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Why I run: I will continue to protest until the Oromo people in Ethiopia gain their freedom. May 20, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Why I run 

I will continue to protest until the Oromo people in Ethiopia gain their freedom.

Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his wrists in solidarity with the Oromo people after crossing the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics [Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha]
Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crosses his wrists in solidarity with the Oromo people after crossing the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics [Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha]


Feyisa Lilesa is a long-distance runner from Ethiopia and a member of the Oromo people.

My name is Feyisa Lilesa. I am an exiled marathon runner from Ethiopia.

I have not been back to my country since winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games last August. In Rio, as I approached the finish line, I crossed my wrists above my head in solidarity with the men, women and children who have died fighting for their rights and those who are still suffering under the brutal regime in Ethiopia.

It was a sign of nonviolent resistance used by protesters in my native Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnic-based states.

Much has changed since my Olympic protest in Rio. I now live and train in exile in the United States. Last February, I was reunited with my wife and two children.

Meanwhile, despite the global spotlight my protest attracted, the killings, imprisonment and harassment of my people by Ethiopian security forces have only worsened.

This is why I continue to protest, after every race and at every media event.

In a few days, the World Health Organization (WHO) member states will elect a new director general at the 70th World Health Assembly. One of the top three candidates is Tedros Adhanom, current special adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister and Ethiopia’s former foreign and health minister. Adhanom is travelling the world discussing human rights (while comically admitting Ethiopia’s record is “not perfect“) as part of his campaign to lead WHO.

Adhanom is one of the chief architects of Ethiopia’s repressive regime. He has been a cabinet minister for more than a decade. In 2015 and 2016, according to human rights organisations security forces killed hundreds of peaceful protesters; the number in my opinion might be more than 1000. Adhanom, then the country’s foreign minister, downplayed the extent of the problem and denounced even the scant international scrutiny of Ethiopia’s human rights record.

In an op-ed last October, Adhanom targeted Human Rights Watch – blaming the New York-based nonprofit and the Ethiopian diaspora for whipping up anti-government protests. Having systematically decimated domestic opposition, the civil society and independent press, this was part of his regime’s attempt to intimidate and silence critics abroad. Like the government he served, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying to shore up international support, Adhanom has turned to PR agencies to whitewash his image.

Adhanom is now travelling around the world hypocritically talking about health as a human right. But when he was health minister, his office refused to acknowledge large cholera outbreaks, which cost many lives. Today Ethiopia is also covering up yet another cholera outbreak, using the euphemism of acute watery diarrhoea.

Adhanom has also been touting his success with Ethiopia’s national Health Extension Program. I have friends who worked as extension workers and know communities that were supposed to benefit from this much-hyped initiative. Particularly in Oromo areas, the services never reached the people who needed them the most.

OPINION: The Oromo protests have changed Ethiopia

In some towns, poorly supplied health centres were built and extension workers with 10th grade education – who had only a year of medical training – were assigned to staff the facilities.

However, the poor training, distance the workers had to travel to get to the satellite offices and the lack of medical equipment and supplies meant the majority still don’t have access to quality health services. Moreover, admission into the programme requires party membership and mandatory political indoctrination.

In other words, Adhanom’s health ministry used the donor-funded health extension programme as a coercive political recruitment tool for the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In some cases, people were denied access or were asked to join EPRDF in order to access even the measly services provided by extension workers.

That is not all. Ethiopia has gained international praise for reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. However, in Oromia today, babies often still die in great numbers from preventable diseases like diarrhoea. The true child mortality rate is never recorded since the statistics are falsified with the aim of meeting global development goals and keeping foreign aid coming. This practice has so far escaped international scrutiny given the lack of independent press, organised opposition and robust civil society in Ethiopia.

After years of authoritarian backsliding, Ethiopia is now effectively a military state, ruled by a Command Post that was setup to oversee the country’s now 8-month-long state of emergency, declared in October.

Despite these crimes, there is still an opportunity for Adhanom and the Ethiopian regime to do the right thing.

First, the martial law must be immediately lifted and protesters, journalists, opposition leaders and civil society members must be released from jail. Specifically, Oromo opposition leaders Bekele Gerba, Merera Gudina and their colleagues, must be released without further delay. Authorities must also allow independent investigation, including by UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and assembly, into human rights violations and the killings of protesters.

Second, instead of blaming the diaspora and neighbouring countries for the deepening political crisis, authorities must meet the protesters demands for a free and fair Ethiopia. That entails opening up the political environment and allowing the country’s 100 million citizens to elect their leaders – ending the hegemony of Adhanom’s Tigrayan ethnic group.

Finally, Adhanom – still a special adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister – must withdraw from the election for director general of the WHO and issue a formal apology to the Ethiopian people, the African Union and human rights groups for trying to divert attention from the crimes he and his government have committed over the last two decades and a half.

International civil society groups, the media and WHO member states face a unique opportunity to send a clear message that human rights matter. And perpetrators and enablers of atrocious crimes cannot be rewarded for their complacence in the face of egregious right abuses. Member states must reject Adhanom’s candidacy and demand that Ethiopia stops covering up water-borne diseases and be transparent about its record of child mortality and other key indicators.

