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Seyoum Teshome is a professor at a university in Ethiopia and writes to fight the spread of fear that has engulfed his country as a result of an increasingly repressive administration. In September 2016, Seyoum was arrested and charged with incitement to violence against the state. In this blog, he describes the treatment of prisoners in one of Ethiopia’s rehabilitation centres, where he was detained further to his arrest. Thousands of Ethiopians like Seyoum have been arrested and tortured in rehabilitation centres since the state of emergency was imposed in October 2016.
It was around 6:30 am on 30 September 2016 when I was rudely awakened by loud knocks on my door and someone shouting out my name. Peeping through the keyhole, I saw around 10 local police officers. Some of them were staring at the door while others were guarding the corridor.
I said to myself, “Yap! At last…here you go, they have come for you!”
One of them asked if I was Mr Seyoum Teshome to which I replied in the affirmative. They said they wanted to talk to me for a moment, so I opened the door. They showed me a court warrant which gave them permission to search my house. The warrant indicated that I had illegal weapons and pamphlets to incite violence against the government.
Accused without evidence
After searching my entire house and despite finding no signs of the said items, they arrested and took me to a local police station. They also carried off my laptop, smartphone, notebooks and some papers. Confident that they hadn’t found the items mentioned in the court warrant, I was certain of my release. However, three hours later, I found myself being interrogated by a local public prosecutor and two police investigators. The interrogation eventually led to the commencement of a legal charge.
I was scheduled to sit a PhD entry exam on 2 October 2017 at Addis Ababa University, something I had been working towards for a very long time. Throughout the interrogation, my pleas for the case to be hastened so that I wouldn’t miss the rare opportunity to pursue a PhD course fell on deaf ears. My colleagues had provided a car and allowance fee for a police officer to go with me to the university so that I could sit the exam. This is a standard procedure. Yet on that day, they were not willing to lend me a hand. I was stuck in pre-trial detention due to Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and missed my chance.
Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.
The day before my arrest, I had given an interview to Deutche Welle-Amharic radio station about the nation-wide teachers meeting where I commented that, in Ethiopia, expressing one’s own opinion could lead to arrest, exile or possibly death. Little did I know that, in just 12 hours, I would be the state’s guest for merely expressing my opinion.
On 3 October 2016, I was presented in court. I was accused of writing articles and posts on social media sites aiming to incite violence against the government. In addition to the two notebooks and papers they had taken from my house, the investigator had also printed 61 pages of the 58 articles I posted on the Horn Affairs website that year. In total, they brought more than 200 pages of written and printed writings as evidence to support their allegations. I denied all the charges.
Another court session was scheduled in 10 days to allow the police to conclude their investigations. The 10 days lapsed and the police requested an additional seven days to complete their investigations on me while denying me bail.
On 20 October 2016, a jury found there was no evidence to support the police department’s claims. I thought the matter was over but I was immediately accused of contravening the State of Emergency that had been declared on 9 October 2017. A piece of paper with some writing on it was presented as evidence to support the charge.
The Police initially took me to Tolay Military Camp and later transferred me, together with others arrested, to Woliso Woreda Police Station in central Ethiopia, outside Addis Ababa. We were shoved into a 3×5 metres squared detention room where we joined more than 45 other people already there. It was very hard to find a place to sit. I survived suffocation by breathing through a hole beneath the door. After that terrible night, I was taken back to Tolay where I stayed until 21 December, 2016 – 56 days after my arrest.
Access to food in the first 20 days was limited. We were made to walk while crouching with our hands behind our heads. We also walked barefoot to and from the toilet and dining areas. Due to this treatment, three of my fellow detainees suffered cardiac arrest. I don’t know whether or not they survived. I also heard that a woman’s pregnancy was terminated.
Every day, a police officer came to our room and called out the names of detainees to be taken for the so-called “investigation.” When they returned, the detainees had downtrodden faces and horrible wounds on their backs and legs. Waiting for one’s name to be called was agony.
It took eight days before my name was finally called. I sat in front of five investigators flanked on either side by two others. While I was being interrogated, detainees in another room were being beaten. I could hear them crying and begging their torturers to stop.
Moved by what I had witnessed, I decided to secretly gather the detainees’ information. It didn’t take long before I was discovered by the authorities. On a hot afternoon, they came to my room and called my name. A group of investigators ruthlessly began beating me, to the point where I fainted three times. The beatings were unbearable so I finally confessed to collecting information in the camp. The chief investigator was then called in so that I could also confess to him.
By then, I had gained enough strength to renounce my earlier confessions which angered the Chief Investigator very much. He drew a pistol and threatened to kill me for making a fool out of them. I stretched turned around and spread my arms wide. Then, I said, “Fear of death doesn’t make me confess against myself! Go ahead, shoot!”
Amazingly, the commander ordered me to go to my room and take a shower. I didn’t believe it. I still don’t. I quickly ran off. I was released a little over two weeks later.
Though I finally left Tolay, those memories and emotions are still with me. Though I am still afraid of another arbitrary arrest and being sent back to prison, what I fear more is the totalitarian state that complete denies freedom. . While there, I told myself that, if I made it out, I would raise international awareness on the government’s outrageous treatment of prisoners.
The Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Ethiopian Federal government’s killing squad have been engaged in a cruel war for the past six months against the Oromo nation in fifteen districts of Oromia. The Oromia districts that have been invaded by the two aforementioned forces are in east and east- west Hararge Zone, Eastern Oromia, Guji, Borana and Bale, South Oromia zones, Southern Oromia of Oromia Regional State.
Somali Liyu Police Invading Southern Oromia
The Ethiopian Federal government, which in theory has a state duty and a responsibility to bring peace and harmony among the nations and nationalities in the country, is actually engaged in instigating a war between the Ethiopian Somali and Oromo nations. High casualties have been registered on both sides in the past six months. Hundreds of Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government’s killing squad have entered into Oromia villages, attacked and killed and abducted hundreds of Oromos and looted properties; over 750 goats, ships, and camels were taken.
According to the HRLHA informants, the Oromia Regional State nominal administrative leaders, including Lema Megersa- the president- turned a blind eye while the citizens they claimed to be governing have been killed, abducted, and displaced from their lands and villages and dehumanized by the warriors of the Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government of Ethiopa’s killing squad.
Recently, the invasion into Oromia has expanded into the western part of Oromia Regional State. The Federal government force in Gambela crossed into West Wallaga, Oromia Regional State villages and displaced thousands of Oromos in Qelem Zone of Anfillo and Yatii districts. The HRLHA informants also disclosed that the Ethiopian Killing squad force is on intensive training on the western side of Oromia regional state boundary in Benshangul regional state preparing to invade Oromo villages in the western part of Wallaga zone of Oromia Regional State.
During the recent skirmish between Liyu Police and Oromo people on February 23, 2017, in Bale, Sawena district at Qilessa village Southern Oromia, 19 Oromos were killed and 13 wounded. In the same fight, 35 were killed and 50 wounded from the Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police invaders by Oromo civilian resistance force.
According to the HRLHA informants, the total casualties in connection with the invasion by the Ethiopian -Somali Liyu Police led by the Federal government’s killing squad in Oromia Zones of Guji, Borana, Bale and east and west Hararge zones caused the deaths of over 200 Oromos and injured over 150 and many were abducted and taken to Somali Region. The report from our informants also confirmed Oromo self-defense civilians killed over 260 invaders, members of Liyu police and Ethiopian Federal Killing squads, and injured many others.
This meaningless and reckless action by the Ethiopian Federal government will destabilize the region in general and Ethiopia in particular.
It is clear that the Ethiopian Federal government is demonstrating its hidden agenda- to eliminate the Oromo nation under the pretext of boundary conflict between nations and nationalities. During the Oromo self-defense attack against Somali Liyu Police, many invaders were killed and others injured. This shows that the plan to invade Oromia in all directions may lead to a civil war, which suggests that the Federal Government of Ethiopia is deliberately plotting to cause a war among nations and nationalities in the country.
Ethiopians have been under extreme repression ever since October 8, 2016- a State of Emergency in fact. The Ethiopian government has used a state of emergency in order to kill, imprison and abduct citizens from their homes and workplaces in Oromia and Amhara regional states. During the past four months- under the State of Emergency- over 70,000 Oromos, including pregnant women, seniors and underage children have been taken to concentration camps in Xolay, Zubway, Didessa, Huriso and other places. There, they have been tortured, exposed to communicable diseases and malnutrition from which hundreds have died.
The cause of the civilian unrest in Ethiopia during the past two years was the marginalization of the citizens from the political and fair distribution of their economic resources; they have also been evicted from their ancestral lands without consultation and compensation. Evictions from the land around the city of Addis Ababa after the declaration of ” The Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan”- evictions which have confronted by the Oromo nation from all walks of lives and have caused the deaths of over 2000 Oromos by the federal government sniper force Agazi- still continue. In the Month of February over 200 People have been displaced by the government and their lands have been taken. Every day a number of people are detained all over Oromia and Amhara regional States and tortured.
Today, over ten million Ethiopians are daily exposed to hunger and poverty while the Ethiopian government has invested billions of dollars of foreign aid in training killing squads to kill its own people, claiming that Ethiopians were not dying from hunger and poverty.
A call on International Communities:
The HRLHA once again renews its calls to the international community to act collectively in a timely and decisive manner to request the Ethiopian government to stop instigating war among the Nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, a situation that could easily lead to civil war.
The HRLHA further requests that members of the UN Human Rights Council urge the Ethiopian government to allow the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs to visit the country to assess the human rights situations of political prisoners and others in detention centers all over the country
The HRLHA calls upon major donor governments, including the USA, UK, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Australia to make sure that their aid money is not used to train the Ethiopian Government’s killing squads to dehumanize the citizens of Ethiopia
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Befeqadu Hailu, a member of the Zone-9 blogging group was arrested for criticizing the State of Emergency Declaration, in an interview he gave to the Voice of America. In this note, he shares what he witnessed during his stay at Awash Sebat Military Training Centre, which was turned into a rehabilitation centre for people arrested during the State of Emergency.
Wakoma Tafa was planning to get married on Sunday 9 October 2016, when the police arrested him just three days before his wedding day in Alem Gena -a town 25kms west of Addis Ababa. On his would-be wedding day, the Police took Wakoma to Awash Sebat Federal Police Training Centre, turned into a ‘rehab centre’ (Tehadiso Maekel) as per the Ethiopia’s State of Emergency.
I met Wakoma after the Command Post (a special unit established to to enforce the state of emergency declaration measures) transferred me to Awash Sebat along with 242 other ‘suspects’ from Addis Ababa. Together, we were over 1000 people.
The day we arrived at the center, we saw many youngsters in worn-out dirty shirts, walking barefoot in two lines. A fellow detainee related that it looked like a scene from the movie series ‘Roots’.
A scene from ‘Roots’?
The day we arrived at the center, we saw many youngsters in worn-out dirty shirts, walking barefoot in two lines. A fellow detainee related that it looked like a scene from the movie series ‘Roots’.
Later, we found out that the police were taking them to the sandy field at the back of the compound for physical exercises every day after breakfast. The exercises included frog-jumping, push-ups, sit-ups and supporting their body for long in a push-up position. The hot ground burnt their palms. The police encouraged those too tired to continue by beating them.
Oromia Police, who were in charge of the interrogations, thrashed, kicked, and punched the detainees during interrogation. The purpose of the interrogations was to find out the level of their participation and to name the others in the protests. During the 33 days of our stay, Wakoma’s nose was bleeding every day since a police officer kicked him during interrogation. Nurses at the centre could not stop his bleeding. However, Wakoma was not the only one tortured during interrogations. Most of the ‘suspects’ who were in Awash Sebat for 40 days before our arrival sustained varying degrees of beating, slapping and kicking.
A new normal
Then, our turn came to be paraded, bare footed, to the open pits within the Centre’s compound. The gravel path was hard to walk on barefoot but the yelling of officers dangling their sticks was enough incentive to run on it. Once we reached the toilet pits, we had to sit side by side and do our business. None of us was willing to do it the first day. Later on, we accepted that it as the new normal.
For breakfast, they gave us half-cup of tea and two loaves of bread. I noticed the youngsters, who were there before us, enjoying the additional loaf of bread. Before our arrival, they had only one during breakfasts.
They spread us into 10 different halls each harboring more than one hundred detainees. Each room has sixteen double-decker beds enough for only thirty-two people; the rest shared mattresses on the floor. The rooms have ventilators but not enough to cool the heat. In addition, there was not enough water –not even to drink. In the 33 days of my stay, I was able to wash only two times.
On day two of the parading, the Command Post sent a team to start our ‘rehabilitation training’. They also allowed us to wear shoes. Unfortunately, nearly half of the detainees who were there before us had no shoes when they arrived at the Centre 40 days prior to our arrival.
The state of emergency Inquiry Board came and spoke to notable opposition party members such as Abebe Akalu, Eyasped Tesfaye, and Blen Mesfin. They reported the rights violations we were facing in detail. However, we learnt that the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, the state-broadcaster, reported only logistic problems, entirely leaving out complaints of rights violations.
Most detainees from Addis Ababa, however, complained to the officials that they are victims of personal revenge. Some said people with personal grudges against them tipped their names to the police. Similarly, most detainees from the Oromia regional state maintained they were victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One of the clips they regularly showed on the screen was the Afaan Oromo song, ‘Madda Seenaa’by artist Teferi Mekonen. Ironically, Teferi Mekonen was among us. On our “graduation” day, he was invited to perform on the stage. He pleased us all by singing the politically charged Oromifaa song, ‘Maalan Jira’, by the prominent Oromo artist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. Sadly, Teferi Mekonen is re-arrested immediately after our release from Awash Sebat. I was shocked to see him in a prison here in Addis Ababa when I went to visit my friends, journalists Annania Sori and Elias Gebru.
A day before we left the centre, the police told us we had to wear a t-shirt on which ‘ayidegemim/Irra hin deebiamu’ (never again) is printed in Amharic and Oromifa. None of us hesitated to wear the t-shirts – they were fresh and clean and our souls were desperately looking beyond the centre and to getting back to our homes; we were exhausted and looking forward to resume the life we left.
There were 17 women among the detainees and one of them was pregnant. There were also about 15 underage boys. We were all in it together and we all survived.
I am hoping that the 28 years old Wakoma can re-organize his wedding again.
(Africa Times) — Oromo rights activists said Friday that Bontu Bekele Gerba, daughter of the imprisoned Oromo political opposition leader in Ethiopia, had been released after security forces detained her in the town of Mojo.
Independent Oromo journalist Mohammed Ademo, a former al Jazeera America columnist based in the United States, said the family’s lawyer confirmed the late-afternoon disappearance.
Ademo and other Oromo advocates immediately took to social media, some demanding that U.S. officials and international NGOs confirm her whereabouts and intervene as necessary.
Journalist Jawar Mohammed, executive director for the Oromio Media Network in the U.S., reported that she was released after being detained for questioning at a Mojo police station.
Bontu Bekele Gerba is a political activist in her own right, speaking often to media organizations and Ethiopian activists on behalf of her father, a leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, and the movement.
The elder Bekele Gerba was most recently detained at Ethiopia’s Kilinto Prison in Addis Ababa, a maximum-security facility where high-profile political prisoners and anti-government protesters are incarcerated. He was rearrested in December following a short release and since remained at the facility, where a fire claimed 23 lives in early September, according to official Ethiopian government totals.
Bontu Bekele Gerba led a search for her father when prison authorities failed to provide information to anxious families who knew nothing of their loved ones’ fate, and spoke publicly again on their behalf.
Her father’s initial 2011 arrest followed a meeting with Amnesty International researchers that led to terrorism charges, which are often used by Ethiopia to silence political dissidents including the Oromo.
Global concern for the 30 million Oromo living under President Mulatu Teshome has increased, following a year in which at least 500 hundred Ethiopians died in violent clashes with security forces.
That visibility was raised following the protest of Ethiopian Feyisa Lelisa at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and his subsequent application for U.S. asylum. Activists in the U.S. have held large protest marches, most recently on Thursday in Washington D.C., on behalf of the Oromo.
The cruel Fascist Ethiopia’s regime (TPLF) is killing Oromo children on daily basis. Since 6 August 2016, over 25,000 Oromo nationals of all walks of life have been in military concentrations/torture camps. The figure is rising daily. This figure does not include the over 50,000 detained before 6 August 2016.
Targeted killing continues across Oromia.This is Galataa Admaasuu, a young man of age 19. He was returning home after watching a soccer game at a cafe in the evening of August 19, 2016 when the regime’s force with sniper bullets hit him 3 times and killing him on spot in front of Dambi Dollo Hospital, in Qelam Wallaggaa. In the past few days we have been receiving several such targeted killing using snipers or by staging night time raid to homes.
Kun Galataa Admaasuu dargaggeessa umri 19 kan galgala kaleessaa osoo kubbaa laalee galaa jiruu loltuun Wayyaanee rasaasan dhahee fuuldura Hospitaal Dambi Doollootti ajjeeseedha.
Mallicha Guyo, former lecturer at Dire Dawa University and currently a graduate student of Constitutional & Public Law at AAU is among the many peaceful demonstrators unlawfully detained during the Grand #OromoProtests, 6th of Augus 2016 in Finfinnee and still kept in regime’s secrete detention centres.
Akkuma beekamufu hiiriiraa guddicha sanbata xiqqaa sani irratii namoota kumatamat lakkawaamu achii buute dhaban hamami hin jedhamu…namni maqaan isaa Malicha Guyyoo jedhamu kan barsiisa university Dire dawa tii damee seeraa barsiisuu amma MA university finfinnet constitutional and public law baracha Jiru achii buute isaa dhaban…..mee nama qoonqoo isaa qabu faa yoo argate inbox na godhii.
Godina Wallaggaa Lixaa Anaa Baaboo Gambeel keessatti gaafa 06 /07/2016 hirirraa guutu Oromiyaattii ta’e irraattii anaan Baaboos hirmachuun mormii jabaa dhageessisanii tura sanan wal qabatee namoonnii hedduun hiidhamuufi manii hiidhalee hankakee mana barumsaatii uummattaa hiidha akka turan gabaasun keenya ni yaada tamaa ammaas namoonnii hedduun hiidhaatii dararamaa yoo jirata dargagoo lamaa
1 Jafar Caaliif
2 Jafar Qawwee kan
jedhaman immoo mana hiidhaatii basanii essa akka isaan geessan hin beekamu! Uummanniis dararraa guddaa keessa jira!
An Oromo national Taagal Daaqaa Waaqgaarii is among thousands of peaceful protesters who have been unlawfully detained by the TPLF security agents during the Grand #OromoProtests rally in the capital Finfinnee, on the 6th of Aug, 2016. It’s believed that Mr. Tagal & thousands of others unlawfully detained during these peaceful protests are currently being tortured at a Military Camp called Awash Arba, in the remote Afar regional state. The regime is torturing thousands to death in such a remote military barricades across the country.
Oromo youth, Yaasiin Xaahaa, original from Jimma, kidnaped by fascist Ethiopia’s regime forces on August 6, 2016, Grand #OromoProtests Rally in Finfinnee. His whereabouts unknown.
This is Kebede Gemeda, a 70 year elder. He was arrested at the Grand Rally in Finfinne. He was beaten so badly that he lost one of his eye sight completely. They thought he was dying so they took him out of the military camp and threw up near his house.
Oromo national Jibriil Mohaammad, from Jimmaa Arjo shot four times at gun point by Agazi on 6 August 2016 at Grand #OromoProtests.
#Oromoprotests alert: The regime now using collage campus as concentration camp in addition to several military camps. For instance some 25000 protesters arrested in Hararge have been taken to Kombolcha Agricultural College. Their head has been shaved and they are crammed into classrooms in hundreds.
NOTE: These colleges are mostly built and run by money donated from American and European tax payers. So tell your representatives. Jawar Mohammed, OMN reports, 20 August 2016.
VOA Afaan Oromoo reports how fascist TPLF Ethiopia’s regime soldiers killed a man named Hora Wajiso in his own home and then imprisoned his wife with her infant child.
#OromoProtests, Must watch Al Jazeera new video News of August 20, 2016, Hundreds have been killed by agazi police forces during a peaceful demonstration across the country (Oromia, Ethiopia).
Darajee Birbirsaa, Oromo national, civil engineering graduate kidnapped by fascist forces on 19 August 2016 and his where about is unknown.
kuni darajee birbirsaa jedhama. bara 2015 wallaga university irra civil engineering dhan eebifame kan turee yoo tauu dalagaa male hanga ammaatti magaala Itayya godina arsi keessa turee haa tauu malee akka lakkobsa Habashaatti Hagayya 12 bara 2008 poolisi feedaralattin ergaa fudhatame booda eessa akka dhaqee hin beekamuana sirreessa aanaa fi goodinaa keesattis hin argamnee.isaa walii is namooni abdalla dasee jedhamuu fi muktar abdoo jedhamuu dhabanni jiraan.
