particularly Gambella regional state which hosted the refugees and accommodated guerrilla’s fighters. The coincident had made the government of Sudan to allege Anuak tribe as instigators and catalyst for brewing conflict between South and North Sudan and stereo-typically they were leveled as insurgents or bandits.

To revenge, Sudan government had armed the neighbor tribe (Nuer) to attack the Anuaks’ inhabitants of Ciro (Akobo) and Nyium (Nasir) counties killing hundreds of people and forced the entire tribe to take exile in Ethiopia and some nearby Anuaks’ counties within South Sudan. Some of them became internal displaced people in capital city Khartoum and others big cities in Sudan.  The course has continued to second South Sudanese Movement (Anya-Nya II) and then the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) after Addis Ababa peace agreement of 1972 signed between “Anyanya” a South Sudan movement (which had been fighting for South Sudan freedom) and Sudan government failed.

Today, even though South Sudan had gained independent, still there are several raids committed by Nuer and Murle tribes against Anuaks each day/year and no justice is delivered to punish the culprits. The culprits were left loss to kill and abduct children under the watch of South Sudan and Ethiopia government. And to your surprise, refugees in Pyinudo, Bonga, Itang, and Akula refugees’ camps are participating in the killing Anuaks and abducting children, but no one gives attention to the suffering of innocent people in their own land.

It is not only Sudan government who is committing atrocities against the Anuak, Ethiopian government is doing the worse ever. Ethiopian government has been committing atrocities against the Anuaks for the last 42 years secretly and made it official on 13 December 2003 when it had carried out genocidal act with intention to extinct the Anuak tribe in three days’ massacre throughout the entire region. This was not the first time for Ethiopian government to conduct such a massive killing with intention to wipe out the whole tribe from the land. It has been doing it for several years using various methods and techniques as follow:

Ethiopian Military government (Derg) regime –

When Military junta (Derg) had toppled the Government of His Excellence Majesty Haile Selassie in 1974’s Revolution, Derg used the wars fought with Somalia, Eritrea and TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front) and the 1984’s drought which had affected Northern regions of Ethiopia as pretext to extinct the Anuak tribe. It had recruited many Anuaks beyond nationally allocated quota of Gambella region which base on population ratio of the region. Between 1974 and 1991 more than 30,000 Anuaks were recruited and none didn’t return home when the war ended in 1991.

In addition, the 1984’s famine has become a second tool to extinct the Anuak tribe by settling 70,000 settlers from Northern Ethiopia in  the farming land of  Anuaks. The settlement was designed to assimilate the Anuak tribe. More than 70,000 non-natives from the northern region of the country were settled in Anuaks’ villages to overwhelm their population and make inter-marriages to wipe out the Anuak identity, culture, language and values.

At this juncture, the Anuaks had attempted to resist the assimilation and settlement, but it caused them extra judicial killing being alleged as anti-revolution, government and development.

In 1985 the government had declared state of emergency in Gambella regional state for six months restricting movement within all towns of the region targeting only the Anuaks communities. The government had empowered the settlers from main land Ethiopia who were non Anuaks tribe to kill any Anuak who found on the street at night and any person who resist the state of emergency.

In addition, Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) was given authority by the Ethiopia government to administrate and control Anuaks’ activities and movement. Thus, SPLA/M forces including South Sudan’s refugees had carried out several massacres which were sponsored by the government of Ethiopia against Anuaks in Abobo, Akado, Itang and Pinyudo towns. The worst massacre was in 1989 which killed 300 people in cold-blooded and 150 people remained uncounted for. This carnage had been witnessed by UNHCR and ARRA staffs who were working in Itang and Pinyudo Refugees’ camps by the time.

Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPDRF) regime

The Ethiopia People’s Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPDRF) has stood up against Anuak tribe from its inception. It betrayed Gambella Peoples Liberation Movement (GPLM) who was an ally in the struggle for regime change and democracy. Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPDRF) had destroyed GPLM the only political party who had been fighting for Gambella Peoples’ rights and instituted its hand pick political party’s members who don’t represent the political view of indigenous people of Gambella regional state. The government had intimidated the elites of the region by demoting the appointed leaders and inflict imprisonment, retrenchment, extra judicial killing and force exile to neighbour countries on them to avoid people’s resistant and uprising.

Then the government started killing many youths whom it alleged to be thugs of the town (while these youths were those who have difficult life due to unemployment). Many youths were rounded up at night and executed in Gambella’s Military camp at the fringe of Gambella town without any trial. And to the present nobody has told their parents about their whereabouts and what had happened to their children.

This act of evil had paved the way for massive killing of December 13, 2013 under operation “Sunny Mountain” which has been described by international human rights groups and Genocide Watch as a “Genocide against the Anuaks tribe”, even though it was not recognised by powerful allies of Ethiopia government such as United States of America and Great Britain.

The operation Sunny Mountain with slogan of “Today is the day of killing the Anuaks tribe” chanted by Ethiopia militaries who had been ordered by Mr. Geberehab Barnabas in consultant with late PM Melese Zenawi from federal state of Ethiopia and commanded by Col. Tsgaye, had killed thousands and forced thousands to exile in South Sudan and Kenya.

The government had miscalculated that nobody would pay attention or give media coverage to the carnage of Anuak when it carries out the attack because Anuak tribe is a tiny, marginalized ethnic group living in the remote part of the country and not considered as a part of mainstream tribes of Ethiopia due to their ethnicity, religion, skin colour, political view, culture and language differences.

Despite the government cover up, the massacre had got media coverage and was documented by International human right groups.

