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News: Adama Science and Technology Univ. discharges director of gender affairs who was investigating female students physical and sexual assault by army members

A source who provided Addis Standard with the letters from the university and is familiar with the matter says the university’s attempt to address the issue has faced “several restrictions” including a “verbal threat to shut down the investigation” from a member of  senior military officer who is sitting in the board of directors of the university 

Liyat Fekade

Addis Abeba, February 02/2018 – In a letter dated January 18/2018, Adama Science and Technology University (ASTU) inexplicably discharged Hanna Tefera, director of the University’s gender affairs directorate. Hanna was in the middle of investigating an assault committed by a member of the military deployed in the university on a fourth year applied biology department student.  Addis Standard is withholding the name of the victim to protect her privacy.

Our sources also said that Hanna Tefera was dismissed by the university following “a direct order from one member of the board of directors who is also a senior military officer with the national defense forces.”

In an interview with Addis Standard Hanna, who has been serving as the director since November 2013, confirmed that she received the letter stating her removal from her position at the directorate, but says she “has no idea about the reason behind.” “Other than confirming recipient of the letter, I cannot tell you the exact reason why. There is nothing mentioned in the letter and I have no intention to ask for an explanation. After all, they are the ones who know the reason,” she said.

On January 04/2018 (Dec. 26/2010 in Ethiopian calendar), the gender affairs directorate, under Hanna’s signature,  submitted a letter to the President’s office of the university stating its concern and demanding an inquiry regarding the assault on the fourth year female student, who has been physically attacked by an unidentified armed man while she was inside her dormitory.  “We have seen this female student and her broken dormitory and confirmed assault,” the letter reads, further stating that the incident is a crime and stands in contrast with the country’s constitution, Article 10/2, “which describes that citizens’ rights should be respected; and Article 35/4 which states that women’s rights should be respected and no harmful habits, physical or psychological harm should perpetrated on them.”

Copy of the letter signed off by Hanna and sent to the president’s office requesting an investigation in to the assault

However, the letter also stated that this particular case was not an isolated incident. “We have also received additional information from different female students that they are facing various forms of harassment, including forced-kissing by the armed members of the security present at the university’s compound. We at the Gender Affairs Directorate office are deeply sad to learn about all the assaults and attacks on [name withheld] and other female students in the campus,” the letter, a copy of which was received by Addis Standard, said.

The letter further requested the university to provide support for the specific student “well until she recovers fully”.  The student was referred to Adama General hospital after receiving initial treatments at the Adama Haile Mariam Mamo memorial hospital. The letter also asked the university “to investigate and put on trial those responsible for the attacks and assaults and to pass a strict order that no male armed members should pass to the female students’ dormitories without the university administrations’ authorization and the female guards to protect the dormitories.”

According to Hanna, after the letter was delivered to the president’s office, the university has set up a committee of five, including herself, to investigate and present its findings. “We were in the middle of the investigation and are simply overwhelmed by what we were uncovering since then.” she said, adding, “I don’t know what will happen to the investigation but I hope it will continue without my presence.” Hanna is also a lecturer in applied mathematics at the university and continues her teaching career despite the letter terminating her position at the directorate.

Copy of the letter announcing the removal of Hanna as director of the gender affairs directorate

However, our source who provided us with the letters from the university and is familiar with the matter says the university’s attempt to address the issue has faced “several restrictions” including a “verbal threat to shut down the investigation” from the member of the senior military officer sitting in the board of directors who our source simply mentioned as “a senior army officer.”  Addis Standard’s repeated attempt to reach the university were to no avail.

In its website the university proclaims “Sexual harassment might be happen in both sexes. However, since females are more vulnerable to the problem, they cannot equally be successful in their education and unable to carry on the national responsibility that they are supposed to handle,” its website’s section of the gender directorate, reads, “Sexual harassment is the violation of human right. Especially, sexual harassment in educational institutions is spoiling the peaceful teaching learning process. It also diminishes the academic participation of female students.” Hanna said she would be happy to see the university standing for its values and finish investigating this and the remaining “pressing matters in connection with sexual and physical assaults committed against our female students.”

 Widespread sexual abuse 

 Addis Standard was also introduced to another third year student at ASTU who filled a withdrawal form a month ago after she was sexually assaulted by a “man dressed in a military uniform and was holding a Kalashnikov” she said.  She is currently receiving treatment at Adama Hailemariam Mamo memorial hospital. “The doctors have told me that I have a severe urinary tract infection (UTI). I was getting the treatment while staying in my studies but after two weeks, I was unable to sit in the class and focus on my studies, so I withdrew,” she said.

The issue of abuse by army members deployed in various universities, a trend the government has been following since the first university students protest in Amabo in 2014, is not new. A letter written on January 12/2018 (January 02/2010), and signed off by the president of Ambo University, Tadele Kene’a Amente, and sent to the office of the minister of education, for example, described incidents of abuses by members of the army deployed inside the university.

Copy of the letter signed off by the president of Ambo university requesting the ministry to investigate army perpetrated abuses inside the campus 

On the evening of Jan 8, 2018, the Federal Police members deployed at our university broke down 87 dormitories and injured our students physically and psychologically without any concrete reason and authorization from the university,” reads the letter, “in collaboration with all the concerned bodies, the university assessed the incident on Jan. 10/2018 and observed the damaged dormitories and injured students.”

The letter further says “the ministry and other concerned organization should come to investigate and take the necessary measurement against those who are responsible for the property damage and the physical and psychological damage caused on the students.” As of the writing of this story, Addis Standard couldn’t establish if the request is addressed by the ministry. Our calls the ministry’s information directorate office were not answered. AS   


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