Jundii Abboomsaa Badhaasoo, Oromo business man from Arsi, Martii district kidnapped on 17 August 2016 and his whereabout is unknown
GodinaArsii Bahaa Aanaa Martii ganda Golagotaa keessaa nama Jundii Abboomsaa Badhaasoo jedhamu guyyaa dheengaddaa mana murtii irraa waraqaa fidanii mana isaatti seeraan sir barbaanna jedhaniinii ani Wayyaaneetti hin bulu reeffa kiyya malee jiraa kiyya asii na hin fuutan jedheenii gootummaan dura dhaabbate. Achii jaarsoliin fuudhanii magaalaa geessanii halkan kalee namoota 16 waliin halkan saa’aa 9 makiinaa lamaan fe’anii achi buuteen hin beekamne. obbo Jundii Abboomsaa Badhaasoo abbaa qabeenyaa lafa bishaan hektaara hedduu yoo ta’u, akkasumas eessuma wallisaa Ibroo Ibsaa; kan akka abbaatti guddisee asiin gahee hanga har’aatti gargaaree sirboota hedduu hojjisiise.
Aman Aliyii Xaha, Oromo national was shot at gun point by fascsist Ethiopia’s regime forces on 6 August Grand #OromoProtests in Haramayaa and died on 20 August 2016.
Godina Haragee Bahaa Haramayaa keessatti Hirira guddicha Hagayya 6, 2016 irrati dhahamee harra lubbuun isaa dabarte.”
OSG’s letter to United Nations Human Right Council : Ignoring a wave of unlawful killings and enforced disappearances in Oromia is fueling further catastrophic in the region. osg-call-for-urgnet-action
HRLHA Urgent Action
Ethiopia: State – Sponsored Terrorism and Military Brutality in Oromia HRLHA Urgent Action
August 17, 2016
Ethiopia, a UN Human Rights Council member since 2011, and an elected member of the UN Security Council as of 2017 is committing state- sponsored terror against the Oromo nation in violation of the UN Human Rights Council responsibility for the promotion and protection of all human rights and the UN Security Council responsiblities for maintaining international peace and security as well as the human rights treaties it has signed and ratified. The government- trained and highly funded Agazi force shot Gebeyehu Jalata, a medical doctor, several times at his personal clinic in East Wallaga Nekemt town on August 6, 2016 while he was allegedly treating wounded protestors at his clinic. Dr. Gebehu Jalata was taken to the Nekemt hospital for treatment and died on August 15, 2016 . The Agazi killing squad also invaded Mr. Hora Fajisso’s home- he is a farmer in East Showa Zone Adami Tulu district, Batu town- and murdered him in his bed in front of his three children and his wife at 5:00 am on August 16, 2016. During the grand nationwide Oromo nation protests on August 6,2016, the Agazi force killed at least 70 people and arrested tens of thousands of others in Oromia Regional State. 1-ethiopia-government-sponsered-terrorism
Among Oromo nationals killed on August 06, 2016 the Human Rights League (HRLHA) reporters managed to get the names of the following 65 people:-
Ethiopia: Dozens killed as police use excessive force against peaceful protesters
AImnesty International, 8 August 2016
At least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara over the weekend, according to credible sources who spoke to Amnesty International.
Thousands of protesters turned out in Oromia and Amhara calling for political reform, justice and the rule of law. The worst bloodshed – which may amount to extrajudicial killings – took place in the northern city of Bahir Dar where at least 30 people were killed in one day.
“The security forces’ response was heavy-handed, but unsurprising. Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“These crimes must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and all those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts without recourse to death penalty.”
Information obtained by Amnesty International shows that police fired live bullets at protesters in Bahir Dar on 7 August, killing at least 30. Live fire was also used in Gondar on 6 August, claiming at least seven lives.
The security forces’ response was heavy-handed, but unsurprising. Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices
No deaths were reported from the Addis Ababa protests, but photos and videos seen by Amnesty International show police beating protesters with batons at Meskel Square, the capital’s main public space.
In Oromia and Amhara, hundreds were arrested and are being held at unofficial detention centres, including police and military training bases.
“We are extremely concerned that the use of unofficial detention facilities may expose victims to further human rights violations including torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” said Michelle Kagari.
“All those arrested during the protests must be immediately and unconditionally released as they are unjustly being held for exercising their right to freedom of opinion.”
The protests in Oromia are a continuation of peaceful demonstrations that began in November 2015 against a government masterplan to integrate parts of Oromia into the capital Addis Ababa. Deaths were reported in multiple towns in the region, including Ambo, Adama, Asassa, Aweday, Gimbi, Haromaya, Neqemte, Robe and Shashemene.
The protests in Amhara began on 12 July 2016 when security forces attempted to arrest Colonel Demeka Zewdu, one of the leaders of the Wolqait Identity and Self-Determination Committee, for alleged terrorism offences.
Wolqait is an administrative district in Tigray Region that was part of Amhara Region before the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power 1991. It has been agitating for reintegration into Amhara for the last 25 years.
In medical terminology diagnostic means the act of identifying a disease, illness, or problem by examining someone or something. Diagnosis is a statement or conclusion that describes the reason for a disease, illness, or problem. Treatment is the remedie to cure the disease.
The Oromo people are the forefront champion of peace and nonviolent nation in Ethiopian empire. The powerful evidence of these fact is the way of life that Oromo people exercise: Oromo means peace, Oromo means love, Oromo means equality, Oromo means democracy, Oromo means generosity, Oromo means honesty, Oromo means transparency, Oromo means happiness, Oromo means OLF, OLF means Oromo. Despite all unhuman atrocities against the Oromo people by Ethiopian colonialist leaders, the Oromo nation committed to defend his qualities. The Oromo people paid/paying enormous sacrifice to be free in his own country and free from brutality of the colonizers to exercise his golden gifts (mentioned above).
To mention some of the Oromo people struggle to defend his qualities:
Raya and Azebo during 1928-30
Bale revolt led by hero of the Oromo people general Waqo Guutu in 1960th
Mecha-Tulema movement led by hero of the Oromo people general Tadesse Biru in 1965
OLF leadership with popular mass movement and imprinting Oromummaa
Qube generations supported by Qeerroo leadership with historic mobilization of the Oromo people.
This paper try to explore the current ongoing peace movement led by some Oromo political organization:
My question is who deny the peace?
Who reject the democracy?
Who promote hate?
Who is mother of greediness? ….the answer to all this question is the Ethiopian empire leaders. If really the Ethiopian empire elite try to implement the true peace for all oppressive nation they have to come to the Oromo people and other nations with reconciliation and peace plan (because they are the master of the disaster). But, the Oromo leaders has to concentrate further mobilization of Oromummaa to defend his qualities instead of touring around the western world to promote Ethiopianst agenda. So, the history teach Oromo people, the way of the Ethiopian empire approach brought us again and again death award before the war is started.
The Ethiopian empire (TPLF majesty) Constitution is theoretically sweat but in practice its bitterness is remarkable:
It says federalism: but act in a unitary fashion by brushing aside all the divisions of powers between different levels of federation.
Federation resource and power control is according to the constitution in the hand of regional state but in practice in the hand of TPLF junta.
Constitutionally respect of democracy. While most of Oromo’s support the principles of democracy such as the forming of government based on the will of the majority, respect for the rule of law, and respect for basic freedoms of citizens, the fact remains that in practice, we have tended to have TPLF military rule.
Sharing power at the different levels of government from all nations are constitutionally guaranteed, but in practice all key powers are in the hands of TPLF militia’s.
The essential difference between Ethiopian empire leaders and Oromo people is:
One of the greatest challenges of Ethiopian empire leaders is fail to understand the Oromo people. Oromo people is a nation who was created by God for good. A nation who believe in managing political and social disputes peacefully, without lapsing into conflict, or sustain economic growth without creating huge inequalities and respect the rule of law. To do that, setting the rules; hiring persons with the technical expertise and moral competence to interpret the rules or implement the goals of the organizations; and ensuring that the institutions inspire public confidence by being transparent, fair and consistent. But the Ethiopian elite assume this golden gift of Oromo people as ignorance and naïve. That is why the play dirty game always when the Oromo people struggle come to the boiling point.
The real question is why has the task of consensus-building been so difficult among Oromo leaders in order to build our nation. The Oromo people have enormous human and natural resources, patriotic aspirations, let us look at three critical areas:
1-Threats and challenges posed by colonizers and international force: Colonizers claim that there were no Oromo nations exist before and there is no future existence. International force acknowledge that Oromia is the heart of Ethiopia, so their fear is that, if the existence of Oromia become real the imminent death of Ethiopia is guaranteed.
2) The quality of leadership that has confronted these challenges: Our leaders are changed/changing their tactic and strategy time to time due to the enormous pressure by internal and external forces.
3) The fragility of the Oromo political organizations: Some of the Oromo political Organizations are structurally weak, historically poor, their determination is measured by their personal happiness, ego and pocket instead of promoting their people interest; vision less and guided by dormant leaders.
Nations are an important part of a modern society. Nations just don’t happen by historical accident; rather they are built by men and women with vision and resolve. Nation-building is therefore the product of conscious statecraft, not happenstance. Nation-building is always a work-in-progress; a dynamic process in constant need of nurturing and re-invention. Nation-building never stops and true nation-builder never rest because all nations are constantly facing up to new challenges. Nation-building is therefore about building the tangible and intangible threads that hold a political entity together and gives it a sense of purpose.
What is to be done?
Historical experience teaches us that a successful struggle against a colonial state depends on the linking of the socio-economic struggles that engage the attention of the masses with the pro-democracy, freedom fighters, intellectuals with diverse professionalism.
Yes I agree with respected hero of the Oromo people Mr Bekele Gerba who says we have to persistent in demanding and defending our right in our land and in our backyard. So dear brothers and sisters at this critical point instead of continuing this aspiration of our hero at this boiling point, touring in the western country in the name of peace, it seems to me ignoring historic quality of Oromummaa.
Here is my proposition:
-Call our mothers to take her cooking material and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our brothers and sisters to take their torture signs on their body and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our students to take their pen and paper to come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our farmers to take their farming tools and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our doctors to take their white coat and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our lawyers to take the article of respect the rule of law and come to the finfinne palace
-Call our nurses to take the infusion material and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call our politicians to take the truth of Oromo people and their deeds in defending
their people to Finfinnee palace
-Call our rich people to take their heart and mind and throw their fear in the garbage and come to the Finfinnee palace
-Call all defenders of human rights and peace lovers to take flag of peace and come to the Finfinnee palace.
-Call our elderly and sick people to lay down in front of their doors
If we are working to this end we will unify the fighting forces and peace movement and unity of our people to enhance our freedom and freedom of all oppressive nations.
I would like to end my letter by reiterating that nations are built by men and women who have the will and vision to accomplish greatness, not for themselves, their immediate families and friends, but for their country. I believe that if we can find the will to offer such a leadership, and support it by strong and dependable political and economic institutions, we will find a way to our national greatness.
Victory to the Oromo people!
Dr. Baaroo Keno Deressa is a medical doctor studied internal medicine. Specialized in gastro-hepatology disease. He can be reached: email@example.com
Already the Oromo are subjected to genocide under Tigray Tigriny gang rule, a crime that is condemned by the world body and many culprits from different countries with lesser magnitude had been brought to justice at international courts. But that of the Oromo, Sidaamaa, Mazhangir, Gambeela is overlooked for not publicly declared reason, though the Oromo suspects it is part of the conspiracy that led to Oromiyaa’s colonization. Therefore the youth has to remember the Oromo saying about the snake that said “Abbaatu of maraa” (it is up to one to coil oneself) when suggested cutting it because it is too long. It is they that take the initial step for survival; help will come depending on their continued determination and commitment for human cause.
By Obbo Ibsaa Gutamaa
The continued colonial status of Oromiyaa cannot be understood without understand the nature of the colonizer, the Abyssinian state. The power struggle within that state has lived not only creating tension to the Habashaa but also affecting the peaceful life of its neighbors in one way or other, more so since an era known as The Scramble for Africa. The catalyst in it, international conspiracy that started early is also still actively engaged exasperating the misery. Since then much had changed in structure and function of Habashaa state not for the colonies. Now suffice to try and see the relation of Eritrea and Ethiopia in context of Tigray Tigriny in the eyes of a mute observer.
Eritrean highland known as Kabasaa is occupied by Tigrinya speaking population similar to those in present Tigray sate. Both together are referred to as Tigray Tigriny and are majority population in Eritrea while minority in Abyssinia and Ethiopian Empire. Their last king that ruled both at the same time were Yohannis IV, (1872-1889) who was able to extend his rule over the rest of Abyssinian state and also sanctioned colonization of Oromiyaa by Shawaan king. Part of Tigray Tigriny and the whole present Eritrea fell to Italy after the battle of Adwa, 1896. It was transferred to Ethiopian empire in 1956. It is now an independent country. Its independence did not come easily. It has taken so many lives among who were gallant, brilliant and intimate friends of this writer with who they have experienced the ups and downs of student life at Haile Sillaasee I University. The dead also include his compatriots who were mobilized by the opposite side. This writer shall cherish the memory of his friends and never forgets the victimized compatriots as long as he lives. Let their soul rest in peace.
The Tigray Tigrinys are now in power in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. They are historically and culturally interconnected for thousands of years. Their country is a land mass bordered by Amaaraa, Agawu, Oromo, Saahoo, Afar, Kunaamaa and Beejjaa, almost all Kuusaa people’s land. In short they are the heart lands of Abyssinia mostly sharing the same political, social and economic life. For the first time they were politically separated when a part became Italian colony. It is historical accidents that separated them and when another similar accident brought them together megalomania of their leadership could not keep them together. From experience there is no win, win position in dealings of their elites. One has always to win by force or deceit. There cruelty against anyone challenging them has no bounds.
Their king Yohannis IV pulled out eyes of the Agawu king before him who was his brother in law and cut tongues of Oromo in Walloo from hate; he betrayed the trust of people like Waldamicha’el, chief of Bahiree Nagaash and killed them. TPLF is a copy of him. Because of such traditional lack of moral inhibition and democratic political culture problems were observed between the two comrades in arms. They overthrew the most brutal tyrant but did not to bring fundamental change to the system and liberate the peoples but to replace him in exploiting the colonies. Tyranny got more fertile ground in them. Both groups have their eyes on the colonies’, in particular Oromiyaa’s precious metals and cash crops and raw material for their presumed industries. During the Transitional Tigrean Government their combined force overpowered Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and massacred gallant Oromo heroes and sent thousands to concentration camps to advance this ambition of theirs. Oromo are better than the steer that licks the hand of one that drives it to slaughter house to forget this. However, their authoritarian personality did not permit them to enjoy their victory together.
Since then we have seen against all expectations, how they went to the most devastating war few years after their shared victory over OLA. The devastation was of course mostly on recruits from other peoples, majorly Oromo not on their kin. So they did not feel the pinch much. During the emperor and the Darg the Army was dominated by Amaaraa core officers with few assimilado. In the present government it is totally Tigrinya dominated officer core for they had no assimilado to trust. They did not also trust their cousins, the Amaaraa whom they were rather out to break their morale. In both Habashaa periods the army belonged to the dominant group, though Amaaraa have given them some representation.
The previous army was loyal to the regime that ruled the empire, but separately organized from the civilian leadership up to the Darg. The Tigray Tigriny army is the regime; it is the total guerrilla force composed of one nationality. Historically no Habashaa rebel has dismissed the whole army of the vanquished like TPLF did but was embraced by the victor and remained army of the Habashaa. “We are the dead and also the leaving, so follow us” was their transitional slogan. Tigray Tigriny on both sides of Marab agreed on the dismissal. They changed that code and established all Tigray Tigriny army. They also agreed on short transitional arrangement in which different Organizations other than those of the Amaaraa will participate. But with understanding that power will be monopolized by TPLF in Ethiopia and Eritrea will be declared independent. No genuine Amaaraa independent parties will ever raise their head as long as the Tigrinyaas are in power. The new rulers had a policy that the empire will be geared towards supplying the needs of Tigray Tigrinys.
Though both Amaaraa and Tigray Tigrinys are called Habashaa after their place of origin in Yemen, they claim separate territory and language despite being political partner since they crossed the Red Sea. As a senior partner Amaaraa has led them to grandeur and victories over the neighboring peoples. It was the Amaaraa that pushed the Kuusaa people to farther south and expanded their boundary to Shawaa. It is Amaaraa that renewed the myth of Sheba to give Habasha ideological basis. Unlike Tigray Amaaraa have been growing by assimilating other nationalities as a result of which some have started to say there are no people called Amaara. In reality that is what is making them cling to the ancient civilization, Ethiopia, to cover ethnographic weakness. It is that weakness that the Tigrinyaa hammered on to reduce them to Amaaraa ethnicity and ending their disguising under the name Ethiopia. Without the assimilado their number will not be much greater than Tigray Tigriny as it seems. Now the assimilado and the opportunist who together call themselves “forces of unity” (FU) (euphemism for Amaaraa) are making the most noise against Oromo liberation; the assimilado remember the disgraceful chasing out from Gondar by Teedros of Ejjuu warlords branded as aliens after years of service to Habashaa Crown, in which they improved the system of justice in a way never seen. They are afraid the same might happen to them if colonies are gone.
Be that as it may, rulers of Tigray Tigrinys have deprived the Amaaraa of all their gains of the last century including the hard won colonies, three thousand year extension to empire Ethiopia, and sea outlets. Demanding from all individuals to register their ethnic identity, the assimilado which comfortably passed for Amaaraa, claiming to be Ethiopian now could not find roots to attach to. The lost sheep is back to its owner. Except the few that have nostalgia for the old Nafxanyaa days many appreciated regaining their lost identity. Thus Amaaraa is trimmed down numerically and psychologically. Amaaraa activists now are of two types; remnant of ancient occupying army (Nafxanyaa) and Amaaraa from the homeland. Most Nafxanyaa remnants residing in the rural towns except for calling themselves Amaaraa for being Orthodox Christians, cannot tell from where their ancestors were recruited or if they are really ethnically Amaaraa. Even if the family had mentioned a country of origin those that went to investigate will not be that much. The truth is they know only the countries they are born, brought up and live in. If not moles, they have equal rights with the natives.
But some of the remnants may not feel comfortable without super imposed Ethiopia in spite of the natives showing them love and tolerance on many occasions. Despite that there are those that feel the pain of oppression and identify with natives and believe only what they personally experienced not scare mongers’ tales. Some others yet feel insecure from their racist mentality and fear of retaliation for abuses they heard their forebears committed on the natives. Such have nostalgia for the past they never lived and will have a hard time to adjust. It is from these that “FU” recruit their vocal members. They are dangerous for any peace efforts that Amaaraa may try to make with the Oromo, because they are neither Oromo nor Amaaraa. Oromo means people, Oromiyaa knows no discrimination no hate, and any one that cries foul will be ashamed. Incidents could happen here and there but that could not be a reason to smear the good name of their generous hosts. It is against basic Oromo tradition to harm any human being, it is a safuu. Oromiyaa supports all peoples whoever they are that struggle for their liberation without any string attached.
The Habashaa from homeland had come into contact with the Oromo in schools, in particular high schools and colleges. Some did not believe their eyes Oromo having normal physical features different from the monstrous one they well told back home. Except for childhood racist bias which they had opportunity to correct, they had no direct physical confrontation as colonizer and colonized. That doesn’t mean childhood brainwashing did not leave stigma on their memory about the colonized. The psychologically formed glory of greater Ethiopia by propaganda of monks, daftaraas and opportunist historians doesn’t go easily. Those concerned have to find a way out to bright and peaceful future. Since they cannot revers what years of revolution by the down trodden has done to the empire, they have to accept the fact and try to heal existing wounds rather than rubbing salt on them.
Therefore, it is hoped they will be wiser than crying over spilt milk. Ethiopia is not the only country that lost colonies and adjusted themselves to their new size geographically, psychologically, as well as economically. Only self-reliance pulling back to their original holding can make one independent and proud. The Nafxanyaa days are long gone. Just like the Boer is not problem of Holand Nafxanyaa descent should not be Habashaa or Amaaraa problems; they are problems of the colonies. Unless they have intention of continuing dominating Oromiyaa further, they have to fight for their own liberation not claiming those Nafxanyaa decendants as excuse for their hidden agenda. The shrinking of the British Empire and recent UK withdrawal from EU can be a harbinger for future possibilities.
The Tigray Tigriny has at least recognized on paper that the colonial people have separate history and identity from the colonizers. This was criticized by Amaaraa elites and later by some Tigrinyaa elites. Though they have historical and blood relations Eritrean elites had fought for the right of nations to national self-determination and got it. It is surprising to hear them saying that for Oromiyaa is a distortion of history and blamed TPLF despite their earlier concurrence with it when they were buddies, in accepting that the empire was only a century old. No one can easily turn this back and retain the colonies under domination. They won it not as a charity from any Habashaa group but by their own sweat and blood. It is the culmination of century old struggle. It is what brought down the emperor and the Darg. Not realizing they are losing Abyssinia itself Amaaraa elites are growling about the loss of an empire. Tigray Tigriny, despite showing deceptive face now will eventually unite for wider hegemonic venture. Their saying, “Ya qooxuun awurd bilaa ya bibbituwaan xaalech” (To get more from the raft she lost what was in her arm pit) is happening to the Amaaraa.
