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DW: Ethiopia: Crisis in the land of the economic miracle January 1, 2018

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

While a small number of government-connected oligarchs are accumulating more and more wealth, most Ethiopians are not experiencing the so-called economic miracle, with nearly six million people dependent on food aid.

Ethiopia: Crisis in the land of the economic miracle

Unrest has plagued Ethiopia for the past two years. So what’s going on? The reasons are complicated.

Dire Dawa town in Äthiopien (Hailegzi Mehari)

Journalist Martin Plaut considers this to be the beginning of the problems facing modern Ethiopia. “The TPLF and Meles Zenawi were never prepared to allow democracy and real federalism,” he told DW. But the focus on ethnic differences in the constitution has not been without consequence:“As soon as you increase the focus on ethnicity and make ethnicity the basis of the state, you basically stoke up ethnic tensions,” said Plaut.

Ethiopia's Abay new motor show in Addis Ababa (Getty Images/AFP/J. Cendon)Ethiopia’s economy is booming with car assemblies like this one (pictured above) but many still live below the poverty line

Unequal distribution of economic resources

For some observers, the deadly clashes over the past few weeks would appear to be harbingers of an ethnically-motivated civil war. It seems like ethnic tensions are being expressed with increasing intensity. But the causes are complex.

Over the past few years, one issue in particular has repeatedly exacerbated the ethnic tensions in Ethiopia: the side effects of rapid economic growth. Since 2000, gross domestic product has increased almost tenfold, raising questions over who actually benefits from this increase in prosperity.

For example, the violent expropriation of many Oromo people following the spread of the economic boom in the capital Addis Ababa is considered one of the triggers for the ongoing unrest. While a small number of government-connected oligarchs are accumulating more and more wealth, most Ethiopians are not experiencing the so-called economic miracle, with nearly six million people dependent on food aid.

Read more:‘Ethiopia needs to open up civic space’, UN rights chief:

Although the economic boom has led to the emergence of a small, but growing, middle class, this hardly diffuses the situation. On the contrary, economic success and access to better education only increase the desire for political participation, which so far has been denied to those who wish to work their way up in the authoritarian system.

The consequence of these upheavals is conflict at all levels: civil society pushes back against the authoritarianism of national, regional and local rulers; regional populations want more independence from Addis Ababa and at the center of power, reformers fight against those who wish to defend the status quo. The military and regional police forces are becoming increasingly involved in political decisions.

Germany Berlin - Ethiopians demonstrate againt human rights abuse (DW/Y. Hailemichael)At the peak of protests, Ethiopians world over including those living in Germany called for political reforms back home

Pursing federalism as a solution

Is Ethiopia at risk of state collapse? Plaut thinks this kind of speculation is premature, because there is a clear solution available: “There is a way of solving it, which would be to genuinely allow a federal state.” For this to occur, however, the TPLF must be willing to give up their absolute hold on power and make way for a true multi-party system.

The vice-chairman of the Medrek coalition, Beyene Petros, also doesn’t think Ethiopia is likely to fall apart any time soon. “I am fully confident that Ethiopia will remain intact; this is by the desire and choice of the Ethiopian population,” he told DW. What is needed, however, is an overhaul of the political system: “The EPRDF regime is simply not compatible with the cultural and political situation in Ethiopia.”

What Ethiopia needs at this stage is a national conference involving all political parties and civil society. If so, the bad news coming out of the country could come to an end.


 

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Global Voices: Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests July 15, 2016

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Odaa OromooGlobalVoicesViber, twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp Are strictly forbidden in Fascist regime (TPLF) Ethiopiatweet tweet #OromoProtestsOromo students Protests, Western Oromia, Mandii, Najjoo, Jaarsoo,....

Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests

By Endalk, Global Voices, 14 July 2016


When students in Ginchi, a small town 75 km west of Addis Ababa, organized a demonstration in November 2015, US-based opposition media activist Jawar Mohammed, began posting minute-to-minute ‘live’ updates of the protest on his massively popular Facebook page, which has over 500k followers.

