The Ethio-Norway Forced Repatriation Agreement in Retrospect

By Samson Seifu  – Oslo, 12 February 2012


On January 26, 2012 the state secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, Pål K. Lønseth appearing on TV channels announced with great sigh of relief the coming to an end of 20 years of negotiations ordeal with the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi to repatriate the rejected Ethiopian asylum seekers. According to the official press release of both the Ministry of Justice and the Directorate of Immigration (UDI), the signed agreement carries with it the threat of forced repatriation of about 400 rejected asylum seekers to the regime in Ethiopia. 

The news of the signing of the agreement; however, has shocked and saddened in disbelief the Ethiopian Community in Norway in general and the stakeholders in particular (the rejected asylum seekers who have been leading a life full of uncertainty and hopelessness for many years). Most of these rejected asylum seekers were working legally for many years paying taxes to the Norwegian Government, established families, well integrated themselves with the Norwegian society and most important of all, they have been politically active in the matters of their country of origin, Ethiopia, with the Ethiopian opposition organizations in Norway.

The repatriation agreement in retrospect

The talk about forced repatriation agreement was surfaced for the first time on media some seven years ago in 2005 by the then Communal and Regional Minister, Mrs. Erna Solberg and the minister (Mrs. Erna Solberg) announced that the government of Norway has finalized repatriation agreement with the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi.

Given Norway’s track record as a leading democratic state among the western nations that promotes the realization and respect of basic human right principles and rules of law throughout the world including Ethiopia, no one anticipated that Norway would be serious about negotiating and reaching agreements with the world’s worst repressive regime of Meles Zenawi.

 Meles Zenawi was the leader of the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) during the cold war era of the 1970’s and 1980’s and took power by force and controlled Ethiopia with iron fist without interruption since 1991 with the approval and blessings of the victors of the cold war era United States and United Kingdom in a negotiation meeting held in London in 1991 which was presided over by US Ambassador Mr. Herman Cohen. 

With the above mentioned background of the Meles regime which is also well known to the authorities and government of Norway, the government went ahead with the experimenting of deportation of some rejected asylum seekers and the attempted experiment was met with strong reactions from the Ethiopian Community and Ethiopian political support organizations operating in Norway reversing the implementation of the forced deportation.

Given the seriousness of the situation signaled by the futile attempt to deport Ethiopian Asylum seekers, the Ethiopian Community in Norway called for a meeting to all Ethiopians in Norway and established in 2005 the Ethiopian Asylum Seekers Association to engage a lawyer which would assist the association in bringing the matter before the Norwegian courts. The process of engagement was slowed down due to confirmations from the Communal and regional department to the association dated 22 December 2005 that Norwegian authorities have not made a repatriation agreement with Ethiopian authorities.

The Norwegian and the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi’s diplomatic relationship faced a serious setback after the dictator’s visit in Oslo in September, 2005 to receive a prize from a private fertilizer producing company called Yara. The then government of Norway led by Mr. Kjell Magne Bondevik courageously distanced itself from officially receiving the dictator and oppressor as a head of state due to the fact that Ethiopian in Norway had staged a huge campaign against the Yara prize award and also staged a grand protest demonstration accusing the dictator for bloodshed committed in his command and watch against innocent election fraud protesters following the 2005 parliamentary election. In June and November, 2005 around 200 innocent civilian protesters were massacred in Addis Ababa on a broad day light by the TPLF’s Special Forces called the Agazis.

Following the humiliation, the Meles regime forged a hostile move against the government of Norway culminating it in 2007 with a diplomatic break down between the two. The Meles regime accused Norway of helping terrorism in East Africa. As a consequence of this false allegation and Norway’s maltreatment by the Meles regime, the crisis got a huge media attention in Norway and lead a public resentment blaming for the failure of the first (2005-2009) Stoltenberg’s coalition government in handling with caution the delicate and often shrewd government of the TPLF regime of Meles Zenawi. 

Since then the first (2005-2009) and second (2009 – to date) Jens Stoltenberg coalition government took a serious of conciliatory measures to win the trust of the dictator and thereby stop the latter’s hostile propaganda against the good reputation of Norway as a peace negotiator (as in Israeli-Palestinian and the Tamils-Sri Lanka’s government conflict cases) and peace prize rewarding state (via its Nobel Peace Prize Institution).

The following are among the series of reconciliatory moves made by Norway:

1. Prime Minster Jens Stoltenberg’s interest to work with the foe dictator Meles Zenawi (the African delegate for the negotiations on climate change). Meles Zenawis’ participation at the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December, 2009 was met with a fierce protest from demonstrators from all over Europe including the Ethiopian oppositions from Norway.  


2.  The so called open seminar and discussion under the title ‘’Election and development in Ethiopia’’ arranged in Oslo in May 2010 by the Norwegian Development Fund. In this seminar one of the speakers from the director of the department for east and central Africa at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry Mr. Hans Jacob Frydenlund actually highlighted the fictitious double digit economic growth claimed by the Meles regime and tried to defend Norway’s continued development aid which the Ethiopian oppositions in Norway always insist and demand to link this aid with the respect of basic human rights and rule law in Ethiopia. This meeting was also attended and witnessed by the regime’s operative in Oslo. 



3. The so called open seminar and discussion under the title ‘’Politics and development in Ethiopia’’ arranged in Oslo in November 2011 by the Norwegian Development Fund. This time the Government representative was Mrs. Ingrid Fiskaa, the state secretary in the Foreign Department. For questions I raised to her as to why the Norwegian government gives a deaf ear to the repeated outcries and concerns of the Ethiopian oppositions in Norway who always knock the doors of your government’s ministries and; on the contrary, you continue to support the oppressive regime making it difficult to forces who work hard day and night to get rid of the regime? Her answer was simply ’’ it is not our job to get rid of the regime’’ but she had no answer to another related question from the audience i.e. ‘’Why then Norway bombed Libya and Gadafi?’’.  


4.  The invitation to the dictator Meles Zenawi by the coalition government of the second Jens Stoltenberg government. The arrival in Oslo of the dictator to participate in the conference entitled ‘’Energy for all financing access for the poor’’ held in in Oslo, in October 10 and 11, 2011 was marked by three successful anti-Meles protest demonstrations staged by the Ethiopian oppositions functioning in Norway. At this moment of his visit, the dictator was once again so humiliated that he had to leave Norway without attending the luncheon party arranged by the Norwegian Government to the participants of the conference.

It was after this historic resolute of the opposition in Norway in exposing the true face and nature of the oppressor and the dictator, Meles Zenawi to the Norwegian public and the international community that sparked the signing of the repatriation agreement to revenge the Ethiopian Asylum Seekers who both at the leadership and grass roots level were instrumental for the successful accomplishment of the October 9 &10, 2011 anti-Meles protest demonstrations. 


By Samson Seifu 

Oslo, 12 February 2012


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