I look forward to one day returning home to run across the blood red soil of my homeland. However, until the Oromo people gain their freedom, I will continue to protest in solidarity.  

Feyisa Lilesa is a long-distance runner from Ethiopia and a member of the Oromo people.


Aljazeera: Oromo protests: Ethiopia unrest resurges after stampede October 6, 2016

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Oromo protests: Ethiopia unrest resurges after stampede

Bloggers arrested, internet shut down periodically, and foreign firms attacked as anti-government protests continue.

File: A man at a funeral holds up the portrait of Tesfu Tadese Biru, a construction engineer killed in Bishoftu [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Often violent protests in which rights groups say hundreds of people have been killed by security forces have flared again in Ethiopia, with a US citizen among the latest deaths.

Protests reignited in the Oromia region – the main focus of a recent wave of demonstrations – after at least 55 people were killed in a stampede at the weekend, which was sparked by police firing tear gas and warning shots at a huge crowd of protesters attending a religious festival.

Fifty-five is the official death toll given by the government, though opposition activists and rights groups say they believe more than 100 people died as they fled security forces, falling into ditches that dotted the area. Ethiopian radio said excavators had to be used to remove some of the bodies.

 Are Ethiopia’s Oromo being repressed?

The anti-government demonstrations started in November among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the second most populous group. Though they initially began over land rights they later broadened into calls for more political, economic and cultural rights.

Both groups say that a multi-ethnic ruling coalition and the security forces are dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up about six percent of the population.

The government, though, blames rebel groups and foreign-based dissidents for stoking the violence.

Staff at the California-based UC Davis university  confirmed the identity of the US citizen as Sharon Gray, a postdoctoral researcher of biology, who had been in the Horn of Africa nation to attend a meeting.

The US embassy said she was killed on Tuesday when stones were hurled at her vehicle on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where residents said crowds have attacked other vehicles since the stampede.

The embassy did not give further details or a precise location for the incident.

Foreign firms attacked

News of Gray’s death came as foreign-owned factories and equipment were damaged in the protests. Demonstrators in Oromia say farmland has been seized to build foreign factories and housing blocks.

On Tuesday, crowds damaged a factory run by Turkish textile firm Saygin Dima and the BMET Energy cable plant, which also has Turkish investors, officials from firms in the area said. Both plants are in the Oromia area.

READ MORE: The ‘Ethiopia rising’ narrative and the Oromo protests

A third of the Saygin Dima plant in Sebeta, 35 km (20 miles) southwest of Addis Ababa, was destroyed by fire, General Manager Fatih Mehmet Yangin said.

“A large crowd attacked the factory,” he said, adding three vehicles were also destroyed.

Yangin said a flower farm nearby was also attacked. The Oromia Regional Administration said vehicles and some machinery at a plant owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Cement were vandalised.

Oromia has been a focus for industrial development that has fuelled Ethiopia’s economic growth, but locals say they receive little compensation when land is taken by the government.

The death toll from unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators over the past year or more runs into several hundred, according to opposition and rights group estimates. The US-based Human Rights Watch says at least 500 people have been killed by security forces.

The government says such figures are inflated.

Ethiopia criticised over lack of press freedom

The attacks will cast a shadow over Ethiopia’s ambition to draw in more investment to industrialise a nation where most people rely on subsistence farming, and have been struggling with a severe drought in the past two years or so.

The government has been building new infrastructure, including an electrified railway connecting the capital of the landlocked nation with a port in neighbouring Djibouti, which was inaugurated on Wednesday.

At least seven foreign-owned flower farms in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, another area where protests have flared, were damaged in political violence at the start of September.

Bloggers arrested

Rights groups and opposition politicians accuse the government of excessive force in dealing with demonstrations, crushing opponents and stifling free speech.

WATCH: What is triggering Ethiopia’s unrest?

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) called on authorities on Tuesday to free Seyoum Teshoume , a blogger critical of the government, who writes for the website Ethiothinktank.com. CPJ said he was reported detained on October 1.

Another blogger who has expressed support for the protests, Natnael Feleke, was arrested on Tuesday, according to a blogging collective of which he is a member. Natnael was previously arrested in 2014 and released after more than a year in prison when charges against him were dropped.

There were also reports that the internet had been shutdown periodically over the last two days.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but the government says it only detains people who threaten national security and says it guarantees free speech.

The opposition failed to win a single seat in a 547-seat parliament in a 2015 election and had just one in the previous parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera News And Agencies

Related Article from Financial Times 


Ethiopians chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu © AP

Ethiopian anti-government protesters are escalating attacks on foreign investors as anger grows over the regime’s crackdown on demonstrations, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Activists torched a Turkish textile factory and attacked a mine owned by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, damaging trucks and machinery on Tuesday, days after more than 50 people were killed when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protests at a religious festival. The US embassy in Addis Ababa said an American woman died on Tuesday when her vehicle was struck by rocks thrown by Ethiopians on the outskirts of the capital.

The violence comes after a wave of protests this year that were originally triggered over a land dispute in the Oromia region of central and southern Ethiopia. They have since escalated into broader demonstrations against the autocratic government and spread to other regions, threatening the stability of one of Africa’s best-performing economies.

