The Southwest Ethiopia Indigenous Peoples Democratic Movement  (SWEIPDM)

The Southwest Ethiopia Indigenous Peoples Democratic Movement  (SWEIPDM)

Press Release, August 28th,  2018: London/Washington DC



The indigenous peoples of Southwest Ethiopia have long endured suffering under various Ethiopian autocratic leaderships, since the reign of Menilik II. The plundering and monopolization of resources by highly centralized government in Addis Ababa; the continuation conquering of the indigenous land without their prior free consent; the deprivation of their social and economic development; and the institutional racism embedded in the governance system continuous to threaten and deny the rights of the indigenous population to utilize their ancestral land.

Despite that Southwestern Ethiopia’s endowed with abundant natural resources, it has remained the most remote and underdeveloped region in Ethiopia due to the lack of good governance and responsive political directions. As the results, indigenous populations estimated to be 18-20 million become subjects to absolute poverty and constant atrocities under highly centralized Ethiopian regimes rule.

The new political reform in Ethiopia offers an opportunity to address the concern of the perpetual insecurity, land grabs and occupation, identity crises, and marginalization faced by the indigenous tribes in the southwest Ethiopia. In response, the Southwestern opposition parties have deeply realized the importance of solidarity and unity to collectively contain the growing atrocities and socio-political conditions in this region in particular, and in Ethiopia in general.  The unity is in the realization to embrace peace, justice, freedom, and prosperity for the indigenous peoples to accelerate the democratic principles for sustainable development in the Southwestern and Ethiopia in general. It is understood that every indigenous tribe in the Southwest Ethiopia cannot contain alone the growing political and socio-economic crises unless they unite to act together while building the nation peacefully.

For these reasons therefore, the Southwest Ethiopia Indigenous Peoples Democratic Movement (SWE-IPDM) was formed as a joint venture socio-political movement to address and eliminate collectively the overhanging atrocities and grand human rights abuses facing the indigenous populations of southwest Ethiopia. The movement covers the populations of the Gambella region, Kaffa and Shekecho zone, Bench Maji Zone, with the potential of reaching-out to the Benishangul-Gumuz region, the South Omo zone, and others. The SWE-IPDM will commit itself to address the insecurity, land grabs, ethnic cleansing conflicts and mass killings, underdevelopment, and lack of justice and freedom of the indigenous peoples of Southwest Ethiopia, as inspired to participate in building the ideals of “a diversified-united, God-fearing, non-racial, corruption-free, peaceful, inclusive and democratic Ethiopia” through self-rule and highly devolved government system.

The founding parties include the Gambella Nilotes United Movement (GNUM) envisioned by the Southwestern Ethiopia Nilotic Omotic Peoples Independent Movement (SENPIM), and the Southwest Ethiopian Peoples Union (SWEPU), the Shekecho People for Justice and Democratic Movement (SPJDM), with potential of reaching-out to the South Omo Zone, and the Benishangul-Gumuz region who have expressed their great interests, opinions and blessings to be part of the   movement.

The formation of SWE-IPDM strongly lays its legal foundations in the provisions of the UN and EU Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in which the indigenous tribes of the south western Ethiopia have their rights to security and Self-Determination from excessive internal exploitative relationships and occupation given the fact that Ethiopia has been part of the international agreements and it has obligation to abide with the international rules as stipulated below:

The provisions on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Ethiopia ratified on June 11/1993, citing of “no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”. The provisions on the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of which Ethiopia ratified on June 23/1976, confirming that  “government in failure to recognize and respect indigenous customary land tenure are guilty of racial discrimination, and call the state to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control, and use communal lands, territories and resources,  and where they have been deprived of their lands and territories of traditionally owned, or otherwise inhabited or used without their free and informed consent, to take steps to return these lands and territories”.

The provisions on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in relations to forced eviction and the right to housing, particularly, article 2(1) and general comment 7 of the ICESCR outlines other protections from displacement and forced evictions, and stipulates that states parties “shall ensure, prior to carrying out any evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with the affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the need to use force.”

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed in 2007 stating that this declaration is “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalization”, suggesting that states should prohibit “any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing (indigenous peoples) of their lands, territories or resources.

As part of the international obligations Ethiopia in its constitution particularly the article 18:1 provides prohibition against inhuman treatment and right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; article 39:1 provides unconditional right to Self-Determination, including the right to secession; likewise, article 40:5 provides pastoralists having the right to free land for grazing and cultivations as well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands.

Despite that Ethiopia has signed the provisions of the UN and EU, the Ethiopian regimes have violated the international standards and its own constitution, justifying full accountability to the present increasing atrocities and grand violation of human rights issues against the indigenous populations of Southwest Ethiopia.

In recognition to the potential peaceful political reform in the Ethiopia therefore, the SWEIPDM welcomes and is opens for a dialogue with the Ethiopia government in the area of security, independent development policies, foreign policies, and territorial integrity, to contest its vision in the process of building the nation to accelerate peace and development in the southwest Ethiopia. At these points we (SWEIPDM) extend our call to all of the indigenous peoples across Ethiopia and other political organizations to foster a strong partnership to form a national-inclusive political alliance for a greater democratic space in Ethiopia.

We also call upon the United Nations, European Union, USA, UK, Canada, Australia, African Union, IGAD and all allies of the international community, and justice and peace-loving bodies, to stand with the SWE-IPDM for legal and political guidance, support, protection and freedom of the indigenous peoples of Southwest Ethiopia.

Therefore, the Southwest Ethiopia Indigenous Peoples Democratic Movement (SWEIPDM) will continue its peaceful struggle until rights of indigenous people of the Southwest Ethiopia is fully recognized.


Executive Committee


Mr. Okok Ojulu Okok:                    Chairperson of the SWE-IPDM
Email:       Phone: +1 202 834 9813
Dr. Achame Shana:                         Deputy Chairperson and Spokesperson
Email:              Phone: + 44 774 764 2562