Amaaraa have all the potentials to stand on their own. They have the resources; demography and experience to enable them do that. Therefore they are an entity to reckon with in that region. With Oromia they are neighbors with extensive boundary line. They are the vanguard of the Habashaa expedition that colonized Oromiyaa and so nearest enemy which if reformed can become strategic friends. Both can guarantee freedom peace, stability and prosperity for the region if they can stand together as equals. For both the initial priority must not be relation within Ethiopia but friendship as independent neighboring countries. Amaaraa should beware of organizations with baseless power mongering Nafxanyaa influence. Amaaraa’s longtime partner the remaining part of Tigray Tigriny is almost gone. The empire had no control over them for over twenty five years. TPLF is building its power base as never seen. Infrastructures for all activities are laid down. Social and economic institutions are built. They are at stage to declare independence or merger with Tigray Tigriny in Eritrea. No propaganda or appeal to history of “FU” can stop them. Amaaraa has to make peace with itself before trying to make peace with others. It is not easy to get rid of the illusion of being custodian of Ethiopianism that has rusted in subconscious.
The Oromo do not see their country as a periphery of Ethiopia but as its neighbor and a country with its own peripheries. Oromo do not feel marginalized in relation to Habashaa power but as occupied and deprived of their freedom by them. They are not complaining of being denied participation in their authoritarian system but of their loss of freedom. Thinking otherwise undermines how Oromo view themselves and all the sacrifices Oromo patriots paid and are paying to liberate their nation from occupation. It is disgusting when some Oromo claim expertise and air opinion contrary to vision of majority population only to be embraced by Habasha peers. The Oromo is determined that no Habashaa group can any more present itself as dictator on the life of other nations and nationalities in the region albeit as a neighbor with equal rights Distracting suggestions about Oromo rights and democracy are pouring from Ethiopianist Organizations. But no nationalist will be moved by those suggestions as long as Oromiyaa is under occupation and cannot freely express its will.
It now seems for the moment that only the two Tigray Tigriny rivals seem to be the only leading bulls in Abyssinian kraal. They mobilize all nations and nationalities under them to serve as cannon fodders in their senseless wars of dominating the kraal. For the Oromo such wars do not bring any material or spiritual benefit. Whoever wins Oromo remains the loser. The boarder points they are taking as pretexts for clashes now are all in Tigray Tigriny land. Though legally international, in reality it is a domestic Tigrinya affair. Now, for all nations and nationalities in the horn a task of liberating and developing themselves is awaiting them. The hegemonic plan of Tigray Tigriny groups for the Horn of Africa has to be stopped. The border issue is their own problem, no others should any more sacrifice their youth for others interest. Their fight will go on until one bull remains to head the kraal and that should be taken as their own business not of the colonies. Every other people in the empire are responsible not to serve force of tyranny dangerous to pan Africanism.
Tigray Tigriny was broken up when their partner, the Amaaraa colonized countries to its south like Oromiyaa. Their leader, Minilik probably did not want to risk his newly gained colonies when he agreed with another colonizer not to cross the Marab creek. Minilik was a proxy partner in conspiracy for the Scramble for Africa. Tigray elites had no power to challenge their new king but gave up on their siblings and part of their domain for which only few years ago Yohannis and Aluulaa were engaged in battles with Egypt and Italy in its defense. Despite Tigrinya leaders not supporting independence of Oromiyaa, Minilik’s colonies are on their way to freedom. The Tigrinya do not seem to give up on Amaaraa holdings as the Amaaraa gave up on theirs in the 19th century but will try to replace them as colonial masters and superpowers in Abyssinia and the Horn. This should be thwarted by all means. The time now has come to reorganize The Horn of Africa under a new order.
Instead of making peace with their nearest neighbor the Oromo, Amaaraa elites preferred to go after their vanguard organization, the OLF with smear campaign. They think they can win the Oromo by attracting some misguided unreliable renegade activists. The objective or “kaayyoo” articulated by the OLF were those in the hearts and minds of each free thinking Oromo, which even defecting of some of the founding fathers did not erase. That shows whether OLF is there or not the Oromo independence movement cannot be stopped. Therefore to address the concern will be to advantage of all sides. Any among the Habasha groups that respects Oromo interest can be a friend and partner for peace and freedom. Oromo have no special preference between them. Both together had caused Oromo people suffer for over a century. Now their falling apart means nothing as long as one remains confronting them. They want to be free and independent.
The overall changing world order as a result of technological revolution, do not tolerate old and archaic colonial relations to continue. The colonies likewise have awakend and demanding for their rights. Habashaa internal and colonial relations are cracking. The last two centuries had brought big fundamental change to Amaaraa than on Tigrinya. As a result it is imperative for Tigray Tigrinys to rethink and get reorganized for enduring security. Their internal conflict will be there only as long as guerrilla leaders of TPLF and EPLF are around. Their present quarrel in addition to power struggle between guerilla leaders is majorly over the booty of war that is left over from what they shared initially. They have no intention to destroy each other. As minority more inclined to group interest than Ethiopianism they have more chance of getting support from big powers. This follows the same logic of history of the British that left strengthening Yohannis IV of Tigray Tigriny with gift of arms favoring him over Oromo chieftains, Warqit and Mastawat of Walloo that defeated Teedros for them.
The seeming quarrel with one and friendliness with the other of big powers are not more than a temporary leer on kids. There is no country in the world that does not violate human rights but vary in degree. One Tigray Tigriny government have no less count in abuses than the other but there is double standard judgement by big powers. One is favored against the other to force it submit to their dictates and has nothing to do with alleged abuses. They are overlooking even genocide being committed when it comes to TPLF. Tigray Tigriny area is seen as strategic zone for global interests. Today we might think it to be at a distance because we are not feeling the strength and they are not taking Oromiyaa as a nation of interest. Even then any change in the territorial, political and religious formation in Middle East and in particular around the Red Sea is going to affect Oromo interest. If the Amaaraa stop whining about lost imperial glory and join the others in defense of the region then only can a fair and new political game start in the Horn of Africa.
When we talk about Habasha we cannot help to right away talking about their leadership that had been crooked, cruel, passionless and greedy all the time. But we don’t talk about the common Habasha people who are bigger than that. They are one of the kindest, humble, passionate, and generous and God fearing peoples of the region. This is what this writer who had travelled around in their country can attest. They can have biases against the colonized peoples from brainwashing of the leaders and lack of information. However they are as oppressed as the colonized people by those thugs and need fundamental reform. How did such snakes come out of dove’s eggs is so far an answered question. They have been sacrificing innocent farmers senselessly for their group’s glory from time immemorial. Over and above that, those leaders have brainwashed them to praise and be proud of those that subjected them to wretched life for centuries. That empty pride from ignorance and lack of information has made many to develop the attitude of being superior to peoples of the colonies. But people of the oppressor nation, have no excuse to go on keeping silent when crime is committed in their name.
In the present world the struggle for survival has prominence over the rule of law. Human beings had been trying to put rein over greed that could be detrimental to survival of the race if left unchecked. That is why civilizations had emphasized the rule of law for peaceful coexistence. There is no civilization that gave prominence to rule of law than Oromoo civilization. But when they encountered those that believe in rule of the muscles they became at disadvantage. The word “law” has especial place in their thought so they revered alien laws as if they were their own. But when they realized they were devoid of safuu (ethical considerations) they rejected them. That is Habashaa tradition carried down to this day as exemplified by TPLF elections.
Democracy is said to be government of the people for the people by the people. TPLF claiming to implement what culturally it has no clue for ended up forming, government of itself, for itself, by itself. Somehow the Oromo survived colonizers greed and cruelty for over a century. Now with increased challenge to survival, Oromo nation has no choice but fight back hard until independent Republic Oromiyaa, is formed.
Peaceful struggle for over six months did not bear fruit. Few voices from democratic centers have tried to make the voice of the voiceless Oromo to be heard. But those that could stop the tragedy gave more attention to self-interests’ strategic advantage and rather continued building abusive capacity of the dictators rather than alleviating human suffering. During the last six months conservatively estimating more than five hundred have died but TPLF argues that number is exaggerated as if killing any number is justified. They have made killing style of administration, forgetting its criminal dimension even when they talk in public. Unlike the old Nafxanyaa these can do anything to build their national capacity and destroy that of the colonies. The old Nafxanyaa developed a theory that all the land up to Lake Victoria was theirs, part of the motherland. So, most of their exploit were not invested in Amaaraa homeland. Tigray Tigriny are classical colonialist, they are not only taking the resources but even had dismantled factories, and removed all moveable even soil and taken them away just like colonizers did to Eritrea. They have now superb infrastructures, hydroelectric power, sea ports etc. that could give them capacity for self-reliance if they were reunited or even if they make peace. That is done at the expense of Oromiyaa with its raw material and market in their mind for their fledgling industries. Is it not said, “The wise cuts wood for yoke from the threshold of a fool”?
The Oromo, including those who think are lodged in alien court comfortably, must realize that their identity is under threat. Trying to stabilize what struggling oppressed people have put out of balance is to dig ones grave. It is only revolutionary Oromiyaa that could keep them afloat. Hegemony of any group of colonizer will strive more to turn them into individuals that it could turn around at will. If that happens, individual rights and “one man one vote” will be emphasized and peoples’ rights pushed down to the level of self-help organization. No true child of the Oromo will give up on the sovereignty of the nation for a second class right of Ethiopian citizenship. After destroying their national (group) identity all the injurious defamatory and derogatory references will come back to dehumanize them as usual. So far those have affected self-confidence and determination of most of them. Unless it is cleansed, the nation will turn to a nation of quitters and swindlers. Only better offer than the Tigray Tigriny constitution is henceforth acceptable and that is independence.
Already the Oromo are subjected to genocide under Tigray Tigriny gang rule, a crime that is condemned by the world body and many culprits from different countries with lesser magnitude had been brought to justice at international courts. But that of the Oromo, Sidaamaa, Mazhangir, Gambeela is overlooked for not publicly declared reason, though the Oromo suspects it is part of the conspiracy that led to Oromiyaa’s colonization. Therefore the youth has to remember the Oromo saying about the snake that said “Abbaatu of maraa” (it is up to one to coil oneself) when suggested cutting it because it is too long. It is they that take the initial step for survival; help will come depending on their continued determination and commitment for human cause.
It cannot also be forgotten that thousands of Oromo youth have been butchered between Eritrea and Amaaraa junta run Ethiopia, in wars that did not concern them. They never got proper burial for they were the concern of no body. Now also the same history is repeating itself under Tigray Tigriny gang domination. Fresh bones are scattered from Bure to Aqordaat added to the older ones from Ambaalagee to Qaaroora. The same is happening in Somalia. Henceforth, no self-respecting, patriotic Oromiyaan should participate on either side, they have own country called Oromiyaa to die for. Let the Tigray Tigriny kill each other for theirs if they wish. Oromo youth have to resist all temptations and coercions for recruitment. It will be a blessing if their carrion were fed by hyenas and vultures of Oromiyaa rather than alien scavengers. Colonization has left on Oromiyaans scar that cannot easily wished away with continued exasperation of the misery just like its beginning. They have come so far dying, dodging and humiliating themselves to survive. They can no more continue like that. Tigray Tigriny rule has to be the end of all abuses they can bear. Oromiyaa’s patriots like American liberation activist Henry Patrick of 1775, are saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!”. Henceforth no one could tell the Oromo what they want unless they ask for it. There is no turn back from the path of liberation. After seeing how a part of Tigray Tigrinys gang subjected them to untold misery it will not be hard to imagine what their prolonged combination could do. They are hungry vultures that know no consideration. To fear death facing extinction and humiliation is not Oromo way. The clandestine plan of Tigray Tigriny to extend colonial rule further, not only replacing but destroying the Amaaraa if not today will happen tomorrow. Readiness to combat it is imperative, because whatever happens to them could affect their interest, Oromo have to watch out their neighborhood.
Long Live free and independent Oromiyaa! Victory to the oppressed! Justice shall prevail!
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!
The Blues is said to be based on musical traditions drawn from African roots. The slave trade to Arabia and the east – in total, much bigger than the better-known trade routes west – despatched misery on a similar scale.
Except that Oromo and other slaves taken from and through Abyssinia (up to the 1930s incidentally, and continuing now under the guise of domestic servants) were more likely to become freed women and men, and become political and military leaders. Not so much now.
The majority pay to travel on false papers, often with exaggerated ages, to work, for many in a state of slavery, for Arabian families. They flee from persecution because they have dared to stand up for Oromo rights.
Between November 2015 and March 2016 over 400 Oromo students and civilians have been shot dead on the streets of Ethiopia, where they demonstrated. Or when they opened their doors to the house-to-house searches which followed. Local informants report many more killings. Names, dates and locations of over 250 extra-judicial executions have been given.
Where is the clamour from left and right, complaining about misuse of our generous aid to Ethiopia? This aid amounts to about £300 million yearly – Ethiopia receives more aid from the UK than any other country in the world.
Well, the clamour is not coming because, allegedly, the government is in control and the opposition is weak and divided. Small wonder, that an oppressive regime with western support and intelligence can render an opposition weak and divided
Meanwhile, students bleed on Ethiopian streets and there is martial law in Oromia. Tens of thousands of young people are incarcerated in concentration camps. Is this the sort of stability that the UK wants to encourage?
This picture is of a young woman killed in central Oromia Region, at a place named Galesda. Her name is Nato Guluma. She was shot dead in Jaldu, West Showa, on 14 December 2015.
What do we want the UK’s foreign policy to look like in Ethiopia, East Africa, the Middle East? Like this? An sweeping under the rugs of innocent lives lost in the struggle for freedom from persecution? Then again, so few of us know about these lives. After all, Oromo students being shot dead is sometimes just not media material, and will never make it to the UK’s front pages.
Well, now you know. Dr Trevor Trueman learned about the unfair treatment of asylum-seekers when providing expert witness reports on Ethiopia to immigration appeal tribunals and courts. He has developed an expertise on human rights abuses in Ethiopia as a result of reporting abuses against Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopian publicly since 1994. He trained Oromo health workers in three long field trips from 1988 to 1991. He is now a member of the steering committee of Amnesty’s Asylum Justice Project.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (left), walks alongside President Obama during the U.S. president’s visit to the African nation last July. Critics say Ethiopia has cracked down hard on the opposition, but makes modest gestures to give the impression it tolerates some dissent.
SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
The Oromo Federalist Congress, an opposition party in Ethiopia, represents the largest ethnic group in the country, the Oromo.
Yet its office in the capital Addis Ababa is virtually deserted, with chairs stacked up on tables. A chessboard with bottle caps as pieces is one of the few signs of human habitation. In a side office, the party’s chairman, Merera Gudina, explains why the place is so empty: Almost everyone has gone to prison.
The deputy chairman? Prison. The party secretary general? House arrest. The assistant secretary general? In prison. Six members of the party’s youth league? All in prison.
Critics of the Ethiopian government regularly land in prison. So why isn’t Merera Gudina, the chairman of the party and an outspoken critic of the regime, also behind bars?
The reason, he says, is what he calls “the game of the 21st century.” Less-than-democratic regimes are getting more sophisticated, and instead of completely crushing dissent, they seek to create the appearance of tolerance or even a multiparty democracy, explains Merera. (Ethiopians go by their first names).
In the case of Ethiopia, a strategy was laid out by the late former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, after the 2005 election, in which opposition parties won 32 percent of parliament and appeared poised to challenge the government.
Merera says he is the current example of that strategy. He describes himself as a “floating head,” while the legs of his party — all his deputies, his candidates, his organizers — are either imprisoned or threatened.
Criticism On Human Rights
Human rights groups are extremely critical of Ethiopia, but it is a member of the international community in good standing.
“We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history, the hardships that this country has gone through,” Obama said. “It has been relatively recently in which the Constitution that was formed, and elections put forward a democratically elected government.”
A number of human rights groups criticized Obama, saying he should have pressed much harder.
Shortly before Obama’s visit, Ethiopia released several noted opposition journalists and politicians. The deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, was among those freed, and he promptly flew to Washington to sound an alarm bell.
Bekele said his wife, a high school teacher, was also forced out of her job because of his politics. Bekele declined to use this trip to the U.S. to stay and apply for asylum. Instead, he said, he was determined to go back to Ethiopia, no matter what would happen.
Opposition Figure Re-Arrested
Soon after his return, Bekele was arrested again, and remains in prison today. Bekele is considered a moderate and he counsels nonviolence. He used his free time in prison to translate the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Merera, the party leader, says that targeting Bekele has a boomerang effect.
“When you are suppressing the moderate voice, then what you get is the radical voice,” he warns.
The arrest of moderates inside the country may be amplifying more radical rhetoric in the diaspora, such as rhetoric about “government overthrow” that Ethiopian officials are quick to highlight.
Genenew Assefa, a government spokesman, points out that Ethiopian opposition “tends to be extremist,” but also takes his own Justice Ministry to task for arresting so many opposition members.
“And then we put them in jail, and then it’s a vicious circle,” he says with a sigh. “And this is how it works. I personally, you know, would like to deal with this differently.”
He says that he would like Ethiopia to counter criticism with politics, not with police.
But Ethiopian politics appears to be moving away from democratic freedoms, not toward them. In last year’s election, the ruling party won 100 percent of the seats in parliament. Even the “floating heads” no longer have a token parliamentary seat.
Merera says that the Ethiopian strategy isn’t working.
“You can’t arrest everybody,” he says. He says that what is brewing is “an intifada (uprising), an Ethiopian intifada — even now, they don’t need leadership.”
Last November, ethnically Oromo regions of the country erupted in popular protests. Activists say 350 people have been killed, and thousands more arrested. There’s a growing fear that Ethiopia’s “cut off the legs” strategy is splitting the country.
The status of the Oromo students whose US Embassy protest in March was deemed unlawful by the Ethiopian authorities has remained unchanged due to a delay in proceedings. Their dire situation is seen by many as an example of the harsh treatment handed out to the Oromo ethnic minority within Ethiopia, as well as an attempt to crush resistance to damaging policies from the governing body in Addis Ababa, such as the Addis Ababa Master Plan. The protests in Oromia and the authorities’ violent repression attracted some international attention in the past few months and led, among others, to a European Parliament Resolution.
The 20 Oromo students of Addis Ababa University who were arrested for protesting in front of the US embassy last march were brought to court today. The court having been summoned to hear recorded testimonies of witnesses against the students was required to delay proceedings because of the clerk responsible for transcribing the recorded material is on vacation.
Dozens of Oromo students protested in front of the US Embassy in March denouncing the brutal actions of the Ethiopian government against the Oromo protesters who are demanding greater constitutional rights (self-rule, control over resources & democracy) for the last for months.
The students made the demonstrations to bring the situation in Oromia to the attention of the US government, the leading donor to the Ethiopian government. The students were, however, attacked by the security forces, and the demonstration was dispersed. In connection with the demonstrations, 11 Oromo students have been detained and their whereabouts are still not known.
When Ethiopia barred its best distance runner from competing in the 2016 Olympics, many saw it as an act of ethnic discrimination. Another runner from the same ethnic group says he was exiled.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
If you are a betting person – and we’re not endorsing this – but if you are, it’s a safe bet that the gold in middle-distance running in this summer’s Olympics will go to Ethiopia or Kenya. That’s because those two countries dominate the 5K and the 10K. So it was a shock to the running world when Ethiopia announced its main national team will not include the world record holder in both those races. That’s three-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele. Bekele says he is being discriminated against because of his ethnicity. Bekele is Oromo. NPR’s Gregory Warner tells us more about why other runners say ethnic discrimination casts a shadow over Ethiopian track.
GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: The 23-year-old refugee I meet in Nairobi talks quietly as if to conserve energy. He’s thin and nervous. But there’s one name that can put a burst of joy on his face. That name – Kenenisa Bekele.
MOHAMED KEMAL: (Speaking Oromo).
WARNER: In fact, you smile when I even say his name.
KEMAL: (Speaking Oromo).
WARNER: This is Mohamed Kemal (ph). He’s also a runner. And he was 16 years old in 2008 when Bekele won gold medals in the 5K and the 10K races in Beijing.
(SOUNDBITE OF 2008 SUMMER OLYMPICS)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And the awesome strength – the awesome, awesome speed. He’s untouchable once again. It’s a new Olympic record.
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) (unintelligible) Kenenisa is my role model. So always I’m thinking to be wise like Kenenisa.
(SOUNDBITE OF PAPERS RUSTLING)
WARNER: Kemal pulls out papers. They’re the finishing times for an Ethiopian half marathon in 2014.
So 1 hour 6 minutes 8 seconds – 86th.
Kemal’s time put him in the country’s top 100 that year. But before the race, he says, the coach of his running club had pulled him aside and told him to throw the race for another runner.
