Yemeni Government Plans to Extradite Oromo Political Activists? What Is the Issue? [Archives:1998/32/Front Page]

August 10 1998

They are tired. They have been in jail since their arrival here in February.
Now there is a new complication. The Yemeni Government is going to extradite them to Ethiopia. They are scared.
There are 91 of them in the Sanaa Central Prison. There are many more in the Taiz and Hodeidah prisons. The majority are just illegal residents who are driven by economic hardships, and are thus in search of better opportunities. But some of them are political activists. They belong to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The OLF seeks to secure an independent homeland for the Oromo people, who occupy about half of Ethiopia – mostly in the east central and south central regions.
Now steps are underway to extradite all Ethiopians who are illegal residents in Yemen, according to the Interior Minister.
The political activists see this as a sign of Sanaa trying to curry favors with Addis Ababa.
Article 45 of the Yemeni constitution forbids the extradition of political fugitives. Thus, there is a new Yemeni momentum to block the extradition of the OLF people.
“The Ethiopian Government burned our farms and villages. We will be killed as soon as we land there,” says Mohammed Yassin Mohammed. Omar Abdul-Samad added that they would like to present their case to the world. “We want self-determination for our people.”
A third person, Yahia Abdullah Ahmed, developed a cancerous tumor while languishing in Ethiopian prisons before he escaped.
“We escaped to Yemen because we had heard that this is a democratic country which respects humans rights. We also thought we would flee to a fellow Muslim society as well as a neighbor,” said Ms. Nouria Idris, the only female in the group.
Ethiopia’s ambassador says that his government would like to help those who want to return. “We cannot and will force any body. But in stead of languishing in jail, they should consider going back to their country,” he said.
A distinction needs to be made between illegal aliens and political activists. Local and international human rights groups have appealed to the Yemeni authorities not to extradite all of them. It is not a matter of sympathizing with their cause, it is a matter of human rights.
By: Jamal Al-Awadhi,
and Ibrahim Al-Merghamy,
at Sanaa Central Prison.