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‘Freedom!’: the mysterious movement that brought Ethiopia to a standstill.- The Guardian March 13, 2018

Posted by OromianEconomist in Oromo Protests, Uncategorized.
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Qeerroo – young Oromo activists – drove the mass strike that helped topple the prime minister of one of Africa’s most autocratic governments

Supporters of Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress, celebrate his release from prison, in Adama, Ethiopia on 14 February 2018.
 Supporters of Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress, celebrate his release from prison, in Adama, February 2018. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters


Today, Desalegn is a banker. But once he was a Qeerroo: a young, energetic and unmarried man from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, bound by what he calls a “responsibility to defend the people”.

Twelve years ago he helped organise mass protests against an election result he and many others believed the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had rigged. This landed him in prison, along with thousands of others, on terrorism charges.

Since then he has married and, like many of his generation in Ethiopia, mostly avoided politics. That was until 12 February, when he joined almost everyone in the town of Adama, and in many others cities across the region of Oromia, in a strike calling for the release of opposition leaders and an end to authoritarianism.

The boycott, which lasted three days and brought much of central Ethiopia to a standstill, culminated on 13 February with the release of Bekele Gerba, a prominent Oromo politician who lives in Adama, and, within 48 hours, the sudden resignation of Ethiopia’s beleaguered prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. The shaken federal government then declared a nationwide state-of-emergency on 15 February, the second in as many years.

“It was a total shutdown,” says Desalegn, of the strike in Adama. “Almost everybody took part – including government offices. You wouldn’t have even been able to find a shoeshine boy here.”

For him and many other residents of Adama, about 90km south-east of the capital, Addis Ababa, there is only one explanation for how a normally quiescent town finally joined the uprising that has billowed across much of Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia since late 2014: the Qeerroo.

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters during the Oromo festival of Irreecha, in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, in October, 2016
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 Police fire teargas to disperse protesters during the Oromo festival of Irreecha, in Bishoftu, October 2016. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Who the Qeerroo are, and how they have helped bring one of Africa’s strongest and most autocratic governments to its knees, is only dimly understood.

In traditional Oromo culture the term denotes a young bachelor. But today it has broader connotations, symbolising both the Oromo movement – a struggle for more political freedom and for greater ethnic representation in federal structures – and an entire generation of newly assertive Ethiopian youth.

“They are the voice of the people,” explains Debela, a 32-year-old taxi driver in Adama who says he is too old to be one but that he supports their cause. “They are the vanguard of the Oromo revolution.”

The term’s resurgence also reflects the nature of Oromo identity today, which has grown much stronger since Ethiopia’s distinct model of ethnically based federalism was established by the EPRDF in 1994.

“In the past even to be seen as Oromo was a crime,” says Desalegn, of the ethnic assimilation policies pursued by the two preceding Ethiopian regimes, imperial and communist. “But now people are proud to be Oromo … So the Qeerroos are emboldened.”

As the Oromo movement has grown in confidence in recent years, so the role of the Qeerroo in orchestrating unrest has increasingly drawn the attention of officials.

At the start of the year police announced plans to investigate and crack down on the Qeerroo, arguing that it was a clandestine group bent on destabilising the country and seizing control of local government offices. Party sympathisers accused members of being terrorists.

Bekele Gerba waves to his supporters after his release from prison in Adama, Ethiopia on 13 February 2018.
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 Bekele Gerba waves to his supporters after his release from prison in Adama, on 13 February. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Though many dispute this characterisation, few doubt the underground strength of the Qeerroo today.

Since the previous state of emergency was lifted last August, Qeerroo networks have been behind multiple strikes and protests in different parts of Oromia, despite obstacles like the total shutdown of mobile internet in all areas beyond the capital since the end of last year.

Bekele Gerba, the opposition leader, credits the Qeerroo with securing his release from prison, and for sending hundreds of well-wishers to his home in Adama in the aftermath. But like many older activists, he confesses to limited knowledge of how they organise themselves.

“I only became aware of them relatively recently,” he says. “We don’t know who the leadership is and we don’t know if they have a central command.”

But in a recent interview with the Guardian, two local leaders in Adama, Haile and Abiy (not their real names), shed light on their methods.

According to the two men, who are both in their late 20s, each district of the city has one Qeerroo leader, with at least 20 subordinates, all of whom are responsible for disseminating messages and information about upcoming strikes.

They say their networks have become better organised in recent months, explaining that there is now a hierarchical command chain and even a single leader for the whole of Oromia. “This gives us discipline and allows us to speak with one voice,” says Abiy.

