Treatment of the Afar tribe; AWSA movement [ETH0763]

The Afars are nomadic people who have established trade links between Djibouti and Ethiopia. [ External Affairs, 1 May 1989.] The Afars, also known as the Danakil or Adalis, constitute approximately 4% of Ethiopia's population, and are located in the Northeast in the Danakil Depression (refer to map). [ George Kurian, ed. Encyclopedia of the Third World, Facts on File, inc., 1987, p. 666.] The majority of the Afars are Muslim. [ Kurian, p. 668.] The semi-nomadic Saho are a mix of Afar and Arab stock, and are also Muslims. [ Ibid.] The Afars seek an autonomous region, including a permanent partition of the port of Assab. [ Bennett, p. 46.] A major confrontation between the government and the Afars occurred when the Land Reform Program instituted in 1975 by the revolutionary government met with resistance from Afars who interpreted the reforms as a threat to the traditional land rights of peasants. [ Ibid.] The resistance to the reforms was confronted with military force by the government (see below). More recently, the U.S. State Department reported that "up to 100 civilians may have been massacred by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front for attempting to prevent the military recruitment of young Afar tribesmen." [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1989), p. 109.]

No information regarding the AWSA movement in Ethiopia is available to the IRBDC at this time. In an article by John Bennett, "The Afars of Eastern Tigray", the autocratic sultanate of "Aussa" is mentioned, which reportedly has a "sizable army", [ John Bennett, "The Afars of Eastern Tigray: a Quest for self-Determination", Horn of Africa, Vol VI, No. 4, 1983, p. 45.] however this spelling conflicts with the information provided by J. Courteau which indicates that AWSA is an acronym made from the names of four cities. Two other Afar movements, the Afar Liberation Front (ALF) and the Afar National Liberation Movement (ANLM), were active in the mid-seventies. The Afar National Liberation Movement agitated for an autonomous Afar region, but after the independence of Djibouti in 1977, the ANLM "held to a program of a future Afar state as an expansion of Djibouti." [ Bennett, p. 46.] After the Afar Liberation Front resisted the Land Reforms in 1975 and suffered heavy losses, [ Bennett, p.46.] it began to harass traffic on the Addis-Assab road and rail links to Djibouti. In a recent report, the Afar Liberation Front attacked a military convoy on the Addis-Assab road, destroying 9 military aircraft and 120 military vehicles. [ "Ethiopia", Africa Research Bulletin, Vol 26, No.2, 15 March 1989, p. 9190.] The report also indicated that members of the ALF may now be cooperating with the Eritrean People's Liberation Front.