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) We have been told to make others too tired, but, at the finishing, to give the chance for the Tigrinya.
WARNER: Give the chance to the Tigrean, he says. Kemal is not of the Tigrean ethnicity. He’s Oromo.
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) I was discriminated because of I’m Oromo.
WARNER: Kemal refused to throw the race. He was tired, he says, of being passed over for international sponsors or forced to pay bribes for the chance to run just because of his ethnic background. But after he finished so well in the race, the furious coach told him he’d be barred from future competitions.
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) After this, things become serious.
WARNER: In November of last year, Ethiopia erupted in massive civil protest by Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. And their complaints were various – that their ancestral land was being taken, that their children were discriminated against in education and employment. They said that Oromo who didn’t adhere to the ruling party ideology were targeted. Thousands of Oromo were arrested, including Kemal. And when he was released, he snuck over the border to Kenya. At 23 he had chosen impoverished freedom over a running career.
So let me ask you – with everything that’s happened to you, will you watch the Olympics? And if you watch it, will you be rooting for Ethiopia?
KEMAL: (Speaking Oromo).
WARNER: Kemal’s answer is complicated. A win for Ethiopia in Rio would reflect positively on a national athletics program that Kemal feels is rotten. And his role model, Kenenisa Bekele, won’t be running. But the other Ethiopian runners are men and women that he knows and admires. How can he not cheer if they win?
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) When my colleagues won that’s – that race, I become excited.
WARNER: So you focus on the face and not on the flag?
KEMAL: (Through interpreter) Yes.
WARNER: But of course the headline, if that happens, will be Ethiopia clinches another gold. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Nairobi.
The police failed to bring Tesema Regasa and 15 others in the same file to the court
Mahlet Fasil, addisstandard, 3 June 2016
The Addis Abeba prison administration Qilinto prison police have this morning brought prominent opposition figure Bekele Gerba and the 21 others in the same file for a hearing at a court all barefoot. The detainees were also wearing mere shorts and t-shirts when they appeared at the Federal High Court 19th Criminal Bench here in the capital.
Once inside the court room the detainees, through Bekele Gerba, first secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), told the judges that the police have come to their cells in Qilinto, a prison in the outskirt of south of Addis Abeba, yesterday and stripped them all of their clothes and shoes to prevent them from wearing black upon appearing in court this morning.
On May 11 the police have failed to bring the 22 detainees, all charged with Ethiopia’s infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, ATP, to the court because all them were wearing black to protest their arrest. However, the police have told the court this morning that they didn’t bring defendants during the last hearing because they have not received a letter from the court. The judge told the police at the court this morning that the police officers on duty on May 11 must appear in court to explain the real reason.
Bekele also told the court that he and his co-defendants were subjected to torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuses inside the prison and requested the judge for a change of prison. But the judge denied the request.
The 22 defendants were all arrested between November and December 2015, shortly after the start (and in connection with) Oromo protests in November that gripped the nation for the next five months. Defendants include several members of OFC, students and civil servants who came from various parts of the Oromia regional state.
Prosecutors have charged the 22 with various articles of the ATP. The charges include, but not limited to, alleged membership of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), public incitement, encouraging violence, as well as causing the death of innocent civilians and property destructions in cities such as Ambo and Adama, 120km west and 100km east of Addis Abeba during the recent Oromo protests in Ethiopia. This morning all of the defendants have presented a written defense statement. The court adjourned the next hearing until June 27.
In a relateddevelopment, the police at Qilinto have failed to bring this morning 16 other individuals, all from the Oromia regional state and were detained in connection with the #OromoProtests, to the court. The 16 detainees, under the file name of Tesema Regasa were first brought to the court on April 26. They were subsequently charged with the ATP and have, last month, presented their defense statements to the court. Today’s court appearance was adjourned to hear prosecutors’ counter response for the defense statements. The court re-adjourned the next hearing until June 15.
Wondimu Ebbissa, who is representing Bekele Gerba et.al, said last month that more than 80 defendants, including Bekele Gerba et al, were held in Qilinto and a further 97 were believed to be either at the Ethiopian Federal Polcie Force Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation, known in Amharic as Ma’ekelawi, or the Addis Abeba police prison facility near it. All of them are detained in connection with #OromoProtests.
In a separate development, the Federal High Court 19th Criminal Bench yesterday adjourned the hearing for Yonatan Tesfaye, former spokesman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) Party, until June 21. The court received Yonatan’s defense statement in its hearing and adjourned the next hearing to receive prosecutor’s counter statement.
Last month prosecutors have charged Yonatan with ATP and have presented as evidence the defendant’s Facebook status updates during the #OromoProtests. The charges against Yonatan allege that he was posting inciting message on his Facebook, encouraging protesters to loot and destruct properties. Charges also allege Yonatan was calling for regime change through violence.
Guyyaa har’aa Obboo Baqqalaa Garbaa Kaanaateeraa keessaa; Kofoo gabaabduu fi miila duwwaa mana murtiititti dhiyaatan;
” Gaggeessitoonni Bulchiinsa Manneen Sirreessaa hamma hin jijjiiramnetti jiruun keenna rakkoo guddaa keessa jira; beellama itti aanuf nabsedhaanuu argamuu keenna ni shakkina”
” Gara kutaa dukkanaatti fuudhanii nuun deeman. Nu keessaa gartokkee keenya akka malee nu tuman”
” Akka Lammii Biyyattiitti lakkaawwamaa hin jirru”
Obbboo Baqqalaa Garbaa
” Beellama keenna isa dabre irratti uffata gurraacha mana murtiitti dhiyaachudhaaf uffanne baafadhaa nuun jedhan. Nutis hin baafannu jennee mormine. Uffata barbaanne kaawwachuun mirga heera biyyattiittiin nuuf kenname jenneen. Nuti uffata gurraacha kan uffanneef Lammileen Sabaan Oromoo ta’an Kuma 50 ol mana hidhaa keessatti kan argamaniifii dabalataan waggaa kana keessatti qofa lammiilen Oromoo 200 – 300 ajjeefamuu isaaniitiif gadda nutti dhagayame ibsuuf ture. Gochi nuti raawwanne hundi seera fi hojmaata mana sirreessaa haala hin tuqneen ture. Kuni gonkumaa hin ta’u jedhanii nu dhoowwan, nutti dallanan, nu sodaachisuudhaaf yaalan, nu arrabsan.
” Kaleessa sa’aa booda namoonni mana murtiitti dhiyaannu adda baafamne akka dhufnu godhamne. Eddoo jirruu uffata keenya qabannee akka baanu godhame. Uffata keenya keessaa uffata gurraacha barbaadanii fudhatan. Nutis ” uffata keenya hunda isaa nuuf deebisuu qabdu jennee gaafanne. Isaanis gara mana dukkanaa fuudhanii nuun deeman. Nu keessaayis namoota tokko tokko garmalee tumaadhaan dararan. Namootni tumamanis asuma waan jiraniif dhadacha fuulduratti waan irra ga’r kana ibsachuu ni danda’u. Uffatni keenya hundi isaa lafarratti waan bittinneeffameef hidhamtoonni biroo kan barbaadan keessaa fudhatan. Isa hafe fidanii kutaa keenya keessatti darban. Hanga har’aatti midhaan hin nyaanne. Harki keenya hamma ganamaatti Kaateenaadhaan hidhamee ture. Gochi suukaneessaan nurratti raawwatame hundi kan Oromummaa keenyarratii xiyyeffateedha. Lammiin sabaan Oromoo ta’e qofti filatamee garmalee tumamaa jira. Eddoon itti hidhamne kan ilmi namaa sababa sabummaa isaatif qofa itti adabamuudha. Anaanis ‘ Kan kana godhu sihi, si arganna’ naan jedhanii jiru.
Manni murtii eddoo turtii biraa akka nuuf mijeessu ni gaafanna. Ammas yoo gara mana hidhaa Qiliinxootti nu deebistan waan nurra ga’u hin beeknu. Sodaa guddaa qabna. Hoggantoonni mana sirreesichaa hamma hin jijjiiramnetti nabsee keennaaf ni sodaanna. Haala kanaan Beellama itti aanuf nabseedhaan argamuu danda’uu keenyas amantii hin qabnu. Maatin keenya akka nu hin daawwanne dhorgamaa jiru. Har’as erga dallaa mana murtii keessa seennee booda Namootni akka nu hin argine godhameera. Wanti akkanaa kuni mootummaadhaaf maal isaaf godhaa? Akka lammiitti lakkaawwamaa hin jirru.”
Submission to: Human Rights Council – 32nd Session UN,
13 June – 1 July 2016, Geneva, Switzerland
Item 4 – Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
May 29, 2016
(HRLHA) – Ever since November of 2015 and still going on are serious human rights violations in Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia. Peaceful protestors against the so-called ” Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan” came to the streets in Oromia in November to express their grievances about the “Addis Ababa Integrated Master plan” and were met with brutal crackdowns. An estimated 500 plus Oromos have been killed by the Ethiopian Government force. The Ethiopian Government deployed its military and applied excessive force against the unarmed civilians to quell the dissent. The Oromo nation protested against the “Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan” because:
It is a plan which did not consult the stakeholders and aimed to annex 36 small towns in Oromia to the capital city to expand it by 20 fold, thereby evicting over two million farmers
In the past 15 years, over 150,000 Oromo farmers from suburban towns of Addis Ababa have been forcefully evicted from their livelihoods and their land has been sold to investors for a low price, and given to the government authorities for free. Land owners have become beggars on the street.
Many farmers in Oromia Regional Zones have been forcefully removed from their ancestral lands and their lands sold cheaply to investors for flower plantations.
The recent deadly violence against Oromo peaceful demonstrators staged against the so called “Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan”- violence that has already claimed over 500 lives, including children and senior citizens along with more than 20,000 – 30,000 imprisoned and more disappeared- has also attracted the attention of many donor countries such as the USA whose Department of State has condemned the excessive military force against the peaceful demonstrators, (see in table 1)
Various organizations, including government agencies ( EU parliament, UN Experts), international, regional and domestic human rights organizations (HW, AI, HRLHA) and international mass media such as BBC, CNN, France 24 have reported on the recent violations in Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia, (see in Table 2)
Recalling that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of person, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful demonstration and assembly,
Recalling further that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest and detention,
The HRLHA urges the United Nations Human Rights Council to raise concerns about the serious human rights abuses presently taking place in Oromia.
The HRLHA also calls upon the UN Human Rights Council:
To create an international commission of inquiry to investigate the recent serious violations of international customary law and international human rights law by the Ethiopian Government
To use its mandate to put pressure on the Ethiopian Government:
To immediately bring to justice those military members who cold-bloodedly attacked the peaceful demonstrators
To unconditionally free all Oromo prisoners of conscience and others arbitrarily detained, including those held before for no reason and during the peaceful protests of April-March 2014 and November – December 2015 against the ” Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan “
To refrain from reprisals against aromos who have taken part in peaceful demonstrations
This is the answer to a Parliamentary Question about the Ethiopian government’s response to the Oromo protests and the credibility of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into the way in which these were handled.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL29):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is a credible body to investigate human rights violations committed by the Ethiopian security forces in their response to the Oromo protests. (HL29)
Tabled on: 18 May 2016
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:
The British Government remains deeply concerned about the handling of demonstrations in Oromia and the reported deaths of a number of protestors, and has repeatedly made representations to the Ethiopian Government over the ongoing situation in Oromia. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and raise our concerns with the Ethiopian Government, including on the use of force.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been appointed to look into the handling of the protests in Oromia. We will not pre-judge the outcome of their investigation and we await the publication of their report. We will continue to urge the EHRC and the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that their report is credible, transparent and leads to concrete action. We will take a view on what further lobbying, if any might be appropriate following the publication of the EHRC report.
This is the answer to a Parliamentary Question about the Ethiopian government’s response to the Oromo protests and the credibility of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into the way in which these were handled.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL29):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is a credible body to investigate human rights violations committed by the Ethiopian security forces in their response to the Oromo protests. (HL29)
Tabled on: 18 May 2016
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:
The British Government remains deeply concerned about the handling of demonstrations in Oromia and the reported deaths of a number of protestors, and has repeatedly made representations to the Ethiopian Government over the ongoing situation in Oromia. We will continue to monitor…
By Adotei Akwei,Managing Director for Government Relations and Kayla Chen, Government Relations and Individuals at Risk Intern at Amnesty International USA
Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a growing trend of evaporating political space. Non-governmental organizations are being heavily and often violently restricted, and newspapers, bloggers and other voices of dissent or criticism are being silenced or intimidated into exile.
In some countries such as Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, heads of state are rewriting their constitutions to eliminate term limits, in the process using security forces to squash protests from both political opposition and civil society. In other countries such as in Angola, the governments make use of their control over their judiciariesto intimidate or bury critics and youth activists in legal processes that cripple them financially or trap in never ending trials. Elsewhere, governments invoke the specter of terrorism and threats to national security as justification for passing sweeping laws whose interpretation empowers them to impose draconian penalties on oppositional parties and civil society, with little regard for international standards of due process or international and regional rights standards on freedom of expression, association and assembly.
In several countries government authorities have cracked down on nonviolent protests with violence. On Monday May 17, the Kenyan security forces brutally beat nonviolent demonstrations organized by the opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to demand the dismissal of the members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
On the 6th of May the Ugandan police beat demonstrators who had gathered after it was announced that opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye would face the death penaltyfor charges of treason.
Ethiopia has been at the forefront of this wave of violent intolerance. Members of the Oromo ethnic group are facing a brutal crackdown following initially peaceful protests that started in the fall of 2015. Some estimates place the number of persons killed at the beginning of 2016 at over 400. Thousands have been detained and hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed. The violent crackdown is consistent with the violent security force crackdowns in Oromia in 2014 and in Konso in March 2016 as well as against other protests.
Closing of Political Space in Ethiopia
This is the reality facing Ethiopians whom the government designates opponents of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The government heavily restricts freedom of expression and association, and severely constrains political space, especially for civil society organizations.
In the 2015 elections, the EPRDF and its allies claimed all of 547 seats in Parliament amid concern over the lack of conditions for free and fair elections. It has become virtually impossible to question, challenge or protest against any action of the government. According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, Ethiopia ranks 91 out of 102 countries with severe constraints on government powers and fundamental rights. Freedom House also rated the country “not free”. Ethiopia scores 6 out of 7, on a scale of 1-7 from free to not free, on both civil liberties and political rights. Civil society organizations have been forced to close, thousands of political prisoners are languishing in prisons, and human rights defenders who dare to speak out are forcibly imprisoned and beaten.
The use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation Act continues to be used to silence journalists and other critics who dare to speak out. People like noted journalist Eskinder Nega, Oromo leader Bekele Gerba, and Anuak Land rights activist Okello Akway Ochalla are all behind bars and charged with terrorism for opposing the government policies. They are just three individual stories of many who are suffering under the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on human rights.
Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2012 for fulfilling his role as a journalist and questioning the use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to arrest those that criticized the government. This was not the first time Eskinder had faced unjust retaliation due to his refusal to be silenced. Eskinder’s son Nafkot was born in prison in 2005 when both Eskinder and hjs wife Serkalem were imprisoned for criticizing the government’s killing of nearly 200 people in post-election protests in 2005. Four years later after he was unjustly convicted and imprisoned once again, Eskinder Nega still languishes behind bars and more convictions have been handed down using the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.
Bekele Gerba, a prominent leader of the Oromo Federalist Party, visited the United States last August after his release prior to President Obama’s visit to Ethiopia. He told NPR that Obama’s visit to Ethiopia last summer was a trip that sent the wrong message of solidarity to a repressive government with very little support from its own people. He also expresseduncertainty in regards to his freedom when he returned back to Ethiopia. A few months after his return Bekele was arrested on December 23, 2015 and held in a 4m X 5m cell with 21 others. Bekele and his counterparts were charged on April 22, 2016 with various provisions set forth in the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. This charge is clearly meant to silence him and others who dare to criticize and oppose the current regime.
Okello Akway Ochalla, a Norwegian citizen, was abducted from Juba, South Sudan, two years ago and ended up in an Addis Ababa court where he was sentenced to nine years in prison on April 27, 2016. Okello was the governor of the Gambella region, a key location of land grabbing and forced relocation by the Ethiopian Government, before escaping the country following a massacre of his people, the Anuaks, in 2003. Abducted from South Sudan in 2014 and brought back to Ethiopia, Okello was charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation for speaking to the international media about the massacre of his people and the ongoing struggle of the people of Gambella. Rights groups are alarmed that the primary evidence used to convict Okello was a confession obtained while Okello was in solitary confinement. There have been reports that Okello was beaten and tortured. His trial highlights serious failures of due process and the rule of law in the Ethiopian courts.
More laws are being drafted by the Ethiopian government that confirm it will continue to suppress opposition and dissent. Current government policies of making access to education, government jobs and services contingent on party membership, forcing citizens to undergo “policy trainings” of indoctrination, and widespread monitoring of all public spaces has created an environment of fear with no room for public debate.
Despite all this, the ruling ERPD still enjoys support from the international community. The United States recently renewed a new defense and security cooperation agreement with Ethiopia, which is being trumpeted as U.S. support of the Ethiopian government’s policies, including the military’s excessive use of force. Ethiopia also continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States, the European Union and other countries in development and humanitarian aid.
It is crucial that governments that commit human rights violations be held to the spotlight and pressed to be accountable. Countries that provide assistance to those governments need to prioritize respect for, and protection of human rights for several reasons.
First, grave human rights violations can further stymy development and it potentially drives voices of dissent to abandon non-violence.
Second, supporting an oppressive regime for the sake of regional security will only further destabilize a region already ravaged by conflict, unclear borders, poverty and lack of respect for the rule of law, all in the pursuit of short term stability.
The Ethiopian government’s lack of a specific policy or programme to address indigenous peoples’ special needs and status has further aggravated their situation. Ethiopia, is a key political actor in Africa, and the second most populous country on the continent. It is a glaring omission that such a significant political actor has not attempted—in consultation with the country’s indigenous peoples and their representative institutions—to develop policies and programmes that are in accordance with guidelines from the UN and other relevant bodies and which would bridge the social and economic gaps that are currently causing such distress. The Ethiopian government is thus failing to address widely reported concerns regarding the human rights of indigenous people in Gambela, the lower Omo Valley, Benishangul Gumuz, Afar, Somali and Oromia regions—all areas that have been part of the government’s land lease policy and villagization programme. The Oromia region has been the site of significant protests since late 2015 when protests began over plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. In what was seen as an attempted “land grab”, Oromo farmers argued that expanding Addis Ababa would lead to their displacement and the loss of arable land. Although plans were subsequently dropped, protests continued, leading to what activists reported as the deaths of around 200 people so far, and heightened tensions in the area.
The indigenous peoples of Ethiopia make up a significant proportion of the country’s estimated 95 million population. Around 15 percent are pastoralists who live across Ethiopia, particularly in the Ethiopian lowlands, which constitute around 61 percent of the country’s total landmass. There are also a number of hunter-gathering communities, including the forestdwelling Majang (Majengir) who live in the Gambela region. Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, a significant amount of which is concentrated in pastoralist communities living on land that in recent years has become the subject of high demand from foreign investors. The political and economic situation of indigenous peoples in Ethiopia is a tenuous one. The Ethiopian government’s policy of villagization has seen many pastoralist communities moved off of their traditional grazing lands, and indigenous peoples’ access to healthcare provision and to primary and secondary education remains highly inadequate. There is no national legislation that protects them, and Ethiopia has neither ratified ILO Convention No. 169, nor was present during the voting on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Anti-terror law: a threat to indigenous peoples’ rights The situation for indigenous peoples in Ethiopia suffered a significant deterioration in 2015. There was no improvement in national legislation that could offer protection to indigenous peoples, and Ethiopia continues to fail in its obligations under the international human rights mechanisms it has ratified, e.g., the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which calls for special attention to be paid to indigenous peoples, a situation regarding which a number of human rights organizations—including the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Minority Rights Group International (MRGI)—have expressed concern. Moreover, this lack of compliance must also be seen within the context of wider concerns regarding the Ethiopian government’s alleged use of anti-terror laws to curtail freedom of speech. Concerns about the latter intensified in April 2014 with the arrest of six members of the Zone 9 blogging group and three other journalists, while the situation with regard to indigenous peoples’ rights became even more acute in March 2015 with the arrest in Addis Ababa of seven activists heading to a workshop on food security in Nairobi. Although four of them were eventually released, on 7 September 2015, after six months in detention, the remaining three activists, Pastor Omot Agwa, Ashinie Astin, and Jamal Oumar Hojele, were charged under Ethiopia’s counter-terrorism laws, and now face the possibility of extended prison terms if found guilty (Omot faces a sentence of 20 years to life). This has caused widespread concern amongst human rights defenders inside and outside the country, as well as a number of leading human rights organizations.
