28 years later, Ethiopia’s ruling party must end impunity for human rights abuses


By Fisseha Tekle 

A loud explosion shook the ground in the early afternoon of 28 May 1991. It was followed by a massive fire visible from afar. Half an hour later, the Sheh Hojalle neighbourhood in Addis Ababa was filled with wailing. 
News had filtered back into the suburb that the explosion was from a nearby military depot, which some community members had been in the process of ransacking for the wooden crates and metal containers used for transporting gunpowder.

But rebels had set the depot on fire, triggering an explosion which killed more than 400 civilians, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Most were teenagers and young adults from Sheh Hojalle.

I was 12 years old then. I witnessed the explosion and its aftermath. A family of seven was wiped out by the explosion and the resulting fire. Many of the corpses were so badly charred that it was impossible to identify them, and so families were unable to hold funerals.

This was the day the then rebel Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) marched boldly into Addis Ababa, taking the capital over without meaningful resistance from government soldiers. On this day, the Provisional Military Administration Council, the Derg, headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam, was toppled, 17 years after its establishment.

What followed thereafter was the quick arrest of former Derg officials including soldiers, police and intelligence officers, an exercise characterised by extrajudicial executions, torture and unlawful detentions.

Between 1992 and 1994, 20 000 Derg civil servants and politicians were arrested and detained without charge in military camps for between six months and three years.

Amnesty International’s 1995 report Ethiopia: Accountability Past and Present detailed harrowing stories of enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial executions.

After lengthy investigations, about 1 800 of them were prosecuted for various crimes in 1997. For many, the Derg was synonymous with brutal repression and heinous crimes including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But 28 years after EPRDF took power, the story is not very different as human rights continue to be violated with impunity.

There has been no official explanation or investigation into the catastrophic deaths of civilians at Sheh Hojalle. The way I see it, there was no military necessity to besiege the depot. Government soldiers were in disarray and did not put up much of a fight to repulse the EPRDF soldiers.

Taking this military junkyard did not seem to be necessary for EPRDF’s occupation of Addis Ababa as there was no threat from it, or the surrounding areas. The attack on the depot could only be read as a show of might, or an exercise targeting civilians who took advantage of the absence of government authority to loot the unsecured depot.

In the decades since, there have been other incidents that appear to fall into the same category.

When students of Addis Ababa University protested on-campus on 10 April 2001 demanding academic freedom, the police used unnecessary and excessive force that left more than 40 injured. Days later, high school pupils took to the streets of Addis to protest peacefully against the university students’ nasty treatment and this time police unleashed lethal force killing at least 31 people, including students, on April 17 and 18.

In the post-election violence of 2005, more than 190 mostly peaceful protesters were killed, including by being shot in the head and strangled to death by security officers in the capital, according to reports on findings of a commission of inquiry established by parliament. Members of the Commission had to flee the country following threatening demands from a senior government official to alter their findings.

On August 6 and 7 2016, at least 97 more protesters were killed in Amhara and Oromia regional states by security officers after they came to the streets demanding political reforms, respect for the rule of law and justice for past human rights violations.

Between November 2015 and early 2018, security forces killed at least 2 000 people in long-drawn out protests over an Integrated Addis Master Plan, perceived by the ethnic Oromo as a tool for political and economic marginalisation. 

Despite these nauseating recurrent killings of largely peaceful protesters, subsequent EPRDF governments are yet to hold accountable those responsible for these atrocities.

Several moves to reform the security forces between 1991 and 1995 failed to institutionalise mechanisms and procedures for promptly addressing human rights violations. 

Worse yet, enforcing the human rights provisions of the 1995 constitution and guaranteeing the respect for human rights is difficult because the Upper Chamber of the Federal Parliament is assigned to interpret the constitution, instead of independent and impartial courts.

While Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, now the chairperson of the EPDRF, publicly apologised for past human rights violations during his inaugural speech in April 2018, this has not stopped violations.

On September 17 2018, security officers shot at and killed at least five protesters as they demonstrated against deadly inter-ethnic violence that rocked Burayu, on the outskirts of Addis.

That even the current Ethiopian government is yet to thoroughly, independently and impartially investigate these killings points to the possibility of a continuation of dangerous past trends of ignoring human rights violations and allowing impunity to prevail.

While it is notable that some investigations and trials for alleged human rights violations are ongoing, these are a drop in the sea of historical gross human rights violations of the past 28 years of EPDRF’s rule.

As the country commemorates the fall of the Derg, the government should seize the opportunity to ensure justice and reparations for both past and present human rights violations.

