Oromo refugees also reported attempts by Ethiopian officials to recruit them as informants in Nairobi’s Oromo community, promising land, protection, money, and even resettlement to the United States or elsewhere

By Charlie Ensor (IRIN) |

Ethiopian Oromo refugees fleeing to Kenya to escape persecution say they are finding life on the streets of Nairobi no better than the insecurity they left behind, as they are targeted by bribes and harassment and forced into vast camps with few prospects or protections.

The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but have long complained of political and economic marginalization at the hands of the country’s ruling party, which is dominated by a minority ethnic group, the Tigrayans.

Following 2016 protests demanding political reform, which resulted in a state of emergency and the deaths of more than 600 in the security crackdown, thousands of Oromo made their way to neighboring Kenya seeking asylum and refuge.

But they did not escape the Ethiopian authorities. Human Rights Watch has reported “numerous cases of harassment and threats” against Oromo asylum seekers in Kenya by Ethiopian government officials.

The rights group has also documented “confessions” by Kenyan police officers in which they admit to being offered bribes by the Ethiopian embassy to detain and intimidate Oromo refugees.

“When I came to Kenya I thought that I would be protected and would be able to start a new life,” said former Oromo politician “Tolessa”, who requested his identity be protected.

“[But] what I’m facing here is no different from what I was facing at home,” he told IRIN. “My future here isn’t very bright.”

Full of “spies”

Oromo refugees also reported attempts by Ethiopian officials to recruit them as informants in Nairobi’s Oromo community, promising land, protection, money, and even resettlement to the United States or elsewhere, Human Rights Watch noted.

“There are a lot of Ethiopian spies here in Nairobi,” one refugee, a former Ethiopian intelligence officer, alias “Demiksa”, told IRIN.

Now a senior dissident, “Demiksa” related what had happened to him back in Ethiopia.

He said that after refusing orders to torture prisoners held in Addis Ababa’s infamous Maekelawi prison, he was accused of being an opposition collaborator, detained, and then tortured himself.

Continue reading this story at IRIN
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