What started as a small-scale student protest over Ethiopian government’s plan to expand Addis Ababa into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest constitutionally autonomous state, evolved into a series of largest and bloodiest demonstrations against Ethiopian government in a decade leaving at least 400 people killed, many more injured, and thousands jailed.

Along with Jawar’s live updates about the protests on Facebook, netizens saw a flood of digital photos, videos, blog posts, and tweets on other social media platforms coming from inside Ethiopia, mostly under the hashtag #OromoProtests.

For over a decade, the Ethiopian government has been violently cracking down on protesting students in Oromia, but these incidents have never garnered the online attention they did this time around. With scant coverage by foreign media from the front lines, and silence and misinformation coming from Ethiopia’s largely pro-government media outlets, the Internet emerged as the main channel used to disseminate information about protests. Jawar’s Facebook page and Twitter feedbecame the official-yet-unofficial story of the protest, leading diaspora writers to identify Jawar as a key shaper of public opinion on the events.

Though these networked communication dynamics are commonplace in many parts of the world, they are novel in Ethiopia, where Internet penetration hovered just below 5% in 2013, which is the last time that Internet access data was collected there by the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency.

The steady stream of #OromoProtests content triggered various attempts by the government to limit digital traffic and block telecom services in Oromia.

In a bid to quell the growing role of social media in magnifying the stories of protests and to regain the upper hand, Ethiopia’s state-owned telecommunication monopoly EthioTelcom blocked social media platforms including Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in Oromia for at least two months. Around the same time, EthioTelecom also announced plans to begin charging customers for using popular voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications such as Viber, Facebook messenger, Skype, and Google hangouts.

According to local media reports, EthioTelecom plans to enforce a new price scheme for VoIP data usage by deploying technologies that will more heavily regulate data plans and what kinds of apps operate on devices of each subscriber active on EthioTelecom network. In an unprecedented move, EthioTelecom also announced a plan to track, identify and ban mobile devices that are not purchased from the Ethiopian market. This move will allow EthioTelecom to keep a track of exactly what data is being sent to and from each subscriber active on the network. It remains unclear exactly how this technology will work, but it unquestionably demonstrates EthioTelecom’s intention to take full political advantage of its monopoly.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in terms of Internet penetration in Africa, #OromoProtests garnered wall-to-wall coverage by the US based Ethiopian diaspora satellite television stations, particularly OMN and ESAT. Both stations picked various stories of #OromoProtests from social media and rebroadcast them to millions of Ethiopians living off the grid of mobile phone infrastructure.

To top all this off, on the heels of the protests, the parliament passed a stringent computer crimes law that looks very much like an effort to criminalize protest-related online speech and to more effectively utilize digital communication as a tool of public surveillance.

In a critical piece about the new law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote,

Ethiopia’s prosecutors have long demonized legitimate uses of technology, claiming in court that the use of encryption, and knowledge of privacy-protecting tools is a sign of support for terrorists….By criminalizing everyday actions it ensures that anyone who speaks online, or supports online free expression, might one day be targeted by the law…. [This regulation] will intimidate ordinary Ethiopian citizens into staying offline, and further alienate Ethiopia’s technological progress from its African neighbors and the rest of the world.

According to reports, the new legislation further limits already-diminished digital rights such as freedom of expression and privacy, criminalizing and levying severe punishments for defamatory speech online. The legislation also obliges service providers to store records of all communications along with their metadata for at least a year.

 

Symposium: Social Movements and State Fragility in Ethiopia: Lessons from the #OromoProtests and Government Responses of 2015-16 at SOAS, London, Centre of African Studies June 2, 2016

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Odaa OromooSOAS

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


Social Movements and State Fragility in Ethiopia: Lessons from the Oromo Protests and Government Responses of 2015-16


Date:21 June 2016Time: 9:00 AM

Finishes:21 June 2016Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Symposium


In late July of 2015, President Barack Obama praised Ethiopia as a “model of development,” an example of a young democracy and an effective ally of the West in the war against terror.  Three months later, the country was rocked by massive protests in the Oromia region demanding an end to the one-party stranglehold on the political landscape, ethnic discrimination in allocating national resources, and the rule of violence in Ethiopia. In response, the state turned to coercion and violence to put down the uprising.