Fisseha Tekle is the Amnesty International researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea.


  1. Heeeeee, what the hell. Is this from the book of the whimper?

    Well articulated points from the book of THE WHIMPER.

  2. Fissiha Tekle is this a way forward changing the only country with one party in Africa.
    Good luck, ዙርያው ገደል ሆኖብሃል ማለት ነው. በዚህ አይነት ሁለት ከመቶ ለዘንዶ መቀለብ አንገሽግሾሀል እንዴ::ለነገሩ ልክ ነህ አንድ ስታዲዮም መስራት ያቃተው ኮተት ምን ያረጋል::

    • A.Beye

      Very bad response from whiner numb nuts! whimper..lol what r u saying sir? Please put down! that Hubee-Dubee, Ham Dinger Winger Sinsemilla roach, and try to re-write sober, so we can understand ur juggler gibberish. Blame ur highness to ur whimperness mr, crack head! U absolutely choose not to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained Zoo Monkey. The routine of whimpering, and sounds u have had learned from ur masters and family distinction exposing ur survival of such mental parasitism. Why don’t u say something about the vast majority of “TIGRE CRIMINALS” who r 1000% responsible for all these Ethiopia’s problems? Why don’t u say a word of two regarding the TPLF racist Wonbedes who r colonized 100-millions people by brute force of fraud, looting, robbing, cheating, and enslaving the fellow human beings? What don’t u say something about the most untrustworthy TIGRE-MORONS who survived for 28 years at there victims blood and sweat?, and u know that such F’kn looters r deadly parasites who r incapable of survival by own work ethics, without snatching someone’s wealth. U know very well The back ward stone age idiots existed for so long by destroying those who r capable, because u were one of those looters breed.

      Death to TPLF!

  3. It is unfortunate that the writer of this article has left out valid mountain high unspeakable chilling atrocities the organized TPLF mafia criminals have committed for 28 years! I’m sure individuals that work for Amnesty International receive funds to investigate and research hidden crimes, but from reading this article, it is obvious that this is not a well researched report!! I’m afraid it minimizes the atrocities of TPLF mafia and hurts the cause of the millions of Ethiopian victims throughout Ethiopia!! Highly disappointing!!

    • Hope

      i am wasting my time asking u but .. it is not some king of hidden that the organized TPLF mafia criminals r seating in Golden state.. my question is what r u suggesting sending fed. army will make happy .. why not fed. police go and start picking up those the organized TPLF mafia criminals just like Abde ielly … what stop Dr. AAbiy from doing this .. A. he might be thinking the golden will fight back and we will be like Srya so Dr. hope would u take that risk.. or u r thinking those the organized TPLF mafia criminals will give up their hand peacefully knowing you going to shoot them up..

      • Ash,
        Let the countless number of lawabiding innocent Ethiopian vitims that TPLF beat up, steralized, mutilated their genetals, burned up, pulled their ginger and toe nails, and the greiving parents of the staggering number of Ethiopians you slaughtered be the judge and the jury how to punish the demon inspired TPLF mass torturers and massmurderers!!!

  4. Speech of the century

    ” Politics based on solely tribal and ethnicity is doomed to tear a country apart ”
    “It’s a failure”
    ” a failure of imagination”

    President Obama’s famous speech during his visitation in Africa”

    • Let’s not forget that Obama closed his ears, eyes and mouth when Ethiopians were robbed, tortured and slaughtered at his watch, and he chose to dine and wine with the very hate-filled trabalist that slaughtered countless number of law-abiding Ethiopians! How about that Susan Rice from his administration that aligned herself with TPLF mafia and laughed at and insulted proud Ethiopians in their own land! Obama and his administration knew everything TPLF were doing through CIA, but they didn’t care if Ethiopians live or die, as long as TPLF were sacrificing poor Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia for them!! Obama, the first half African presidet, he didn’t do anything tangible for Africa…, he is all talks!!

  5. ethioash

    The damage is already done. 60% youths born during this period of time r worthless generation gaps. Our brothers and sisters r very corrupted. TPLF LEBAS brainwashed, have cheated, introduced all types of criminal activities and illegality to these generation, now the youth become very hard to deal with. All this KERO, FANO victories youths turned into a killing squad mafia, and gangs. the basic safety and rights to move throughout Ethiopia become dream. Everybody is proud of protecting his/her KILIL and creating problems by following the stone age era stupid “KILIL” concept created by “RETARDED BLACKENED” mentality Ethiopian leaders. How long peace full Ethiopians citizens must suffer due to these Dula swinger city ruffians? A lots of Ethiopians refused to visit Ethiopia, because of safety concerns, and on the top of that the TPLF losers who r hiding through out DEDEBIT r looking the civil war to occur among Ethiopians due to there bigotry to the country and cover there 30 years of looting. The hide out LEBAS killed 5-mil so why u scare if another 10 millions died? up to when we keep up! wax wrestling with internationally known TIGRE murderers?

