State Terror in Ethiopia


East African nation of Ethiopia is the latest U.S. terror war ally
to turn its guns on indigenous peoples in a zone coveted by corporate
interests for its natural resources. Four months after armed forces
of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Front
(EPRDF) and settlers from the Ethiopian highlands initiated a campaign
of massacres, repression, and mass rape deliberately targeting the
Anuak minority of Ethiopia’s southwest, atrocities and killings
continue—and the situation remains in whiteout by the Western

on field investigations conducted in January 2004, two U.S.-based
organizations—Genocide Watch and Survivor’s Rights International—jointly
released a report on February 22, providing substantial evidence
that EPRDF soldiers and “Highlander” militias in southwestern
Ethiopia targeted Anuak civilians. The Highlanders are not of either
the agriculturalist Anuak or cattle-herding Nuer, the two indigenous
peoples of the region, but are predominantly Tigray and Amhara people
resettled into Anuak territory since 1974. 

current conflict was sparked by the killing of eight UN and Ethiopian
government officials whose van was ambushed on December 13, 2003,
in the Gambella district of southwestern Ethiopia. While there is
no evidence attesting to the ethnicity of the unidentified assailants,
the incident provided the pretext for the ongoing pogrom against
the Anuak. 

the aftermath of the attack, EPRDF soldiers using automatic weapons
and hand grenades targeted Anuak villages, summarily executing civilians,
burning dwellings (sometimes with people inside), and looting property.
Some 424 Anuak people were reportedly killed, with over 200 more
wounded and some 85 unaccounted for. 

rapes continue in the region, perpetrated by EPRDF soldiers and
Highlander settlers, often at gunpoint. Anuak schools were reportedly
emptied of schoolgirls who were gang-raped in nearby huts or in
the bush. With Anuak males killed, arrested, or displaced, the vulnerability
of women and girls has been grossly exploited. Reports from non-Anuak
police officials in Gambella indicate an average of up to seven
rapes per day. 

resistance has been reported—both by guerillas of the Anuak
Gambella People’s Liberation Force (GPLF), and, more spontaneously,
by targeted Anuak civilians. According to one interview, Anuak men
who resisted attacks by soldiers in Pinyudo town on December 13
or 14 were able to overcome their attackers and capture automatic
weapons. Recent reports indicate that pitched battles occurred in
the Dimma district when Anuak men retaliated for the unprovoked
torture killing of a member of the Anuak community by EPRDF soldiers.
Retaliatory attacks and counter-attacks from January 28 to February
3 reportedly claimed the lives of scores of EPRDF soldiers in Dimma.
After January 30, EPRDF reinforcements arrived in Dimma with troops,
artillery, and tanks. Troops reportedly massacred non-combatant
Dinka and Nuer refugees from a nearby camp for Sudanese refugees. 

reports from the Gambella region describe Anuak prisoners subjected
to forced labor under armed guard by EPRDF captors. Significant
numbers of Anuaks remain unaccounted for; “disappearances”
of Anuak leaders have become frequent. There are unverified reports
that Ethiopia’s central government has dispatched intelligence
operatives to neighboring countries to assassinate exiled Anuak
leaders. Reports of helicopters being used to monitor or hunt down
Anuak refugees have also been received.

compiled by Genocide Watch/Survivors Rights International (GW/SRI)
cited eyewitness accounts of 11 uniformed EPRDF soldiers working
under cover of night on February 1 to exhume bodies from a mass
grave in Gambella. EPRDF soldiers reportedly worked with masks and
gloves to dig up corpses for incineration in order to destroy evidence
of the December massacres. 

are fleeing from Ethiopia into Sudan. As of January 23, 2004, the
Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Committee—affiliated with the
rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)—in Pochalla,
Sudan was supporting international relief efforts for over 5,297
refugees fleeing the violence. 

assailants have been identified, including government officials,
soldiers, and civilians. There are accusations that lists of targeted
individuals were drawn up with the assistance of Omot Obang Olom,
an Anuak government official cited by several interviewees for his
involvement. Massacres were reportedly ordered by the commander
of the Ethiopian army in Gambella, Nagu Beyene, with the authorization
of Gebrehab Barnabas, Regional Affairs minister of the Ethiopian

sources report that there have been regular massacres of Anuak since
1980. Discrimination against the Anuaks has been detailed in six
reports published in the

Cultural Survival Quarterly

in 1981 (see e.g.: “Oil Development In Ethiopia: A Threat to
the Anuak of Gambella,” Issue 25.3, 2001). 

with local residents consistently reveal that Anuak have been treated
as third-class citizens, denied basic educational opportunities
afforded to other ethnicities, and have been increasingly excluded
and displaced from positions in government and civil society over
the past decade. 