Their job has become more difficult in the absence of the internet.

“With social media you can disseminate the message in seconds,” says Abiy. “Now it can take two weeks, going from door to door.” Instead of using WhatsApp and Facebook, they now distribute paper flyers, especially on university campuses.

The role of Oromo activists among the diaspora, especially those in the US, also remains crucial, despite the shutdown.

Zecharias Zelalem, an Ethiopian journalist based in Canada, argues that it is thanks to prominent social media activists that the Qeerroo have acquired the political heft that youth movements in other parts of the country still lack. He highlights in particular the work of Jawar Mohammed, the controversial founder of the Minnesota-based Oromia Media Network (which is banned in Ethiopia), in amplifying the voice of the Qeerroo even when internet is down.

“[Jawar] gives us political analyses and advice,” Haile explains. “He can get access to information even from inside the government, which he shares with the Qeerroos. We evaluate it and then decide whether to act on it.”

He and Abiy both dismiss the assumption, widespread in Ethiopia, that Jawar remote-controls the protests. “The Qeerroos are like a football team,” counters Haile. “Jawar may be the goalkeeper – helping and advising – but we are the strikers.”

Supporters of Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), chant slogans to celebrate Gerba’s release from prison
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 Supporters of Bekele Gerba chant slogans to celebrate Gerba’s release from prison. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

The reimposition of the state-of-emergency has angered many Qeerroos in Adama and elsewhere in Oromia, where the move was widely seen as heavy-handed bid to reverse the protesters’ momentum.

Some analysts fear further repression will push members of a still mostly peaceful political movement towards violence and extremism.

Many in the government, as well as in other parts of the country, worry about a rise in ethnically motivated attacks, on people and property, and especially on ethnic Tigrayans, who make up about 6% of the population but are generally considered to dominate politics and business.

Late last year federal troops were dispatched to university campuses, in large part due to escalating ethnic violence, which included several deaths. There were reports of similar incidents during protests throughout the past month.

Jibril Ummar, a local businessman and activist, says that he and others tried to ensure the protests in Adama were peaceful, calming down overexcited young men who wanted to damage property and attack non-Oromos.

“It worries me,” he admits. “There’s a lack of maturity. When you are emotional you put the struggle in jeopardy.”

Gerba says he worries about violence, too, including of the ethnic kind. “We know for sure that Tigrayans are targeted most, across the country. This concerns me very much and it is something that has to be worked on.”

In the coming days the EPRDF will decide on a new prime minister, and many hope it will be someone from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Oromo wing of the ruling coalition.

This might placate some of the Qeerroo, at least in the short term. But it is unlikely to be enough on its own to dampen the anger.

“When we are married we will retire from the Qeerroo,” says Haile. “But we will never do that until we get our freedom.”

 

 

 

 

New Internationalist: The Equality Effect July 25, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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The equality effect can appear magical. In more equal countries, human beings are generally happier and healthier; there is less crime, more creativity, more productivity, and – overall – higher real educational attainment. The evidence for the benefits of living more economically equitable lives is now so overwhelming that it will soon start to change politics and societies all over the world.

Greater equality is not sufficient for widespread happiness, but it is necessary. This is borne out by looking at statistics from all over the world – as well as by surveying long stretches of human history with the benefit of hindsight.

Equality means being afforded the same rights, dignity and freedoms as other people. These include the right to access resources, the dignity of being seen as able, and the freedom to choose what to make of your life on an equal footing with others. Believing that we all deserve such parity is very far from suggesting that we would all behave in the same way if we had more equal opportunities.

Although leftwing and green politicians tend to advocate greater equality more vocally, and rightwing and fascist ones tend to oppose it, equality is actually not the preserve of any political label. Great inequality has been sustained or increased under systems labelled as socialist and communist. Some free-market systems have seen equalities grow and the playing field become more level. Anarchistic systems can be either highly equitable or inequitable. Many such social systems existed in the past before the rule of law and the concept of property became widespread, and they were not all greatly equitable or inequitable. Click here to read more at  The New Internationalist

Justice for the people of Oromia: Why is the largest ethnic group (the Oromo) in Ethiopia also one of the most persecuted? June 26, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia.
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http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201306250132-0022854

http://www.change.org/petitions/al-jazeera-the-stream-english-we-appreciate-al-jazeera-for-airing-oromo-s-persecution-in-ethiopia?utm_campaign=share_button_action_box&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

http://www.opride.com/oromsis/news/horn-of-africa/3674-can-the-oromo-speak-for-themselves-ethiopianists-say-no

http://www.gadaa.com/aboutOromo.html#.UM5ExOw5PV0.facebook

http://www.gadaa.com/OpeningSpeechHRLHA2013.pdf

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Enemies of Human Development: Structural Injustices, the Lack of Social Competence and Human Insecurity March 15, 2013