  6. When it comes the past and present injustice and flagrant human abuses and in the country three words aptly describe and missing it: accountability, accounbiltibility and accountability. There is lack of accountabilty in each and every case.
    Simple and empty apology is the easiest escape rout for the perpetrators and/or state.and won’t do and a thing. I am not fancing myself to be or jurist or legal expert but as far as a bonafide or meaningful apology issue is concerned there must be three stages of (1) acknowledgment of the the fact itself and wrongdoing (2) helding accountable for it and exacting punitive measures or justice against perpetrators (3) flowed by restitution measures of justice or compensation package for the damages done to victims. This applies to both state actors and civilian criminal individuals alike. The victims have absolute right to decline or forgive some or all of three stages of judicial measures as they see morally fit and for the sake of the societal etiquette in general and the well-being the country’s future.

  7. When it comes the past and present injustice and flagrant human abuses in the country three words aptly describe and missing it: accountability, accounbiltibility and accountability. There is lack of accountabilty in each and every case.
    Simple and empty apology is the easiest escape rout for the perpetrators and/or state.and won’t do a thing. I am not fancing myself to be a jurist or legal expert on the matter but as far as a bonafide or meaningful apology issue is concerned, there must be three stages of (1) acknowledgment of the the fact itself and wrongdoing (2) helding accountable to it and exacting punitive measures of justice against perpetrators (3) flowed by restitution measures of justice or compensation package for the damages done to victims. This applies to both state actors and civilian criminal individuals alike. The victims have absolute right to decline or forgive some or all of three stages of judicial measures as they see morally fit and for the sake of the societal etiquette in general and the well-being the country’s future.

  8. addis ababa sefere

    all i am asking is one question do u think Dr. Abiy should send ARREST TPLF official yes or no answer

    • Am i asking very hard question? or what why i dont get answer.. are we going to Tigray and arrest those TPLF criminals or r we going to cry ….

      This is very simple if u cant send army to arrest those TPLF criminals then it would be better to give them immunity and moved on with life..

      or like a man give them dead line to give up themselves and if they dont show up on that day send fed. army and arrest them where ever they r….

      i know deep down your heart i know and you know u cant send fed. army.. if u do it look like the end of oromo empire which way u look at it .. i just want action give me action or shut the Fk up

  9. አገራችን ማንነቶን ተገፉ በከረፉ ወያኔ መራቆት የጀመረችበትና ኢትዮጵያዊ ማንነታችን መዋረድ የጀመረበት ቀን ነው ለኔግቦት ሀያ። የከረፉ ወያኔ አይኑን በጨው ያጠበ አገሪቶ አድጋ ለምታ እያለ የውሸት መዝሙሩን እየዘመረብን አገሪቶን መዝረፍ ብቻ ሣይሆን በሚቀጥለውም ትውልድ ሥም ተበድሩ አገራችን ፈፅማ እንዳታሠራራ መቀማቅ የገባችበት የተረገመ ሀያ ሥምት አመት። ምንአይነት እርግማን ነው መልካም መግሥት የማይበቅልባት አገር በተማረ ሣይሆን በደቆሮ እድሜ ልኮን የምትመራበት እራሥ ወዳድ ለአገሩ ለወገኑ የማያሥብ ሌባ ትውልድ የፈላበት። ወድሙን በልቶ ጥሎ ለማለፍ ሁሉም በየፊናው የሚሮሮጥበት የከፉና የገማ ዘመን ኢትዮጵያዊ መሆን የሚያሣፍርበት። ውሸትና ጉራ እንደ ኖርማልና ጀግንነት የሚቆጠርበት ጥቆር ዘመን ቃላት የማይገኝለት የጨለማው ዘመን ባገራችን አሥከፊው ሥርአት ውሥጥ ለመውጣት እየቦጠጥን ያለንበት ወሣኝ ወቅት።

  10. Everyone is wounded.
    I have wounds that looks similar to your wounds. Let us find the medicine for our wounds.
    Only buyers are not wounded, all the rest is wounded.
    Under the new reformed adminstrstion it is said any Ethiopian man 18 years of age or older regardless of the person’s religious background can just drop in and participate in any of the religious leaders meetings . Just be there at the right time when holy Sinodos is holding a meeting you can drop in.
    This is same for all religions be it Orthodox , Muslim , Protestant , Catholic or anyother religion in Ethiopia.

