jump to navigation

Cultural Survival: Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio September 25, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Odaa OromooOromianEconomistOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1oromo-athlete-tamiru-demisse-center-reacts-after-the-final-of-mens-1500m-of-the-rio-2016-paralympiccultural-survival

Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio

Cultural Survival, 23 September 2016


Photo courtesy of: ctj71081/ Flickr

On August 21st, in Brazil, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa was awarded the silver medal for the Men’s Marathon in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Although this was perhaps one of the greatest sporting achievements of his life, this day will forever be remembered for the political protest he made just before the finish line.  While in the global spotlight,  Lilesa raised his hands above his head in an ‘X’ formation to stand in solidarity with the Oromo people of Ethiopia, who have suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

Lilesa is one of the thousands fighting for the rights of the Oromo people. In August 2016, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, called on Ethiopia to allow UN international observers to investigate the excessive use of force by the government’s security forces against peaceful protesters in the Oromo and Amhara regions of the country. There is a strong need for organized international pressure on the Ethiopian government. A credible and independent investigation into this country’s Human Rights offences is long overdue. This will be a huge and very welcome step for the people and the country as a whole.

More on Oromo Abuses Here

Human rights abuses have been prevalent throughout Ethiopia’s history, but for the last nine months, protests have erupted in Oromiya, the homeland of Ethiopia’s largest but historically marginalized ethnic group, the Oromo, of which Feyisa Lilesa belongs. The protests are have now spread north, to a second region, the Amhara.

Although these protesters from Oromo and Amhara have different backgrounds, cultures, and complaints, they share a growing fear and frustration with the rule of a third, minority ethnic group — the Tigrayans. As NPR reported, the Tigrayan elite has a “cartel-like grip on the government, military and the fast-growing economy.”  The Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forcefully rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then, there have been numerous human rights violations, with examples like the 2001 killing of forty Addis Ababa university students for simply demanding the academic freedom to publish a student newspaper, to the Killing of 200 Oromo in 2014, according to the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE).

Related: Learn more about the TPLF in Ethiopia here.

The right of peaceful assembly is protected in Ethiopian and International law. Ethiopia’s Constitution states “everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.” But, after Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 125 witnesses, victims, and government officials, a significant pattern of human rights violations during peaceful Oromo protests was revealed. Examples from late 2015 when the decision of authorities in Ginchi to clear a forest for an investment project triggered protests in at least 400 different locations across all the 17 zones in Oromia, until May 2016, and even into current times, prove there have been massive human rights violations. Numerous reports exposed that in many locations security forces have gone at night, arresting innocent and unsuspecting members of the community such as students and those accommodating students in their homes. Security forces also strategically target those seen as “influential members of the Oromo community, such as musicians, teachers, opposition members and others thought to have the ability to mobilize the community for further protests.” Even more shocking, is that many of those arrested and detained by the security forces were children of eighteen years and younger. Security forces have also been reported to open fire on, and kill peaceful protesters, as well as torture or beat many of the detained Oromo. Many of the females detained have reportedly been raped by security force personnel, while almost none of the detainees have had access to legal counsel, adequate food, or their family members.

An unnamed student said in an interview with HRW on January of 2016, said his friend “was shot in the stomach [at the protest], his intestines were coming out, he said, ‘Please brother, tie my [wound] with your clothes.’ I was scared, I froze and then tried to do that but I was grabbed and arrested by the federal police. Jamal died. They arrested me and took me to Bedeno police station.”

With ongoing events such as these, the people of Ethiopia have appeared to have reached their limit; the brutal force being used by the regime to deter an uprising is starting to backfire, creating new alliances between previously divided groups of Ethiopians such as the Oromo and the Amhara. The regime, struggling to find ways to retain domination, resorts to solutions like the exploitation of Ethiopian resources, land, and opportunities; but this too, is becoming a regime failure.

A press release from The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)notes, this is a regime, accustomed to using tools like manipulation to divide the people by ethnicity or other differences, furthering ethnic hatred, alienation and isolation, leaving a niche for the regime to squeeze into. It has allowed them to repeatedly commit fatal human rights atrocities against these groups with no fear of a united retaliation; but this is suddenly changing. These methods of turning selected ethnic groups against one another, is being scrutinized by Ethiopians; and previously rival groups are now unifying to challenge it. As SMNE said, “more killing, wounding and use of violence against unarmed civilians on the part of the regime’s security forces are strengthening, not weakening, the movement of the people,” but the movement is just beginning.

