Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Human Right Abuses Somali Issas Dir Clan of Ethiopia and Djabouti

1) Persecution of the Issa tribe in Ethiopia; 2) Persecution of ethnic Somalis by the Ethiopian population in northern Ethiopia

The Issas are one of the main Somali clans. Besides Somalia, the Issas live in Djibouti and in north-eastern Ethiopia. In Djibouti, the indigenous population is almost evenly divided between the Issas and the Afars (ethnic group of Ethiopian origin). Both ethnic groups are Muslims, with traditionally nomadic economy and cultural affinities, despite frequent local rivalry. In both Ethiopia and Djibouti, the Issas share a similar language, religion, and a sense of common identity with other Somali clans. [Africa South of the Sahara, 18th edition (London : Europa Publications Ltd., 1989), pp. 437-438.]

Information regarding the Issas being particularly targeted for political persecution by the Ethiopian government is not currently known to the IRBDC. According to Sidney Waldron, a professor of Anthropology specializing in Eastern Ethiopia, the attitude of Ethiopian rulers towards all ethnic Somalis has historically been poor. Somalis have been mistreated and regarded as second class citizens. They were not consulted by the Ethiopians and the British when the political boundary was established in 1894, a situation which ethnic Somalis deeply resented. The Ethiopian government's use of brute force against ethnic Somali opposition from the 1890s to the present time, has aggravated the resentment.

Professor Waldron addresses the differences between the Issas and the Isaaqs, by focusing on the degree of exposure they have, regarding modernization in general. The Isaaqs are more modernized and also politically more active than the Issa, who are about 95% pastoral nomads and hence do not have the more urbanized communicative structure of the Isaaqs. It is Professor Waldron's view that Ethiopian governments, both previous and present, have considered the Issas to be a backward people and treated them in a repressive manner.

Ever since Ethiopia entered a period of revolutionary change in 1974, thousands of people from all ethnic groups (there are over 80 distinct ethnic groups in Ethiopia) have been arrested, imprisoned or even killed on charges of alleged opposition, peaceful or otherwise, to the regime. For many Ethiopians, suspicion of association with liberation movements, including the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF), have been common reasons for political persecution by the regime. [ George Thomas Kurian, ed., Encyclopedia of the Third World, 3rd edition, Vol. 1 (New York: Facts on File Publications, Inc., 1987), p. 665.] Since its formation in 1975, the WSLF, with full support from the Somali government, has been fighting for the self-determination of ethnic Somalis inhabiting the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. WSLF insurgency intensified in 1977, leading to direct war between Ethiopia and Somalia. During the 1977-78 Ogaden war and particularly following Somalia's defeat, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian ethnic Somalis fled to Somalia and Djibouti, for fear of Ethiopia's reprisals for their alleged collaboration with the WSLF and the invading Somali troops. [U.S. Committee for Refugees, Beyond the Headlines: Refugees in the Horn of Africa (Washington, 1988), p. 22.]

Although in principle the 1987 Constitution of Ethiopia provides for the equality of all Ethiopians irrespective of nationality and sex, among others, this equality is not ensured in practice. For example, almost all senior government and political figures are known to be Christians, although approximately 50 percent of the country's population are Muslims (ethnic Somalis are all Muslims). [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989), p. 118.]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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