            The dramatic turn of events has exposed a structural weakness in the Ethiopian state, one which John Markakis has called the failure of nation-building.  After the #OromoProtests, the Ethiopian state is unlikely to continue business as usual. First, the use of external endorsement as a leverage to seek internal legitimacy has limits. Second, state violence further delegitimizes the state, necessitating further coercion. In this cycle of violence, the state is unlikely to win a protracted conflict against its own population. In time, the state recedes, extra-state entities will step up to supplant the state and provide social services and security for its populations. In this situation, state collapse becomes imminent.

            A one-day symposium at SOAS, University of London, will explore how apparently strong state institutions eventually produce weaknesses that in turn initiate tendencies towards coercion, illegitimacy and fragility.  By addressing this phenomenon historically and ethnographically the symposium intends to examine new frameworks for understanding the Ethiopian state and the changing contours of political legitimacy.


Contact email:cas@soas.ac.uk


https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/social-movements-and-state-fragility-in-ethiopia-lessons-from-the-oromo-protests-and-government-tickets-25536140283?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=esfb&utm-source=fb&utm-term=listing


https://www.soas.ac.uk/cas/events/21jun2016-social-movements-and-state-fragility-in-ethiopia-lessons-from-the-oromo-protests-and-gover.html

 


 

Mediapart au Théâtre de la Ville, à Paris:l’intervention de Solan, réfugié originaire d’Oromia, en Éthiopie: Solan, refugee from Oromia June 1, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo

 

 

 

Human Rights League: Ethiopia- Gross Human Rights Violations: Human rights situations that require the UN Human Rights Council’s attention May 31, 2016

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Odaa OromooHuman rights League of the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia- Gross Human Rights Violations

 

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)

Table 1 – Government Agency’s Report

Reporter Report Description Report Date
The White House Office of the Press Secretary Statement by National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price on the Arrest of Journalists in Ethiopia December 30, 2015
US Department of State The United States Concerned By Clashes in Oromia, Ethiopia December 15, 2015
EU Parliament European Parliament resolution on the situation in Ethiopia  January 21, 2016
UN Experts UN Experts Urge Ethiopia to halt violent crackdown —  January 21, 2016

Table 2- Human Rights Organizations’ Report

Reporter Organization Report Description Reported Date
HRW  Using Courts to Crush Dissent in Ethiopia May 9, 2016
HRW Deafening Silence from Ethiopia April 12, 2016
HRW Ethiopia’s Invisible Crisis January 22, 2016
Government Backs Down, But Will Protests End in Ethiopia? January 15, 2016
HRW Ethiopia: Lethal Force Against Protesters, Military Deployment, Terrorism Rhetoric Risk Escalating Violence December 18, 2015
HRW Yet Again, a Bloody Crackdown on Protesters in Ethiopia December 5, 2015
AI Ethiopia: Anti-terror rhetoric will escalate brutal crackdown against Oromo protesters December 16, 2015
AI Ethiopia: Ethnic Oromos arrested, tortured and killed by the state in relentless repression of dissent October 16, 2014
HRLHA Ethiopia: Oromia Regional State Under Siege Dececember 15, 2015
HRLHA Ethiopia: Extreme Cruelties Against Oromo Children and Youths Dececember 8, 2015
HRLHA Oromia/Ethiopia: Region-Wide, Heavy-Handed Crackdown on Peaceful Protesters December 5, 2015
BBC Ethiopia says Oromia protests crackdown claims are ‘lies’ February 22, 2016
BBC (BBC vidio) Ethiopian Government Criticized Over Oromo Protests November 2015
BBC BBC World News reports on Oromo Protest against Addis Ababa Master Plan May 2, 2014
CNN Ethiopia crackdown on student protests taints higher education success May 22, 2014
France 24 Video: Anger among Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group boils over March 30, 2016

Recommendation:

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

The new turning point in Oromo social and political trends:#OromoProtests: The Greatest United Action by Oromos Since the 16th-Century April 23, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Africa.
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Odaa OromooSay no to the master killer. Addis Ababa master plan is genocidal plan against Oromo peopleNo To Fascist TPLF Ethiopia's genocidal militarism and mass killings in Oromia, Ethiopia#OromoProtests iconic picture