Ethiopia’s government has rejected the call for UN intervention and promised to launch its own investigation according to Al Jazeera. With the TPLF now facing a crack in the current power structure of the country,  the government’s resistance to UN intervention was to be expected. The fearful reality is, however, that the TPLF, power hungry, and corrupt, will continue to use illegal force in an attempt to maintain control. But this lack of legal and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent, and according to Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “It is time to step up efforts for an international and independent investigation in Ethiopia.”
For years the government has worked to project a “forward thinking, democratic, and economically progressive image” of Ethiopia to outsiders, while on the inside, achieving the total opposite. For example, laws such as the Charities and Societies Proclamation law (CSO) which is meant to appear as an advocacy network, actually has criminalized human rights and other kinds of advocacy work in Ethiopia, making an equal and  civil society impossible to maintain in Ethiopia. This makes the presence of an independent organization like the UN crucial for the protection of the Oromo people, who are practically inhibited from seeking protection themselves.

According to the Press Release from SMNE, “meaningful democratic reforms, restorative justice, and reconciliation for all the people of Ethiopia, including the current ruling party,” are the essential measures which need to be enacted if Ethiopia is to find peace and avoid total disaster. History shows that the government will not cooperate without pressure from key donor nations such as the the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Norway, Sweden etc., as well as from major international human rights organizations, to provide leverage critical in obtaining substantial changes for the rights of the Oromo people and governmental structure of Ethiopia as a whole.

Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience.

Learn More

To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

Do More

For ways to take action to help Indigenous communities, click here.


We take on governments and multinational corporations—and they always have more resources than we do—but with the help of people like you, we do win. Your contribution is crucial to that effort. Click here to do your part.


Dictatorial regimes in East Africa and EU refugee crisis September 25, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Free development vs authoritarian model, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

The crux of the matter is this – both Ethiopia and Eritrea are ruled by equally brutal dictatorial regimes. The only difference is the Ethiopian regime is the darling of the West and the havoc it is creating within the borders of Ethiopia and beyond are conveniently overlooked by Western powers for geopolitical reasons, its mission in Somalia on behalf of Western powers, mainly USA. Specifically, EU is very much aware that the Ethiopian regime is no less a dictator than that in Eritrea.The reader may wonder what has this got to do with the refugee numbers. Here is the logic. Those who decide to travel long distances across deserts and oceans are smart people. Besides they are well informed by the smugglers as well as network of refugees who are already settled in Europe. They know what officials in the other side of the sea want to hear. So, a good proportion of those who register themselves as originating from Eritrea are actually Ethiopian refugees, who know very well that if they declare themselves as Ethiopians then their case would get immediately rejected.In fact, there is strong reason to believe that actually the majority of those who registered as Eritreans are likely to be Ethiopians. There is a corroborating evidence for this – International Migration Organization statistics for immigrants arriving in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, the impact of repressive regime in Addis Ababa is so much that the refugee outflow to Yemen is still unabated, even when Yemen is burning due to civil war.Refugees arriving in this part of the world do declare their true identity, and the majority, about 80%, are Ethiopians. This sharply contrasts with the statistics on arrivals in Europe where refugees anticipate bias due to geopolitics. Otherwise, after all, Eritrea has only about 5 million population. If all of those who are crossing the desert and register as Eritreans were truly Eritreans, then the country’s population would have diminished to a great extent by now.This discrepancy reveals an interesting fact, which EU officials do not want to admit. It is not that EU officials are not aware of these facts, it is just that they do not want to reveal to their general public the havoc their foreign policy is creating by generously, even officiously in the Ethiopian case, supporting some dictators but exaggerating troubles created by others, all depending on geopolitical interests.  We do not live in a world where geopolitical interest can be put aside, but we should not live in a world where every foreign policy should be governed by just geopolitical interests.  If EU or USA chooses to employ security concerns to override all other values of humanity, then there will be no escape from engaging in a web of lies and deceptions even in explaining troubles arriving at their door, like the current refugee crisis, which is essentially a boomerang.It is disappointing to witness the persistence of Western powers in refusing to admit policy mistakes even in the middle of such crisis. This could have given them the opportunity to openly declare their stance regarding the cruel dictatorial regime in Ethiopia, which wins “elections” with 100% and yet remain a persistent offender of human rights: impoverish, imprison, torture, and kill citizens at massive scale. Ethiopia is the only country on earth where double digit economic growth rate has been declared year after year for over a decade but famine and starvation at massive scale is still shamelessly being announced to continue begging for food aid. It is a disgrace to witness the so called international community look the other way.

Source: Dictatorial regimes in East Africa and EU refugee crisis