January 24, 2006
The British secretary of state for international development, Hilary Benn announced that Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has accepted to probe the alleged human rights violations in Oromia region.
According to the Independent The Reporter, Hilary Benn, on Wednesday 18 January asked Meles Zenawi for an independent investigation into the alleged human rights violations in the Oromia Regional State.
Speaking after his meeting with Meles, Benn said that complaints had been raised about the current situation in the Oromia region. Recently, members of Oromia regional parliament submitted a request to the Speaker of the House to deliberate on the recent unrest in the region. The chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), Bulcha Demeksa, told The Reporter that the MPs repeated a request for a deliberation on the current situation in their region fell on deaf ears. Bulcha said the Speaker did not accept their request.
Representatives of OFDM and the Oromo National Congress (ONC) have submitted their written demand to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. However, Bulcha said they did not get any response from the prime minister. "The Oromo people are unable to peacefully live in their region. Many Oromo people are detained in a remote military training camp, Senkele. The detainees do not have access to medication and there is no adequate food supply. And due to the remoteness of the detention camp, families are unable to visit the detainees," says Bulcha.
According to Bulcha, 55 Oromo MPs asked for a deliberation on the matter. "If we can not get a positive response our stay in parliament would be meaningless. The situation compels us to take action. And the action could be boycotting parliament," he adds.
Representative of ONC, Gebru Gebremariam, told The Reporter that there was a grave situation in the Oromia region. "Many people were killed. The crisis has continued. Due to an appropriate response to the demands raised by the public, the problem is getting bigger and bigger," Gebru said. Gebru went on to say that the federal government did not give a positive response to the Oromo MPs’ request. "To put pressure on the government, we would take action. And the action could be withdrawing from parliament," he added.
Benn, who held separate meetings with Prime Minister Meles, families of some of political detainees, members of the opposition and representatives of international NGOs and aid donors, expressed his concern in Ethiopia. "The situation in Ethiopia is extremely serious. The UK is seriously concerned about governance, human rights and the detention of, and serious challenges faced by, opposition, media and members of civil society. Concerns have been raised with me about the ongoing clashes involving students and security forces in schools and colleges across the country," Benn told journalists.
"There needs to be a prompt, fair and open judicial process for those currently detained. I also hope that international jurists will be able to observe the trial. Benn said Meles told him that international organizations with commendable reputation could look into the matter.
Britain has suspended all its 50-million-pound direct aid to Ethiopian government, citing concern over the political situation in the east African state, Development Secretary Hilary Benn said.
The European Commission also froze its direct aid to Meles’s government last month in response to the political situation, saying it would not affect humanitarian aid but block about 150 million euros earmarked for infrastructure work.