In his recent article, the veteran Oromo political leader Ob. Ibsaa Guutama wrote, the “Oromo rage, that was suppressed for ages, started to erupt with thunderous sound from November 2015. Never in the history of Oromo since 16th century had such great number rose together to determine its own destiny. Such a civilian tide has never been seen rising at the same time empty-handed in the history of the region to challenge an enemy – armed to the teeth with modern weapons …”

Here are the videos of the Oromo Protests: the Greatest United Action by Oromos since the 16-Century – the Oromo people protesting against the Ethiopian Federal government’s Master Plan with unflinching determination. This 5-part video series covers the period of the Oromo Protests from November 29, 2015 to January 4, 2016.

Oromo Protests: The Greatest United Action by Oromos Since the 16th-Century | Videos

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Oromo Protests: The Greatest United Action by Oromos Since the 16th-Century | Videos

Oromia: #OromoProtests – 100 days of Public Protest March 8, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Africa, Oromia, Oromo.
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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests  in Mega town, Borana, Oromia,  Feb 29, 2016Solidarity message to Oromo People and #OromoProtests#OromoProtests iconic pictureXalayaa  Hawwii#OromoProtests, the Oromo Solidarity Project Concordia University, Montreal ( Canada) March 3, 2016. p2#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaEritrean Soccer Team In Melbourn ,Australia Global Solidarity With Oromo Students and People . 1st January  2016Global Solidalirty rally with #OromoProtests in Oromia@Seattle 29 December 2015#OromoProtests December 28, 2015 Akkoon mormii irra jiru The struggle continuesoromoprotests-finfinnee-aau-over-kidnapping-of-two-female-students-their-name-is-lomitu-waqbulcho-3rd-year-afan-oromo-hirut-tule-2nd-year-chemical-engineering-18-december-2012#OromoProtests, healthcare professionals at Bishoftu hospital saying No! to the Master Plan, 14 December 2014‪#‎OromoProtests‬ Global Solidarity Rally Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, 11 December 2015OromoProtests @Finfinnee University  Dec. 7, 2015 picture2#OromoProtests of 7 December 2015Silent sit-ins in the campus arena seem to become the new norm of protest (#OromProtess) when physical challenge of barbarism lets nearly impossible to otherwise. Arba Minch University, Dec. 2015. image2OromoProtests, Najjoo, Oromia, November 26, 2015#OromoProtests @ Jijjiga University, 12 December 2015#OromoProtests, Malka baldho, E. Hararghe, 2nd January 2016#OromoProtests continues in Begi,  Wallaggaa, Arsi, Oromia, 14 Feb. 2016#OromoProtests, Nagelle Borana, 20 Feb. 2016Gaaffiiwwan yeroo ammaaDhaamsa#OromoProtests, Qabosoon itti fufa jedhu aayyoleen

 

Oromo Protests – 100 days of Public Protest


 

By Ethiopia Human Rights Project,  March 2016


 

 

Oromia, the largest regional State in the Ethiopian Federation, has been rocked by series of protests in the past 100 days since mid-November 2015. The protests began with the aim of having the proposed Master Plan of the capital, Addis Ababa, officially referred as the ‘Addis Ababa–Finfinne[1] Integrated Development Plan’ (‘Master Plan’) scrapped. The Master Plan was designed by Addis Ababa City Administration in collaboration with the government of Oromia Regional State and introduced early in 2014. The protestors opposed the Master Plan, which covers 1.1 million hectare of land (approximately twenty fold the current size of Addis Ababa), saying that its implementation will result in the eviction of millions of farmers and families from their land. The first protests against the Master Plan were held mainly by students of Oromia regional State in April/May/June 2014 which resulted in deaths, injuries and imprisonment of many people all over the state. The protests erupted again in November 2015 and continued up until now.

