March 24, 2005
"Widespread Murder" of Anuak
by Ethiopian Troops, Rights Group Says
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
ROCHESTER, MN -- The Ethiopian
army “has committed widespread
murder, rape, and torture” against Ethiopia’s minority Anuak
tribe, many of whom have fled as refugees to live in Minnesota, according
to a chilling report released today by the human rights group, Human
Some 1,500 Anuak immigrants live in southern Minnesota, having fled
their homeland as a result of ethnic cleansing of their tribe which has
escalated in recent years and reached a bloody peak on December 13, 2003.
More than 400 Anuak were killed on that day alone by Ethiopian soldiers
who together with mobs of ethnic Ethiopians targeted Anuak men and teenage
boys for execution by gunshot or stabbing, the rights report said.
Every Anuak immigrant who lives in Minnesota has relatives or friends
in Ethiopia who perished or were made refugees on that day or during
subsequent massacres and destruction of Anuak villages throughout 2004.
Crimes Against Humanity
More than a dozen Minnesota churches in the past year have raised funds
for Anuak victims in Ethiopia, organized letter-writing campaigns, held
prayer services, and offered other support in the past year. Most Anuak
are Christians and attend Baptist, Lutheran, and other Christian churches
The 57-page rights report says that Ethiopian army units continue to
this day to maraud through the western Ethiopian countryside burning
down Anuak villages, killing Anuak farmers in fields, raping Anuak women,
and smashing emergency supplies of corn and other grains.
“The Ethiopian military has committed murder, torture and rape
in the course of widespread and possibly systematic attacks directed
against the Anuak civilian population,” the report says. “These
attacks bear the hallmark of crimes against humanity under international
“In many areas, abuses are ongoing and frequent,” the
On December 13, 2003, a convoy of nine Ethiopian army trucks arrived
with more than a hundred uniformed soldiers in the western Ethiopian
town of Gambella. There the soldiers disembarked and incited mobs of
Ethiopian citizens to help them slaughter 424 Anuak men, explode 440
Anuak homes with hand grenades, and entirely raze several Anuak neighborhoods.
Ironically, the news of the massacre was first made public not in Africa
where it occurred but rather here in Minnesota. On the weekend of December
13-14, 2003, Anuak immigrants here spoke with their relatives and friends
in Ethiopia on the telephone as the massacre was happening.
Many Anuak in Minnesota heard screams for help and gunshots going off
in the background of these phone calls. Some heard soldiers beat down
the door of the homes of their relatives, then heard soldiers yell for
the telephone to be put down and a crash before the line went dead.
More than 50,000 Anuak lost
their homes and became “internal refugees” within
Ethiopia following the December 13 massacre, according to the report.
Another 7,700 are still living in a squalid refugee camp in the south
Sudan desert and in a slum neighborhood of Nairobi.
The tiny tribe of some 100,000 Anuak and its distinct language are on
the verge of extinction as a result of ethnic cleansing, according to
Cultural Survival, a rights group based in Cambridge, Mass.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch, started in 1978, is the largest
human rights advocacy group in the United States. Each year it publishes
reports based on intensive field studies designed to create international
pressure to stop abuses such as ethnic cleansing, land mines, child soldiers,
torture, and police abuse.
Copyright @ 2005 The McGill Report