The Anuak are a river people whose villages are scattered along the banks and rivers of southeastern Sudan and western Ethiopia, in the Gambela Region. Members of this ethnic group number between 100,000 to 150,000 people worldwide, most of whom live in this southwestern area of Ethiopia, with others living directly across the border in southern Sudan. the name of this people is also spelled Anyuak, Agnwak, and Anywaa.

The “Anuak” are from the family of Nilotes. They have lived in the area of the Upper Nile for hundreds of years and consider their land to be their tribal land. The Anuak are ethnically, culturally, linguistically, historically and religiously different from most other Ethiopians. Their indigenous land is totally different from anywhere else in the country in both climate and geography.

Unlike other Nilotic people in the region whose economy is centered on raising cattle, the Anuak are herdsmen and farmers. They are believed to have a common origin with their northern neighbors, the Luo and Shilluk. Also, they share a similar language with their neighbors to the south, the Acholi.

The Luo people are scattered all over Eastern Africa including Sudan and Ethiopia and have been identifying themselves as a special entity who have preserved their cultural heritage wherever they reside. The Luo speaking people of Eastern Africa are found beyond the Sudan and Ethiopia in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Congo. Their language(s) and dialects belong to the broader cluster of Nilo-Saharan languages.

The Gambella region is hot and tropical with rich, fertile, well-watered soil coming from the rivers originating in the mountains of the highlands where there is a much cooler, dryer climate. The difference in geography has separated Ethiopians into distinctive categories of “lowlanders”, such as the Anuak and other indigenous groups in the area, as opposed to the “highlanders” who comprise the vast majority of the population of Ethiopia, such as Amharas, Oromos, Tigrayans,etc.

However, the Anuak and others, who live in the lowlands of Gambella are also distinguished by the color of their skin and considered to be black Africans as opposed to most other Ethiopians living in the highlands who are of lighter color.

There has been overt racial discrimination and marginalization by this government and by other ethnicities based on skin color. It has affected the Anuak’s access to education, health care and other basic services as well as limiting opportunities for development of the area.

The Anuak of Sudan live in a grassy region that is flat and virtually treeless. During the rainy season, this area floods, so that much of it becomes swampland with various channels of deep water running through it.

Anuak Justice Council

The Anuak Justice Council (AJC) is an umbrella organization for the Anuak that advocates for non-violent solutions to the widespread human rights abuses being perpetrated against the Anuak in the Gambella region of Ethiopia by Ethiopian Defense Forces. The AJC’s approach to restoring peace, justice and the rule of law to this area is by means of international advocacy, increasing public awareness and utilizing established legal processes. The AJC is a non-profit, non-political organization representing Anuaks in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and in the Diaspora, most of whom live in the United States. AJC is run by a handful Diaspora Anuak citizens and many people accuse them of not having any idea about what is happening in Ethiopia. The chairman, who lived outside Anuak community for many years, is allegedly said to have no understanding of the daily lives of Anuaks in particular and Ethiopians in general.

In 2005, the AJC thus filed a provisional complaint with the International Criminal Court concerning December 2003 atrocities targeting the Anuak in the Gambella Region. However, no one is really certain about the existence of the atrocities claimed by AJC since many believe Anuak Militants have attacked other ethnicities and vice versa for centuries in various conflicts. In addition to Anuak rebels that attacked civilians, the Eritrean government and armed groups like the Oromo Liberation Front support Anuak rebels against the Ethiopian government, complicating the conflict even more. [ [ Eritrea and OLF role inside Ethiopia's conflicts] ]

Alleged Human Rights Abuses

On December 13, 2003 Ethiopian Defense troops and some highlander (non-Anuak Ethiopians) militia groups allegedly went into Gambella town, utilizing and relying on a list of educated Anuak men who were thought to be “anti-government” and massacred approximately four hundred and twenty four persons in less than three days. Many homes and crops were burned. Women were raped and others were imprisoned without charges. Many of the bodies were never identified before being buried in mass graves. Similar actions were allegedly taken by Ethiopian troops in the rural towns in the Gambella Region, causing many more victims. Many others fled to the bush or to Sudan for refuge. But most of these are allegations and have not been verified.

Over the past year or more, the Ethiopian military has allegedly continued to perpetrate these crimes against the Anuak with impunity. However Anuak Militants have also attacked Ethiopian forces and non-Anuak civilians as well, according to BBC and other sources. [ [ Anuak militant attack on non-Anuak civilians] ] [ [ Anuak rebels allegedly attack civilians] ] Human Rights Watch released a report in March 24, 2005 that documents systematic and widespread atrocities committed against the Anuak by Ethiopian Defense Forces and local Ethiopians defending themselves from Anuak Militants. HRW indicates that these acts meet the stringent definition of crimes against humanity, however no one really knows full details of what has occurred. Some critics have instead claimed Anuak Militants, not Ethiopian forces, should be held responsible for crimes. However, with Anuaks affected by the conflict fleeing out of Ethiopia into Sudan and the West while often siding with their kins about this ethnic conflict, only the attack against Anuaks have been condemned by international human rights groups while the attacks by Anuaks on Nuers and other Ethiopians is overlooked.

According to Anuak Militants, Anuak men (and some women) continue to be subject to arbitrary arrest, beatings, detentions and extra judicial killings. Rape of Anuak women is allegedly widespread and believed to be almost universally suffered by Anuak women throughout the region. Anuaks continue to suffer huge problems with basic access to water, health care or clinics, food, travel, and education, just like the rest of Ethiopia. Even though the country has one of the fastest growing economy in GDP currently, poverty still exists. Some non-government organizations are alleged to be extremely biased against the Anuak population and assisted Ethiopian Defense forces and highlander civilians in brutal retaliatory attacks against non-combatant Anuak people, including women and children.Fact|date=June 2007 Entire generations of Anuak children are unable to attend school, and are growing up, if they are so lucky, without any formal or informal education at all. But all of these claims are allegations by Anuak Militants and supporters, particularly since education coverage has recently improved very fast around the country.

According to exiled supporters of Anuak rebels, the Anuak has been the subject of military oppression from Ethiopian governments. Many years ago, Genocide Watch allegedly placed the Anuak massacre on their emergency list of ongoing genocides in the world. "The situation reminds me of Rwanda in 1993, when all the early warning signs were evident but no one paid attention," Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, said. But many years later, the alleged warning signs have not been followed with the likes of Rwanda genocide. And just like the various ethnic conflicts that occasionally occur in Ethiopia and in many other third-world countries, the ethnic conflict in Gambella has not been heard of since as the situation calmed. Various external actors and governments are involved in proxy wars and conflicts in numerous borders in the unstable region of the horn of Africa,including in Gambella, thus such ethnic conflicts could possibly spark and resume. [ [ Governments, rebels in various conflicts in the horn] ]


ee also

* Oromo Liberation Front
* Adongo Agada Cham
* Nuer
* Anuak Militants

External links

* [ Anuak Justice Council]
* [ Anuaks attack Nuers]
* [ Anuak rebels kill civilians]
* [ Information from the Rosetta Project]

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