The ‘second round protests’, as it is called by activists, took wider area and longer time than its antecedent. Police brutality have reached its climax and deaths, injuries, mass arrest, kidnapping have tragically been reported in the State. In only the first hundred days of these protests, hundreds of towns and villages have witnessed mass incidents. In addition, death tolls have reportedly reached more than four hundred, thousands of people were injured and tens of thousands people were briefly arrested. Even though the Master Plan has been officially been scrapped by OPDO, ruling party in the regional State, on 13 January, 2016, fifty four days after the second round of the protest erupted, the third round of the protests have continued with a new momentum; what has started as an opposition to the Master Plan seems to end up looking for answers of political questions that have grown in the past two decades.

The Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP) has actively followed the first 100 days of the protests and summarized the issues, causes, and the human rights violations perpetrated by government security forces in response to the protests in Oromia region. Click  the next line to read the  full report:-

EHRP-OromoProtests-100-Days-of-Public-Protests


 

http://ehrp.org/oromoprotests-100-days-of-public-protest/

Press Release:The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa (FCAEA) is concerned about an escalation of the threat to press freedom in Ethiopia March 7, 2016

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Odaa OromooThe Foreign Correspondents' Association of East Africa (FCAEA)

Press Release: Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa (FCAEA)


 

The Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa (FCAEA) is concerned about an escalation of the threat to press freedom in Ethiopia after the recent 24-hour detention of two accredited journalists and their translator.

Journalists in Ethiopia have for years faced obstacles to press freedom. Now, two ongoing news events — a drought in the Ethiopia’s eastern regions, and protests across the central Oromia region — have called for increased travel outside of the capital Addis Ababa, which has become difficult due to a high security presence.

Arbitrary detentions, which typically last a few hours, were already a common impediment for accredited journalists in Ethiopia. But the recent 24-hour detention marks a worrying escalation.

William Davison, a correspondent for Bloomberg in Ethiopia; freelance journalist Jacey Fortin; and their translator were traveling in eastern Ethiopia on March 3rd when they were detained on the main road near Awash town, Afar region, at 12:40 p.m. by the Federal Police. Their phones and identification cards were taken during the arrest.

The three were escorted by Federal Police on a four-hour drive back to Addis Ababa. They were then briefly taken to an office of the security services, held overnight at a police station jail, and released around noon on March 4th. The authorities never offered a reason for the detention.

“Over the last five years, I have been detained multiple times in Ethiopia. I think reporting on certain topics has now become too risky because of the threat of detainment,” said Davison. “Until the government makes a genuine commitment to media freedom, it will be impossible for journalists to report safely with accuracy and integrity.”

The FCAEA is equally concerned about the dangers faced by translators, fixers and local journalists, who have no support from foreign embassies or international news organizations.

“Every time I’ve been detained while working in Ethiopia, I’ve felt that my translator has been most at risk,” said Fortin. “They are often asked to produce a media license like mine, despite the fact that such documentation is not available to translators.”

These threats are making reporting in Ethiopia increasingly difficult. We hope that dialogue with the relevant government agencies, including the security services, can begin to resolve the problem.

 



 

Oromia: Struggle Towards a Peaceful Sociopolitical Transformation in Ethiopia: Bekele Gerba as one of the Leading Icons February 14, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Africa, African American, Baqqalaa Garbaa, Because I am Oromo, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia.
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Odaa Oromoo

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.

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[2]”.
Bekele gerba speaks

 

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.

Kailash Satyarthi

Begna F. Dugassa, Ph.D.


[1] 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.
[2] Translation is mine.

Atlanta Black Star: #OromoProtests: What You Need to Know About Ethiopia’s Crisis That No One Is Talking About January 12, 2016

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

Oromia at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia, January 3, 2016 p2Oromo are  ancient people Africa (Oromia, kemet)

Hanna doja. Oromo child, 1st grade student in Kombolcha, Horroo Guduruu, Oromia. Attacked  by Ethiopian regime fascist  forces on 31st December  2015

 #OromoProtests: What You Need to Know About Ethiopia’s Crisis That No One Is Talking About

Oromia at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia, January 3, 2016 p6

 

 

 

 

 

(Atlanta Black Star) — The Oromo protests in Ethiopia.  The issue has received little attention in global mainstream media, but it is one that demands our attention.  The latest news coming out of the East African nation is troubling, with at least 140 protesters killed in the past few months, according to Human Rights Watch. This represents the greatest bloodshed facing the East African nation since 2005, when 200 people died in post-election violence.  Moreover, based on data from #EthiopiaCrisis, 2,000 reportedly have been injured, 30,000 arrested and 800 disappeared.