Addis Ababa has responded with force — activists accuse security forces of firing live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators and say hundreds have been killed in the protests.

Washington has called the government’s approach to the unrest “self-defeating,” while the EU on Wednesday called for the authorities to address the “wider aspects of the grievances”.

Activists and analysts say the attacks on foreign companies are becoming increasingly co-ordinated.

More than two dozen foreign companies, including flower farms and other agribusinesses have suffered millions of dollars in damage in recent weeks, according to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based consultancy.

Juan Carlos Vallejo, co-owner of Esmeralda Farms, pulled out of the country after his business was attacked several weeks ago.

“Right now, everyone is really scared,” he said. “We never expected something like this to happen. I don’t think anyone is going to want to invest here any more.”

Ethiopia has been one of Africa’s star performers, recording 10 per cent annual growth and attracting tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment over the past decade thanks to a carefully planned, state-led development and industrialisation policies.

But it is also a tightly controlled society, with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front — which has governed with an iron grip since 1991 — and its allies controlling all the seats in parliament.

Dissent is swiftly repressed and the political opposition was severely weakened by a government crackdown — during which scores of people were also killed — after disputed 2005 elections.

“We have made clear that Ethiopia’s prosperity depends on the ability of its government to maintain a stable and predictable investment climate and to expand political space,” a western diplomat said.

The current protests began in Oromia region last November over plans to expand Addis Ababa into Oromo lands. The initiative was shelved but the government’s aggressive response to the protests saw them spread to northern areas, which are dominated by the Amhara ethnic group.

Both the Amhara and Oromo are frustrated by the political dominance of the Tigray minority, which makes up 6 per cent of the 100m population, analysts say. The Oromo and Amhara comprise some two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Awol Allo, an Ethiopian law lecturer at Keele University, said foreign investors were being targeted because “they are seen as the source of legitimacy for the government”.

“The government has to attract foreign investment to keep the economy growing and has to provide land and services cheaply,” he said. “People are taking out their anger on investments by foreigners to undermine the government.”

The government has sought to play down the protests, blaming overseas agitators and criminal elements.

Analysts say the Tigray-dominated regime has maintained its grip in part by keeping the larger ethnic groups divided. But they add that now the Oromo and Amhara have united in their opposition to the government, it will be hard for the authorities to appease them without making significant concessions.

However, Rashid Abdi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said some ministers, and the Tigray-controlled military, are loath to do this.

“The protests have now reached a serious level, a different scale,” he said. “We should not exaggerate and say the government is going to keel over tomorrow, but it portends future trouble unless they get a grip. What’s worrying is that so far they haven’t.”

Al Jazeera Inside Story – What is triggering Ethiopia’s unrest? #OromoProtests August 15, 2016

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Calls for an international investigation in Ethiopia have surfaced after more than 100 people were killed in demonstrations.It is a conflict that has led to 400 deaths since November, 100 of them in the last week alone, according to human rights groups.The Ethiopian government is cracking down on ethnic Oromos and Amharas, who are calling for political reforms.Human rights groups have called the reponse ruthless. And the United Nations wants to send international observers to investigate.Ethiopia has denied that request, saying it alone is responsible for the security of its citizens. But what can be done to ensure the Ethiopian government respects human rights?Presenter: Folly Bah ThibaultGuests:Getachew Reda – Ethiopian communications affairs minister.Felix Horne – Ethiopia reseracher for Human Rights Watch.Ezekiel Gebissa – Profesor of History and African studies at Kettering University.- Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe– Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish– Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera– Check our website: http://www.aljazeera.com/

ALJAZEERA: The ‘Ethiopia rising’ narrative and the #OromoProtests June 20, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in Ethiopia

Opinion/ Human Rights: The ‘Ethiopia rising’ narrative and the Oromo protests

Oromos have been the victims of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in the hands of security forces.


Members of the OromoComunity living in Malta, protest in Valletta, Malta, December 2015, Reuters photo
Ethiopian migrants, all members of the Oromo community of Ethiopia living in Malta, protest in Valletta, Malta, December 2015 [Reuters]

by Awol K Allo, ALJAZEERA, 20 June 2016

Awol K. Allo is a Fellow in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

So much for the “Ethiopia rising” meme which Ethiopian authorities ostentatiously promote to camouflage the repressive nature of the state.

A new report published by Human Rights Watch on the Oromo protests depicts a disturbing picture of a government that thrives on systematic repression and official violence.

The report, which puts the death toll from the seven-month-long protest at more than 400, exposes the “Ethiopia rising” narrative for what it is: a political Ponzi scheme.

Underneath the selective highlighting of Ethiopia’s story of renaissance and transformation lies a Janus-faced reality in which the triumph of some has meant the utter submission of others.

The Oromo protests are exposing the senseless suffering and brutality that lies beneath Ethiopia’s rhetoric of development and revival.

Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group ‘marginalised’

Long-simmering ethnic discontents

After 25 years of absolute control over the country’s public life, the ruling party is facing its biggest political challenge yet: an unconventional and innovative resistance to its iron-fisted rule.

What is unfolding in the drama of this increasingly defiant and unprecedented protest is the subplot that producers and cheerleaders of the “Ethiopia rising” myth neither anticipated nor fully understood: the power of the indignant to wreak havoc and paralyse the state even as they were met with murderous official violence.

