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International council forms in Spokane to address genocide of Anuak in Ethiopia
By Deidre Jacobson

An international gathering of 20 met Sept. 17 and 18 at First Covenant Church and formed an organization to prevent the extinction of the Anuak people. 

“We witnessed the birth of a new organization, the Anuak Justice Council (AJC), an organization that seeks to earn the trust of Anuak worldwide and the respect of heads of governments,” said John Frankhauser, one of the organizers. 

Anuak Justice Council

Anuak Justice Council forms in Spokane.

The AJC will become a nonprofit organization, but meanwhile will operate under Immanuel Urban Ministries.  In its first year, the organization seeks to raise $50,000 to support the efforts of several advocates who have been going to the United Nations, appealing to Genocide Watch and keeping people informed.

Agwa Taka, a 14-year Spokane resident and member of the indigenous Anuak tribe of Ethiopia, had a vision of unifying those who cry out for justice on behalf of the Anuak. 
The Anuak have been persecuted in their homeland for many years.  The persecution results from tribalism, racial prejudice and the discovery of oil and other resources on Anuak land. 

Refugees have fled over the past 20 years, resettling all over the world.  The largest U.S. group resides in southern Minnesota. 

On Dec. 13, 2003, genocide was implemented against the Anuak in Gambella Province, with the murder of more than 400 men and boys, the rape of women and girls, and the burning of Anuak homes. The atrocities continue. 

Freelance journalist Doug McGill reported on May 16 that “scorched-earth raids” carried out from January through April have destroyed a dozen Anuak villages in Gambella. 
More than 10,000 Anuak have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Sudan and Kenya, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

John has read and heard many dramatic stories of Anuak heroism as they fled various government-supported the massacres. 

One of the stories by the new AJC chairperson Obang Okello, who lives in Mahomedi, Minn., are available on the web at

The Ethiopian government denies these allegations while evidence mounts.  Keith Snow, investigative reporter, documented his findings in multiple reports and confirms that several human rights organizations, including Genocide Watch and the World Organization Against Torture, have researched the Anuak stories and declared that the Ethiopian government is using ethnic cleansing against the Anuak.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two of the largest human rights groups, say they are aware of the Anuak crisis, but their attention has been diverted to Darfur.

In spite of mounting evidence of genocide, the international community is slow to respond, said Doug, who reported on May 17:

• The primary reason is that in 2000, Ethiopia reached a peace accord with the breakaway state of Eritrea after a bloody 15-year war of secession that cost more than 100,000 lives.  The peace has given Ethiopia a breather from intense international scrutiny. 

• Second, the country has faced a severe famine combined with growing poverty for more than a decade, and attracts more than $500 million in aid funds, as well as significant amounts of in-kind services and sympathy annually from aid groups.

• Finally, after 9/11 the United States has identified Ethiopia as a key partner in the war on terror.  Its strategic location between Sudan and Somalia, both of which harbor radical Islamist terror groups, has caused the U.S. to look the other way as its repressive measures have greatly increased.

Anuak and their friends throughout the world have rallied to cry out against the atrocities, bring pressure on the government of Ethiopia to end the genocide and provide assistance to the remaining people in the area and in the camps. 

Inspired by the years of work and ministry with the Anuak Community on the part of First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Lawrence Hudson of First Covenant Church and chair of Immanuel Urban Ministries, previously helped the Anuak of Spokane launch the Anuak Baare Hope Ministry in response to the Dec. 13 massacre. 

Since the genocide, the Ethiopian government has closed the doors to humanitarian aid in the Gambella region, blocking World Relief and other aid agencies that want to help. 

During a conversation on aid to the region, Mary Lou McDonough of  the World Relief office in Spokane suggested a meeting to discuss unifying the Anuak in North America.  The process began on Aug. 17 at First Covenant Church with Peter Omot, from Nairobi, Kenya; Agwa, Akway Omot, Alock Nyiguw of the Spokane Anuak community; regional director David Holter and Mary Lou, from the local World Relief office; Gayle Havercroft and Lawrence. 

At this meeting, Agwa presented the vision of bringing the Anuak leadership in North America to Spokane to coordinate efforts. 

The Anuak delegation arrived in Spokane in September.  They represented such groups as the Anuak Community Association of North America, the Gambella Relief Association and the Mankato East African Justice Mission.  There are Anuak living in 38 states and throughout Canada.

Obang Metho, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, founder of the Gambella Relief Agency, had been poised to begin work in the Gambella region with a $250,000 Canadian grant for humanitarian aid when the genocide occurred, preventing his work and rescinding the grant.

After the genocide, he received an outpouring of calls, emails and letters from Anuak throughout the world requesting his help. 

Working almost completely on his own, he began the process of calling human rights agencies, attorneys and government representatives. He persevered through the systems, eventually speaking about the injustice to US, Canadian, Norwegian and other governments as well as the United Nations, Genocide Watch and the European Union.
Through his efforts, international relationships were developed. With modest support from individuals and churches, he has labored without compensation.

The September meetings in Spokane established the Anuak Justice Council.  The executive board includes Obang Okello, chair; Agwa, vice chairperson; Obang Metho, Peter and Akuthi Okoth (Chicago), members at large; Emily Greving of Davenport, Iowa, secretary, and John as treasurer.

The group developed preliminary goals with its primary function to be protecting Anuak life, spreading the truth about the Anuak situation, and rallying political and financial support. 

Further goals are to serve justice, assist the Anuak who are in need, advocate for Anuak self-determination, end false imprisonment and return displaced people.

Lawrence said that “without Agwa’s vision of bringing his people together, his sense of community and his love for his people, this couldn’t have happened. He has helped keep small groups of Anuak residing all over the world in communication.”

“It is a privilege to be a part of this mission, an international conference in our little church,” said Lawrence, who saw God moving in the gathering. “It’s exciting to be part of something God is doing. 

“Worldwide there are only about 150,000 Anuak left, and we are fighting to save a people,” he said.  “I pray I will see a day in my lifetime when Anuak children will run free in Gambella, their parents no longer living in fear.”

For information, call 747-2818.

Copyright © October 2004 - The Fig Tree