  11. Ashebari,
    Cluless! Who do you think you are to tell Ethiopians to shut the F**k up? Why don’t you go to tplflies.com, and Ethiopianreview forum and spit out all your usual lies, hate propaganda and rhetorics!! You blame and use the past leaders that have been gone and dead for more than a century ago to spread your hate propaganda, and left the country landlocked, divided Ethiopians, robbed, displaced, mutilated, steralized, tortured, burned, pushed in the ditch, evicted, enslaved Ethiopians, stole and given Ethiopia’s land to Sudan…, and massacred staggering number of innocent lawabiding Ethiopians!! And here you are again ranting shamelessly your usual mumbo jumbo nonsense to find an excuse for the inexcusable, unspeakable atrocities your TPLF mafia masters have committed on peaceloving Ethiopians throughout Ethiopia!! Compared to TPLF’s 28 years unprecedented jawdropping horendous atrocities, even Mengestu and Mussolini seem like Mother Theresa! TPLF are the worst there is, even worse than foreign enemy!! Millions of Ethiopian parents, children and relatives that lost their loved ones at the hands of TPLF mafia Agazi killer dogs, are left to live in a never-ending nightmares and grieves for the rest of their lives!! JUSTICE! JUSTICE! JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES NOW!!!
    Shameless Nazi-Woyane, your legacy is 28 years of hell!!

  12. ዶክተር ደብረፅዪን ገ/ሚካኤል ለግንቦት 20ም ለኣቡነ አረጋዊም ካባ እየለበሰ አስቸገረ እኮ::
    ደብረፅዪን ፓለቲከኛው እስራዔል ዳንሳ ብየዋለሁ::

  13. ላለፉት ሰባት ዓመታት የሰፈራችን ልጅ አቶ ሀይለማሪያም ደሳለኝ የአቶ መለስን ርዕይ በአንደበታቸው ብቻ የእናስቀጥላለን መፈክርን ሳይታክታቸው አስተጋብተውታል:: እንዳውም ከቅርብ ወዳጀ የሰማሁት ነገርም አለ:: ያው እንዳልቀጠለ ነገር ግን እንደቀለጠ ሀገር ያወቀው ጠሀይ ያሞቀው ኩነት ነበር:: እናም አሁን ደሞ የትግራል ክልል ምክትል ፕሬዝዳንት ዶክተር ደብረፅዪን ገብረ ሚካኤል የአቶ መለስን ርዕይ ካባ በመልበስ እና በሰረገላ ሽር ብትን በማለት ርዕዩን እያስቀወጡት ነው::

  14. Dear, nazret.com, could you please post this article here on naz.com
    It was posted on Satenaw
    ”Ethiopia: From TPLF frying pan into Ethno-anarchy fire? last part”
    By Tesfu Tilahun Abebe

  15. ethoash

    Don’t expect everybody wastes time like u. U r lucky enough to be cared by TPLF loyalist budget department, the us department of social service, and the department of veteran affairs 4 Nam-Dine, Phnom, and Hanoi P.O.W survivors. Ur question is very stupid and, childish! a high caliber person like me wouldn’t promote retaliatory use of force against humanity, therefore ur question is not conditionally approved to be considered. True Ethiopians wouldn’t violet by means of forceful resolution as u expected me to answer. Most of the empty drum beaters Tigre BOZENES at Tigray On.Lies seems, they r very ready to fight…..to fight who…when….4-what….I have no idea. Its there idea of provoking peaceful Ethiopians who r trying to live in peace, productive, rational society and deal with one another to mutual benefit. We don’t go to war chasing a few untalented ugly Tigre ZINJEROS like Seyoum Mesfin? Let, he and the rest of frog faces marinated in a bunker with everlasting self-inflicted terror life. The only thing we have to watch that! We have to make certain! the Fesam fugitives to stay away from ours lively hood, cities, and towns until all Tigre KEHADIS r apprehend by Ethiopians Bounty killers, thief takers, and sharpshooter SHIFTAS.

