Monthly Archives: August 2016

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Oromo protests: Why US must stop enabling Ethiopia*

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Awol K. Allo, Special to CNN

Story highlights

  • Ethiopia is facing a mounting crisis over treatment of Oromo people
  • More than 100 people died on Saturday following clashes
  • Country could be thrown into chaos, says Awol Allo

Awol K. Allo is LSE Fellow in Human Rights at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights. He writes on the issues behind several months of protests by Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos. Around 100 people died following clashes with security forces and demonstrators at the weekend, according to Amnesty International.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

London (CNN)Ethiopia is facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude, yet its government and Western enablers refuse to acknowledge and recognize the depth of the crisis.

The nationwide protest held on Saturday by the Oromo people, the single largest ethnic group both in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, is clear evidence of a crisis that is threatening to degenerate into a full-scale social explosion.
The protests are the most unprecedented and absolutely extraordinary display of defiance by the Oromo people and it is by far the most significant political developments in the country since the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the strongman who ruled the country for over two decades.
The protests took place in more than 200 towns and villages across Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region, and were attended by hundreds of thousands of people. According to Oromia media Network, security forces used live bullets against peaceful protestors, killing over 100 protestors.

Annexation

Oromos have been staging protest rallies across the country since April of 2014 against systematic marginalization and persecution of ethnic Oromos. The immediate trigger of the protest was a development plan that sought to expand the territorial limits of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, into neighbouring Oromo villages and towns.

Dr. Awol Allo

Oromos saw the proposed master plan as a blueprint for annexation which would further accelerate the eviction of Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands.
When the protest resumed in November of 2015, the government dismissed the protestors as anti-peace elements and accused them of acting in unison with terrorist groups — a common tactic used by the government to crackdown on dissent and opposition.
The government used overwhelming force to crush the protest, killing hundreds of protestors and arresting thousands. In its recent report titled “Such a Brutal Crack Down”, Human Rights Watch criticized the “excessive and lethal force” used by security forces against “largely peaceful protestors” and puts the number of deaths at over 400.
The figure from the activist group is considerably higher.

Historic Injustices

The Oromo make up well over a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million people. Historically, Oromos have been pushed to the margin of the country’s political and social life and rendered unworthy of respect and consideration.
Oromo culture and language have been banned and their identity stigmatized, becoming invisible and unnoticeable within mainstream perspectives.

Ethiopians from Oromo group marching a road after protesters were shot dead by security forces in Wolenkomi, Addis Ababa, December 15, 2015

Oromos saw themselves as parts of no part — those who belong to the country but have no say in it, those who can speak but whose voices are heard as a noise, not a discourse.
When the current government came into power a quarter of a century ago, it pursued a strategy of divide and rule in which the Oromos and Amharas, the two largest ethnic groups in the country, are presented as eternal adversaries.
Oromos are blamed as secessionists to justify the continued monitoring, control, and policing of Oromo intellectuals, politicians, artists and activists.
By depicting Oromo demands for equal representation and autonomy as extremist and exclusionary, it tried to drive a wedge between them and other ethnic groups, particularly the Amharas.
This allowed the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and Tigrayan elites to present themselves as the only political movement in the country that could provide the stability and continuity sought by regional and global powers with vested interest in the region.
Although these protests are triggered by more recent events, they are microcosms [of] a more enduring and deeper crisis of political representation and systematic marginalization suffered by the Oromo people.
In its 2015 comprehensive country report titled “Because I am Oromo”, Amnesty International found evidence of systematic and widespread patterns of indiscriminate and disproportionate attack against the Oromo simply because they are Oromos.

US Influence

The United States see the Ethiopian government as a critical partner on the Global War on Terror.
This led administration officials to go out of their way to create fantasy stories which cast Ethiopia as democratic and its leaders as progressive. In 2012, then US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, described Meles Zenawi, the architect of the current system, as “uncommonly wise” and someone “able to see the big picture and the long game, even when others would allow immediate pressures to overwhelm sound judgment.”
In 2015, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman praised Ethiopia as “a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible, open and inclusive.” She further added, “”Every time there is an election, it gets better and better.” That election ended with the ruling party winning 100% of the seats in parliament by wiping out the one opposition in the previous parliament.
In 2016, President Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Ethiopia amid widespread opposition by human rights groups. Obama doubled down on previous endorsements by administration officials by describing the government as ‘democratically-elected.”

