Ethiopia has charged powerful former intelligence chief, Getachew Assefa, and 25 others over alleged human rights abuses, the office of the attorney general said Tuesday.
Getachew was the head of the Ethiopia National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) until June 2018, when he was removed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed amid a raft of reforms in the Horn of Africa nation.
Under Ethiopia’s previous government, the NISS was accused by rights groups of overseeing the torture and murder of dissidents.
Getachew was charged with 25 other intelligence officers, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.
“The 26 suspects have been charged with a total of 46 criminal charges, with 22 of them currently in custody while the other four individuals, including Getachew Assefa’s cases will be tried in absentia”, it added.
Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sought to address rights violations and break with the country’s authoritarian past.
In July last year, he publicly acknowledged torture carried out by security services, describing it as a form of “terrorism”.
Attorney General, Berhanu Tsegaye said in January that an arrest warrant had been issued for Getachew, however, his whereabouts are unknown, with some reports he is being shielded by officials in his home state of Tigray.
Bashir to face corruption charges in court next week
The prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations
Ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir will appear in court next week to face charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency, the country’s acting prosecutor general told reporters on Saturday.
The announcement came more than two months after the military overthrew Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.
Bashir “will appear in court next week following charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency,” Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said, without specifying the day.
He added that the investigation launched against Bashir for the charges had been completed.
On Thursday, an unnamed Sudanese official was quoted by the official SUNA news agency as saying Bashir was facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.
In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.
He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros, $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds.
Bashir swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Last month, Ahmed ordered Bashir questioned over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.
In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.
In May, the prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during those anti-regime demonstrations, which eventually led to his ouster.
Ahmed also said on Saturday that 41 other charges against “symbols of the ousted regime” were under investigation.
He did not name the others accused but said most of the charges were related to the “possession of land”.
At least 50 killed from fighting in eastern DR Congo
The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia.
At least 50 people have been killed in violence in Ituri, a volatile province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), governor Jean Bamanisa Saidi said Thursday.
“As of the day before yesterday, we had a figure of some 50 (dead), but it’s true, we are aware that there are other cases,” he told reporters.
Other sources said the toll could be 60 or more than 70.
The fighting began last Friday and escalated on Monday, affecting the territory of Djugu, north of the provincial capital of Bunia, and causing many people to flee their homes, the sources said.
The cause of the flareup was not immediately clear, but it occurred in a region where tens of thousands died in clashes between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups between 1999 and 2003.
The deputy head of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, General Bernard Commins, told a press conference on Wednesday that the two communities had suffered fresh violence.
A Hema leader, Pilo Molondro, told reporters that 49 deaths had been recorded since the start of the week, and “all communities are in mourning.”
A head of the Lendu community, Joel Mande, said: “We have recorded 40 deaths since Monday, after a trader and his colleagues were killed. The toll could reach 60.”
But an NGO source said that from Saturday to Tuesday alone, “more than 72 people were killed in around 10 localities in Djugu and Irumu.”
Okapi, the radio station run by the UN’s MONUSCO, said 38 people had been stabbed to death just in the village of Tche.
Ituri and the neighbouring province of North Kivu on the DRC’s eastern border are struggling to roll back an epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August 1.
Ethiopia struggles to stem ethnic tensions threatening hunger
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors
More than a year after his house in southern Ethiopia was razed to the ground, his coffee plantation destroyed and cattle were stolen, Teketel Memheru is still too terrified to return home. The 22-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes by Ethiopia’s ethnic clashes in a burgeoning domestic crisis the Ethiopian government is battling to contain.
“I witnessed a neighbour of mine hacked to death and another neighbour was burnt alive in his house. I’m scared to go to farm my agricultural plot for fear of attacks,” said Teketel, an ethnic Gedeo who says he came under attack by Oromos – the country’s largest ethnic group.
Officials insist that what became the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis in 2018 is under control and that more than a million people have returned to their homes. However, those working on the ground – speaking anonymously to avoid a government backlash – say the displaced are being forcibly returned. They warn that the dire humanitarian conditions are only set to get worse.
“Peace is not restored, I didn’t meet a single person who wants to return under these conditions. People are really scared. It will get more difficult,” an aid worker said. The worker said that in May local officials and soldiers had entered the camps and ordered people to leave. Most people, however, had just disappeared once again into a fatigued host community and were living in utter “misery”.
In addition, hunger levels had become a “catastrophe”. “We believe levels of violence and displacement will continue,” said the worker.
Reforms open Pandora’s box
Since coming to power in April 2018 after two years of anti-government unrest, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – himself an Oromo – has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors. He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, and an easing of control has seen Ethiopia jump 40 points in the 2019 press freedom index.
But the loosening of the reins has had a dark side, as years of tensions between ethnic groups who are divided into nine autonomous regions, have boiled over – usually over land and resources – leading to deadly violence in the country of over 100 million people. One of the hotspots is along the borders of the Gedeo district and West Guji in Oromia.
The verdant, rolling hills of this southern region, are where some of the world’s best coffee is grown. It is also the most densely populated part of the country, with residents facing a critical shortage of farmland. Tensions have long existed between the groups, but last year the Oromo of West Guji attacked the Gedeo living on their side. The clashes led to the world’s largest displacement crisis, with over a million mostly ethnic Gedeos displaced, according to government figures.
Similar violence erupted in 2017 between Somalis and Oromos in the southeast Somali region, also displacing around one million people and leaving hundreds dead. And last month dozens of people were killed in clashes between residents of northern Benishangul Gumuz and Amhara states.
“None of these conflicts is entirely new, but several of them have flared at a larger scale than we’ve seen in the past,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s senior Ethiopia analyst. He said there were multiple factors at play stoking tensions.
These include the weakening of the once all-powerful ruling EPRDF as a result of years of protests and infighting, an economic slowdown that has hit the poor hard, and a shake-up of the security apparatus under Abiy. “There has been a loosening of control which has led existing disputes to take on a new dimension,” said Davison.
Add to this a poorly functioning ethnic federal system, opportunities presented by the political transition, and competition for resources in an impoverished nation. Abiy’s opening has led to ethno-nationalists staking different claims, but at the same time, he is loath to lean back on the repressive tactics once used to deter and crack down on inter-communal violence.
“Abiy has been clear his government is disinclined to use past methods and send in police or soldiers to apply lethal force and conduct mass arrests on the spot.”
We have seen no peace since Ethiopia’s ethnic clashes
Ethiopia’s Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil last week said that all displaced people would be returned to their homes by the end of June, and officials have denied forcing anyone to return.
However in the town of Yirgecheffe, a stadium housing thousands of displaced people were cleared out by police ahead of a visit by journalists in late May, another aid agency official said on condition of anonymity.
“The government pushing people to return to their home communities prematurely will only add to the ongoing suffering,” the US-based Refugees International said in May. According to World Vision, only 145,516 people have returned home from Gedeo and hundreds are still lining up for food aid.
“There’s a concern that there hasn’t been anything like sufficient reconciliation to be confident about the safety of people returning home,” said Davison. Teketel is one of the lucky ones, having managed to set up a small shop in Cherqo village in Gedeo. But he longs to return home to farm his land.
“We have seen no peace since Abiy came to power. Peace is the most important thing for a human being, not only to farm, but also to cultivate and eat what is farmed.”
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