U.S. Complicit In Ethnic Cleaning 


U.S. government was informed about unfolding violence in the Gambella
region as early as December 16, 2003, through communications to
Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Overseas Citizens Division,
the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, and other U.S. State Department agencies.
Responding to the GW/SRI report, the U.S. issued a press release
on February 22 that urged an end to violence between ethnic Anuaks
and the military in the Gambella region. The U.S. also called “upon
the Government of Ethiopia to conduct transparent, independent inquiries,
and particularly into allegations that members of the Ethiopian
military committed acts of violence against civilians in Gambella

March 1, 2004, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi issued
a statement denying EPRDF involvement in the violence, claiming,
“The Ethiopian Defense Forces acted only to maintain peace
and stability, in light of the weakened condition of the regional
police forces during the incidents.” 

is considered an essential partner of the U.S. in its War on Terrorism.
In 2003, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division (Special Operations
Forces) completed a three-month program to train an Ethiopian army
division in counter-terrorism tactics. Operations are coordinated
through the Combined Joint Task Forces-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA)
base in Djibouti. 

January 2004, Special Operations soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry
Regiment replaced the 10th Mountain Division forces at a new Hurso
Training Camp, northwest of Dire Dawa near the border with Somalia,
to be used for launching local joint missions in “counter-terrorism”
with the Ethiopian military. Soldiers will continue to operate missions
out of Hurso for several months from a new forward base named “Camp

April 12-25, 2003, under the U.S. State Department-sponsored Africa
Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, CJTF-HOA
provided instruction to nearly 900 Ethiopian soldiers at a base
in Legedadi. CJTF-HOA forces from the U.S Army’s 478th Civil
Affairs Battalion also operated in Ethiopia in 2003 in and around
Dire Dawa, Galadi, and Dolo Odo, among other areas. 

1,800-member CJTF, comprised of personnel from all branches of the
U.S. armed forces, civilian representatives, and coalition liaison
officers, was formed to oversee operations in the Horn of Africa
for U.S. Central Command in support of the global War on Terrorism.
For its “counter-terrorism” mission, CJTF- HOA defines
the Horn of Africa region as the airspace, land areas, and coastal
waters of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and

Central Intelligence Agency is also very active on the entire Horn
of Africa and operates two Predator unmanned aerospace vehicles
armed with Hellfire missiles out of Djibouti. 

1995-2000, the U.S. provided some $1,835,000 in International Military
and Education Training (IMET) deliveries to Ethiopia. Some 115 Ethiopian
military officers were trained under the IMET program from 1991-2001.
Approximately 4,000 Ethiopian soldiers have participated in IMET
since 1950. 

Anuak People & Oil Development 


role of oil in the conflict in neighboring southern Sudan has been
well reported. Multinational corporations now have set their sights
on the natural resources of Ethiopia’s Gambella region as well.
Central Ethiopian authorities thus have powerful economic incentives
to seek control of these resources. Petroleum, water, tungsten,
platinum, and gold are the principal resources in the Gambella region
of international interest. 

Anuak situation has grown markedly worse since oil was discovered
under Anuak lands by the Gambella Petroleum Corp, a subsidiary of
Pinewood Resources Ltd. of Canada, which signed a concession agreement
with the Ethiopian government in 2001. In May 2001, however, Pinewood
announced that it had relinquished all rights to the Gambella oil
concession. Pinewood now says it has pulled out of Ethiopia. The
concessions may have been sold. 

June 13, 2003, Malaysia’s state-owned oil company Petronas
announced the signing of an exclusive 25-year exploration and production
sharing agreement with the EPRDF government to exploit the Ogaden
Basin in Ethiopia’s east and the “Gambella Block”—a
15,356 square kilometers concession. On February 17, 2004, the Ethiopian
Minister of Mines announced that the Malaysian company would launch
a natural gas exploration project in the Gambella region. There
are reports that the China National Petroleum Corporation may also
have signed contracts with the EPRDF for a stake in Gambella’s

and the China National Petroleum Corporation are currently operating
in Sudan, where, according to a 2003 report by Human Rights Watch,
“Sudan: Oil and Human Rights,” the two Asian oil giants
have allegedly provided cover for their respective governments to
ship arms and military equipment to Sudan in exchange for oil concessions
granted by Khartoum. 

2000, Texas-based Sicor Inc. signed a $1.4 billion dollar deal with
Ethiopia for the “Gazoil” joint venture exploiting oil
and gas in the southeast Ogaden Basin. Hunt Oil Company of Dallas
is also involved in the Ogaden Basin through their subsidiary Ethiopia
Hunt Oil Company. Hunt Oil’s chairman of the board and CEO
Ray L. Hunt is a director of Halliburton Company. U.S. Cal Tech
International Corp is also reportedly negotiating a joint venture
with the China National Petroleum Corp. to operate in the same regions. 

operates in Sudan in partnership with the Canadian Swedish Lundin
Group. Swedish financier Adolph Lundin, who oversees Lundin Group,
is a long-time associate of George H.W. Bush.

African Confidential

reported in 1997 that the former president telephoned then-dictator
Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (today Democratic Republic of Congo) on
behalf of Lundin after Mobutu had threatened to terminate a mining

artesanal miners in Gambella district mine gold; thus the interests
of multinational gold corporations may be of further relevance in
explaining the terror campaign against the Anuaks. U.S.-based Canyon
Resources has gold operations in southern Ethiopia. 

the time of this writing in late April 2004, over 1,150 Anuak people
were reportedly counted dead, with thousands of Anauk women raped.
The violence continues unabated and unreported.


Journalist Keith
Snow’s work has appeared in publications in the U.S., UK, and
Japan. In Tokyo, he was staff writer, photographer, and editor at

Japan International Journal

. This article was originally
published at