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Oromia: Vice News: Deadly Protests in Ethiopia as Students Defend Farmers from Urban ‘Master Plan’ December 11, 2015

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Say no to the master killer. Addis Ababa master plan is genocidal plan against Oromo people#OromoProtests of 7 December 2015‪#‎OromoProtests‬ Global Solidarity, Switzerland, 11 December 2015

Deadly Protests in Ethiopia as Students Defend Farmers from Urban ‘Master Plan’

 By Kayla Ruble, news.vice.com, December 11, 2015

In the last two weeks, protests have spread to more than 50 towns as part of a larger and years-long movement against the Ethiopian government’s controversial development plan. It’s not the first protest against the so-called Master Plan; there was a similar uprising in April and May of 2014 after the development plan was approved. A crackdown by security forces left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

By all accounts, according to Jawar Mohammed, the founder of Oromo Media Network, the recent movement is much bigger than its predecessor. The Minnesota-based Ethiopian said reports indicate farmers and other citizens have even begun to join in on the demonstrations over the last few days.

“This is the biggest protest by far that I have seen in the last 25 years,” Mohammed said.

In addition to being more widespread than previous demonstrations, this year’s protests have reportedly been better organized, according to American-based Ethiopian journalist Mohammed Ademo. While improved access to social media has played a role, Ademo said the size can also be attributed to a growing dissatisfaction among the public with what he called the “government’s top-down, non-participatory approach to development.”

“Gone are the days when the central government can displace Oromo farmers and forcibly implement any policy,” he said. “Continued crackdown on the protesters only ensures Oromos’ growing estrangement from the state.”

The estrangement has a strong economic component. The expansion of Addis Ababa, the headquarters of both the African Union and the international airline carrier Ethiopia Airways, is a symptom of both the wider urbanization in sub-Saharan African cities and the booming success of national economy.

Addis Ababa has seen growing foreign and economic investment in recent years, while at the same time becoming a regional business hub, Bill Moseley, a geography professor at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota, said.

“Ethiopia’s seen as this kind of up-and-coming country with a lot of investment that’s posturing to make Addis more of a global city, so I’m sure that’s feeding into this sort of push to expansion,” Moseley explained. “It’s these small farmers that lose out, but it’s rationalized in sort of these broader development goals.”

Generally, said Moseley, when governments pave the way for urban growth they often use this development as a way to justify land grabs. According to Moseley, this situation is not exclusive to Addis Ababa and Ethiopia, but one seen in other cities across sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.

For the Oromo, specifically, activists claim they have not benefited from the country’s growth and prosperity. The regional ethnic group, which counts Oromia as its homeland, makes up more than 80 percent of the state’s 27 million people. Nationally it represents upward of 35 percent.

Literacy rates are bleak and the group is underrepresented in government. According to Mohammed, nearly a dozen Oromo clans have been swallowed up in the city’s horizontal expansion as they are forced off their lands. In Ethiopia, the government owns all of the land, but the constitution does provide some protections for the public. Oromo activists say these rights have been ignored in the rush to expand.

“The capital city is in the middle of Oromia, but you don’t see any Oromo identity in it,” he said. “Every time [Addis Ababa] expands it just destroys them. They’re saying the development has to incorporate us…. You can’t just leave us stranded.”

The planned development has also hit home for the Oromo, who have a very close connection with their land, according to Human Rights Watch Horn of Africa researcher Felix Horne.

“They’re concerned if a large portion of land outside of Addis Ababa comes under control of the city administration that farmers will be displaced from the land,” he explained. “[That] they won’t receive compensation from their livelihoods. And they won’t have the ability to feed their families.”

The government has a history of cracking down on the Oromo people, who represent a majority of the population and a perceived threat to power to the minority-led coalition. Horne said that anytime Oromos expresses dissent or simply asks a question about land development policies, they can be subject to arbitrary detention and mistreatment.

Beyond discrimination and crackdown on the Oromo, freedom of press and other expression is heavily curtailed in the country as a whole. Horne said coverage of the recent protests has been almost non-existent.

“Ethiopia is often applauded internationally for its economic growth and development initiatives, but that’s only one part of the story,” he said. “Anyone who expresses any form of dissent in Ethiopia is in trouble.”

https://news.vice.com/article/deadly-protests-in-ethiopia-as-students-defend-farmers-from-urban-master-plan

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