Ethiopia: global rights activists criticize Amnesty with #DishonestAmnesty

Rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, facing staunch criticism from Ethiopian activists over defending Oromo protest

Teshome Borago
Follow him on twitter : @MTBorago
August 16,2020

Amnesty International has come under fire from Human rights advocates and Ethiopian activists after it posted a controversial video defending #OromoProtests which has led to a cleansing of ethnic and religious minorities in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.

Using the hashtag #DishonestAmnesty, rights activists worldwide criticized Amnesty International’s East African Bureau, which ignored the recent mass killing of over 200 Ethiopians, but focused on the mass arrests of detainees accused of involvement in the gruesome crimes.

Amnesty’s video was first redistributed by human rights activist Edna Alemayehu, who is known for her work with the Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia (SMNE). Her team went to Oromia to investigate the July mass killings and documented several personal stories of various victims who were targeted by an Oromo nationalist mob following the assassination of musician Hacalu Hundesa. Alemayehu started the #DishonestAmnesty online campaign and she said Amnesty should blame the Ethiopian government for “dereliction of duty to protect its citizens as they were being slaughtered in their homes,” not for arresting people suspected of the crimes.

Several international media have also documented an ethnic cleansing which at times also took on religious dimensions as the Orthodox Christian victims were minorities in some Muslim dominated towns of Oromia. Associated Press (AP) said mobs were “going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents.” While Globe & Mail said the killers chanted “this is Oromo land” during the massacres. In one incident in Dera town of Oromia, Dereje Feleke said his son was “dragged outside, stabbed multiple times and finally beheaded by members of the jeering mob” due to being Amhara.

Despite many of the victims dying in the vicinity of their own homes, Amnesty International’s East Africa bureau downplayed it as an “intercommunal violence.” All other credible human rights groups, including Minority Rights Group (MRG), have called the killings an “ethnic cleansing.”

Amnesty’s regional bureau also refused to demand the Ethiopian government hold the killers of over 200 minorities accountable, but it asked for accountability for the killing of the one singer, while demanding the release of all the suspects in the mass killing.

This is not the first time Amnesty’s regional bureau came under fire, as it also downplayed the mass killings of ethnic minorities in Oromia during the October 2019 massacre. In the last three years alone, over 2 million minorities have been displaced and nearly 1200 massacred in the Oromia state, which is the center of Ethiopia’s experiment with the infamous “ethnic-federalism.” Most of the displacements from Oromia occurred near border zones of Gedeo and Somali, while the killings and property damages revolve around several suburban towns of Oromia state.

In response to criticism, Amnesty’s East Africa bureau’s staff displayed lack of professionalism as they attempted censorship and Amnesty researchers posted personal attacks on critics as well as on the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

Critics say human rights organizations like Amnesty International downplaying the sporadic ethnic cleansings in Ethiopia is dangerous because it will embolden the warlords and killers to commit more massacres regularly.

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