Ethiopia Goes Chain Gang

Ethiopia, a nation fighting the worst famine in decades and popular unrest, brought a very old concept of punishment back–chain gang! New pictures circulating on social media show Suri tribesmen on trucks tied-together with ropes.

In the latest twist, Ethiopian security forces have consulted the 1955 field manual from the state of Georgia to punish inmates. The neck of a Suri tribesman is tied to the upper arm of another. The men also appear to be tied-together at the knees. They are bleeding from their scalps.

Surma tribesmen tied-together by the neck and upper arm, Ethiopia, March 2016

Abdi Lemessa/Facebook

Surma tribesmen tied-together by the neck and upper arm, Ethiopia, March 2016

Suri tribesmen tied-together by Ethiopian Security Forces, March 2016 (Abdi Lemessa/Facebook)

Abdi Lemessa/Facebook

Suri tribesmen tied-together by Ethiopian Security Forces, March 2016 (Abdi Lemessa/Facebook)

Surma people have been protesting against displacement in the name of investment by Ethiopian government. Sources told The Horn Post, governmental institution, The Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) started building sugar factories on the lands of Suri tribes, and it is facing resistance.

Surma is a collective name used for the Suri, Mursi and Me’en tribes residing in South Sudan and southwestern Ethiopia, with a total population of over 180,000. These tribes were among the seven tribes threatened by Ethiopian National Park, according Native Solutions to Conservation Refugees’ report in 2007.

In what appeared to be a prophecy, Kendrick Lamar’s recent Grammy performance was partly Surma-inspired, and featured a chain gang.

Ethiopia is pleading for foreign aid to help feed more than twelve million people hit with the worst drought in decades, and in need of emergency food aid. At first, the government played down the number of people who fell victim to the drought brought on by El Nino. Slowly but surely, it admitted the number is well over 12 million. Some reports estimate more than 20 million Ethiopians are facing food shortage.

Since November 2015, Ethiopia is trying to shake off protests in Oromia regional state that started as an opposition to Addis Ababa Master Plan, which later morphed into demand for regime change. Ethiopia dismissed these protests as plots from Eritrea and “anti-peace forces” in diaspora.