January 11, 2015
Okello Akway Ochalla, has been held as a political prisoner in Ethiopia since March 2014 after he was kidnapped by Ethiopian Intelligence forces from South Sudan, where he had traveled from his refugee in Norway to “visit friends and families”.
Now, also, a Norwegian citizen, Okello was the governor of Gambella region of Ethiopia during the 2003 Gambella massacre.
Soon after his abduction Okello was impeached with terror according to the 2009 Ethiopian Anti Terror Proclamation.
Okello was in Court last month defending himself. In his defense, he impeached the ruling Front of EPRDF or the regime based on Article 3 and 4 of the 625/2009 Ethiopian Anti Terror Proclamation for committing terror crimes against the Anuak ethnic group of the Gambella region.
In his statement, Okello stated that on September 24/2003 in the house of the late prime minister Meles Zenawi, the then Deputy PM, Addisu Legese, Sebhat Nega, Bereket Simon,Umod Ubong Ulmo, Almaw Alamerew, Abay Tesehaye, Samora (Mohammed) Yenus, Yohannes Gebremeskel and Abadula Gemeda held a meeting. It was during this meeting that the Anuak Massacre was planned, he said.
The list of the names of targetted Anuaks was prepared by Umod Obong Olmo and the order was given by Tsegaye Beyene, the Head of Ethiopia’s Federal Defense Force in the Gambella Region and the direct order came from Dr. Gebreab Bernabas, the then State Minister of Federal Affairs. Police Head Tadele Gebreselassie took part in the execution of the orders, Okello noted.
Okello argued that Umod listed the names of 512 Anuak people in the first round and 250 in the second round to be killed, 750 Anuaks in total.
According to Article 3 (1-6) of the same Proclamation, Okello listed the terror crimes committed by the incumbent: 1. causing a person’s death or serious bodily injury : on December 13, 2003 several members 0f UNHCR were ambushed and killed by unknown individuals but without further and detailed investigations Anuak people were blamed for it. In the following two days 426 male Anuaks were massacred by Ethiopian government forces and until May 2004, additional 1000 Anuaks were killed. Totally, over 2500 Anuaks have died due to the massacres perpetrated by the regime. Four Anuaks were killed in South Sudan, where they were in hiding for their lives.
2. Creating serious risk to the safety or health of the public or section of the public: In this regard, Okello said 164 Anuak households were guarded and women were raped. 3. Committing kidnapping or hostage taking: here in May 2004, 15 Anuaks and two years before that three Anuaks were targeted, kidnapped and brought back to Ethiopian by the Ethiopian regime and have all been sentenced to life imprisonment.
I, along with eight other people, was kidnapped from a hotel in South Sudan by South Sudan’s Security Forces and was detained in Juba prison between 25- 27 March 2014. Finally, having reached an agreement that Ethiopia would pay $23 million to Juba, we were transferred to Debre Zeit Air Force based and then Ethiopia’s central prison by Ethiopian Air Force planes, Okello added. We have been, then, charged with terrorism for a crime we have not committed.
4. Causing serious damage to properties: over 2000 houses have been burnt, productions brunt, houses were robbed, families were left with no house, beds, clothes food and utensils. On the other hand, when we were being transfered from Juba Airport to Debre Zeit Air Force base, three members of the Ethiopian Intelligence have confiscated by Passport No. 28861123, book and Agenda and have not so far returned it to me.
5. Causing damage to natural resource, environment, historical or cultural heritages; the main reason why the Anuak massacre was committed was because they wanted to displace Anuaks from their land and give the land to Chinese investors to explore oil and also give huge lands to Chinese, Indian and Japanese investors for 99 years lease. The agreements were signed on less than one dollar per hectare land. No member of the Anuak community was present during the agreements.
6. Endangering, seizing or putting under control, causing serious interference or disruption of any public service. With regards to this count, Okello accused the government of having a policy to cease the Anuak people, stationing 15, 000 soldiers, and shooting the people from air. Beatings, torture,rape, false imprisonment, and disappearances were committed by the government against the ethnic group.
Okello also alleged that males were targeted to be killed while Anuak women were raped so that the women would give birth to non-Anuak children so that the Anuak ethnic group would cease.
After Okello finishes his defense, the government’s prosecutor is expected to defend the accusations.
The trail continues.