Land grabbing and policy of villagization A key element in the deteriorating situation of indigenous peoples in Ethiopia is the ongoing policy of “land grabbing” where companies lease large tracts of land from the Ethiopian government in return for significant levels of foreign investment. Since 2008, when widespread concern about the possibility of a potentially global food crisis increased demand for agricultural land, the Ethiopian government has leased millions of hectares of land throughout the country to agricultural investors, both foreign and domestic. The Ethiopian government says that such investments are important for guaranteeing food security. The policy is also seen as an important element in Ethiopia’s development strategy because it means that land that is categorized as “under-utilized” can be used productively. However, much of this land is in reality not under-utilized but is used by pastoralists, whose customary rights to the land are being consistently violated. Moreover, the way in which the land is used under the new leasing arrangements arguably does little for food security as there is little food produced. Instead, land is chiefly being used for an array of non-food products such as flowers, or for growing food products destined for the export market. Interestingly, at the very end of 2015, the Ethiopian Agriculture Ministry’s land investment agency notified Karuturi Global Inc., one of the first and largest external investors, that its lease was being cancelled because of a lack of “development”. Karaturi had used only 1,200 ha of land out of the 100,000 originally allocated to it, and so the Agriculture Ministry has stated that the rest will return to a “land bank” for future investment. The Ethiopian government continues to highlight the employment opportunities of such investment for those living in lowland areas, but much of the employment in these areas has gone to “highlanders” from the central and northern areas of Ethiopia who have moved there to find work. The latter has also increased the possibilities of ethnic tensions, something that has been seen in the Gambela region and in the lower Omo Valley in particular. In the latter case, the building of the Gibe III Dam, which significantly impacts upon water security in the Omo Valley region, has meant a heightened threat to food security and in turn increased conflict over existing resources. For example, there have been reports that cattle herders have moved their animals into Mago National Park to find grass, and have been met with violence from government soldiers who are protecting the park and its wildlife. Reports from external sources have said that the lives of those indigenous peoples living in the region have been “fundamentally and irreversibly” changed by the building of the dam. It will make it very difficult for the half a million indigenous people whose lives and livelihoods depend upon the Omo River to continue living in the area and sustaining their traditional livelihoods. According to the Dam’s Public Consultation and Disclosure Plan, only 93 members of four indigenous communities were consulted and this happened only after construction of the dam had already begun. In addition, part of the Ethiopian government’s policy on land management includes the pursuit of a policy of villagization, which aims to resettle those who live in rural areas—often indigenous peoples—into communities with improved access to basic amenities, such as clean water, medical services and schools. In reality, however, such amenities have not been provided, and many of the communities have too little food for the population that now exists there. Many people find that when they try and return to the land that they have left in order to resume their previous way of life the land has been leased and they no longer have access to it.
Indigenous communities thus find themselves displaced and deprived of their traditional livelihoods and of access to their natural environment, including access to water, grazing and fishing grounds, arable lands and forest resources. The Ethiopian government’s lack of a specific policy or programme to address indigenous peoples’ special needs and status has further aggravated their situation. Ethiopia, is a key political actor in Africa, and the second most populous country on the continent. It is a glaring omission that such a significant political actor has not attempted—in consultation with the country’s indigenous peoples and their representative institutions—to develop policies and programmes that are in accordance with guidelines from the UN and other relevant bodies and which would bridge the social and economic gaps that are currently causing such distress. The Ethiopian government is thus failing to address widely reported concerns regarding the human rights of indigenous people in Gambela, the lower Omo Valley, Benishangul Gumuz, Afar, Somali and Oromia regions—all areas that have been part of the government’s land lease policy and villagization programme. The Oromia region has been the site of significant protests since late 2015 when protests began over plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. In what was seen as an attempted “land grab”, Oromo farmers argued that expanding Addis Ababa would lead to their displacement and the loss of arable land. Although plans were subsequently dropped, protests continued, leading to what activists reported as the deaths of around 200 people so far, and heightened tensions in the area.
Considering the future for indigenous peoples’ rights in Ethiopia, it therefore remains important that there be a country-wide, inclusive and participatory movement in the country that would be able to ensure that the concerns of pastoralists and agro-pastoral peoples are taken into account as part of key government policies and programmes. The country’s lack of formal mechanisms in which to consider such issues, as well as legal restrictions on freedom of association and speech, appear to preclude this. This is despite the fact that the Ethiopian constitution—though lacking in clear provisions directly related to indigenous peoples —does include a provision for dealing with the development needs of pastoralist communities. However, the overall outlook for a nationwide indigenous peoples’ movement is promising. Consensus is underway amongst various groups that— with the support of international organizations and a more positive government view—could enable the country’s marginalized communities to face a more positive future.
(Amnesty USA) — The Ethiopian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a prominent opposition politician facing a possible death sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges over comments he posted on Facebook, said Amnesty International.
Yonatan Tesfaye, the spokesman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) party, was arbitrarily arrested in December 2015 and held in lengthy pre-trial detention for comments he posted on Facebook. The government says his posts against a government plan to extend the capital’s administrative authority to the Oromia region were in pursuit of the objectives of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which it considers a terrorist organization.
“The Ethiopian authorities have increasingly labelled all opposition to them as terrorism. Yonatan Tesfaye spoke up against a possible land grab in Oromia, which is not a crime and is certainly not terrorism,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“He and many others held under similar circumstances should be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Tesfaye was arbitrarily arrested in December 2015 and held without charge for months on end. It was not until May 4, 2016 that he was charged with “incitement, planning, preparation, conspiracy and attempt” to commit a terrorist act. The state prosecutor charged that Tesfaye’s remarks were in pursuit of the OLF’s objectives.
“Yonatan Tesfaye has no demonstrated links to the OLF. His arrest is just another example of government overreach in the application of its seriously flawed anti-terrorism law. This law is once again being used as a pretext to quash dissent,” said Wanyeki.
The Ethiopian authorities should also promptly, impartially, thoroughly and transparently investigate claims that he may have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention at the Maekelawi Prison, a jail notorious for its widespread use of torture.
Ethiopia: Endless Injustices against Oromo Nation in the Name of Law Enforcement
HRLHA Press Release
May 3, 2016
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) strongly condemns the TPLF/EPRDF Government’s endless manipulations of the justice system to its own political ends, which was once again manifested in the fully fabricated allegations and charges filed against 22 (twenty-two) Oromo nationals. It surprised no one that the TPLF/EPRDF Government, as usual, used the infamous legal tool of the Anti-Terrorism Law, as a result of which thousands of innocent Oromos and other nationals have been victimized, to arrest, detain and take to court another batch of Oromo activists. These newest allegations and attempts of abusing the justice system are taking place following the months-long and region-wide public protests in Oromia; and are, undoubtedly, parts of the heavy-handed crackdown, which included the imposition of martial law in the Regional State in an effort to suppress the public anger and demands for change.
As described by some international legal analysts, the Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Law “… criminalizes basic human rights, especially freedom of speech and assembly. The law defines terrorism in an extremely broad and vague way so as to give the government enormous leeway to punish words and acts that would be perfectly legal in a democracy”. This is the reality that came into play in the case of these newly made allegations against 22 Oromo nationals.
According to documents obtained by HRLHA, the 22 Oromo nationals, including top political leaders of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress party, such as Mr. Bekele Gerba (Deputy Chairman) and Mr. DejeneTafa (Deputy Secretary General), Addisu Bulala and others have been charged with allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government by means of instigating a public revolt and protests as well as collaborating with other political organization called Oromo Liberation Front. The new creation in this case is that attempts were made to associate the officially registered and legally operating political parties like the OFC with opposition political organizations that were deemed outlaw by the Ethiopian Government in order to criminalize their legitimate existence and activities.
From left to right, Bekele Gerba, Djene Tafa, Addisu Bulala & others
It is so unfortunate that Mr. Bekele Gerba is being subjected to such politically and racially motivated injustice and the resultant sufferings in Ethiopian substandard jails for the second time in a matter of two years.
The HRLHA has ample documents that hundreds of thousands of innocent Oromos and members of other nationalities have already fallen victims of such injustices and dictatorship committed particularly using this Anti-Terrorism Law, described by some as “a tool to stifle dissent”, as a legal weapon.
Local, regional and international communities have repeatedly witnessed over the past twenty-five years that the TPLF/EPRDF Government of Ethiopia misuses the political power, the justice system, and other public resources to silence and/or eliminate all forms of oppositions and political descents, despite the constitutionally declared democracy, in order to ensure monopoly and lasting partisan political goals. But, no tangible and effective actions are taken so far to make the Ethiopian Government refrain from punishing its own citizens just for exercising or attempting to exercise some of their basic and constitutionally provided democratic rights.
The HRLHA, first of all, calls upon the Ethiopian Government to unconditionally release these Oromo nationals detained and charges for allegedly committing acts of terrorism; as their words and/or acts are undoubtedly legal and, above all, constitutional. HRLHA also calls upon the international community’s so that they condemn the Ethiopian Government, acts of injustices against innocent citizens, and request that these unjustly detained and falsely charged Oromos are freed unconditionally.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to the Ethiopian Government and its concerned officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Amharic, or your own language expressing:
For the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners illegally detained
Urging the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that these detainees would be treated in accordance with the regional and international standards on the treatment of prisoners,
TheUS Department of State Secretary
His Excellency Mr. John Kerry
WASHINGTON, D.C. HEADQUARTERS
(202) 895-3500 OFMInfo@state.gov
Office of Foreign Missions2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Customer Service Center
3507 International Place NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-3303
UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP Parliamentary
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4055
Fax: 020 7219 5851
Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
King Charles Street ,
London, SW1A 2AH
Tel: 020 7008 1500
The UN Human Rights Commissioner
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.
Council of Europe
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
FRANCE+33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
+33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District
Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul
Tel: (220) 441 05 05, 441 05 06
Fax: (220) 441 05 04
OROMO STUDENTS SOLIDARITY PROTEST IN WASHINGTON, D.C. COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS @CTJ71081.
“My name is Desta Edosa. I am 33 years old, married and a father of two sons. I am originally from Ethiopia, specifically from Oromia. I came to the United States in 2009 through a visa lottery, and I won. In February 2016, Caren Bedsworth from the American Red Cross called me and left me voice message saying I had a message from relative in Ethiopia. Listening to her voice message, I could not believe at first it was true as I did not know Red Cross gave such services. As Caren provided the office’s address, I looked on the internet and verified that the address mentioned was American Red Cross’s address. I called back Caren and asked who the person was. She delivered the letter to my home and I was so excited when I saw his handwritten letter. It had been about seven years since I last saw him.
“The name of my relative is Galataa Bazzaa. Galataa had just graduated from high school when he was captured by Ethiopian security forces and taken to a prison. He was a very outstanding student who was always known among his classmates and teachers as a straight A’s guy in his academics. By the time he was taken to prison, he had just been admitted to Addis Ababa Medical School to pursue his higher education. Only students of high caliber are given an opportunity to study medical sciences in Ethiopia and Galataa was one of the top.
“To understand the case of Galataa and why he was taken to prison, it is very important to know a little about Oromo people in Ethiopia. Oromo are the largest ethnic majority in Ethiopia which comprises about one third of the total population. Even though Oromo are the majority in Ethiopia, they have been marginalized both economically and politically since the establishment of the country. There was even a time when Oromo language was banned from state media and people were forced to change their Oromo name.
“As a result, Oromo people have been protesting this injustice for almost a century. Even at this time, the Ethiopian government has killed more than 400 Oromo people including kids, pregnant woman and elders because people peacefully demonstrated against land grabs and removal of Oromo farmers from their land due to the expansion of the capital city Addis Ababa (for more information on the Oromo protests, please click here or here).
“Galataa’s story is not different from thousands of Oromo students who are unjustifiably languishing in Ethiopian prison. He was just active both in his academic and among his society and communities. That’s the only reason he has been thrown into jail and sentenced to eight years. The Ethiopian government labels students who protest against it as anti-piece, anti-development and even terrorists if it wants to make the punishment sever. It is very common for Oromo students to be taken to prison in Ethiopia even for just speaking of their mind; that was what happened to Galataa.
“It had been about seven years since I heard from Galataa. I have been informed about his wellbeing by his sisters and brothers but never heard a word directly from him. Even though technology brought the world together these days, it’s still hard to be connected with loved one in a prison cell. The American Red Cross has done such excellent job connecting me directly with a person I care about a lot. I appreciate their service and their team a lot for connecting family over the globe when there is no other possible way. I hope they will keep doing such excellent job and help more Oromo families who lost track of their loved ones.”
Ethiopian migrants, all members of the Oromo community of Ethiopia living in Malta, protest against the Ethiopian regime in Valletta, Malta, Dec. 21, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi)
CAIRO (Almonitor, April 5, 2016) — On March 13, nearly 1,000 people of the Oromo ethnic community took part in a big ceremony celebrating the second anniversary of the Oromia Media Network (OMN), which opposes the ruling regime in Ethiopia.
The ceremony was the first event held by the Ethiopian opposition in Cairo since theoutbreak of violence in Ethiopia between the government and the ethnic community in December. The violence arose over Ethiopia’s “master plan” to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into large parts of Oromo farmlands without any actual compensation.
At that time, Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry contented itself with issuing a press statement on Dec. 21, saying that the incidents “are an internal Ethiopian issue.”
“We are looking forward to stability and the completion of the comprehensive economic and social development programs in Ethiopia,” the ministry said.
Yet local Ethiopian media outlets continued to circulate statements by Ethiopian officials accusing Cairo of supporting the opposition and of being behind these events in order to weaken Ethiopia. These statements were based on the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s remarks in November 2010 that there was irrefutable evidence of Egypt’s support for insurgents in Ethiopia, under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak.
At the second anniversary ceremony, OMN head Jawar Mohammed spoke of the need for the Oromo uprising to continue against the policies of the Ethiopian government and the ruling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party. He accused the government of adopting systematic policies against the Oromo community and of seizing its land.
A government official who coordinates African affairs and spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said, “The Egyptian authorities have nothing to do with the ceremony.”
He explained, “A group of Ethiopian activists applied for a security approval for the ceremony, which they obtained, similarly to any other foreign communities wishing to hold activities in Cairo.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) fact sheet issued in February said 6,916 Ethiopian asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR in Cairo.
“Most of the Ethiopians who are registered with the UNHCR are of the Oromo people, whose registration rate has been constant since 2015,” Marwa Hashem, assistant public information officer for the UNHCR in Cairo, told Al-Monitor.
“The UNHCR have provided all political asylum seekers and refugees from Africa with services such as material aid to the most needy, educational grants, health care and psychosocial support.”
The Egyptian government does not provide any special advantages to Ethiopian refugees without providing the same to other foreign nationals, he said. UNHCR is in charge of providing services to all refugees.
The Oromo ethnic community makes up 40% of Ethiopia’s population, followed by the Amhara and Tigrayan communities, which make up 32% — though Tigrayans control the government through the ruling TPLF party. The Oromia Regional State stretches over large areas in central Ethiopia, where the capital is located, and includes most of Ethiopia’s wealth, as it controls the country’s coffee exports, gold mines and the rivers’ headwaters.
Due to the escalating protests, the Ethiopian government canceled the plan to expand the capital. Yet the Oromo revolution has not ended, as the people continue to demand freedom and fair representation in the government and to protest the ruling party’s practices.
“The Oromo community will continue to protest not only against the Ethiopian government’s master plan, which raised problems in the past, but also to preserve the Oromo ethnic community’s land, culture and language, against the ethnic policies of the Tigrayan who control the rule,” Girma Gutema, an Oromo community activist, told Al-Monitor.
“Eritrea and Sudan supported the Oromo struggle. Yet following the Sudanese-Ethiopian rapprochement, many rebels fled to Eritrea,” Gutema said. However, the Egyptians, as well as the international community, don’t know enough about the Oromo community’s problems to be able to offer support.
Such rumors, he said, are propaganda spread by the Ethiopian government due to its historic bickering with Egypt.
Galma Guluma, an Ethiopian political activist and organizer of the ceremony in Cairo, told Al-Monitor that Cairo is the safest place for Oromo people fleeing Ethiopia, particularly sinceSudan changed its policy and is now turning over Ethiopian oppositionists to their government.
“Fleeing to Cairo was not an easy thing to do. Many refugees went through difficult situations and conditions until they reached the Egyptian border,” Guluma said. “Most of the Oromo refugees in Cairo do not have permanent jobs, and some girls are working as domestic servants. Moreover, they receive very little aid from the civil society organizations.”
Guluma added, “We do not have weapons to face the regime in Ethiopia. Our goal is to focus on [getting] the media to speak of the suffering of the Oromo people,” who are oppressed despite the great wealth in their state.
He noted, “Cairo has been a historical place for the Oromo struggle and the idea of the media network and Oromo radio started in Cairo more than 50 years ago with SheikhMohammed Rashad, who studied at the Al-Azhar University in the 1960s and was honored by [former Egyptian President] Gamal Abdel Nasser.”
The Egyptian political administration has said that, while it seeks to build trust and goodwill, its open-door policy for Oromo refugees is part of an international commitment to the refugees’ case and should not be perceived as an attempt to exploit any internal conflicts to weaken the Ethiopian state.
Nevertheless, this issue remains a focus of constant tension in Egyptian-Ethiopian ties, in addition to the historic conflict over Nile water management.
UK (IBTimes) — Protesters and activists in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest state, have denied they have self-rule in the region, contrary to a governement’ statement given to IBTimes UK. Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the Ethiopian Embassy in London said earlier in March people already rule themselves in Oromia, they use Oromo as the official language, they have their own budget and a regional parliament that rules on all political, economic and social aspects.
Who are the Oromo people?
The Oromo people are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and their population amounts to more than 25 million (around 35% of Ethiopia’s total population).
Oromo people speak Afaan Oromoo, as well as Amharic, Tigrinya, Gurange and Omotic languages. They are mainly Christian and Muslim, while only 3% still follow the traditional religion based on the worshipping of the god, Waaq.
In 1973, Ethiopian Oromo created the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which stemmed from the discontent over a perceived marginalisation by the government and to fight the hegemony of the Amhara people, another large ethnic group in Ethiopia.
OLF – still active today – also calls for the self-determination of the Oromo people. It has been deemed as a terror organisation that carried out violent acts against people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The group has always denied such allegations, claiming its mission is to terminate “a century of oppression” against the Oromos.
However, some Oromo people denied the claims made by the official. Activist, author and PhD candidate at London’s Soas University, Etana Habte, told IBTimes UK there is no self-rule in Oromia, where people do not trust the region’s ruling party coalition, Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO).
“Opdo is an organisation of ex-war captives established by the TigrayanPeople’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inTigray in 1990, when the latter failed to co-opt the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF),” he alleged.
“Oromia’s regional council, Caffee Oromiyaa, has never had any history of independent decisions, it has been approving what is put on the table byTPLF. If Oromia has no self-rule, no regional council of itself, talking about budget and independent decisions is only a mere waste of time.”
Opdo has not responded to a request for comments on the allegations.
Activists claimed some 400 people, at least 200 according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), have been allegedly killed by security forces. The government denied the allegations of violence and claimed legitimate protestshave been infiltrated by people who aim to destabilise the country.
Although the government scrapped the plan, demonstrations are continuing, with peoplecalling for self-rule, the liberation of political prisoners, the end of what they perceive as “military regime” in the region and the cessation of an alleged crackdown by security forces on “peaceful and unarmed” demonstrators, mainly students and farmers.
“The regime is using new strategies to punish Oromia. Amenities have been cut in most urban centres, the regime has brought down all independent TVs and radio broadcasts from overseas, closed selected websites and social media websites. It is doing this in an attempt to breakdown the nerve centre of the protests,” Habte alleged.
“There is a serious climate of fear in the public and there is no guarantee that any person would come back home safely once they leave. This situation has convinced people that the state targets you simply because you are Oromo. Amnesty International’s report published in October 2014 titled, Because I am Oromo: Sweeping Repression In The Oromia Region Of Ethiopia, is an absolute representation of unfolding realities.”
Habte also denied protesters are seeking secession, although it is a right guaranteed by the constitution. He denied that the government started public consultations, contrary to what Berhane told IBTimes UK.
“People are heard time and again saying: ‘We don’t want to be ruled by a government who has killed our loved and respected ones’. It seems too late, but if the regime wants to solve the current crisis, it has to address it at a national level and with national representation.”
We are saddened to the wide spread killings and imprisonments in Oromia. The killings and imprisonments are unjust and we believe that you are also saddened to the actions of the Ethiopian government security forces. The petition is planned to reach international organizations such as the UN and EU as well as countries that are providing financial assistance to Ethiopia i.e. the U.S.A, UK, Germany, France, Italia, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Holland and others. The message of the petition is: Stop the Ethiopian government from using the international financial aids to kill Oromo women & children. To make sure your voices are heard we encourage you to sign this petition.
What it takes to sign the petition?
It takes two easy steps. To sign the petition you simply go to the link below and click on the file. When you open the file, on the right corner you will see: SIGN THE PETITION. In the space provided you enter your name, email address and the country where you reside and hit enter. If other family members or friends want to sign the petition you have to wait until the first person is signed out from the link.
