Siegfried Pausewang, longtime Ethiopian researcher, dies at 75

April 19, 2012 (opride) – Dr. Siegfried Pausewang, a great friend of Oromo people, eminent Ethiopian researcher and champion of human rights, died of cancer last Friday in Norway. He was 75.

His colleague and friend, Professor Kjetil Tronvoll of International Law and Policy Institute in Oslo, announced the death in an email to Ethiopian activists.

Dr. Pausewang worked extensively within Ethiopia. Observing elections, teaching, initiating various development programs such as the seminar on the sociology of development, democracy training in rural Ethiopia, land reforms, population research, and penned numerous articles on Ethiopia, especially around issues of democracy and good governance.

He presented his work at numerous conferences worldwide including the Oromo and Ethiopian Studies conferences. His countless published works, engagement in international development initiatives and unyielding activism testify to Dr. Pausewang’s dedication to social justice.

Dr. Siegfried Pausewang came to the collective Oromo consciousness in 1992, following botched local and regional elections. The Norwegian election observatory group, in which Dr. Pausewang had a prominent role, issued a first-hand account of how the ruling party, EPRDF, systematically used the powers of the state and its machinery to kick its election rival, OLF which was poised for a landslide victory, out of the political process, committing egregious human rights violations in the process.

Ever since this face-to-face encounter with the true face of the ruling party and full awareness of its intentions, Dr. Pausewang conducted a series of field work to document how dictatorship was being implemented in the name of democracy and centralization in the name of devolution of power through a facade of a federal system. This close-range grassroots-based research was conducted in the footsteps of his earlier works –– Dr. Pausewang was one of the first to study the Ethiopian peasantry and their exploitation through a land owning system that dispossessed the Oromo and other marginalized groups in Ethiopia.

Over the years, Dr. Pausewang became instrumental in highlighting the inherent deficiencies in democracy and governance under the EPRDF rule. By so doing, he armed political activists who had been at a loss to describe and name an amorphous system that killed the spirit of democracy while celebrating its rhetoric, a system that emasculated federalism while brandishing it as its major accomplishment.

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