The aftermath of this massive killing, was a condemnation from many   international organisations and governments who felt sympathy for innocent people killed for nothing. However, Ethiopia government hasn’t learnt any lesson, instead of making an attitude change, it was changing technique of killing from direct massive killing to sponsoring neighbour tribes within the country and across the border of South Sudan to do the dirty job against Anuak tribe.

For example, the government has instigated Majanger tribe who have been living peacefully with Anuaks for centuries, Nuer tribe from South Sudan who is living in Anuaks’ land as refugees and Murle tribe who is crossing the border to do the killing, abducting children and rustle villagers’ cattle. Since then we have lost thousands of people killed by the government systematically and no one can have held the government accountable for its’ atrocities against the Anuaks.

Second example of government intention to extinct the Anuak tribe has been witnessed in 2015 when Murle tribe crossed the border killing both Anuak and Nuer tribes, abducted their children and rustled large number of cattle. In this incident, the government has negotiated the return Nuer’s children and cattle with Murle, but not the Anuaks’ children and cattle.

As result of Ethiopia government plot to extinct the Anuaks, today Anuaks are the minority within their own homeland and their population is decreasing alarmingly with high rate per year.

Surprisingly, Ethiopian government had involved UNHCR to contribute to the extinction of Anuaks and it became a part and parcel of the plot. The proliferation of Refugees’ camps by Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) in all Anuaks’ districts with intention to endanger the lives of Anuaks and being accepted by UNHCR will make UNHCR accountable for extinction of Anuaks. UNHCR should have opposed Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) for opening three Refugees’ camps in Anuak’s Zone which will threatening the life of local people.

As you know, Gambella has been hosting South Sudanese refugees since 1955. In all these years refugees, have been used by Ethiopian government to kill the Anuaks directly or indirectly in present of UNHCR and Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) the partner organisation working with UNHCR to provide protection and services to refugees as well as the local people. Both institutions haven’t taken any action to stop the killing of Anuaks by refugees because Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) who should have done it, is a government’s security apparatus working for the government executing government’s plans and policies.

For example, ARRA should have stopped the 2016 attack by refugees which killed more than 50 people in Gambella town close to Head Office of UNHCR and ARRA, but it didn’t take any action nor government police force and military. This shows that ARRA or Ethiopia government has given refugees absolute power to kill. Even refugees have been allowed to participate in regional administration.

For instance, the current governor of Gambella regional state is a well-documented South Sudanese refugee who lived in refugee camp in Dimma district and attended his education under UNHCR’s scholarship programme. The Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) in Addis Ababa as well as Gambella regional state knew that the governor is a refugee, but federal government act as it doesn’t know anything about this foreigner or refugee. The government had made this decision to use Nuers as tool to punish the Anuak society indirectly.

Such kind of ill treatment has caused lack of good governance within the region. The governor is appointing his unqualified next of kin who don’t know official national language to key government’s positions denying citizens who are more qualified, speak and write in official national language. The language barrier among regional state officers and federal state has hampered the communication between federal state and regional state and caused misunderstanding between Gambella people and   federal state.

In addition, they don’t have enough knowledge about regional problems, history and administration and this created mistrust among the tribes and made Gambella state which was peaceful, friendly and land of opportunity region to many Ethiopians a centre of ethnics cleansing, a hot market for illegal fire armies and terror.

The lack of good governance has allowed Dr Riek Machar’s militia to settle in refugees’ camps among the refugees and they are moving freely without control ambushing and killing innocent people on the roads, but the governor doesn’t show a sense of responsibility to safeguard the lives of citizens.

Dear Secretary General,

Base on the facts mentioned above, we the Anuaks tribe in South Western Ethiopia since the formation of Ethiopia as a country and annexation of Gambella region from Angelo Egyptian administration to Ethiopia, we haven’t been recognized by the governments as citizens, rather than treating us as second class citizens.  We have been deprived from social services, democratic rights, employment and running their own businesses. We have been evicted from our ancestral land, forced to exile to vacate the land for foreigners’ investors and subjected to depend on foreign aid without our interest. All these miseries have contributed to early natural death of our people apart from the existing extra judicial killing of innocent Anuaks by the government.

Dear Secretary General,

based on UN charter article 3 which says, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, We have felt that our rights, liberty and security have been violated by the Ethiopian governments and we have been brought to the brim of extinction.

Therefore, with this letter addressed to your office, we are asking UN, governments of the world, and international communities to provide protection to this tiny tribe from extinction by pressurized Ethiopia government to respect the UN charter which we believed Ethiopia is one of the signatories.

The above being said, we are demanding UN to consider the following actions to save us from looming extinction:

  • UN should recognise Anuak tribe is at the brim of extinction and provide international protection
  • Ethiopia government should be stopped from carrying out genocidal act against Anuak tribe
  • Ethiopia government and UNHCR must return all Anuaks’ children abducted by South Sudanese Murle tribe
  • Ethiopian government must respect democratic rights, traditional administration and self-governing privilege written in Ethiopia constitution without limitation or intervention of federal government into regional affairs
  • Ethiopia government must protect the Anuaks from foreigners and refugees’ invasion which took hundreds of lives per a year
  • UNHCR and ARRA should repatriate South Sudan’s refugees to peaceful areas of South Sudan
  • UNHCR and ARRA should screen all camps and separate refugees from Dr Riek Machar militia living in the camps with Ak-47

Finally, Ethiopian Anywaa Development Foundation Inc would request your kindness to facilitate a meeting to discuss this problem with Ethiopia government, ARRA and UNHCR.

To show the ice tip 11,362 people were killed by government and refugees between 1985 and 2017. We have attached a spread sheet which depict the figures of people we have lost and many more left unaccounted for due to lack of documentation during the time of incident.

Respectfully yours,

Ochala O Ojwato

Ethiopian Anywaa Development Foundation



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