Press Release on Ethiopia’s invitation to the G20 Summit:
Ottawa (Alshahid) – The Canadian Somali Congress, on behalf of the Canadian Somali community, is disappointed by Canada’s invitation of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto. Mr. Zenawi heads a government that consistently abuses the human rights of people in Ethiopia and Somalia, represses democratic opposition groups, severely restricts the activities of NGOs, manipulates food aid to starve opposition supporters, destabilizes Somalia by arming various militias in violation of the UN arms embargo on that country and continues to illegally detain Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal.
The Canadian Somali Congress is troubled by the continuing detention of Mr. Bashir Makhtal, a Canadian citizen who has been imprisoned in Ethiopia for close to 3 ½ years where he has experienced a range of very serious human rights violations. Mr. Makhtal has been sentenced to a life prison term after an unfair trial. He stands accused of providing support to an opposition group in Ethiopia. However, given the profoundly unfair nature of the legal proceedings, the basis for those accusations has never been made clear and no credible evidence in support of the charges has ever been made public. Instead, much of the basis of the case has seemed to stem from the mere fact that Mr. Makhtal’s grandfather was once an Ogadeni leader. Canadian Somali Congress has repeatedly called on the Ethiopian authorities to release Mr. Makhtal given that there appears to be no prospect of a fair trial.
We appreciate the strong stand that the Canadian government has taken on this case. Several ministers, including Ministers Baird and Minister Cannon, as well as Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, have raised the case in meetings with Ethiopian officials. Canada’s position has been firm – that Mr. Makhtal should be allowed to return to Canada.
Canadian Somali Congress has also been concerned by Ethiopia’s destabilizing actions in Somalia. Despite Ethiopian troops officially withdrawing from Somalia at the end of 2008, they are still unofficially entering that country in their quest to fight a proxy war with Eritrea. This has led to gross violations of human rights by Ethiopian troops and Somali militia groups that are funded, trained and armed by these two neighbouring countries in clear violation of the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia. Just two weeks ago, Ethiopian troops entered the relatively peaceful Somali district of Buhoodle to carry out military actions that resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians. The human rights of these civilians are of paramount importance to the thousands of Canadian Somalis who maintain links with relatives residing in their ancestral homeland.
Moving forward, the Canadian Somali Congress urges Prime Minister Harper to make it clear to Prime Minister Zenawi that Canada expects Mr. Makhtal to be released and be able to return to Canada by the time Prime Minister Zenawi travels here. Prime Minister Harper should also demand an end to Ethiopia’s violent and destabilizing incursions into Somalia and its violations of the UN arms embargo on that country. Failure to adhere to these demands should automatically lead to the withdrawal of Canada’s invitation to Ethiopia to attend the upcoming G20 summit in Toronto.
For more information contact:
Ahmed Hussen, National President
Canadian Somali Congress