    • alemayehu w tadesse

      so your answer is No, Dr. Abiy will not send Fed. army to arrest criminal TPLF OFFICIAL

  16. AAS,Aba mela.
    አሁን Dr. D ምን አደረገህ? ::ኦሮምያ ምድር ላይ በ አማርኛ እንዳይፅለይ ደፋ ቀና የሚለው ጀዋር ነው ::ግን አስበሀዋል ቢቀር ማለት እኮ አማርኛ ሽባ ሆነ ማለት ነው::ጭራሽ የ ምንሊክ ትምህርት ቤት እራሱ ቡልዶዘር ተሰልፎልሃል ድባቅ በሚል ሳይንስ ሊኮረከም ነው::የሚቀረው የቀሩትን የሱን ቡትቶ በሃራጅ መሸጥ ነው::እኛ ብቻ ዝም ብሎ ፊልሙን ማየት ነው::

  17. በዬ,
    አማርኛ ቁዋንቁዋ የአማራ ህዝብ ቁዋንቁዋ ብቻ አይደለም:: አማርኛ ቁዋንቁዋ የአንድ ብሄር ቁዋንቁዋ መገለጫ ብቻ ሊሆን አይችልም:: ለምን? ምክንያቱም ቁዋንቁዋው አድጎ የሁሉም ህዝብ ቁዋንቁዋ ስለሆነ:: እርግጥ ቁዋንቁዋን መሠረት ያደረገ ፓለቲካ ሀገራችን ውስጥ ዋናውን ቦታ ይይዛል:: ወያኔ ላለፉት 28 ሥራ ፈት ዓመታት ትግርኛን ቢያስፋፋ እድሜው ይረዝም ነበር ወይንም ብዙ የቁዋንቁዋ ደጋፊ ይኖረው ነበር:: ግን ምንዋጋአለው አለ አባውቃው!
    በዬ ጃዋር የሚሰራውን ያውቃል::

    • Wondemae, you know how much I respect and love you. Who else here understands Geez, lesane egeziabeher. True they also call Amarigna lesane Negus as it’s the lingua franca. Nobody objects other languages being respected. I as an individual go even further that eventually Oromiffaa has to achieve equal status with Amharic. That was no big deal at least in Shewa. The overwhelming majority spoke both languages. My parents, uncles, aunts they all spoke it. If Derg did not arrive on the scene and we got cut off from the countryside I would have spoken Oromiffaa today. We have to go back to that root. Recently a cousin of mine went to various parts of Ethiopia. When I realized she was in Mekkelae I insisted that she go visit the castle of that humungous Ethiopian Atse Yohanes. Once he raised my great grand aunt there, I feel attached to him. They have done a beautiful renovation on it. Eventhou taking pictures were prohibited my cousin took and sent me over 40 beautiful pictures. I looked closely at everything mesmerized by the beauty of the intricate items on display. Each item had a description in three languages. First Tigrigna, then Amarigna, last in English. But there were several valuable letters written by the Emperor sent to Queen Victoria on display. They were all in Amharic and English stamped by the fearsome seal of his August Majesty. Yet the description below was in three languages. I told my cousin to go back ask the care takers how come Atse Yohanes’s letter did not have a Tigrigna version attached to it. She asked them, they shrug their shoulders no reply. You see Yohanes was above that. He could care less, all one has to do is read the content of his letters….Ethiopia Ethiopia Ethiopia. That was why his second city was DebreTabor where he spent more time at than Mekkelae. Everyone accepted him as their Emperor. Now compare that with Meles, I don’t want to talk bad about a dead man. Everyone here knows the difference.

    • AA,
      Lol! I love your sense of humor! BTW, What happened to our beloved Ethiopian brother Abebaw? Let’s hope that he is well and on deserving vacation in Ethiopia or in one of those resort areas around the world!

  18. Shewarega,
    My dearest brother Shewarega I have genuine respect and love for you my brother. Whatever you are saying is so genuine and never doubted; keep pouring the reconciliation thoughts. Your Honor I take my hat off to you whenever I read your intellectual writings. GOD BLESS YOU ND YOUR FAMILY MY BROTHER.

  19. Let’s hope and pray that Abiy’s administration take appropriate measures to protect the underprivileged defenseless Ethiopians that are to loose their hard earned livelihoods and homes by another heartless cruel mayer that is getting ready to demolish 30,000 homes and displace hundreds of thousands poor hardworking Ethiopian citizens!! It is beyond me to understand the unimaginable lack of guilt, heartlessness of these trabalist racist bigots, so called mayers!! Naousating to say the least!!

    Millions of Ethiopians, including my own great grandfather that sacrificed their lives for their motherland and fellow Ethiopians, must be rolling in their graves with disgust of these brainwashed brural savage separatist trablists!!

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