As Al Jazeera reported, police were accused of opening fire and killing dozens of protesters in April and May of 2014.

With the largest population of any of the federal states in Ethiopia, Oromia has a population of about 27 million—40 percent of the country’s population.  The nation’s largest ethnic group, Oromians have their own language, Oromo, which is separate from the official language, Amharic.

At issue in the current conflict is the convergence of ethnic strife, land and economics, beginning with the expansion of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. As NPR reported, the larger picture is that the world is growing, and there is a big demand for food and arable land.  Africa has 60 percent of the usable farmland, and in Ethiopia, the government, which owns all of the nation’s land, has leased large parcels of land to foreign investors from China, India and the Mideast.

In November, protests were set off when a forest was being cleared for development, as part the “master plan” by the Ethiopian government to expand the capital city into surrounding farmland in Oromia.  Supporters of greater urbanization, known as the Integrated Regional Development Plan for Addis Ababa, note that the nation faces a food shortage. They believe the nation is susceptible to famine because too many Ethiopians live in rural areas and depend on agriculture.  However, people in Oromia claim they are being displaced from their ancestral lands.

As VOA reported, the government plans to develop the farmland outside Addis Ababa into a new business zone.  Protesters claim the plan will result in marginalization and reduced autonomy for the Oromo people living outside the nation’s capital.  Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government claims the development project on the farmland will lead to new business and benefits to all groups.

As the Washington Post recently reported, President Obama has expressed concern over the events in Ethiopia, while also saying the “United States has consistently applauded Ethiopia for being a model and a voice for development in Africa.”

The nation has been hailed by the U.S. for its economic growth and engaging in the war against al-Shabab, the Somali terrorist group.  And Ethiopia has reportedly received substantial aid from the U.S. in this regard.  At the same time, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front regime has been accused of silencing protest and dissent.  For example, Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress—Oromia’s largest registered political party—was arrested.  In addition, the government also allegedly arrested and beat Oromo singer Hawi Tezera, who has a song about the protests.

Further, there are reports of the Ethiopian government clamping down on media outlets covering the protests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the nation is one of the leading jailers of journalists.  Authorities have reportedly arrested journalists such as Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of the Negere Ethiopia news site, under terrorism charges, and Fikadu Mirkana of Oromia Radio and TV.  Further, according to the Post, the government jammed the broadcasting satellite of the U.S.-based television channel ESAT, which has been reporting on the demonstrations by students and farmers.

Although the most recent catalyst for recent protests is the development plan to expand Addis Ababa into Oromia—of which millions of farmers fear displacement—there have been tensions and grievances developing for quite some time.  The Oromo have expressed a sense of marginalization and being pushed out of  mainstream national life.

According to the group Global Voices, of the nearly 140 peaceful protesters killed in Ethiopia since November, most were killed at close range.  More than 70 percent of the dead are reportedly male students, with male farmers accounting for around 20 percent of the deaths.  Also among the victims are women and school teachers, including one seven-month pregnant woman and her sister-in-law, who were killed while attempting to escape arrest.  Further, at least 10 people were reportedly tortured and killed while in prison, according to Global Voices.

Meanwhile, this round of protests is believed to be unprecedented because of broad-based support and participation—with inter-ethnic coalitions despite the ethnic lines marking the country, including a number of non-Oromo civic groups and political organizations. They are also employing tactics of civil disobedience such as lunch boycotts, sit-ins and roadblocks.

However, the Ethiopian government has characterized its response as being part of the war on terror.  Authorities accuse protesters of having links to terrorist groups, according to the Sudan Tribune, and announced that the nation’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force would be leading the response.

“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,” said Felix Horne of Human Rights Watch, according to Al Jazeera. “This is a dangerous trajectory that could put Ethiopia’s long-term stability at risk,” he warned.

#OromoProtests: What You Need to Know About Ethiopia’s Crisis That No One Is Talking About

 

#OromoProtests: Ethiopian Protesters Use Social Media to Bring Attention to Deadly Government Crackdown on Dissent