Anyone who disapproves the killing of Oromo women, children and others can sign. For this reason you need to share the information with your friends, family, community, church, mosque and Waqeefaata members. Make sure to share the link and the information among your coworkers, neighbors and school friends and ask them sign.
How many people need to sign?
We are thinking to collect 10,000 signatures. The bigger is the better.
The reasons for the petition are as follow:
Dear Global Citizens,
We are writing on behalf of Oromo women and children who are dying and suffering in the hands of the Ethiopian government security forces. The Ethiopian government led by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), a former guerrilla army, only represents six percent of the Ethiopian population. However, Oromo people who are the single largest ethnic/national group and represent 45 to 50 percent of the people in Ethiopia are denied the right to freely determine their social, economic, political, cultural and environmental affairs. In the absence of Oromo leadership, the TPLF government implemented policies that evicted millions of Oromo farmers from their farms and left millions of women, and children in poverty and famine.
Oromo people are an egalitarian society.Before the incorporation of Oromia into the Ethiopian empire, the Oromo people were ruled by democratically elected leaders known asGada and Siiqee system. Siiqee is an Oromo women’s institution, organized to bring checks and balances in gender relations. Therefore, the Oromo people believe that under consecutive Ethiopian rulers, they have made backward social changes. Moving back from freely electing their leader (governed by democratically elected groups) and flourishing Siiqee institution (fostering gender equity) to languishing under dictatorial regimes that have no progressive social policy or agenda for women’s rights. When the Oromos demand for self-rule, they are demanding to freely develop their institutions i.e. Gadaa and Siiqee and using these institutions in solving their problems.
The consecutive Ethiopian minority rulers denied the Oromo people the right to freely determine their social, economic, political, cultural and environmental rights. Violation of such rights is responsible for the famine, poverty, child and maternal mortality, higher illiteracy, and lack of clean water in Oromia. At present, over 18 million Ethiopians, mainly Oromos, are facing starvation and dependence on food aid. Oromo women and children are dying prematurely from starvation and preventable diseases. Oromo women who witness this are determined to change the political system that is putting them at risk and they are actively participating in peaceful demonstrations.
More potent than the hunger, malnutrition and disease is the brutality of the TPLF government of Ethiopia. Since November 2015 the Ethiopian government security forces have been indiscriminately killing peaceful demonstrators. The Ethiopian government is stifling any news on its own brutality in the killing of peaceful Oromo demonstrators, women and children indiscriminately.
Although, the European Union, USA, Canada and many other humanitarian organizations have expressed concerns and condemned these acts of killing the Ethiopian government has upgraded its attack against the Oromo, taking it to the proportion to genocide. As of today, about 400 Oromos have been killed, including many children and pregnant women. Many thousands have been maimed and over 12, 000 are imprisoned and tortured. Women and children are among the maimed, imprisoned and tortured. In the meantime, the Ethiopian government is still benefiting from the financial and political supports provided to it by Western governments. Their tax payers’ money is used to support the government that kills women, children, elderly people, and peaceful Oromo citizens.
We are writing to ask you join us to stop the Ethiopian government from killing, imprisoning and torturing women, children and other sectors of the Oromo society. We ask you join us in signing this petition to make sure that the tax payers’ money sent to the Ethiopian government is not used to kill children and women. We are asking you to do so and further influence your respective governments on behalf of the defenseless Oromo children, women and elderly.
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Sirnee was shot dead merely for shielding her child from the shooting Ethiopian soldiers. She was an Oromo mother who died along with her child. Oromo women are taking the brunt of the brutal military repression against peaceful Oromo protestors demanding the respect of their constitutional rights. The Ethiopian totalitarian regime has turned its defense forces against its own citizens.
Soldiers are shooting indiscriminately, killing, maiming, imprisoning and torturing unarmed protestors. Since Oromo protests started in November 2015, over 400 peaceful protestors have been murdered, including many children and pregnant women. Oromia is a bloodbath. Four months into the protests, the brutal bestiality shows no sign of relenting.
Soldiers are breaking into homes and university dormitories, terrorizing and savagely raping women and students. They are gang raping girls as young as 12. Women are particularly targeted for rape to emasculate men and break the spirit of Oromo protestors. But you won’t hear much of this because the brutal regime has effectively stifled all voices of dissent. It is now muzzling journalists to shut down any news of its atrocity that could come out of that country.
We call on all global citizens with a passion for human rights and fundamental freedoms to help us stop this bestiality against Oromo women. Will you join us?
Partial list of Oromos mainly students that have been killed by Ethiopian regime police, security agents, Special and armed force during peaceful demonstration of last three months (updated stand. March. 2016)
Partial list of Oromos mainly students that have been killed by Ethiopian regime police, security agents, Special and armed force during peaceful demonstration of last three months (updated stand. March. 2016)
#Oromoprotests this mother is a 7 month pregnant and has 6 kids, lives in the West Arsi zone ofthe #Oromia state in #Ethiopia. When the Tigreans led security forces came to her home searching for her husband, she came out of her home and falled, kneeled down to his legs and begged him, not to kill her and her kids. Other militias went to her home to search for her husband and couldn’t find him. She kept begging them in #AfaanOromoo and #Sidamalanguages, as she doesn’t speak Amharic. The militias don’t speak either of these languages. Finally, they have mercilessly killed her firing five bullets to her. It is a very painfully to see such a tragedy, and her kids are now orphans. That’s how #democracy is being built in #Ethiopia by#TpLF. #ያማል
Human Rights Watch says security forces are continuing to persecute members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo. Hundreds have allegedly been killed in recent protests over a government plan to expand the capital Addis Ababa into Oromo land.
Killings, Detention of Protesters Enter Fourth Month
By Human Rights Watch, 21 February 2016
(Nairobi) – Ethiopian security forces are violently suppressing the largely peaceful protests in the Oromia region that began in November 2015. Almost daily accounts of killings and arbitrary arrests have been reported to Human Rights Watch since 2016 began.
Security forces, including military personnel, have fatally shot scores of demonstrators. Thousands of people have been arrested and remain in detention without charge. While the frequency of protests appears to have decreased in the last few weeks, the crackdown continues.
“Flooding Oromia with federal security forces shows the authorities’ broad disregard for peaceful protest by students, farmers and other dissenters,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to rein in the security forces, free anyone being held wrongfully, and hold accountable soldiers and police who used excessive force.”
The Ethiopian government has said that the situation in Oromia is largely under control following the government’s retraction on January 12 of the proposed “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.” The controversial proposal to expand the municipal boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, into farmland in Oromia sparked the initial demonstrations.
The plan’s cancellation did not halt the protests however, and the crackdown continued throughout Oromia. In late January 2016, Human Rights Watch interviewed approximately 60 protesters and other witnesses from various parts of the Oromia region in December and January who described human rights violations during the protests, some since mid-January. They said that security forces have shot randomly into crowds, summarily killed people during arrests, carried out mass roundups, and tortured detainees.
While there have been some reports of violence during the protests, including the destruction of some foreign-owned farms and looting of some government buildings, most of the protests since November have been peaceful. On February 12, federal security forces fired on a bus after a wedding, killing four people, provoking further protests. A February 15 clash between federal security forces and armed men believed to be local police or militias, resulted in the deaths of seven security officers, according to the government.
On January 10, security forces threw a grenade at students at Jimma University in western Oromia, injuring dozens, eyewitnesses reported. Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces stormed dormitories at Jimma University on January 10 and 11, with mass arrests and beatings of Oromo students.
Security forces have arrested students, teachers, government officials, businesspeople, opposition politicians, healthcare workers, and people who provide assistance or shelter to fleeing students. Because primary and secondary school students in Oromia were among the first to protest, many of those arrested have been children, under age 18.
“They walked into the compound and shot three students at point-blank range,” one 17-year-old student said describing security force reaction to students chanting against the master plan. “They were hit in the face and were dead.”
Human Rights Watch spoke to 20 people who had been detained since the protests began on November 12, none of whom had been taken before a judge. Fourteen people said they were beaten in detention, sometimes severely. Several students said they were hung up by their wrists while they were whipped. An 18-year-old student said he was given electric shocks to his feet. All the students interviewed said that the authorities accused them of mobilizing other students to join the protests. Several women who were detained alleged that security officers sexually assaulted and otherwise mistreated them in detention.
The descriptions fit wider patterns of torture and ill-treatment of detainees that Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have documented in Oromia’s many official and secret detention facilities. Numerous witnesses and former detainees said that security forces are using businesses and government buildings in West Shewa and Borana zones as makeshift detention centers.
At time of writing, some schools and universities remain closed throughout Oromia because the authorities have arrested teachers and closed facilities to prevent further protests, or students do not attend as a form of protest or because they fear arrest. Many students said they were released from detention on the condition that they would not appear in public with more than one other individual, and several said they had to sign a document making this commitment as a condition for their release.
Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify the total numbers of people killed and arrested given restrictions on access and independent reporting in Ethiopia. Activists allege that more than 200 people have been killed since November 12, based largely on material collated from social media videos, photos, and web posts. Available information suggests that several thousand people have been arrested, many of whose whereabouts are unknown, which would be a forcible disappearance.
Human Rights Watch has documented 12 additional killings previously unreported. Most of these occurred in Arsi and Borana Zones in southern Oromia, where protests have also been taking place but have received less attention than elsewhere. This suggests that the scale of the protests and abuses across Oromia may be greater than what has been reported, Human Rights Watch said.
The Ethiopian government’s pervasive restrictions on independent civil society groups and media have meant that very little information is coming from affected areas. However, social media contains photos and videos of the protests, particularly from November and December.
The Oromia Media Network (OMN) has played a key role in disseminating information throughout Oromia during the protests. OMN is a diaspora-based television station that relays content, primarily in the Afan Oromo language, via satellite, and recently started broadcasting on shortwave radio. The Ethiopian government has reportedly jammed OMN 15 times since it began operations in 2014, in contravention of international regulations. Two business owners told Human Rights Watch they were arrested for showing OMN in their places of business. Federal police destroyed satellites dishes that were receiving OMN in many locations. Students said they were accused of providing videos for social media and of communicating information to the OMN. Arrests and fear of arrest has resulted in less information on abuses coming out of Oromia over the last month.
The Ethiopian government should end the excessive use of force by the security forces, free everyone detained arbitrarily, and conduct an independent investigation into killings and other security force abuses, Human Rights Watch said. Those responsible for serious rights violations should be appropriately prosecuted and victims of abuses should receive adequate compensation.
On January 21, the European Parliament passed a strong resolution condemning the crackdown. There has been no official statement from the United Kingdom, and the United States has not condemned the violence, instead focusing on the need for public consultation and dialogue in twostatements. Otherwise, few governments have publicly raised concerns about the government’s actions. As two of Ethiopia’s most influential partners, the United Kingdom and the United States should be doing more to halt the violent crackdown and to call for an independent investigation into the abuses, Human Rights Watch said.
“Ethiopia’s donor countries have responded tepidly, if at all, to the killing of scores of protesters in Oromia,” Lefkow said. “They should stop ignoring or downplaying this shocking brutality and call on the government to support an independent investigation into the killings and other abuses.”
For additional information and accounts from eyewitnesses and victims, please see below.
Student protests in Oromia began on November 12, 2015, in Ginchi, a small town 80 kilometers southwest of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, when authorities sought to clear a forest for an investment project. The protests soon spread throughout the Oromia region and broadened to include concerns over the proposed expansion of the Addis Ababa municipal boundary, known as the “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.” Farmers and others joined the protest movement as the protests continued into December.
Many protesters allege that the government’s violent response and the rising death toll changed the focus of the protests to the killing and arrest of protesters and decades of historic Oromo grievances came to the forefront. Oromia is home to most of Ethiopia’s estimated 35 million Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. Many Oromo feel marginalized and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian governments. Ethnic Oromo who express dissent are often arrested and tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention, accused of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front, which has waged a limited armed struggle against the government and which parliament has designated a terrorist organization.
On December 16, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that the government “will take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilizing the area.” The same day, the government communication affairs office minister, Getachew Reda, said that “an organized and armed terrorist force aiming to create havoc and chaos has begun murdering model farmers, public leaders and other ethnic groups residing in the region.” Since that time, federal security forces, including the army and the federal police, have led the law enforcement response in Oromia.
On January 12, the ruling coalition’s Oromia affiliate, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), announced on state television that the “Addis Ababa Master Plan” would be cancelled. While the decision was an unprecedented change of policy, people Human Rights Watch interviewed suggest that there has been confusion over the actual status of the plan and whether government will follow through with the cancellation.
After the Addis Ababa master plan had originally been announced in 2014, protests occurred throughout Oromia, which security forces dispersed using live ammunition, killing at least several dozen people. Hundreds were arrested. Many of the arrested remain in custody without charge. Most of the approximately 25 students that Human Rights Watch interviewed from the 2014 protests who had been detained alleged torture and other ill-treatment. Many formerly detained students have not been permitted to return to their universities. On December 2, 2015, five Oromo students were convicted under the counterterrorism law for their role in the 2014 protests. There has been no government investigation into the use of excessive and lethal force during the 2014 protests.
Summary Killings, Unnecessary Lethal Force
In the early weeks of the 2015 protests, security forces who responded to the demonstrations were largely Oromia regional police, who used teargas against protesters, although with some incidents involving live ammunition. Many of the killings initially reported occurred after dark when security forces went house-to-house searching for protesters. They killed some students who tried to flee and others in scuffles during arrests, while the exact circumstances of many deaths are unknown.
Under international human rights standards, law enforcement officials may only use lethal force in self-defense or to prevent an imminent threat to another’s life.
After a December 16 announcement by the prime minister that the government would “take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilizing the area,” witnesses said federal police and military forces were deployed in more parts of Oromia alongside the regional police. Many protesters alleged that the federal police and soldiers fired into crowds.
Wako – a 17-year-old protester from West Shewa whose name, along with others, has been changed for his protection, described the change:
During the first protest [in mid-November], the Oromia police tried to convince us to go home. We refused so they broke it up with teargas and arrested many. Several days later we had another protest. This time the [federal police] had arrived. They fired many bullets into the air. When people did not disperse they fired teargas, and then in the confusion we heard the sounds of more bullets and students started falling next to me. My friend [name withheld] was killed by a bullet. He wasn’t targeted, they were just shooting randomly into the crowd.
Gudina, a 16-year-old Grade 10 student from Arsi Negelle, described the authorities’ response to a protest in early December:
All the schools got together and took to the streets. As we protested, teargas was thrown, we kept marching and then from behind us we heard bullets, many students were hit and fell screaming. One very young student from my school I saw had been shot in throat and blood was pouring. I have dreams every night of that student.
Protesters from Arsi, West Shewa, Borana, and East Wollega zones all described similar events in which security forces, predominantly federal police, shot into crowds with live ammunition, especially since mid-December. They gave little or no warning about using teargas and live ammunition.
Three high school students from Arsi who were interviewed separately described an incident at their school. Kuma, a 17-year-old student, said:
We heard a Grade 6 student was killed in [neighboring village]. To show our solidarity we decided to protest. When the different classes came together and started marching toward the government office, security forces moved toward us. They threw teargas, and then we heard the sound of gunfire. My friend [name withheld] was shot in the chest, I saw him go down and bleeding. We ran away and I never looked back. His mother told me later he had been killed. He was 17 years old.
Security forces entered a school compound near Shashemene apparently to discourage their participation in a planned protest. Gameda, a 17-year-old Grade 9 student, said:
We had planned to protest. At 8 a.m., Oromia police came into the school compound. They arrested four students [from Grades 9-11], the rest of us were angry and started chanting against the police. Somebody threw a stone at the police and they quickly left and came back an hour later with the federal police. They walked into the compound and shot three students at point-blank range. They were hit in the face and were dead. They took the bodies away. They held us in our classrooms for the rest of the morning, and then at noon they came in and took about 20 of us including me.
Arbitrary Arrests, Detention
Several dozen people told Human Rights Watch about friends and colleagues who had been arrested without a valid basis, including many whose whereabouts remain unknown. Fifteen protesters from various parts of Oromia described their own arrests. Usually in the evening following a daytime protest, security forces would go door-to-door arresting students, including many who had not participated, including an 8-year-old in the Borana zone on January 9. They primarily targeted men and boys, but many women and girls were also arrested. Those arrested were taken to police stations, military barracks, and makeshift detention centers.
Kuma, a Grade 7 student from Borana zone, was arrested in early December, held for five days in an unknown location, and beaten with a wooden stick:
They said to me “Why were you in the demonstration? This means you do not like the government. Why? We do good for you.” Then they kept saying we had relations with the OLF [Oromo Liberation Front, which the government considers to be a terrorist group]. What does demonstrating have to do with the OLF? I was released after signing a paper that I would not go in public with more than one person. Many people in our town were released after signing this paper. Several days later there was another protest, I didn’t go, but knew I would be arrested again. I sat at home hearing gunshots all day long hoping I didn’t know any of those that would be killed.
Gameda, a Grade 7 student, said he was arrested at his school compound on the day of a planned protest:
For 10 days I was held at the police station. For the first three days, they would beat me each night on the back and legs with a wooden stick and ask me about who was behind the protests and whether I was a member of the OLF. I was released and several weeks later the protests started again in our town. They arrested me again. Same beatings, same questions. My family bribed the police and I was released.
The authorities have imposed collective punishment on people deemed to have been helping protesters. Lelisa, a woman who assisted students fleeing the security forces in Arsi in early December, said:
I wasn’t at the protests but I heard gunfire all day long and into the night. Students were running away and hiding themselves. Ten students came to me and asked for help so I hid them from the police. The police were going door-to-door at night arresting students. They came to my house, arrested all the boys and I convinced them that the three girls were my daughters. Then an hour later they came back and arrested my husband. They beat him in front of me, when I begged them not to kill him they kicked me and hit me with the butt of their gun. They took him away. I have heard nothing from him since.
Negasu, an owner of a private school, said he was arrested because students at his school were involved in the protest:
I owned a private school in [location withheld]. The students protested but the police did not break it up violently, they just filmed it and then arrested many people at night. Four of the protesters were from my school. So the police came at night and arrested me and took me to a military camp [name withheld]. For five days I was held in a dark hole by myself. It was freezing and they did not feed me for two days. I was beaten each night and accused of giving money to opposition groups, to the Oromo Federalist Congress and to OLF. They also accused me of posting videos to social media and sending to OMN. They just make things up. They closed my school and froze my bank account. They took my house also. Now I have nothing and the students are either going through what I did in detention or are not able to go to school because it’s been closed.
Students who were perceived to be vocal or had family histories of opposing government were particularly at risk. Lencho, 25, said:
I was known to be vocal and was a leader among the students. My father was known to oppose the government. I did not even participate in the protests because of fear but I was identified as one of the mobilizers. I was arrested, and when I got to the police station I saw local government officials, a local Oromo artist [singer], my teacher, and all of the outspoken students of our high school. They were arresting those that they thought were influential. I don’t even think any of them were in the protests because of fear.
Prominent Oromo intellectuals, including senior members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a registered political party, have also been arrested. On December 23, Deputy Chairman Bekele Gerba was arrested at his home and taken to Addis Ababa’s Maekelawi prison, where torture and other ill-treatment have been documented. On January 22, he appeared in court, and prosecutors were granted an additional 28 days for investigation, suggesting he is being investigated under the abusive Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Bekele has been a moderate voice in Oromia politics and a staunch advocate for non-violence.
In addition to those perceived to be actively involved in the protests, security forces have arrested influential people, including prominent Oromo businessman, teachers, professors, and numerous singers and artists. One teacher said:
The students protested. At night they came and arrested many of them, my students were calling me all night to tell me the police were at their door. Then I heard that most of the teachers had been arrested, too. I was away from town at the time. Then the woreda[district] administrator called and told me I was to be held responsible for my student’s behavior since I did not talk them out of it. I had already been in trouble because I did not attend a workshop at the school on the master plan and how we were to convince students it was good for them.
A well-known Oromo singer, now living in exile, said:
I released a song on Youtube [in December] that spoke about the protests and the need for students to stop the silence and speak out about the abuses our people face. I had been arrested three times previously for my songs. My songs have always focused on Oromo history and culture but I was always careful for the songs not to be seen as political in any way. But they arrest you anyway. After my third detention, I stopped censoring myself and spoke openly through my music. Hours after my song was released, I got word from the local administrator that I was to be arrested so I ran away from my home and haven’t been back.
An Ethiopian intelligence official acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in January 2016 that targeting public figures was a deliberate government policy. “It is important to target respected Oromos,” he said. “Anyone that has the ability to mobilize Oromos will be targeted, from the highest level like Bekele, to teachers, respected students, and Oromo artists.”