Though the protest was initially triggered by the threat of displacement by Ethiopia’s development policies – particularly the proposed expansion of the territorial limits of the capital, Addis Ababa, into neighbouring Oromo lands – this is not the sole reason and cannot provide an adequate explanation of the level of defiance on the streets of Oromia.

Rather, the protest is a manifestation of long-simmering ethnic discontent and deeper crisis of representation that pushed Oromos to the margin of the country’s political life.

READ MORE: Ethiopia – Oromo protests continue amid harsh crackdown

Despite a rare concession by the authorities to cancel the “master plan”, the protest is still ongoing, demanding genuine political reforms aimed at an equitable reorganisation and overhauling of existing frameworks and arrangements of power in the country.

Protesters argue that the prevailing arrangements with the ethnically mixed morphology of the Ethiopian state, in which ethnic Tigray elites dominate all aspects of public life, are not only undemocratic, they are also an existential threat to the peaceful co-existence of communities in the future.

The Oromo question

As the single largest ethnic group in a multi-ethnic country in which ethnicity is the pre-eminent form of political organising and mobilisation, the prevailing arrangement presents a particularly unique and challenging problem for the Oromo.

According to the 2007 Ethiopian National Census, Oromos constitute 34.49 percent of the population while Tigray, the politically dominant ethnic group, represents 6.07 percent of the total population. The real figure for the Oromo people is much higher.

The silence of the international community in the face of consistent reports raising alarms about systematic and widespread atrocities is deafening.

By virtue of being a majority ethnic group, Oromos represent an existential threat to the legitimacy of ethnic Tigrayan rule and therefore have to be policed and controlled to create an appearance of stability and inclusiveness.

In a landmark report titled “Because I am Oromo“, Amnesty International describes a widespread and systematic repression, astonishing in scope and scale, in which the conflagration of ethnic identity and political power gave rise to the unprecedented criminalisation and incarceration of Oromos over the past five years.

Oromos have been the victims of an indiscriminate and disproportionate attack in the hands of security forces. This, protesters argue, had a far deeper and more corrosive effect of rendering Oromo identity and culture invisible and unrecognisable to mainstream perspectives and frameworks.

OPINION: Ethiopia drought – How can we let this happen again?

The government’s response so far has been to dismiss the movement as misinformed, and besmirch it as anti-peace or anti-development elements controlled and directed by external forces – an old tactic used by the government to discredit and criminalise dissent. The most vocal and outspoken members of the movement are being tried for terrorism.

Western influence

The silence of the international community in the face of consistent reports raising alarms about systematic and widespread atrocities is deafening.

The obsessive focus of the West on the “war on terror” and the tendency to define human rights policy through the lens of the war on terror means that those who abuse their citizens under the guise of the war on terror are impervious to criticism.

READ MORE: Ethiopia’s Oromo people demand equal rights in protests

In the decade since 9/11, the West went beyond technical and financial support to providing diplomatic cover to abuses of human rights including by creating make-believe stories that Ethiopia is a democracy and an economic success story.

High-ranking government officials, including the United States President Barack Obama, praised the ruling party as “democratically elected“, providing much-needed endorsement and legitimisation to the government.

Ethiopia is a classic case of US counterterrorism policy inadvertently producing the very thing it seeks to prevent: helping to create an Orwellian surveillance state reminiscent of the Stasi in East Germany.

The “Ethiopia rising” narrative and its economic fiction is beginning to unravel. With the IMF significantly downgrading its economic forecast to 4.5 percent from 10.2 percent last year, the exodus of people fleeing its repression, and the droughts that made a fifth of its 100 million people dependent on food aid, Ethiopia’s economic miracle is being exposed for what it is: the benefit of the elite.

The Ethiopian government and its partners in the West are thinking that the outcry will die away, that the outrage will pass. We should lose no opportunity to prove them wrong.

Awol K Allo is Fellow in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Al Jazeera: Africa (Oromia): Ethiopia’s Oromo people demand equal rights in protests. #OromoProtests March 27, 2016

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Ethiopia’s Oromo people demand equal rights in protests

Largest ethnic group in Ethiopia continues to rally against the government despite crackdown.

By Charles Stratford, Al Jazeera



Wolonkomi, Ethiopia – Six-year-old Abi Turi and her nine-year-old brother Dereje have not been attending classes in Wolonkomi.

Their school was closed in January as the Ethiopian government began what its critics call a crackdown on protests by the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group.

It is uncertain how many people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since November, when a series of demonstrations began.

Local estimates put the figure at between 80 and above 200. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that more than 200 people may have died in about six months, a figure the government denies.

“With regards to allegations from human rights groups or self-styled human rights protectors, the numbers they come with, the stories they often paint, are mostly plucked out thin air,” Getachew Reda, the information minister, told Al Jazeera.

Abi and Dereje’s mother was among those shot in January. She was hit by a bullet in the neck. Despite receiving medical treatment, she died of her wounds in March.

“The little girl cries and keeps asking where her mother is. We feel her pain,” said the children’s grandfather Kena Turi, a farmer. “The older one cried when his mother was shot and died, but now it seems he understands she’s gone.”

