Ethiopia: Documentary exposes heinous torture of prisoners by TPLF interrogators

by Engidu Woldie
ESAT News (December 12, 2018)

Yonas Gashaw trumbles as he speaks. He is now paraplegic and both legs shiver constantly. He has gone through hell. His father died in exile after he was forced out of his country due to his association with the previous regime. His mom was also jailed for six months and later died. She was unable to bear the grief of losing a husband and a son. Yonas said one fateful day, TPLF security personnel run a military truck over his elder brother on a street in Bahir Dar.

Yonas says after his arrest, interrogators took him to a forest in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. They strip off his clothes and tied him to a tree, constantly beating him taking turns. They pulled his genitals using pliers. In prison, he was hung upside down from a ceiling for several months, only giving him a respite during meal and bathroom time.

A damning testimony by political prisoners exposed once again horrific abuses by interrogators of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who were in charge of prisons all across the country until recently.

The prisoners, who were among thousands released after political power had slipped out from the hands of TPLF in April when a new Prime Minister took the helm, spoke of torture and abuse. They all said their tormentors were “Tigrigna speaking” interrogators of the TPLF, an ethnic party that had controlled the intelligence, security and political power until recently.

Abominable stories of torture perpetrated by the TPLF were no news to Ethiopians, but the documentary aired on primetime last night sent chills down the spines of many compatriots. In the capital Addis Ababa, there is talk of holding a demonstration to denounce the abhorrent acts of the Tigrayan interrogators, but city authorities said in a statement that the demonstration should have the legal permits in order to make security and other arrangements.

Kefyalew Tefera has lost both limbs. They had to be amputated after a gangrene resulted from torture.

Andualem Ayalew thinks he is still in prison. He says he found it hard to communicated with his children, and suggested that torture survivors need rehabilitation before they are sent to their families. Echoes of shouting interrogators in the prison still ring on his ears.

Yohannes Tefera says one of his testicles are damaged due to the torture. “They stripped off my clothes and repeatedly pulled my genitals while telling me that the likes of me should never be fertile again. They all speak Tigrigna.”

Yohannes said his family didn’t know his whereabouts. “My son just left home one day and was never to be seen again. He believed I was killed. I think he felt that life would be meaningless without me,” he said as he wept on camera.

Social media activists say after the release of the documentary, Yohannes’ son, Abel Yohannes, has been found in Afar region and is expected to be reunited with his dad today. He was watching the documentary when his dad suddenly popped up on the screen. He blacked out.

Mikias Tesfaye was imprisoned because his sister, Nigist Yirga, is a well known opposition activist in Gondar. He was told by TPLF security that he must do what he would be told if he didn’t want his sister, who was also jailed at the time, to be hurt, or worse to be killed. He was sent to Eritrea to kill leaders of Ethiopian opposition groups.

In prison in Addis, Mikias says he knows an inmate who had been repeatedly sodomized by a TPLF interrogator. He said the victim had confided him the story and he was instructed not to share the story with anyone.

All prisoners said pulling genitals with pliers and flogging while tied to poles was a daily occurance in prison. Some have said they had seen prisoners who died after brutal beatings and abuse.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed in a statement that the perpetrators of the heinous torture would face justice. He said the perpetrators of these crimes acted as the police, prosecutor, witness and judge all in one.

Several members of the security and intelligence have recently been arrested on suspicion of torture and abuse against political prisoners.


    If you sit down and ask yourself, what I am telling you now is very true; unfortunately, it seems like not appropriate in the real world we live in because many of us are not standing up to ask questions. The so-called nations and nationality celebration (‘YEBEGERE BEHERESEBICH BEALE’) in Ethiopia is not to unite the people who gather from different parts of the country. Actually, it is the Leninist ideology that was brought by stupid intellectuals who thought that they are introducing the progressive idea to the people, but it is a complete idea of dividing the people and easily preparing them to be under the dictators who are using it for divide and rule mentality. When God created us in his own image, he gave to all of us the same freedom to live in this world, but a few, who have organized themselves in every corner as a group are telling us that they are the one who governs the majority of the people. Then they are writing their own law, order, and regulations, which is enabling them to do whatever they want to do. So this is the time we should blame ourselves because we are allowed these tugs to sit on us without any questions. Yes, there are very few individuals who don’t accept the issue of dictators and stand up for their God-given birthright, but it is unfortunate, and because of the silence of the so-called majority these people are enforced to live under this abuse system without their own interest; when they try to stand up against brutality they will be victimized for torture and imprisonment, and their struggle doesn’t bring any radical change. When you think about the reality of the situation, you need to ask yourself that how come the same human being like yourself, but organized themselves to oppress you are involving in your life and control you in their own way and system of repression? As you can see some of them are in power and some are not there yet to take that power, but they are calling themselves liberation fronts, like TPLF, OLF, ONLF…etc. One thing you have to ask yourself is how come you are accepting a stupid theory of liberating you by another same human being like yourself. We all are created equal by GOD so how come every one of us not standing up for our own GOD given right? For how long do we allow ourselves to the cruelty of the oppressors? We may not admit it or accept it, but we know that we are the one who allows all these oppressions to happen on us; please don’t sit there and blame the tyrannies because they wouldn’t be there without your formal or informal approval. We still haven’t learned from our past experience, and allowing them to take over in the way they want it because instead of a radical true change we are enjoying ourselves with a temporary cosmetic change they are given us for their future survival of keep oppressing us. So individual GOD given right is our first priority; the only time we can work as a group is when we make sure that our individual right is there. What it means is when everyone stands for individual GOD given right at the same time they need to accept the obligation of that anything we don’t want to happen to us not to happen to another fellow human being. So if we stand up for this principle, we will find a solution for the obstacles we have been through for so long.


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