Human Rights Watch also interviewed a number of students who had been detained during the 2014 protests, eventually released, and then were arrested again as soon as the protests began in November 2015. Some described horrendous treatment in detention. Waysira, a then-second year university student, said:
[In 2014] I was arrested for two weeks. I was stripped to my underwear and beaten with sticks. They applied electric wires to my back. They wanted me to admit being OLF and to say where my brother was – who they suspect was OLF. Eventually they released me. I wasn’t allowed to go back to school, so I have been sitting around doing nothing ever since. I went back to my family’s village. When the protests started again in Oromia, they came to my house and arrested me again. There hadn’t been protests in that area, but there were on the campus I had been suspended from. They accused me of mobilizing students, and beat me for two days. Then I was released. They wanted to target anyone they thought might be thinking of protesting.
Torture, Ill-Treatment in Detention
All of the students interviewed who had been detained said the authorities interrogated them about who was behind the protests and about their family history. They said interrogators accused them of having connections to opposition groups – typically the legally registered Oromo Federalist Congress and the banned Oromo Liberation Front. Interrogators accused some students of providing information to diaspora or international media and a number of students said their phones, Facebook accounts, and email accounts were searched during detention. These descriptions of interrogation match patterns Human Rights Watch has documented in Oromia over several years.
Tolessa, a first-year university student from Adama University, said:
It was the evening after the protest. We were recovering from the teargas and trying to find out who had been shot during the protest. Then the security forces stormed the dormitories. They blindfolded 17 of us from my floor and drove us two hours into the countryside. We were put into an unfinished building for nine days. Each night they would take us out one by one, beat us with sticks and whips, and ask us about who was behind the protests and whether we were members of the OLF. I told them I don’t even know who the OLF are but treating students this way will drive people toward the OLF. They beat me very badly for that. We would hear screams all night long. When I went to the bathroom, I saw students being hung by their wrists from the ceiling and being whipped. There was over a hundred students I saw. The interrogators were not from our area. We had to speak Amharic [the national language]. If we spoke Oromo they would get angry and beat us more.
Meti, in her 20s, was arrested in late December for selling traditional Oromo clothes the day after a protest in East Wollega:
I was arrested and spent one week at the police station. Each night they pulled me out and beat me with a dry stick and rubber whip. Then I was taken to [location withheld]. I was kept in solitary confinement. On three separate occasions I was forced to take off my clothes and parade in front of the officers while I was questioned about my link with the OLF. They threatened to kill me unless I confessed to being involved with organizing the protests. I was asked why I was selling Oromo clothes and jewelry. They told me my business symbolizes pride in being Oromo and that is why people are coming out [to protest]. At first I was by myself in a dark cell, but then I was with all the other girls that had been arrested during the protest.
A 22-year-old woman told Human Rights Watch she was arrested the night of a protest in late December and taken to what she described as a military camp in the Borana zone. She was held in solitary confinement in total darkness. She said she was raped on three occasions in her cell by unidentified men during her two-week detention. On each occasion, she believed there were two men involved. She was frequently pulled out of her cell and interrogated about her involvement in the protests and the whereabouts of her two brothers, who the interrogators suggested were mobilizing students. She was released on the condition that she would bring her two brothers to security officials for questioning.
Right to Health, Education
The authorities have targeted health workers for arrest during the protests, and as a result some wounded protesters have been unable to get treatment. Demiksa, a student from Eastern Wollega, said that he was refused medical treatment in late December for his injured arm and face after he was pushed to the ground in a panic when Oromia regional police fired teargas at protesters: “[The health workers] said they couldn’t treat me. The day before security forces had arrested two of their colleagues because they were treating protesters. They were accused of providing health care to the opposition.”
Health workers said security forces harassed them and arrested some of their colleagues because they posted photos on social media showing their arms crossed in what has become a symbol of the protest movement. A health worker in East Wollega said he had been forced at gunpoint to treat a police officer’s minor injuries while student protesters with bullet wounds were left unattended. The health worker said at least one of those students died from his injuries that evening.
Many students said the local government closed schools to prevent students from mobilizing, or because teachers had been arrested. Some students said they were afraid to go to class or were refusing to go to school as a form of protest against the government. Four students who had been detained said that security officials told them that they would not be allowed to return to their university. A Grade 6 student who said she had the highest marks in her class the previous year said that the principal told her she would not be allowed to go back to school because she attended the protests. As a result, she decided to flee Ethiopia.
Human Rights Watch previously documented cases of students who were suspended after they participated in the 2014 protests, a pattern that is also emerging in the aftermath of the current protests.
Protesters in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest state, are continuing as the government keeps killing, torturing and jailing peaceful demonstrators, an activist alleged during an interview with IBTimes UK. The source, who spoke on conditions of anonymity for security reasons, alleged that the death toll at the hands of security forces stands at 270.
Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, have been protesting since November 2015 against a government’s draft plan that aimed to expand the boundaries of the capital Addis Ababa. Demonstrators argued the so-called “Addis Ababa master plan” would lead to forced evictions of Oromo farmers who will lose their lands and become impoverished as a result.
Protesters also claimed that forced evictions as well as a perceived marginalisation by the government are already occurring and they threaten the survival of the Oromo’s culture and language.
Although the government decided to scrap the plan following increasing demonstrations, Oromo people continued to demonstrate arguing they did not trust the authorities.
“The protests continued because the government kept on killing, jailing and torturing people for taking part in the Oromo protests,while giving contradictory press releases saying it scrapped the plan, but continuing to prosecute those who took part in the protests,” the activist told IBTimes UK.
The source added that at least 30,000 people have been arrested. “Our basic demand are: Stop the killings, release all political prisoners, bring to justice all the perpetrators of the killing, tortures and disappearances, establish independent investigators into the matter, compensate victims’ families,” the activist continued.
“We also call on the government to withdraw its army from the Oromia region, where it was deployed to crackdown on the protests as the region’s police force couldn’t control demonstrations”.
The activis’ comments came one day after Human Rights Watch released a report warning that killings of Oromo protesters at the hands of security forces, including the military, continue.
“Security forces, including military personnel, have fatally shot scores of demonstrators,” the rights group said. “Thousands of people have been arrested and remain in detention without charge. While the frequency of protests appears to have decreased in the last few weeks, the crackdown continues.”
IBTimes UK has contacted the Ethiopian embassy in London for a statement, but has not received a response at the time of publishing. Speaking to the BBC, communications minister Getachew Reda denied the government was cracking down on demonstrators.
He also denied that protests were ongoing and claimed attacks on public buildings were carried out by armed gangs “who are trying to stir up emotions in the public”.
In a previous interview with IBTimes UK, Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the embassy, confirmed that an investigation had been launched to establish the exact death toll of people who “fell victim to the violent confrontation with security forces as well as the extent of property damage”.
Regarding the allegations of violence against demonstrators and civilians, he said: “These are just one of the many fabrications that are being circulated by certain opposition groups as part of their propaganda campaign. The unrest cannot be described as a national crisis.
“The disturbances orchestrated by opposition groups have now subsided as the general public understood that the integrated master plan is still at a draft stage and will only be implemented after extensive public consultation in the matter takes place and gains the support of the people.”
ETHIOPIA: FURTHER INFORMATION: DETAINED OROMO PROTESTERS MUST BE RELEASED
By Amnesty International, 17 February 2016, Index number: AFR 25/3437/2016
The Ethiopian authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained a number of peaceful protesters including journalists and opposition party leaders in recent brutal crackdown on protesters in the Oromia Region. Those detained remain at risk of torture and other illtreatment and should immediately and unconditionally be released. Bekele Gerba (Deputy Chair, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)), Dejene Tafa (party secretary, OFC), Getachew Shiferaw (Editor-in-Chief of Ethiopian online newspaper Negere), Yonathan Teressa (an online activist), and Fikadu Mirkana (Oromia Radio and TV) are among several Oromo peaceful protesters arrested and detained following the Oromia protests in Ethiopia. The arrests came as a result of a brutal government crackdown on the Oromia protests that started in November 2015 against the government’s master plan to integrate parts of Oromia into the capital Addis Ababa. On 15 December, the Ethiopian government labelled the protesters as “terrorists” and escalated its response to the protests resulting in deaths, injuries, and mass arrests.
Dejene Tafa was arrested on 24 December 2015. On the same day, the police conducted an unlawful search on his house. His wife says that the police, who did not have a warrant, planted an Oromo Liberation Front flag and papers in his house during the search which were then seized from the house. Dejene Tafa is currently being held at the Federal Police Central Investigation Centre (Maekelawi) in Addis Ababa without access to lawyers and restricted family visits. His wife has been allowed three visits since his arrest but only in the presence of police officers. During her last visit on 12 February, Dejene Tafa told her that he had been to the Police Hospital due to pain in his eyes, but police officers present prevented them from discussing the health matter further. His wife has said that he did not suffer from any medical condition before his arrest.
Diribie Erga, age 60, was arrested on 18 December 2015 by a group of plain clothed individuals and officers from the Federal Police for participating in the protests and was released on 10 February. Diribie reports being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during her detention at Maekelawi detention centre. Amnesty International considers the peaceful protesters arrested to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to peaceful assembly. They continue to be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Oromo Protests and State/Government Terrorism in Ethiopia
Western governments praise Ethiopia for achieving the fastest growing economy in Africa and for being a key ally in the fight against terrorism. This hides the brutal reality of land grabbing, state/government terrorism, and the incredible cost in human lives and livelihoods. Ethiopia is a multinational country of 100 million people, and all of these nations have suffered state brutality in varying degrees. The country is tightly gripped by the totalitarian repression of a single-party dominated by the elite of a minority ethnic group from Tigray.
This minority regime has created absolute control over the country’s politics, economy, military and media, thus stifling every form of creative dissent. To hang onto power, it has marked every legitimate dissent as terrorism and waged wars against its own people. A handful of Tigrayan elites have used economic growth as a smokescreen behind which they carry out bloody atrocities of land grabbing. They have gobbled up the wealth of the nation to satisfy their insatiable greed and lust for power, thus leaving close to 20 million of their fellow citizens to face starvation.
This regime targets Oromos particularly because they are the most populous nation inhabiting a vast arable and mineral-rich land. The current Oromo protest is an expression of deep grievances under 25 years of such state terrorism, land grabbing and violent repression. It demands the world’s immediate attention. Below is a summary of Oromo protests and the various responses.
– The protest was ignited by elementary and secondary school students in the small town of Giincii on November 12, 2015
– In no time, this spread like wild fire to all parts of Oromia, and Oromos from all walks of life joined the peaceful protests.
– Beautiful images of peaceful protests filled social media. People marching with raised crossed arms or sitting with bowed heads became powerful symbols of peaceful protests.
– The protests attracted wide-spread solidarity from the Oromo diaspora around the world, from other peoples of Ethiopia with similar grievances, and from the Ethiopian diaspora.
– The Ethiopian government has been robbing Oromos of their ancestral lands in the name of development. It has been forcefully evicting millions without adequate compensation or anywhere to go. Hard-working people are reduced to landless, homeless beggars.
– Global land rush has intensified local land grabbing where the government has been violently robing land from the various peoples and leasing out to foreign investors.
– Land is sacred for indigenous Oromos. As they say, dubbiin lafaa dubbii lafee ti [the issue of land is the issue of bones]. Land contains the bones of ancestors symbolizing the depth of the Oromo worldview, knowledge system, history, culture, and identity – a deep spiritual connection. Evicting Oromos from their land is erasing their very existence.
– The trigger for the current peaceful protests is a small soccer field which was taken away from the local youth in the small town of Giincii. Young students in the local primary and secondary schools protested. Enraged by earlier land grab where the nearby Cillimoo Forest was taken away for clearing, parents and other citizens joined the student protests. The environment is as sacred as the land for Oromos; they protect it with their lives.
– By the time the peaceful protests spread and engulfed the whole of the Oromia Regional State, the issue had crystallized around the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan, which is the expansion of the capital city into the Oromo lands without any consultation with the people. The government denies that the plan is being implemented, but it is de facto forcefully evicting Oromo farmers from their land and violating their constitutional rights.
– The Master Plan represents an aspect of the ongoing systematic destruction of Oromo identity, history and culture. The protest against the Master Plan is an expression of bottled up grievances, and longstanding issues of injustice and fundamental human rights.
– In 2014, the government mercilessly massacred 78 Oromos, mostly university students peacefully protesting the Master Plan. When bullets are the answer, legitimate grievances remain unaddressed. The current protests raise the same unanswered questions.
– The Master Plan is a smokescreen behind which the government carries out systematic destruction of Oromo identity, history and culture. The Master Plan is only the visible tip of the iceberg; it only calls attention to the deeper grievances around the violation of constitutional rights fundamental human rights and justice.
Government Response: Genocide
– The government responded to peaceful protests with its usual bloody violent repression. Its inciting agents killed people, and burned property to tarnish the beauty of the peaceful protests and create an excuse to unleash the military force against unarmed protesters.
– In a dramatic move on 16 December 2015, the Prime Minister vowed to mercilessly crush the protests and deployed the draconian counter-terrorism law to crush the peaceful protesters he marked as terrorists. In effect, this is a declaration of a state of emergency where the administration of the Oromia Regional State is suspended, and Oromia is ravaged by a military force centrally commanded by the Prime Minister. The Ethiopian state turned its military on its own citizens, drowning the people in bloodbath.
– State tyranny has unleashed an all-out genocidal war against Oromos. Merciless killing, beating and mass arrests are now a daily reality in Oromia. Soldiers regularly break into homes and university dormitories, brutally beating people and savagely raping women. In this terroristic punishment of the entire Oromo population, children as young as 8 are killed alongside older people of 85. Girls as young as 12 are gang raped alongside older women. Mothers are killed along with their children. Artists, musicians and journalists are imprisoned and tortured. In universities, Oromo university students are particularly targeted, beaten and killed, imprisoned and tortured. Oromo peace activists and members of opposition political parties are beaten and imprisoned.
– In the current carnage of state terrorism alone (between November 12, 2015 and January 12, 2016), various sources report that over 200 Oromos have been killed while more bodies are still being discovered in the forests, rivers and ditches. Over 2000 people are mercilessly beaten and seriously injured while some are being denied medical treatment. Over 10,000 are imprisoned, and many of these are being tortured at this time.
– While states are responsible for protecting universities from attack according to the UN Human Rights Council, the Ethiopian State has turned universities into war zones and military camps where no critical dialogue can take place. Oromo students are hunted down and beaten, raped, killed or imprisoned. Others run away from university campuses because it is impossible to learn under such conditions of state terrorism. The Ethiopian state is systematically carrying out epistemic genocide against Oromos to destroy their intellectual capacity and stifle critical questioning.
International Response: Silence
– Human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and some Western media have been reporting the atrocities. However, the response from Western governments has been largely silence or mild statements that don’t mean much in terms of addressing the carnage.
– Nations promoting democracy have blindly endorsed the government’s shameless claim of 100% election victory, thus completely stifling dissent. While anyone with a rudimentary sense of democratic process would know how ridiculous this is, Western governments have chosen to endorse the violent totalitarian repression of fundamental freedoms and rights.
– They have emboldened the Ethiopian government to continue its atrocity with impunity. De facto condoning the brutal repression, major donor countries like the U.S.A., the UK and European Union continue to provide aid money with little or no attention to the respect of basic human rights or constitutional rights of the people.
– They continue to praise Ethiopia for development even when humanitarian organizations report that a staggering 20 million need help this year, even as they know this increasing need for food aid by a country that registers double digit economic growth is a sign of failed policy and failed governance.
Any nation genuinely interested in promoting peace and democracy should be outraged by the blatant massacre of peaceful protesters legitimately demanding the respect of their constitutional rights. We demand that Western governments, particularly the donor nations, denounce the atrocities of the Ethiopian government and ask it to immediately and unconditionally:
1) lift the merciless military rule imposed on the Oromo people
2) stop the killing, beating, raping, imprisoning and torturing of innocent people
3) release all peaceful protesters and political prisoners
4) bring to justice those responsible for the genocidal atrocities
5) restore the constitutional rights of the people to hold peaceful rallies
6) avail itself to the calls for peace and national reconciliation
7) allow people to participate in the affairs affecting their lives and livelihoods
8) start participatory development that includes people’s development
Struggle Towards a Peaceful Sociopolitical Transformation in Ethiopia: Bekele Gerba as one of the Leading Icons
By Begna F. Dugassa, Ph.D.
Bekele Gerba translated Martin Luther King’s book ‘I HAVE A DREAM’ into Oromo language while he was in prison.
The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) led government of Ethiopia is portraying Bekele Gerba as a violent man and charging him with instigating violence. Ordinary people are characterizing him as a compassionate, kind and a caring teacher, a professor and a humble political prisoner. Some people take it further and think Gerba acquired his political philosophy from the great leaders of our recent past such as Gandhi of India, Martin Luther King of America and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. If that is the case, inspired by those renowned leaders Gerba is humbly facing humiliation. In reality, who is Bekele Gerba?
Bekele Gerba is a deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). In my short personal conversation with him, I found him to be a good listener, humble, compassionate and forgiving. I agree with the view of those who say that he has been influenced by the principles of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. In addition, as a school teacher and professor he might have been influenced by Paulo Freire’s teaching facilitating students “learn to read the word and the world”. He has a strong character and compassion for a peaceful mass movement. At one point he said “promoting a peaceful movement is not the path that scary leaders choose to prevent personal risks, it is a strategy they follow to humbly accept personal humiliation and reduce harm to the public”.
In Gerba’s mind, the principles of Gandhi, King and Mandela are not foreign ideas to him and to the Oromo people; they are indeed consistent with the Oromo principles of nagaa (peace) and (Gada) democratic system of governance which are enshrined in the Oromo culture. He believes that only a peaceful mass movement can guarantee real change and sustain building a democratic society in Ethiopia. In Gebra’s mind and heart, violence has no place. In several interviews, he repeatedly and emphatically noted that even those who are involved in the killing and those who are ordering the killings and imprisonment knew that they are wrong and in the backs of their mind they feel guilty. He believes such self-righteous individuals will realize their wrongs and gradually join the peaceful mass movement.
The first time I heard the name of Bekele Gerba was when a friend forwarded me his powerful speech that he made on the 2010 election debate. His speech was thoughtful and articulate. He is a linguist and his language skills have given him the tools needed to articulate the aspirations of the Oromo people. In many parts of the world having individuals who are thoughtful and articulate is desirable and such individuals are usually respected and rewarded. However, things are different in the eyes of the Ethiopian government officials.
Like many other dictators, the TPLF- led Ethiopian government sees human rights activists as “the enemy”. Soon after Bekele Gerba met the Amnesty International research team, the Ethiopian security forces charged him for crimes he never committed and threw him into jail. TPLF officials fear him not because he is a violent person or conspiring to promote violence, but because he is thoughtful and articulate. The Ethiopian government’s concern is that he can articulate the demands and the aspirations of the Oromo people to the Amnesty International research team. For that the TPLF officials fabricated a dramatic type of crime and sent him to jail. He was released from prison in 2015 after serving four years.
In 2015, the Oromo Studies Association (OSA invited Bekele Gerba (an Oromo) and John Markakis (a Greece-American) to be two keynote speakers. OSA always encourages diverse perspectives and views (because no one has a monopoly on knowledge) to be presented at its annual conferences. Bekele was a university professor before he was imprisoned. Before that he was a school teacher. His lived experiences, and career as a school teacher, university professor, politician and then political prisoner have given him a wide range of perspectives. He was therefore an excellent candidate to be invited by the OSA as one of the keynote speakers. When I learned he was to be one of the OSA’s keynote speakers, on the one hand I was happy that I was going to be able to hear his first hand presentation. On the other hand, I was concerned because many Oromo intellectuals are leaving the country and I wanted him to stay in Oromia to provide the leadership. My reason is I knew one of the motives of the TPLF government is to deny the Oromo people all forms of leaderships.
I know that Bekele Gerba has spent four years in prison for a crime he never committed. I know he clearly understands the social problems that afflict the Oromo people and the causes of those problems. I also know he has met hundreds of Oromo prisoners who are languishing in Ethiopian prisons “because they are Oromo”. He knows that thousands more of Oromo men and women who are languishing in several prisons “because they are Oromo”. Therefore, in my mind I pictured him asssumured in my mind assumeman. ee social conditions in which the Oromo people live. ( from “ pictured him….” to the end is a mess. Better fix it!) He meet thousands an angry man. However, when I met him and talked to him he did not look like an angry man. He was not angry at those who imprisoned him. It is not that he was not hurt. Indeed, he was deeply hurt. Yet, he overcame the pain he went through and chose to forgive those who subjected him to pain. When I clearly understood his deep commitment to a peaceful mass movement and his forgiveness to those who imprisoned him, I was deeply touched. As Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for the US president, once said “forgiveness is a way of opening up the doors again and moving forward, whether it’s a personal life or a national life” I realized the motive of Gerba to forgive is to move forward. I am deeply touched by this.