Oromo students began rallying to protest against a government plan they said was intended to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa, the capital, into Oromia’s farmland.

Protests continue

Oromia is the country’s largest region, and many there believe the government did not want to redevelop services and roads, but that it was engaged in a landgrab.

Though the government shelved its “Integrated Development Master Plan” due to the tension, protests continued as the Oromo called for equal rights.

In February, another anti-government rally turned violent. Nagase Arasa, 15, and her eight-year-old brother Elias say they were shot in their legs while a demonstration happened near their home.

READ MORE: Oromo protests continue amid harsh crackdown

“I was in the back yard walking to the house when I was shot,” Nagase told Al Jazeera.

“My brother was in the house. I couldn’t walk I was bleeding. Then I was hit again when I was on the ground I felt the pain then my brother came to help me and he was shot too.”

Ethiopia has an ethnically-based federal system that gives a degree of self-rule to the Oromo people.

But the Oromo opposition, some of whose members have been detained, says the system has been corrupted by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

A ‘marginalised’ community

Merera Gudina, an Oromo politician, said that members of his community feel marginalised — excluded from cultural activities, discriminated against because of their different language, and not consulted in political or economic decisions.

With double-digit growth over the last decade, Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but the majority of the Oromo remain poor.

“Until the Oromo’s get their proper place in this country I don’t think it [dissent] is going to go. The government wants to rule in the old way; people are resisting being ruled in the old way,” Gudina said.

READ MORE: Ethiopia accused on bloody crackdown

Reporting and recording human rights abuses is also risky, activists told Al Jazeera. Local and foreign journalists said attempts were made to intimidate them, with some detained.

Al Jazeera spoke with local reporters who said they were too afraid to even try and cover the issue.

“It’s very dangerous. Everybody is living in fear. They imprison people every day. People have disappeared. Doing this work is like selling my life,” a human rights activist told Al Jazeera, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Government rejects claims

Kumlachew Dagne, a human rights lawyer, said there was a need for “public forums and consultation for debates on public policy issues” to allow for different views to be heard. He added that the protesters who were injured or killed had not been armed.

“Many of those people were killed after the protests took place many of the people were shot in the back some were shot in the head, which shows that these people were not armed,” he said.

“They were peaceful demonstrators. That is consistent with reports we had from victims’ families.”

The government rejects such claims as exaggerated or fabricated.

“People, whether they are civilians or security officials who have been involved in an excessive use of force, will be held responsible,” Reda said.

He said the government would consult with the Oromo people and “address the underlying problems”.


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Al Jazeera: HUMAN RIGHTS: #OromoProtests continue amid harsh crackdown March 24, 2016

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HUMAN RIGHTS: #OromoProtests continue amid harsh crackdown

Protesters continue to clash with security forces in what has spiralled into Ethiopia’s largest unrest in decades.

Simona Foltyn | 24 Mar 2016 

Fitale Bulti, with a picture of her nephew Ulfata Bulti, 12, who was killed by security forces while participating in protests in December [Al Jazeera]

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  – At first sight, things seem to have returned to normality in the town of Ambo, 120 kilometres west of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Few uniformed security forces are visible on the streets. People seem to go about their daily lives as usual.

But speak to almost any resident and a different picture emerges.

“We are living in a violent kind of peace,” says an 18-year-old student, who does not want to reveal his name. Like many people interviewed for this story, he fears he might end up in jail, or worse, for speaking his mind.

Ambo is perhaps best known for two things: being Ethiopia’s most popular mineral water, and its university, often a hot spot for anti-government demonstrations. Such displays of public dissent earned the town a reputation as the bastion of opposition in a country where the ruling party and its allies took all 547 parliament seats in last year’s election.


When people took to the streets in nearby Ginchi in November last year to object about plans to requisition public land for an investment, residents in Ambo soon joined in. Demonstrations spread like wildfire across the vast Oromia region, feeding on decade-long frustrations over political and economic marginalisation.

As the protests intensified, so did accounts of police brutality amid what regime critics describe as a widespread and systematic government crackdown on opponents. Witnesses recount tales of killings, beatings and arbitrary arrests by an array of armed forces deployed to quell what had spiralled into Ethiopia’s worst civil unrest in a decade.

The heavy-handedness of the government has further spurred anger among the Oromo. Earlier in March, students from Addis Ababa University marched in protest towards the US embassy in the capital,  demanding the end to police crackdowns.

Details of the crackdowns, mostly reported through social media and by activists, have been difficult to verify. Restrictions on movement have made independent investigations risky for human rights workers and journalists alike. Two foreign journalists and their translator were recently arrested  for covering the protests.

The 18-year-old student in Ambo told Al Jazeera that he was shot in his hand when the military opened fire at the protesting crowd. Even though his hand is healing, he hasn’t returned to school in fear of intelligence officers, who are allegedly combing classrooms for those who took part in the protests.

“They are still looking for people and taking them to prison,” he said, trying to conceal the dressing on his hand to avoid attracting the attention of security personnel, who many think are roaming the streets in civilian clothing.

Silenced testimonies

Such testimonies stand in stark contrast from the image the country often presents to the outside world.

