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Politics of Death: The map maker who finds the bodies in Ethiopia’s land battle June 22, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #ABCDeebisaa, #OromoProtests, #SidamaProtests.
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Politics of Death: The map maker who finds the bodies in Ethiopia’s land battle

 

By Sally Hayden, This Is Place,  20 June 2017

 

A man at a funeral holds up the portrait of Tesfu Tadese Biru, 32, a construction engineer who died during a stampede after police fired warning shots at an anti-government protest in Bishoftu during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Denkaka Kebele, Ethiopia, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo


Academic Endalk Chala has been mapping the deaths of men and women killed in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, since violence erupted in November 2015By Sally Hayden


LONDON, June 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It was late 2015 when Endalk Chala began documenting deaths in his home country of Ethiopia, scouring Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to piece together who had died and where.

Chala comes from Ginchi, a town 72 km (45 miles) from Addis Ababa where protests began in November 2015, initially over a government plan to allocate large swathes of farmland to the capital city for urban development.

The plan would have displaced thousands of Oromo farmers, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

“There were reports that people were killed in the protests and no one was reporting about it. No one cared who these people are,” Chala told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“The information was all over the internet, not well organised. I just wanted to give perspective.”

While the land re-allocation project was officially scrapped by authorities, protests and conflict reignited over the continued arrest and jailing of opposition demonstrators with full-scale protests over everything from Facebook to economics.

Several hundred protesters were killed in the 11 months to October 2016 when the government declared a state of emergency and shut down communications, including the internet.

More than 50 people died at a single demonstration that month, after a stampede was triggered by police use of teargas to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival.

Watch: the map-maker’s mission

Witnesses also reported security forces firing live rounds into crowds of protesters at multiple locations.

A government report presented to parliament in April acknowledged a death toll 669 people – 33 of them security personnel – although activists believe it could be much higher.

For the government shutting off the internet for periods all but ended online contact across Ethiopia, leaving it to the Ethiopian diasporas to pull together the facts.

DIASPORA’S DATABASE

Enter Chala, a PhD student in Oregon, the United States, who decided to log every death he could on an interactive map, inspired by a similar Palestinian project.

“I started to collect the information from the internet: Facebook, Twitter and blogs. And I started to contact the people who had put that information out,” he said.

Once word spread that Chala was collating the deaths, Ethiopian friends and activists began to send details, including photographs of those injured and killed. They contacted Chala via social media and instant messaging applications like Viber.

Chala learned that Ethiopians in rural areas were driving miles to put evidence of the killings online, but he still feared there were information black holes.

Click here to see map WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND DEATH 

In its report of 669 deaths presented to parliament, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission – which works for the government – blamed protesters for damaging land and property.

In the report, seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Commission said the disturbances had damaged public services, private property and government institutions. It also cited harm to investment and development infrastructure.

However the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticised the government for a lack of accountability and called for access to protest sites.

Neither the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission nor the Ethiopian government responded to requests for comment.

FACEBOOK LEADS TO JAIL

In a country where fear of reprisals is common place, it is easier for those living outside Ethiopia to speak out, said Felix Horne, Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Any time victims of human rights abuses share information with outside groups, with journalists – either domestic or international – there’s often repercussions, quite often from local security officials,” he said.

Protesters run from tear gas being fired by police during Irreecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri – RTSQE9N

Horne said Facebook was a key source of information in the early stages of the protests but this was quickly seized on by the government and security officials checked students’ phones.

Last month, an opposition politician was sentenced to 6-1/2 years in prison because of comments he wrote on Facebook.

Horne, whose organisation also attempted to document the deaths, agreed that numbers are important for accountability, but said a focus on the death toll alone can be de-humanising.

“We’ve talked to so many people who were shot by security forces. Many of them children. Many of them students. The numbers sort of dehumanises these individuals.”

COST OF FREE THINKING

Benta, a 29-year-old veterinarian and former government employee who took part in the protests, saw nine people shot.

Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Kenya, his new home, he recalled how a soldier fired directly on a car in Aje town, West Arsi on Feb. 15 last year. Five people were shot, two died and three were wounded, he said.

Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa makes a gesture while crossing the finish line at the Rio Olympics to protest Ethiopia’s treatment of his ethnic group, the Oromo people on August 21, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Six months later, on Aug. 6, Benta was participating in another protest in Shashamane in the Oromia region, when he saw four people shot. He says he was detained and tortured for nearly two months and has now made a new life in Nairobi.

“If you’re expressing your freedom, you’ll be shot, and if you’re asking for your rights, you’ll be detained,” he said.

Chala said bullet wounds were the most common injuries visible on the photos that flooded in to him from Ethiopia and the brutality he witnessed has stayed with him.

“It really hit me very hard,” he said.

“People will forget. They’ll bottleneck their emotions and grievances and the government will just extend and buy some time, and there will be another bubble sometime in the future. That’s a vicious circle.”


This is part of our series The Politics of Death”, reporting a global wave of violence against communities fighting for their lands. To find out why, read the full story here.


 

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Why EPRDF opted for a policy of Mutual self-annihilation on Addis Ababa? June 22, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #ABCDeebisaa, #OromoProtests.
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Why EPRDF opted for a policy of Mutual self-annihilation on Addis Ababa ?
        By Dr Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni, Morning Star, 20  June 2017

In a tragedy akin to the Treaty of Wichale of May 2, 1889, the Ethiopian federal government is repudiating the self-governance rights of the Oromo people of themselves and their territory by trying to separate Addis Ababa from Oromia.
This is very problematic and evil by design which will undermine social harmony and peaceful coexistence among Ethiopians, and maybe even might lead to Ethiopia’s disintegration as a nation.
The issue is very simple for every living human being to understand. If Oromo lands where other Ethiopian ethnic groups settle in large number and live are snatched and taken away from the Oromo people under the pretext of Oromos have become minority in their own city or land or Oromos cannot govern other Ethiopian ethnic groups (which comes only out of the heart of a group who has extreme hatred and disrespect for the Oromo people), then, why on Earth will the Oromos allow for other ethnic groups to come and live among them in the first place?
This malicious and evil policy driven by shortsighted land grab agenda by few will force the Oromo people to adopt xenophobic attitude or not to allow anymore for other Ethiopian ethnic groups to live anywhere among the Oromo people. That is natural human instinct particularly when it is clear that the policy is not to live together with the Oromo people but to slowly take Oromo people’s land by eliminating the Oromo.
This is not nuclear science. All Ethiopians who really care about Ethiopia and harmony among Ethiopians should just close their eyes for a minute and think about it. It is a nightmarish situation. I don’t understand why EPRDF is doing this against the Oromo people and the Ethiopian people unless the intention is something evil and sinister.
I strongly advise EPRDF and the Ethiopian government to immediately restore the status of Addis Ababa as one of the Oromia cities under Oromia jurisdiction, and decide upon the special interest of the federal government in Addis Ababa.
Imagine what will happen if the same situation is contemplated on Gonder, Bahir Dar, Mekele or Awassa? Will the Amhara or Tigray people sit idle?
How long could the EPRDF continue disrespecting the Oromo people and for what end?! If the EPRDF as a group thinks the Oromo people will not assert their rights in their own country and on their own land? Then, the EPRDF has little understanding of the Oromo people and the Ethiopian history! I don’t know why this policy of mutual self-destruction become a top priority for the EPRDF when there are many other policy options available to it?