HRLHA’s 2014 New Year Message
Time does seem to pass ever more quickly. Has it really been a year since the HRLHA office last shared its thoughts on the occasion of the 2013 New Year? The fact is our attention is totally consumed by the job we are doing. For those who are languishing in prisons simply because they hold different political views from those of the ruling party of Ethiopia, for those Ethiopians and others who escaped from fear of persecution and are in refugee camps or live on the streets of the countries they took asylum in looking for their daily slice of bread, even a minute is too long. Soon we all will be joining together to welcome a new year with another new hope to do better. We must recognize the fact that doing better doesn’t happen simply because we wish it to be true. Rather, first we need to take our time and assess this year’s achievements or losses and compare them against the promises we made as this year began. In short, it is a time for “self-analysis”.
We can safely say the outgoing year has been the most turbulent year for defenders of human rights in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. The struggles of the people which have been inflamed for over two years in North Africa didn’t come to an end and continued to reverberate in the Middle East and in North Africa. The people were attempting to rid themselves of dictatorial regimes and create a better democracy. Fearing that unrest would spread into the sub-Saharan countries, the governments of this region have been very busy in the past two or more years to silence any type of civilian movements in their respective countries. For example, in Ethiopia any individual or group who didn’t support the policy of the governing party was/were automatically labeled as terrorists. Muslim community members who opposed the involvement of the government in their religious affairs, farmers who resisted eviction from their ancestral lands, university students who demanded the improvement of university teaching and learning environments on their campuses were labeled as terrorists and imprisoned, tortured and sometimes killed- thousands escaped to neighboring countries. In general, the prolonged political unrests in, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, S. Sudan and others made these regions unsafe places for citizens to live; they have produced the largest numbers of refugees ever seen in the past decades. Thousands have fled their homelands to seek safety in neighboring countries, including in Yemen, and Middle East Arab Countries out of a fear of persecution and imprisonment.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa and other human rights organizations have repeatedly reported on the humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa in the outgoing year.
Even though we faced human and financial challenges in the outgoing year and much work remains to be done, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize some significant human rights achievements recorded in 2013 by the HRLHA. Many violations of human rights were compiled and disseminated- written and oral presentations on human rights violations in Ethiopia included – were made at United Nations Human Rights Council session of 2013. Another major accomplishment which I would like to mention is we managed to open HRLHA’s Regional branch office in Uganda/Kampala in October 2013, an event that we strongly believe will help to strengthen the involvement of HRLHA in communities of the region and enhance the efforts of the agency in getting effective results.
Finally, I wish a stable, peaceful, joyful and healthy New Year for all of HRLHA’s members, supporters, staff, volunteers, and friends in the Horn of Africa Countries and elsewhere. I hope the coming New Year will bring democracy, and respect for all forms of freedoms and human rights. Let all people be free from tyranny and suffering at the hands of their dictator governments.
“We fight for Human Rights!”
Garoma B. Wakessa