Human rights violations and deteriorating security threaten indigenous peoples in Ethiopia

Anywaa Survival Organisation | 3 May 2012
Anuak family near to Saudi Star's farm (Photo: Johan Bävman/ Moment Agency)

Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) is a non-profit organisation that believes in a world of social justice and of environmentally sensitive development that recognises and respects the rights of indigenous peoples to actively participate in and enjoy the benefits of development in their own territories without prejudice. ASO and its partner organisations have been campaigning to stop land grabbing and the associated human rights violations, displacement and villagization programme in Ethiopia by issuing numerous reports that highlight the dangers of land grabbing to the livelihoods of indigenous people and the potential insecurity threats in the affected areas. These concerns have either been deliberately ignored or undermined with no room for viable alternatives to land grabbing discourses that could mitigate the catastrophic consequences.

GRAIN, a leading international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems, has been consistently campaigning and underscoring the danger of large scale agricultural investments where affected communities are not consulted in the processes of land deals. Their concerns have been echoed by numerous human rights organisations, media and research institutions. In a well researched document, Peace, bread and land: Agricultural investments in Ethiopia and the Sudans, Chatham House warns of potential conflict due to land grabbing in which prior consent of the affected local populations are ignored and sidelined. The incident in Gambela this past weekend, where precious human lives were lost and properties destroyed, confirms the concerns for stability and regional economic development.

In response to the Saturday 28 April 2012 attack on the camp of Pakistani nationals who were advising Ethiopian multi millionaire, Sheik Al Moudi on rice production and irrigation for his 10,000 hectare Saudi Star rice project in Gambela region, the Ethiopian government quickly confirmed the attack but gave an inaccurate account of events.

Despite the government's claim that the suspected assailant are under custody (Gunmen kill one Pakistani, four Ethiopians: official), our local sources indicate that those suffering in the hands of the army are innocent indigenous civilians employed by Saudi Star to safeguard and protect the company's employees and properties.

We confirm that the attack claimed five (5) precious human lives; two Pakistani nationals, two Ethiopians from other parts of the country and an indigenous Anywaa or Anuak militia employed by the company to safeguard the camp and its employees. Eight people, including a local woman employed by the company, are among the wounded receiving medical care in Gambela, Mettu and Addis Ababa.

The attack on the Saudi Star Company has served as a pretext for a hunting down of innocent civilians and a campaign of murder, torture, harassment and intimidation in the remote corners of the country. On Wednesday 02 May 2012 at 12:00pm local time, the Ethiopian army indiscriminately carried out an unprovoked attack on civilians at Pokedi villages in Gambela region. The attack left 5 indigenous Anywaa or Anuak dead. Among them, Obang Ochan (teacher, Pokedi village), Oman Omot (police officer, Jor district), Okuny Oman (student, Pokedi village) and Owuor Oman and Ojulu Ojulu (local government militias from Dumbang village). Our sources confirm the army followed students and teachers to where they scattered.

The security and safety of the local population in Gambela and the environment and wild life in the indigenous peoples territories of Ethiopia has been a critical concerns for both local and international campaigners across the globe. Cultural Survival, an organisation working to defend the rights indigenous people issued numerous alerts (“Land Grabbing” in Ethiopia: Soldiers Poisoning Water Sources, Forcing Thousands off Ancestral Lands and Killing Wildlife, Violence Surges in Gambela) and Rivers International (Gibe III Dam Fuels Land Grabs in Ethiopia Ethiopia's Gibe III Dam: Sowing Hunger and Conflict) among others have warned international organisations, donor countries and nongovernmental organisations to pay attention to the escalating and aggravating situation in indigenous peoples territories in Ethiopia and the region.

In early March 2012, assailants attacked a public bus with 34 passengers on board between Bonga and Gambela town killing 19 people. The government sent 15,000 troops to the region to help track down the attackers. However, local civilians in Okuna, Abol, Chubo in Abwobo district, Pinyudo and Gog villages in Gog district and Chenthoa, Guony, Olau and Angela villages in Jor district who are not connected with the attack are being detained,, tortured and beaten, under suspicion of being rebels or sympathisers of dissidents. Many more are reported to have died, disappeared or fled the country into safety in neighbouring countries.
Eight years ago the Ethiopian army, in collaboration with some Ethiopian highlanders, murdered, raped, tortured, displaced indigenous Anywaa or Anuak community in their own ancestral homeland and burnt to the ground their properties. Today over 10,000 remain in refugee camps in South Sudan and Kenya.

Anywaa Survival Organisation is alarmed by the trend of systematic killings, the campaign of murder, the land dispossession, the displacement,  and the flight of indigenous people into neighbouring countries. We are concerned about the deteriorating security situation in indigenous peoples territories and we appeal to peace loving governments, organisations, and individuals to hold the government in Ethiopia accountable for the atrocities and inhumane treatment of innocent civilians in the remote part of the country. 

For further information, please contact
Nyikaw Ochalla,
Director Anywaa Survival Organisation-ASO at [email protected]
Original source: ASO


  1. Yakume
    04 May 2012

    This is good step on taking actions on the woyane's crimes and genocides in Ethiopia, as well as supporting the suffering of indigenous people of Gambella, Ogaden and Afar. Please go ahead and we will support all your activities, and keep in touch

  2. Jwok Kunyo YaAnywaa
    04 May 2012

    Thank you so much for your care and love for your people. Ethiopian soldiers are trying all they can to eradicate the Anyuak tribe-this time systematically. Here in Gambella, one can hear news of beating, tortures and killing made against the Anyuak tribe by the Ethiopian soldiers every few hours. food positioning is also being practiced by highlanders in their shops and hotels to kill the Anyuak people whenever they buy one. Hope the international communtiy can react on this atrocities soon, otherwise this is already a genocide in an invisible color to the world!

  3. Bechak Ojulu Deng, Kenya
    04 May 2012

    I appreciate your effort for releasing this press release to the international community about the suffering of indigenous people of Gambella region, Southwest Ethiopia. It is very good to work like this to give awareness to the world. Thank you. Keep it up!

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