Letter to PM Haile Mariam Desalegn

1Dear PM Haile Mariam Desalegn,

We are with the utmost urgency to address our concerns about some appalling conditions undertaken against Gambella people’s interest. Our organization is so kind to present these issues to your attention and the government you are serving to take some measures for well-being of Gambella people.

As your government is severing the interest of its citizens, we have received some grievances from our people contrary to national interest and human right. Their citizenship and rights have been violated in various occasions and they have been submitting petitions to the government many time, but theirs petitions had been neglected. In respond to their voice, Ethiopian Anywaa Development Foundation Inc which base it Offices in USA and Australia decided to write this letter requesting your leadership to take appropriate correctives measures on the following issues:

Proliferation of Refugees’ camps in the entire region

Our organization had written a letter on this issue to UN general secretariat and gave a copy to Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia early this year. We understood that the number of refugees which almost equal to the number of citizens had been settled in the region. Base on the current update, the refugees’ population is 366,341 verses estimated 409,000 population of inhabitants of the region. Ethiopia as a Federal Democratic Republic government, it must put its people interest first then the interest of refugees despite the international responsibility of hosting refugees. No citizen no refugee. It’s a citizen who takes care of refugee.

In a situation where refugees jeopardize the interest of hosting citizens, it’s a responsibility and obligation of the national government to act in the best interest of its citizens. Having many camps everywhere in the region had done and does harm the community. The number of camps should be limited to not more than two and close the rest or relocate them to another region.

Refugees competition with locals over resources

As you can observe from the above, the population of refugees will overwhelm the population of the region inhabitants shortly if the current crisis in South Sudan continue. Now the refugees had posted serious problem to the locals competing for resources and infrastructures. There are no enough social services or institutions available to meet the needs of the locals and refugees. The result is competition over resources which could bring conflict between the locals and refugees as we had witnessed in past.

As we’re writing this petition, we have thousands of citizens displaced from Jikaw and part of Itang districts who became Internal displace people in their own country because of refugees’ influx in the region. They are demanding land from locals which result into conflict that leave citizens in despair for the last two years.

Zenu Jemal speech watering down the refugees’ problem to locals

Ato Zenu Jemal had been interview on EBC during June and the speech he made in Nyuenyyiel refugees’ camp in Jikaw district promising extraordinary hospitality, also denied that refuge could not harm citizens and services to South Sudanese’s refugees and passed a message to hosting community of the region that Refugees are not a problem nor threat to their lives.

Ato Zenu might has made his speech reflecting his personal interest and not the interest of Gambella people. It is undeniable that South Sudan’s Refugees had made serious damage to the culture, economy, environment and lives of Gambella people. Our children have been abducted, we have lost hundreds of lives, our services have been destroyed by these refugees even though currently it had been blamed on Murle. We know that some attacks were done by refugees directly or indirectly.

The best evidence is the imprisonment of an informer by Gambella regional governor Mr. Gatluak Tut for his reporting an attack in Jor district were carried out by Nuers from Pinyudo Refugees Camp basing his fact on eye witness account. The fact was a dead body of the attackers left behind after the attack. Governor Gatluak Tut imprisoned this individual to conceal the evident.

Therefore, we would like to denounce Ato Zenu Jemal speech as baseless assertion or negligent. As he is a citizen of Ethiopia he should considered the well-being of citizens first rather than denying the clear fact that refugees are a problem to citizens in the region.

Appointing Refugees on local government positions

The biggest mistake made in Gambella region is the appointment of leaders by Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This practice had open a loophole of giving chance of leadership to foreigners. Foreigners get into the system they have abused the system and started employing foreigners/refugees in regional government departments with fake educational qualification and identification cards.

We haven’t seen proper neutralization constitution nor a process of neutralizing refugees to obtain Ethiopian citizenship. However, the foreigners who had infiltrated into the government has abused national constitution, deceiving and violating Gambella people Democratic rights and gained a power to take most of citizens positions in the regional government as well as in civic organization leaving young Ethiopians graduating from national universities and colleges jobless.

We as citizens would denounce such kind of practices request the government to give power to citizens rather than foreigners with double stands.

Illegal provision of National ID and passport to Refugees

As result of above negligence and irresponsibility of giving power to foreigners it became simple for a refugee to obtain Ethiopia national Identification Card as well as passport and compete for scarcely available opportunities to the citizens. This has caused resentment to the locals and it could spark a conflict as we will mention later in the following paragraph. There must be a system in place to control refugees’ movement and their interaction with the community as we do observe in many countries hosting refugees in Africa.

Restriction of Refugees movement in the region

South Sudan refugees have been allowed to roam in the region as they want without any restriction. If we give them unrestricted freedom to everything and they don’t do any harm to locals, it would have been traffic caring and hospitality to our refugees and a fame to the nation.

However, their movement has paid a loss of lives and properties to the locals. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia hasn’t considered the lives of Gambella people so worthy as of human being. We have witnessed carnage of innocent citizens by refugees who are left loose in the town. Last year citizens who were working in the camp were killed, Gambella’s prison was stormed and prisoners were killed. And surprisingly, the refugees had defied the sovereignty of the national by lowering the national flag which was in front of the prison and put up South Sudan flag instate claiming that Gambella is one of the states of South Sudan.

While our community was furious with the action of refugees, the government had taken lukewarm stand which had damaged the sole of citizens who are proud of their beloved country and don’t to see their national flag being abused in broad daylight.

To stop refugees from misbehaving and committing crimes like these mentioned above, it is better to restrict the movement and control their activities which do harm to the locals. We believe the citizens’ lives matter more than that of refugees.

Relocation of refugees to share the burden with other regions

As you know Gambella has been hosting South Sudanese’s refugees since 1956. The people of Gambella, mainly the Anywaa Community has been a prime victim and more devastated community in the region who had suffered untold atrocities inflicted on them by the influx of refugees. Anywaa community has been suffering in many ways, culturally, environmentally, ecologically, national resources depletion and loss of lives in the hand of refugees.

To alleviate the intense of suffering which Gambella people have been suffering with for the last 62 years, it would be better to share the burden with other regions rather than putting heavy burden on people of Gambella.

Oromo land demands in Gambella region

Recently there were number of delegates from Oromia region who went to Gambella regional state demanding a land to extend their boarder further inside the territory of Gambella region ignoring the existing national regional border.

This event had taken place under the watch of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and it had kept a low profile without telling Oromia regional government to stop what is illegal. This is a provocation of Gambella regional state government as well as its people. Suck kind of intimidation might lead to a conflict if the Federal government won’t take appropriate action. Oromo region is not a new region which had border with Gambella region. Both have a long history of co-existence and they knew what land below to who precisely. It shocked our community when they show Oromo coming and demanding land while we have already given them enough land (Bure, yeki & Kelem zones).

We do request your authority to instruct Oromo regional state to respect the long existing relationship and border and stop aggressive actions against Gambella people.

Dear Prime minister,

Base on the above explanation, it won’t be difficult for you and Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia government to understand the situation we are in and act appropriately.

Regarding refugees’ issues, our people had told government in several occasions how they were/are suffering in the hand of refugees, but no one has listen to their grievances. Let’s this time be different to give a decision to resolve refugees’ problem in Gambella region.

Therefore, at this juncture, we are requesting your government to consider all issues we have raised up above and take necessary action in answering our petition on behalf of Gambella people.

 

Respectfully,

Ochalla Ojulu