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index#Africa

‘The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: Economic Efficiency, Social Justice and Individual Liberty.’ John Maynard Keynes

‘The traditional agendas for reducing poverty recognize but inadequately address its structural sources. Contemporary interventions to promote inclusive growth have tended to focus on the outcomes of development through expanding and strengthening social safety nets. While such public initiatives are to be encouraged, they address the symptoms of poverty, not its sources. The results of such restrictive interventions are reduction of income poverty to varying degrees and some improvement in human development. But across much of the South, income inequalities have increased, social disparities have widened and injustice remains pervasive, while the structural sources of poverty remain intact. Any credible agenda to end poverty must correct the structural injustices that perpetuate it. Inequitable access to wealth and knowledge disempowers the excluded from competing in the marketplace. Rural poverty, for example, originates in insufficient access to land and water for less privileged segments of rural society. Land ownership has been not only a source of economic privilege, but also a source of social and political authority. The prevailing structures of land ownership remain inimical to a functioning democratic order. Similarly, lack of access to capital and property perpetuates urban poverty. Unequal participation in the market With the prevailing property structures of society, the resource-poor remain excluded from more-dynamic market sectors. The main agents of production tend to be the urban elite, who own the corporate assets that power faster growing economic sectors. By contrast, the excluded partake only as primary producers and wage earners, at the lowest end of the production and marketing chains, leaving them with little  opportunity to share in market economy opportunities for adding value to their labour. Capital markets have failed to provide sufficient credit to the excluded, even though they have demonstrated their creditworthiness through low default rates in the micro credit market. And formal capital markets have not provided financial instruments to attract the savings of the excluded and transform them into investment assets in the faster growing corporate sector.

Unjust governance:This inequitable and unjust social and economic universe can be compounded by unjust governance. Often the excluded remain voiceless in the institutions of governance and thus underserved by public institutions. The institutions of democracy remain unresponsive to the needs of the excluded, both in the design of policy agendas and in the selection of electoral candidates. Representative institutions thus tend to be monopolized by the affluent and socially powerful, who then use office to enhance their wealth and perpetuate their hold over power. Promoting structural change to correct these structural injustices, policy agendas need to be made more inclusive by strengthening the capacity of the excluded to participate on more equitable terms in the market economy and the democratic polity. Such agendas should reposition the excluded within the processes of production, distribution and governance. The production process needs to graduate the excluded from living out their lives exclusively as wage earners and tenant farmers by investing them with the capacity to become owners of productive assets. The distribution process must elevate the excluded beyond their inherited role as primary producers by enabling them to move upmarket through greater opportunities to share in adding value through collective action. Access to assets and markets must be backed by equitable access to quality health care and education, integral to empowering the excluded. The governance process must increase the active participation of the excluded in representative institutions, which is crucial to enhancing their voice in decision making and providing access to the institutions of governance.

