Report : Quiet Riot in Ethiopia!

Medeshi Oct 22, 2008
The Dewars Report on Internal Security in Ethiopia Ethiopian Review, US
Dewars Report
Quiet Riot in Ethiopia!
Alemayehu G. Mariam
The Dewars Report is attached as a PDF file
This past week an official report on riot control entitled “Modernizing Internal Security in Ethiopia” was posted online.[1] The report, prepared for the ruling regime in Ethiopia in July 2008 by retired British colonel Michael Dewars, summarizes findings and recommendations of an “assessment” study completed under the auspices of an Anglo-Ethiopian “think tank”. According to Col. Dewars a “number of experts on Ethiopia, including HE the Ethiopian Ambassador in London and an ex-British Ambassador to Ethiopia” had been meeting on the subject at the Ethiopian embassy in London beginning in May, 2007. Regime official Tefera Waluwa, in a letter dated January 2, 2008, instructed Col. Dewars to “complete and initial assessment” and “make recommendations designed to create a modern security force that will function effectively by using strategies designed to pre-empt civil unrest which threatens the security of the State of Ethiopia and its People,… and on the equipping and training of such a Security force.”
Col. Dewars’ report is as revealing as it is curiously self-contradictory. Dewars writes that “it is impossible to consider any aspect of Security today without putting it in the context of Human Rights in Ethiopia.” But he found it “enormously challenging” to “teach human rights conventions and norms set against the background of a complex mosaic of age-old customs and patterns of coexistence among some eighty different geographically ethnically diverse national groups speaking some two hundred languages.” He is dismissive of the advocates at Amnesty International (AI) for their na├»vete and for their lack of real understanding of the Somali situation. He claims AI “makes little or no effort to take account of the realities of the Somali situation or of the fact that Somalia is currently engaged in a counter-terrorist struggle.” He asserts that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia is not the result of human rights abuses or “largely the responsibility of Ethiopian troops.” He congratulates the ruling regime in Ethiopia for “much laudable effort put into Human Rights programmes.”
Col. Dewars offers recommendations at two levels: 1) launching a propaganda campaign to present a kinder and gentler international face for the regime, and 2) improvements in logistical and tactical support for the Riot Police. Col. Dewars recommends that since “the Western press tends unthinkingly to take AI at its word,” it is important that the “AI lobby…be countered with a PR campaign that emphasises progress in the Human Right area and underlines positive change.” Regarding the Riot Control Police, Col. Dewars documented that they “are currently three times the size they were in 2005” when “anti-government riots” took place, and currently remain in good condition. They have “perfectly acceptable set of personal equipment” which includes “helmet, including neck protection, and visor, boots, protective leggings, baton, and shield.” Col. Dewars believes “the basic equipment they now have is perfectly adequate and should remain so for some years.” But he is concerned that the Riot Police have very little to do with their time. He noted that the “Riot Police appeared to be trained as riot police only so that most of their time is spent waiting for riots to happen.” He recommended that the idle “elements of Riot Control Divisions/Battalions be ‘double-hatted’ by giving them other additional responsibilities.”
Col. Dewars visited the Police College which appeared to be “a well run and impressive facility”. He noted that during his visit “the Commandant was not available, no training was in progress, classrooms were empty and the gate was not manned.” During a three-hour conversation, the Director General of the Ethiopian Federal Police told Col. Dewars that he “ ‘regretted a lot’, the bad publicity generated [by the police killings of unarmed protesters] in 2005. He had wished very much for a better outcome. As a direct result of the 2005 riots, he sacked 237 policemen.”
Col. Dewars was totally horrified when he visited detention facilities in an Addis Ababa sector police station.” He recounted:
I asked to go into the compound where the prisoners are kept. This consisted of a long yard with a shed to one side which provided some sort of shelter. The compound had a wall around it and a watchtower for an armed sentry overlooking it. Inside must have been 70 – 80 inmates, all in a filthy state. There was insufficient room for all these people to lie down on a mat at once. There was no lighting. The place stank of faeces and urine. There appeared to be no water or sanitation facilities within the compound. There was a small hut in an adjacent compound for women prisoners but there had been no attempt by anybody to improve the circumstances of the place. The prisoners were mostly on remand for minor crimes, in particular theft. Some had been there for months. There was one young boy among the prisoners, who appeared to me to be 12 or 13 years of age, who was weeping and pleading to speak to me so I asked him how old he was. He said 13. He certainly could not possibly have been older than 15. When I asked what the minimum age for holding prisoners in this facility was, one policeman said 18, another 15. In any event, he stayed there.
Col. Dewars concluded, “Detention conditions of prisoners are a disgrace and make the Federal Police vulnerable to the Human Rights lobby.” He “recommended that the Government should investigate this situation with the intention of improving the current appalling conditions inside Ethiopian prisons, which must brutalise prisoners and their goalers equally. It is recommended that senior Ethiopian Ministers and Police Officers visit the prison that I visited.”
Note: The balance of this article is available at the link above.