Let me tell you why I am deeply touched. When I was writing my Ph.D dissertation I was interested in human rights and public health. Therefore, it was natural to associate with students who geared their research interests to peaceful social movements such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At that time a friend who was focusing on Gandhi’s philosophy organized a research conference and invited me to present a paper. I presented a paper on Famine and Human Rights in Oromia. In the paper I explored the ways human rights violations perpetuated by consecutive Ethiopian regimes were contributing to cause famine. One of the audience members knew the situation that I was talking about and asked me if Gandhi type leaders need to be born in Ethiopia. I answered the question saying “thousands of Gandhi types of leaders are being born every year, but the social conditions of Ethiopia do not allow them grow. If Gandhi was born in Ethiopia, he would have been killed while he was still young”. I further elaborated saying “although the British colonial rulers and the US slave holders were brutal, the system allowed many British and US citizens to be guided by a sense of “ethics”. Such a system allowed diversity within the dominant group of citizens and for this reason some of the members of the dominant group sympathized with the causes of those who were marginalized. However, the Ethiopian system does not allow diverse opinions to flourish. Abyssinians like Wallelign Mekonnen who are inclined to promote social justice for the oppressed people are killed and such killing has suppressed others. Oromo elites who tried to develop inclusive politics- like Haile Fida- and who tried to reform the Ethiopian Empire could not survive long. Consistent with Newton’s law of motion that states “to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” and many Oromo leaders who came after Fida chose to focus on organizing the Oromo people. I was convinced that in such political conditions Gandhi and Martin Luther King types of leaders and inclusive leaders could not grow to be national figures.
When I talked to Bekele Gerba and listened to his interviews, I started to question my own assumptions. Clearly he has successfully overcome the challenges that I identified above and developed a deep commitment to a peaceful mass movement and inclusive politics. The question I had in my mind at that time was, would the Ethiopian government allow such a thoughtful individual who fully adheres inclusive politics (diversity, equity and self-rule on one hand and unity on the other.
In December 2015, the Ethiopian government arrested Bekele Gerba again. When I heard the news, it reconfirmed my view about the system. Professor Merera Gudina rightfully characterized the ways the TPLF leadership thinks and functions when he said “although the TPLF has left the jungle behind, the jungle did not leave them behind.” The TPLF leadership needs to walk up and move away from the violent mindset that was instrumental to them when they were in the jungle. Leading a country with a population of a hundred million and leading a guerilla force are quite different things. They need to realize they are heading the second most popular and linguistically the most diverse empire or federal state in Africa. They need to understand they are heading a country where the headquarters of the African Union is located and hundreds of diplomats stationed. They need to realize that the rule of law of the jungle is unsustainable.
The TPLF leadership need to understand Newton’s law of motion that states “to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Imprisoning Bekele Gerba and his colleagues does not silence the voice of the Oromo people who are demanding social justice, human rights and rule of law. The voices that the Oromo people clearly and loudly spoke, from the North to South, and East to West in the last three months has delivered a clear message: “we do not allow any forms of injustice”. Consistent with Newton’s law of motion, as the TPLF oppress the Oromo people, evict them from their land, imprison and kill their children, the voices of the people demands for social reform and structural changes will dramatically increase. The TPLF leaders need individuals like Gerba and his colleagues who can be instrumental in facilitating smooth political change and lead social transformation in the country.
Gerba and his colleagues are the beloved sons and daughters of Oromo people and they want them free. Certainly, Gerba and his colleagues are in a better position to secure not only the Oromo children but also, the Tigray children and others. Having said this, let me leave my note with the quote below and encourage the TPLF leadership to reevaluate their framework of thinking, free all political prisoners and join the peaceful march led by Gerba and his colleagues.
Today, I see thousands of Mahatma Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, and Nelson Mandelas marching forward and calling on us. The boys and girls [i.e. Gerba & others] have joined. I have joined in. We ask you [the TPLF leadership] to join, too.
Begna F. Dugassa, Ph.D.
 Begna Dugassa, Ph.D., promotes human rights and health. He researches and writes in human rights and public health. His recent work is published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine in February 2016. The title of the article: Free Media as the Social Determinants of Health: The Case of Oromia Regional State in Ethiopia.  Translation is mine.
Appeal of Oromo Student’s Union (OSU) to International Community
February 10, 2016, Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Ethiopia
Multinational organizations (UN, EU, AU, and others)
Countries supporting the Ethiopian regime in the name of development, peace and security, education, science and technology (USA, European countries, Canada, Australia, and others)
Human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, and others)
Oromo political organizations
Oromo studies Association (OSA)
Oromo community organizations all over the world and all other concerned bodies
We members of Oromo Student’s Union (OSU) appeal to the international community that we are currently living under difficult conditions. It is evident that the Ethiopian regime is committing genocidal crime on the Oromo people in general and the Oromo students in particular by deploying its military and police force and terrorizing us for peacefully protesting demanding our rights asking the legitimate and rightful questions of our people. Our questions are the questions of our people. Our demands are the demands of our people. Our demands can be divided into two major categories:
Basic human rights must be respected. While the Oromo constitute the majority of the Ethiopian population, Oromia constitute the largest territory, and the region is the economic backbone of Ethiopia, the Oromo people have been marginalized in every arena. Over the past 24 years the Oromo people do not have proportional power and economic share in the country and have been ruled under the EPRDF which in essence is maneuvered and completely controlled by the TPLF party. Since the mass base of the TPLF/EPRDF is the minority Tigrean population, it has been in constant conflict with the Oromo people in Oromia. The Oromo people are ruled under the barrel of the gun being constantly killed, arrested, tortured, students dismissed from schools, civilians kidnapped and disappeared, are forced to leave their country and become refugees in several countries around the globe. Therefore we demand that the basic human and democratic rights of the Oromo people be respected and a system based on equality, justice, democracy, and a government based on the needs of our people be established.
Master Plan must be stopped. Starting from 2014 we protested against the so called Master Plan of the TPLF/EPRDF regime, a plan which incorporates several Oromian towns into the capital Finfinne (Addis Ababa), evicts Oromo farmers from their ancestral land, eradicates Oromo culture, language and identity, planned to sell Oromo land and plunder Oromia’s natural resources, divide the map of Oromia into two, and causes pollution and environmental degradation. We presented our appeal in writing several times requesting that the Master plan be stopped. Instead of answering our request to stop the Master plan, the regime announced another plan to incorporate major Oromian towns which is another plan to incorporate the entire of Oromia under the jurisdiction of the federal government which on the other hand is controlled by the TPLF. When our requests fell into deaf ears we protested peacefully. The answer to our peaceful protest has been brutal killings, beatings, mass arrests, kidnappings and disappearances, inhuman torture by the regime’s so called Agazi troops. In addition to some 80+ people who were killed in 2014, more than 200 peaceful citizens, mostly students have been killed since November 2015. Thousands others have been wounded. Countless others have been jailed and are under severe torture. oromo-student-union-appeal-to-international-community-feb-2016-1
Oromo: Civil Society and International Bodies Condemn Violence
UNPO, 25 January 2016
On 22 January 2016, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa issued a statement, emphasising the recent attention accorded by the United States, European Union and United Nations to the human rights situation in Ethiopia. While The European Parliament, through a recent urgent resolution, calls for a credible,transparent and independent investigation into the killings of at least 140 Oromo protesters and into other alleged human rights violations, the HRLHA condemns the state sponsored violence, calling on the Ethiopian government to “immediately withdraw its special force “Agazi” from the Oromia Regional State and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Below is the statement published by the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa:
The tireless voices for the voiceless spoken by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) and others- for decades-about the gross human rights violations in Ethiopia have caught the attention of the world and finally the hard truth has been revealed.
The US Government, the EU parliament and UN experts condemn the killings, detentions and kidnappings in the Oromo Nation by Ethiopian Government forces. The Oromo nation demand and that their basic freedoms and fundamental rights be respected in their own country.
The USA Government in its statements of December 18, 2015″The United States, Calls for Meaningful Dialogue About Oromo Community Concerns” and 14 January 2016 ” The United States Concerned By Clashes in Oromia, Ethiopia “condemned the Ethiopian brutality against peaceful protestors and urged the government of Ethiopia to permit peaceful protest and commit to a constructive dialogue to address legitimate grievances.
The European Union in its debate on 21 January 2016 discussed the “Human Rights Situation in Ethiopia”. The EU Parliament strongly condemns the recent use of violence by the security forces and the increased number of cases of human rights violations in Ethiopia. It calls for a credible, transparent and independent investigation into the killings of at least 140 protesters and into other alleged human rights violations in connection with the protest movement after the May 2015 federal elections in the country.
The UN Experts in their release of 21 Jan. 2016: “UN experts urge Ethiopia to halt a violent crackdown on Oromia protesters, ensure accountability for abuses“. They called on theEthiopian authorities to end the ongoing crackdown on peaceful protests by the country’s security forces, who have reportedly killed more than 140 demonstrators and arrested scores more in the past nine weeks.
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa appreciates the statements coming out from different governmental agencies and governments exposing the ethnic persecutions and crimes against humanity in Oromia Regional State by Ethiopian Government forces in which over 180 Oromo nationals from all walks of life have been brutalized by the special force “Agazi” , over 8, 050 Oromo were arbitrarily detained and where large numbers were kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination.
To stop further human catastrophes in Oromia Regional State, the HRLHA urges the world community to continue putting pressure on the Ethiopian government:
To immediately withdraw its special force “Agazi” from the Oromia Regional State and bring the perpetrators to justice To unconditionally release the detainees To compensate, all casualties have been done by the government-sponsored criminals To abort the state of emergency declared in Oromia Regional State All authorities who were involved in the present political crisis in the Oromia Regional state, including the PMs special advisor AbayTseye and the PM of Ethiopia HailemariamDessalengn, should be stripped of their government responsibilities To allow independent investigators into the country to conduct an investigation into the present and past gross human rights violations in Oromia Regional State.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn confers with President Barack Obama
“Badessa” was a third-year engineering student in western Ethiopia in April 2014 when he and most of his classmates joined a protest over the potential displacement of ethnic Oromo farmers like his family because of the government’s plan to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into the farmland.
The night of the first protests he was arrested and taken to an unmarked detention center. Each night he heard his fellow students screaming in agony as one by one they were tortured by interrogators. “I still hear the screams,” he told me later. Eventually his turn came to be interrogated. “What kind of country is it when I voice concern that my family could lose their farm for a government project and I am arrested, tortured, and now living as a refugee?”
Since mid-November, large-scale protests have again swept through Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, and the response from security forces has again been brutal. They have killed countless students and farmers, and arrested opposition politicians and countless others. On January 12, the government announced it was cancelling the master plan, but that hasn’t stopped the protests and the resultant crackdown.
Although the protest was initially about the potential for displacement, it has become about so much more. Despite being the biggest ethnic group in Ethiopia, Oromos have often felt marginalized by successive governments and feel unable to voice concerns over government policy. Oromos who express dissent are often arrested and tortured or otherwise mistreated in detention, accused of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a group that has long been mostly inactive and that the government designated a terrorist organization.
The government is doing all it can to make sure that the news of these protests doesn’t circulate within the country or reach the rest of the world. Ethiopia’s allies, including governments in the region and the African Union, have largely stood by as Ethiopia has steadily strangled the ability of ordinary Ethiopians to access information and peacefully express their views, whether in print or in public demonstrations. But they should be worried about what is happening in Oromia right now, as Ethiopia — Africa’s second most-populous country and a key security ally of the US — grapples with this escalating crisis.
This may prove to be the biggest political event to hit Ethiopia since the controversial 2005 elections resulted in a crackdown on protesters in which security forces killed almost 200 people and arrested tens of thousands .
Although the government focuses its efforts on economic development and on promoting a narrative of economic success, for many farmers in Oromia and elsewhere economic development comes at a devastating cost. As one Oromo student told me “All we hear about is development. The new foreign-owned farms and roads is what the world knows, but that just benefits the government. For us [Oromos] it means we lose our land and then we can’t sustain ourselves anymore.”
It has become almost impossible for journalists and human rights monitors to get information about what is happening, especially in smaller towns and rural areas outside Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia is one of the most restrictive environments for independent investigation, reporting, and access to information, earning the country a top-10 spot in the global ranking of jailers of journalists. For the past decade, the government has limited access to information by regularly threatening, imprisoning, and prosecuting individual activists, bloggers, and journalists and sending a clear public message that the media must self-censor and that dissent or criticism of government policy will not be tolerated.
Independent media have dwindled—more than 70 journalists have fled the country since 2010 and five of the last independent publications closed down before the May elections. Meanwhile the state-run media parrot the government line, in this case claiming that the Oromo protesters are linked to “terrorist groups” and “anti-peace elements” who are “aiming to create havoc and chaos.”
Very few international journalists are based in Ethiopia. Those who have attempted to cover events on the ground since the protests began have braved threats and arrest, but these are a few lone voices.
Given restrictions on local and international media, you might think that ordinary citizens, local activists, and nongovernmental organizations would fill the gaps and document the events in Oromia. But Ethiopia’s human rights activists and independent groups have been crushed by draconian legislation and threats, and even ordinary people are often terrified to speak out. People who dare to speak to international media outlets or independent groups have been arrested. The government taps phone lines and uses European-made spyware to target journalists and opposition members outside the country.
Since the protests began, the restrictions have become even harsher. Authorities have arrested people, including health workers, for posting photos and videos or messages of support on social media. The state-run telecom network has also been cut in some areas, making it much more difficult to get information out from hotspots.
Radio and satellite television outlets based outside Ethiopia, including some diaspora stations, play a key role disseminating information about the protests within Oromia, as they also did in 2014 during the last round of protests. Last year numerous people were arrested in Oromia during the protests merely for watching the diaspora-run Oromia Media Network (OMN).
The government has frequently jammed foreign stations in the past, violating international regulations in the process. When the government is unable to jam it puts pressure on the satellite companies themselves. Throughout the protests government agents have reportedly been destroying satellite dishes.
Yet despite the clear efforts to muzzle voices, information is coming out. Some protesters are losing their fear of expressing dissent and are speaking openly about the challenges they are facing. Social media plays a key role in disseminating information as people share photos and videos of rallies, of bloodied protesters, and of expressions of peaceful resistance in the face of security forces using excessive force.
In the coming days and weeks Ethiopia’s friends and partners should condemn the use of excessive force by security forces that is causing tragic and unnecessary deaths. But they should also be clear that Ethiopia needs to ensure access to information and stop disrupting telecommunications and targeting social media users. The world needs to know what is happening in Oromia—and Ethiopians have a right to know what is happening in their country.
Felix Horne is the Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The lethal actions against peaceful Oromo protesters – being undertaken by the Ethiopian government, mean that, with each passing day, the number of Oromo population, which is affected by the government’s heavy-handed response to the Oromo protests, continues to grow. An observer noted that, for each person the government’s bullets take away, a community of hundreds and thousands is impacted with the only memory of the deceased being the banner they held up at their last breath. The affected community moves forward with a resolute to press the banner of their martyr forward to its victory. At the tens of solemn funerals so far held for Oromo’s finest, its youth, in churches and mosques across Oromia, funeral-goers express this resolute to press forward through speeches, placards and slogans. On and off the funeral grounds, they continue their protests against the Ethiopian government’s persistent denial of Oromo’s self-rule (of which the Master Plan is just a symptom), and against the unabated killing, maiming and arresting of young students, farmers and other sections of the Oromo society. The following are a few of the funeral services held for Oromo students and farmers this year. According to one observer, Oromo’s finest leaving this world at this too young age is one pain the Oromo people will cope with forever through their memories; however, the government’s cruelty, which the deceased had faced during their last moments on this world, is one pain the Oromo people, the other Ethiopian people and the international community can stop — the deceased can not come back, but the injustice unleashed on them can be stopped, must be stopped, and will be stopped.
January 18, 2016: Funeral service for Biruk (Tolassa) Dhufera, a 4th-year Engineering student at Haromaya University – who was killed two days earlier. His funeral service took place at the local Orthodox church in his birth place of Abuna Gindeberet (West Shawaa) …
January 15, 2016: Funeral service for Lencho Dinkessa, a high-school Oromo student, in Dike village, near Waddessa (West Shawaa). He was killed in Ambo three days earlier while attending a funeral service for another martyr Abdata Olansa. His family was denied the right to bury him in Ambo; hence, it was forced to take his body to the countryside …
January 13, 2016: Funeral service for Chala Mohammed, a young farmer who was gunned down a day before in his farm in Haromaya (east Oromia) because he hesitated to turn off the engine of his water pump when the Ethiopian armed forces came to the area, according to media reports …
January 5, 2016: Funeral service for Abbas Abdulrahman who was martyred a day before in Masala (West Hararghee) …
Dispatches: Arrest of Respected Politician Escalating Crisis in Ethiopia
By Felix Horne
Over the past eight weeks, Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, has been hit by a wave of mass protests over the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa. The generally peaceful protests were sparked by fears the expansion will displace ethnic Oromo farmers from their land, the latest in a long list of Oromo grievances against the government.
Security forces have killed at least 140 protesters and injured many more, according to activists, in what may be the biggest crisis to hit Ethiopia since the 2005 election violence.
The crisis has taken another worrying turn: on December 23, the authorities arrested Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia’s largest legally registered political party. There had been fears he would be re-arrested as the government targets prominent Oromo intellectuals who they feel have influence over the population. He was first taken to the notorious Maekalawi prison, where torture and other ill-treatment are routine. The 54-year-old foreign language professor was reportedly hospitalized shortly after his arrest but his whereabouts are now unknown, raising concerns of an enforced disappearance. Other senior OFC leaders have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks or are said to be under virtual house arrest.
This is not the first time Bekele has been arrested. In 2011, he was convicted under Ethiopia’s draconian counterterrorism law of being a member of the banned Oromo Liberation Front – a charge often used to silence politically engaged ethnic Oromos who oppose the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). He spent four years in prison and was only released shortly before the elections last May. The OFC ran candidates but the EPRDF coalition won all 547 parliamentary seats, a stark reflection of the unfair electoral playing field.
Bekele is deeply committed to nonviolence and has consistently advocated that the OFC participate in future elections, despite the EPRDF’s stranglehold on the political landscape.
By treating both opposition politicians and peaceful protesters with an iron fist, the government is closing off ways for Ethiopians to nonviolently express legitimate grievances. This is a dangerous trajectory that could put Ethiopia’s long-term stability at risk.
The Ethiopian government should release unjustly detained opposition figures including Bekele and rein in the excessive use of lethal force by the security forces. They should also allow people to peacefully protest and to express dissent and ensure that farmers and pastoralists are protected from arbitrary or forced displacement without consultation and adequate compensation.
These steps would be an important way to show Oromo protesters that the government is changing tack and is genuinely committed to respecting rights. Without this kind of policy shift, desperate citizens will widen their search for other options for addressing grievances.
ETHIOPIA: PEACEFUL OROMO PROTESTERS MUST BE RELEASED
By Amnesty International, 6 January 2016, Index number: AFR 25/3148/2016
The Ethiopian authorities arbitrarily arrested a number of peaceful protesters, journalists and opposition party leaders in the context of a brutal crackdown on ongoing protests in the Oromia Region which started in November. Those arrested are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment and should be immediately and unconditionally released.
On the evening of Dec 23, 2015, Bekele Gerba, was at home, reading at his desk in the company of his wife and son when armed Ethiopian federal security forces surrounded his home, entered and searched his house against his will, and forcibly arrested him. His family and witnesses were told that he would be taken to Makalawi, an infamous high security prison where they could visit him in 24 hours. But they were not allowed to see him. The day he was scheduled to appear in court, he disappeared. Later, he was taken to a hospital where word got out that he had been beaten to unconsciousness during an interrogation at a military camp. He continues to be denied visitation. Right now, he is being held incommunicado, and we have grave concerns that his health is deteriorating.
Bekele Gerba is the Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress party and a widely respected peace advocate. He is a renowned voice for nonviolence, urging only peaceful forms of resistance to violent oppression in Ethiopia. He envisions peaceful struggle as the preferred means for attaining democracy, unity, and justice. He has become a significant voice of this generation.
His arrest late December was not his first. In August 2011, following a meeting with Amnesty International about Ethiopia’s human rights violations, Bekele was imprisoned, charged under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism proclamation and sentenced to eight years. Similarly trumped up charges are frequently used to silence any voice of opposition to the government. He was released in late March 2015 upon appeal, and upon his release, he was invited to the U.S. to deliver keynote remarksat an academic conference. He spent a week in Washington, meeting with members of the diplomatic community. He met with Congress members, State Department officials, media outlets and human rights groups. He gave an interview to NPR’s Michele Kelemen about the lack of political space in Ethiopia and to Al Jazeera’s The Stream.Recently, he spoke to Al Jazeera about the Ethiopian government’sviolent crackdown on widespread Oromo protests against proposed large-scale land takeovers that will displace millions of farmers.
For most of his life, Bekele was a professor of foreign languages. A few years ago, he declared that he could not simply witness the widespread and systematic oppression, ethnic persecution and grievances of his people, the Oromo, and the Ethiopian government’s merciless targeting and killing of the Oromo. Amnesty International reported, “between 2011 and 2014, at least 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government.” Now thousands more are being rounded up and arrested by federal security for participating in peaceful protests.
Please stand with Bekele and join me in signing this petition calling for the immediate release of Bekele Gerba. And please send this petition to your Representatives and Senators.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”- MLK