Social competencies, human development beyond the individual: Individuals cannot flourish alone; indeed, they cannot function alone. The human development approach, however, has been essentially individualistic, assuming that development is the expansion of individuals’ capabilities or freedoms. Yet there are aspects of societies that affect individuals but cannot be assessed at the individual level because they are based on relationships, such as how well families or communities function, summarized for society as a whole in the ideas of social cohesion and social inclusion. Individuals are bound up with others. Social institutions affect individuals’ identities and choices. Being a member of a healthy society is an essential part of a thriving existence. So one task of the human development approach is to explore the nature of social institutions that are favourable for human flourishing. Development then has to be assessed not only for the short-run impact on individual capabilities, but also for whether society evolves in a way that supports human flourishing. Social conditions affect not only the outcomes of individuals in a particular society today, but also those of future generations. Social institutions are all institutions in which people act collectively (that is, they involve more than one person), other than profit-making market institutions and the state. They include formal non-governmental organizations, informal associations, cooperatives, producer associations, neighbourhood associations, sports clubs, savings associations and many more. They also consist of norms and rules of behaviour affecting human development outcomes. For example, attitudes towards employment affect material well-being, and norms of hierarchy and discrimination affect inequality, discrimination, empowerment, political freedom and so on. To describe what those institutions can be and do, and to understand how they affect individuals, we can use the term social  competencies.Central to the human development perspective is that societal norms affect people’s choices and behaviours towards others, thus influencing outcomes in the whole community. Community norms and behaviours can constrain choice in deleterious ways from a human development perspective—for example, ostracizing, or in extreme cases killing, those who make choices that contravene social rules. Families trapped in poverty by informal norms that support early marriage and dowry requirements might reject changes to such entrenched social norms. Social institutions change over time, and those changes may be accompanied by social tension if they hamper the interests of some groups while favouring others. Policy change is the outcome of a political struggle in which different groups (and individuals) support or oppose particular changes. In this struggle, unorganized individuals are generally powerless, but by joining together they can acquire power collectively. Social action favouring human development (such as policies to extend education, progressive taxation and minimum wages) happens not spontaneously, but because of groups that are effective in supporting change, such as producer groups, worker associations, social movements and political parties. These organizations are especially crucial for poorer people, as demonstrated by a group of sex workers in Kolkata, India, and women in a squatter community in Cape Town, South Africa, who improved their conditions and self-respect by joining together and exerting collective pressure. Societies vary widely in the number, functions, effectiveness and consequences of their social competencies. Institutions and norms can be classified as human development–promoting, human development–neutral and human development–undermining. It is fundamental to identify and encourage those that promote valuable capabilities and relationships among and between individuals and institutions. Some social institutions (including norms) can support human development in some respects but not in others: for example, strong family bonds can provide individuals with support during upheavals, but may constrain individual choices and opportunities. Broadly speaking, institutions that promote social cohesion and human development show low levels of disparity across groups (for example, ethnic, religious or gender groups) and high levels of interaction and trust among people and across groups, which results in solidarity and the absence of violent conflict. It is not a coincidence that 5 of the 10 most peaceful countries in the world in 2012, according to the Global Peace Index, are also among the most equal societies as measured by loss in Human Development Index value due to inequality. They are also characterized by the absence of discrimination and low levels of marginalization. In some instances antidiscriminatory measures can ease the burden of marginalization and partially mitigate the worst effects of exclusion. For instance, US law mandating that hospital emergency rooms offer treatment to all patients regardless of their ability to pay partly mitigates the impact of an expensive health care system with limited coverage, while affirmative action in a range of countries (including Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States) has improved the situation of deprived groups and contributed to social stability. The study of social institutions and social competencies must form an essential part of the human development approach—including the formation of groups; interactions between groups and individuals; incentives and constraints to collective action; the relationship among groups, politics and policy outcomes; the role of norms in influencing behaviours; and how norms are formed and changed.

The 1994 Human Development Report argued that the concept of security must shift from the idea of a militaristic safeguarding of state borders to the reduction of insecurity in people’s daily lives (or human insecurity). In every society, human security is undermined by a variety of threats, including hunger, disease, crime, unemployment, human rights violations and environmental challenges. The intensity of these threats differs across the world, but human security remains a universal quest for freedom from want and fear.Consider economic insecurity. In the countries of the North, millions of young people are now unable to find work. And in the South, millions of farmers have been unable to earn a decent livelihood and forced to migrate, with many adverse effects, particularly for women. Closely related to insecurity in livelihoods is insecurity in food and nutrition. Many developing country households faced with high food prices cannot afford two square meals a day, undermining progress in child nutrition. Another major cause of impoverishment in many countries, rich and poor, is unequal access to affordable health care. Ill health in the household (especially of the head of the household) is one of the most common sources of impoverishment, as earnings are lost and medical expenses are incurred. Perspectives on security need to shift from a misplaced emphasis on military strength to a well rounded, people-centred view. Progress in this shift can be gleaned in part from statistics on crime, particularly homicides, and military spending.’

According to  the United Nations Development, despite the much exaggerated  recent economic growth data, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of  in its Human Development  Index 2013.Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013 compiled by UNDP. The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world. Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index. Ethiopia is one of the countries that are  known in human rights violations, government waging war against its people, marginalizing communities, political and social discrimination and where the system of structural injustices are the norms than exceptions.

http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2013_EN_complete.pdf

http://maddawalaabuupress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/ethiopia-ranks-173-out-of-187-countries.html?spref=fb

http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2013_EN_complete.pdf
hdr.undp.org

http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2013_EN_complete.pdf

http://www.thisisafrica.me/opinion/detail/19841/the-oromo-and-the-ethiopian-

http://thinkafricapress.com/ethiopia/business-usual-after-meles-human-rights-gambella-world-bank

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