Ethiopia’s state-led development plan has resulted in double-digit growth, improvement of key socio-economic indicators  and has helped attract billions inaid. The country is also an important security ally for Western governments in the volatile Horn of Africa.

The family of Girma Ragassa, aged 28, who was reportedly killed by security forces in Ambo. [Al Jazeera]

It’s uncertain how many people have died in the clashes. Local observers put the figure at between 80 and above 200, while New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that well over 200 people may have lost their lives since November.

READ MORE: Protesters in Ethiopia reject authoritarian development model

More than a dozen police officers have also been killed in the unrest. Protesters stand accused of attacking public buildings and burning the houses of government officials.

The government has dismissed HRW’s death toll as an exaggeration, but has yet to provide its own estimate.

“We are already taking actions, except that we are not in a shouting match with the media or self-appointed human rights activists,” said Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s minister of Information.

The government has accused radical elements of stoking the unrest but asserts that investigations into the heavy use of force are under way. Yet many Oromo say authorities have failed to take responsibility.

Four families of victims interviewed said no government officials had come to investigate the deaths of their loved ones.

“The only time any government officials come here is to spy on us,” said Worku Bayi, the father of one of the victims killed in the protests, 22-year-old Aschalew Worku.

After his death, authorities reportedly accused Aschalew of being a member of the Oromo Liberation Front, an exiled opposition movement that the ruling party has labelled a terrorist organisation.

Witnesses blame security forces for deliberately obstructing medical care for wounded protesters. Fitale Bulti, a resident of Ambo, watched her nephew bleed to death after he was allegedly shot by security forces.

“The police wouldn’t let us take him to the hospital,” said Bulti. “For over an hour we just stood there, watching his blood run down the street.” Her nephew, Ulfata Bulti, was only 12 years old.

Just across the street, Degeneh Shugi, 36, says he was stopped and beaten by security forces while on his way to work. Accused of participating in the protests, he was then taken to the police station along with 15 others, where he was held for four days. Degeneh’s mother, Derebe Yirga, who is a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress opposition party, reportedly remains in police custody.

Rights groups and opposition leaders allege that thousands have been arrested in the most recent crackdowns, a scale that is reminiscent of mass arrests of opposition members during the turbulent aftermath (PDF) of the 2005 elections.

WATCH: Hailemariam Desalegn – democracy ‘not only an election’

“There are several hundreds that have been detained from our party. But we don’t know for sure, as we have lost a lot of communication,” said Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress opposition party in an interview in Addis Ababa.

Gudina named five members of the party’s top leadership who have been held or placed under house arrests since protests began.

The expansion of the capital Addis Ababa into the surrounding Oromia region is what sparked protests in November last year [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera contacted several officials in the Oromia regional government for comment, but was denied interviews amid rumours of internal reshuffling. Analysts and observers believe that the handling of the crisis has created a rift between the ruling TPLF, the lead party within the ruling collation, and its allied OPDO party, charged with governing Oromia.

The OPDO’s decision to halt a controversial “master plan” that governs the expansion of the capital into Oromia, which is what initially sparked protests, has failed to put an end to the crisis. Many Oromo demand genuine reforms and justice for those killed.

“The government said it would stop the master plan just to calm the people. But what we need is a lasting solution to this crisis,” said 23-year-old Gudisa Ragassa, the younger brother of another victim killed in Ambo.

“If the government can’t do that, they shouldn’t be in power.”



Tensions rise as students in Oromia accuse government of land grab December 9, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromooAljazeera logoEthiopian-land-giveaway

Say no to the master killer. Addis Ababa master plan is genocidal plan against Oromo peopleStop killing Oromo StudentsOromoProtests @Finfinnee University  Dec. 7, 2015Oromo students Protests, Western Oromia, Mandii, Najjoo, Jaarsoo,....

“Ethiopian police have moved in to suppress this united demonstration of protest.  Government sharpshooters are firing into crowds and killing students again.”

Protesters say the central government is trying to evict Oromo farmers from their land under the auspices of urban development, with little or no compensation, essentially turning them into street beggars and daily laborers.


Tensions rise as students in Oromia accuse government of land grab


Activists claim security forces have killed at least seven students in more than two weeks across Ethiopia’s Oromia state, where students have been protesting a government plan to expand the area of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia.

Oromia police have confirmed three fatalities in what it termed provocations by “anti-peace elements.”

Images of severely injured students have been posted on social media, and hundreds of other protesters have reportedly been rounded up in a crackdown on those demonstrating against several state-led development projects.

Oromo students, the opposition and diaspora activists liken the proposed Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan, or the Master Plan, to a land grab. They fear that it will displace Oromo farmers and undermine Oromia’s interests by expanding Addis Ababa’s boundaries.

Addis Ababa is in the state of Oromia and serves as the regional and federal capital. In theory, the Ethiopian constitution protects Oromia’s “special interest” in Addis Ababa in the provision of social services and use of natural resources and on joint administrative matters.

While the city, home to 4 million people, has experienced massive growth over the last decade, Oromo activists have long decried the lack of social facilities for its Afaan Oromo speakers, including schools, hospitals and cultural institutions.

The protests broke out in November Ginci, a town about 50 miles west of Addis Ababa. Students from universities, high schools and even some primary schools continue to stage sit-ins and demonstrations around the country.

Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnically based states, is home to close to half the country’s population of 100 million. The Oromo people have long had a contentious relationship with the national government.

“Many Oromos have felt marginalized and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian governments and have often felt unable to voice their concerns over government policies,” Felix Horne, the Horn of Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a Dec. 5 blog post.

He called for an immediate halt to the excessive use of force by security personnel, an independent and impartial investigation into the killings and the prosecution of security forces involved in the violent crackdown.

‘Long-simmering grievance’

Protesters say the central government is trying to evict Oromo farmers from their land under the auspices of urban development, with little or no compensation, essentially turning them into street beggars and daily laborers.

The government says its plan is mutually beneficial, will enhance cooperation and will make the area globally competitive by remedying its disorganized spatial growth.

Addis Ababa serves as landlocked Ethiopia’s primary gateway to the outside world. Last year the New York–based consultancy A.T. Kearney named Addis Ababa “the third-most-likely city to advance its global positioning,” adding, “the Ethiopian capital is also among the cities closing in fastest on the world leaders.”

Modest economic growth and the lack of opportunities in rural areas have fueled massive rural-to-urban migration. The Master Plan is part of an effort to mitigate the city’s resulting rapid expansion. But critics contend that the proposal focuses mostly on attracting investors and will ensure the continued erasure of Oromos’ historical and cultural values from the city.

The Oromo students’ protests are not new. They been demonstrating against the central state for most of the last two decades.

In April and May 2014, Ethiopian security forces fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters, killing dozens of students and wounding many others. Hundreds of students were arrested and charged under Ethiopia’ssweeping anti-terrorism law, and many remain incarcerated.

A federal court last week convicted five students for participating in those protests. In the early 2000s, Ethiopia saw similar protests and violence over a government plan to move Oromia’s capital from Addis Ababa. The decision was reversed in 2005 amid a public outcry.

There has been limited media coverage of the ongoing protests. There are strong restrictions on the free press in Ethiopia, one of the most censored countries in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Government critics and the independent press face increased scrutiny.

Analysts warn that continued violent responses to peaceful protesters could bode ill for Ethiopia’s future.

“The Oromo have long been humiliated with their still marginal status in Ethiopia’s power arrangement,” said Hassen Hussein, an Ethiopian-born university professor in Minnesota. “These almost annual student protests give voice to these long-simmering grievance and perhaps a harbinger of what is to come. The authorities cannot forever count on an aggrieved nation remaining docile.”

Oromo activists and community leaders in North America, Western Europe and Australia are planning solidarity rallies for next week, when more violence is anticipated.

Bonnie Holcomb, an author and anthropologist based in Washington, D.C., said the current situation mirrors the violence of 2014. “The international media were silent when Ethiopian police opened fire into crowds, killing 68, permanently disabling hundreds and arresting thousands. Now the next stage of the Master Plan is being implemented,” she said.

“Ethiopian police have moved in to suppress this united demonstration of protest.  Government sharpshooters are firing into crowds and killing students again,” she said.

Opinion: Ethiopia politicizes courts to strangle dissent July 11, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Ethiopian Muslims, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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Ethiopian Muslims staged protest across the country, 10 July 2015Ethiopian Muslims staged protest across the country1, 10 July 2015Ethiopian Muslims staged protest across the country2, 10 July 2015



Ethiopia politicizes courts to strangle dissent

The crackdown on Muslim activists is part of Addis Ababa’s crusade against independent voices and opposition leaders

July 10, 2015

On July 6, Ethiopia’s Federal High Court convicted leaders of the Ethiopian Muslims protest movement on charges of terrorism and conspiracy to create an Islamic state in Ethiopia. The verdict — against two Muslim journalists, 10 activists and six members of the Ethiopian Muslims Arbitration Committee — came after three years of a politically motivated trial whose outcome was long ago determined. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

The trial and the verdict against the Muslim leaders is a political spectacle designed to conceal the regime’s reindoctrination campaign and silence long-standing grievances of the Muslim population. The crackdown on Muslim activists is part of the ruling party’s larger crusade against journalists, bloggers, activists and opposition leaders and supporters.

A peaceful movement

The Ethiopian Muslims movement was organized around the community’s three core demands: ending the government’s continued control of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the official Islamic authority in Ethiopia; terminating the controversial reindoctrination of Ethiopian Muslims launched by the government in July 2011; and reopening the Awoliya College, the country’s only Muslim college. Authorities closed the institution in 2011, alleging it had become a breeding ground for radicals.

While the government has always controlled the council, it was Awoliya’s closure and the coercive reindoctrination campaign that triggered the confrontation. The government denies allegations of interference and control of religious institutions, but a leaked audio from the initial indoctrination sessions shows that it has invited preachers from Lebanon to introduce Al-Ahbash, a supposedly moderate sect of Sunni Islam, to Ethiopia.

Authorities arrested members of the Arbitration Committee in July 2012 after negotiations with the government failed, and they were charged with “intending to advance a political, religious or ideological cause” by force, signaling the impending criminalization of the peaceful movement.

Repressive political ends

Since the disputed 2005 elections and the mass arrests of opposition leaders and journalists, the use of court proceedings for repressive political ends has become one of the signature traits of the Ethiopian government. The primary purpose of these administrative acts disguised as criminal proceedings is the elimination of political opposition and critical voices. These trials function not to adjudicate legal disputes but to remove actors from the democratic sphere. The judicial machinery is set in motion not to determine guilt or innocence but to sustain and consolidate the government’s authoritarian stranglehold on its people.

In order to build a coherent narrative, the government often recasts genuine grievances as a national security threat and reconfigures activism as criminal offenses. For example, it accused the jailed Muslim leaders of working in tandem with foreign terrorist groups to destabilize Ethiopia and undo its economic progress. By dramatizing the impending danger and alleged links to regional militant groups such as Somalia’s Al-Shabab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the defendants’ prolonged trial was used to create an alternative reality manufactured by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The accused Muslim leaders see their actions as a defense of the constitution and their trial as persecution — a dubious plot to delegitimize their peaceful protests against the injustices of the state.

The government presented various forms of evidence — including documents, audio and video of sermons and speeches by the defendants, witness testimonies and material obtained through surveillance. However, most of the evidence was presented in closed sessions, and the accused were not given adequate opportunities for cross-examination. The government has deployed stealth propaganda to incriminate the defendants. Since the committee members’ arrests, authorities have produced two fake documentaries intended to generate images and narratives of terrorism to scare Christian Ethiopians and Western observers, in flagrant violation of the presumption of defendants’ innocence until proven guilty.

The verdict of history

The accused Muslim leaders see their actions as a defense of the constitution and their trial as persecution — a dubious plot to delegitimize their peaceful protests against the injustices of the state. The government misrepresented their cause in a desperate attempt to suppress their aspiration and consolidate its control over religious institutions and doctrines.

As the judge read out the verdict, one of the committee members accused the judge of being complicit in the perversion of justice and reading a judgment “written by the security establishment,” according to defense lawyers. “We appear before this court not because we thought that this court is an institution of truth and justice that judges without fear of favor but to clarify the historical record,” another defendant said.

The trial has been an occasion for the defendants to mount their objection to the government’s oppressive narratives and expose its abuse of institutions of truth and justice. As part of their struggle over the historical record, the committee members petitioned Africa’s top human rights watchdog, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to intervene in the matter. Given the justice system’s lack of independence, the defendants are seeking to present their version of events before an independent international institution, contesting the allegations and images the government created in a trial in which it is both prosecutor and judge. In February 2015 the commission granted a provisional measure, asking Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to undertake a full investigation into allegations of torture and other violations of due process rights.

The EPRDF is using counterterrorism as carte blanche to consolidate its authoritarian control over the country. Meanwhile, the United States, Ethiopia’s close ally in the global war on terrorism, has turned a blind eye to the misuse and abuse of its counterterrorism funding. President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Addis Ababa would be seen as yet another seal of approval for the regime’s repressive practices and the ruling party’s landslide victory in the recent elections. Ethiopia’s sudden and unexplained release of journalists and bloggers ahead of Obama’s visit later this month is a strategic move meant to assuage Washington’s concerns and to minimize the bad publicity around their continued incarceration.

Regardless of the outcome of these trials, history’s judgment will be different. In the verdict of history and the archives and repertoires of the oppressed, these individuals, like many who came before them, will be seen as victims of a grotesque system of justice.

Awol Allo is a fellow in human rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Africa’s Land Grabs: An Opportunity Or A New Form of Colonialism? September 25, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Colonizing Structure, Economics, Land Grabs in Africa, Uncategorized.
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‘From hopeless continent to investment darling of the world – are land investments in Africa an answer to worldwide food insecurity or a dangerous new form of colonialism?’  Aljazeera, on its  South2North talks to former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, Nigerian politician and Oxfam trustee Nkoyo Toyo and Philippe Heilberg, a land investor from the US. Here is the the details of interesting debates and the video:

‘Escalating energy and food prices have triggered a global scramble for Africa’s land and water resources. Eager to feed their growing populations, countries are buying up prime farmland in Africa at rock bottom prices. Land eight times the size of the UK has already been bought up by hungry investors.Redi asks Chissano if this investment is a new scramble for Africa.”‘The scramble for Africa is never good. We have known that since Berlin and we fought against it. But investment is welcomed if it is done in a win-win situation when people benefit from this investment.” Toyo explains that the trend towards buying land in Africa has come from the 2008 spike in food prices, a concern about global food security as well as an impending energy crisis. However, she warns that investments might not be as good as they seem, and that UN records show alarmingly rapid sales of African land.”The problem with this type of investment is not that we do not want to see investment. It’s that we see investments that are increasingly not addressing the needs of the continent. We hear that at least 33 million square hectares of land are lands which have been acquired in just less than 10 years.”Heilberg argues that the statistics from the UN are highly distorted because they are not closed or officialdeals. He says that his own figures have been doubled in some accounts.”Land is cheap in Africa, but there are many reasons why it’s cheap. In many parts of the continent there is little to no infrastructure whatsoever …. The frontier markets offer incredible risk-reward opportunities. Because when the growth happens it’s exponential.” Toyo disagrees that these deals have always been above-board and that they benefit local communities.’