A police state

However, consistent reports by the US government itself and other human rights organizations depict an image of a police state whose apparatus of surveillance and control permeates the entire society down to household levels.
The US led ‘war on terror’, started by President George Bush, provided the government with a political and legal instrument with which the government justified severe restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
The 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, one of the most draconian pieces of anti-terrorism legislations in the world, enabled the government to stretch its power of prosecution and punishment beyond what is permissible under standard criminal and constitutional law rules.
In recent years, terrorism trials have become the most significant legal instrument frequently used by the authorities to secure and consolidate the prevailing relationship of power between the ruling ethnic Tigrayan elites and other ethnic groups in the country.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorism’, the regime exiled, prosecuted and convicted several opposition leaders, community leaders, journalists, bloggers, and activists; paralyzing criticisms of any type.
In its 2015 report titled Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent, the Oakland Institute details the ways in which Ethiopian authorities systematically appropriate the anti-terrorism law to annihilate dissent and opposition to the policies of the ruling party.

Denial

As of July, the protests have been spreading into the Amhara region, home to the second largest ethnic group in the country.
The Amharas and Oromos, which constitute well over two-third of the country’s population, are seen as ‘historical antagonists’. The ruling party transformed this antagonism between the two ethnic groups into a productive political tool.
According to the governing narrative, Oromos are narrow-minded and exclusionary people who seek to disintegrate Ethiopia into smaller republics while Amharas are chauvinists who seek to restore the old feudal order, leaving the ruling party as the only political force that can rescue Ethiopia from both threats.
These governing narratives are being exposed as the two groups begun to see how these narratives were crafted and are expressing solidarity towards each other as victims of the same system.
The Ethiopian government is in denial and making the same promises of restoring ‘law and order’ through further repression and crackdown.
However, this can only exacerbate the situation and throws the country into chaos in an already volatile region.

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More than 60 dead as Oromo protesters and Ethiopian police clash

(#GrandMarch4Oromia, 8 August 2016) At least sixty people were killed during fresh clashes between police and anti-government protesters in more than 200 Oromia cities and towns since 6 August 2016.

13876155_1667550590234168_1743565534769357291_nSaturday’s grand rally was called by Oromo activists to express deep-seated mass grievances, country-wide anguish and suffering, widespread violation of rights that is perpetrated by the TPLF regime over the past several decades.

In the past 9 months alone, the Oromo people saw one of the bloodiest military response from the regime that murdered over 600 lives, shot and injured over 5000 persons, incarcerated tens of thousands and caused forced disappearances of thousands.

The regime has also rendered hundreds of thousands landless, jobless, homeless, and placeless. It has demolished houses of thousands who have been rendered homeless and left out in the punitively cruel cold weather of the rainy season. All this is mainly, although not merely, because of the people’s decision to protest the government’s Master Plan that illegally and unconstitutionally annexed their ancestral lands in and around the Capital Finfinnee/Addis Ababa.

This Grand Rally was staged in all the major cities and district towns of Oromia. This rally was a peaceful rally expressing the people’s general yearning for a just peace.

More than 100,000 people were participated on the ‪#‎GrandMrach4Oromia‬ in all major cities and district towns of Oromia. More than 1000 people gathered amid a heavy police presence on the capital’s main Meskel Square shouting slogans such as “we want our freedom” and “free our political prisoners.”

13661959_10102461115636333_4190768285811065069_o

Police swiftly moved in to break up the protest.

“This is a mass movement of civil disobedience which is not organised by political parties,” Merera Gudina, chairperson of the Oromo People’s Congress group told AFP.

“People are totally fed up with this regime and expressing their anger everywhere”.


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At least 6 dead, demonstrations continue in Ethiopian anti-government protests

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 (ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Aug. 7, UPI) — At least six people are dead after hundreds of protesters clashed Saturday in Addis Ababa over what demonstrators perceive as unfair distribution of wealth in Ethiopia.
13876155_1667550590234168_1743565534769357291_n

Photo: Rally from Finfinnee is added by Grand March for Oromia Staff

The protests turned violent when police tried to prevent a few hundred chanting protesters from entering the historic Meskel Square in the downtown area,ENCA.com reported.

Internet access was cut to the entire country, but news of the protests leaked out through social media, De Birhan reported. Despite the shutdown of all telecommunications, videos and images of the protest were appearing on social media pages.

While Ethiopian authorities would not confirm the death count, Al Jazeera reportedthat four people were killed Saturday north of Addis Ababa in the northern Gondar region and two more were killed Friday. It is a region dominated by the ethic Amharas.

Some 500 Oromo people protesting both discrimination and what they perceive as economic equality, gathered iin Meskel Square amid a heavy police presence, shouting slogans such as “we want our freedom” and “fre our political prisoners.”

Police dispersed the crowd using batons and dozens were arrested.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn banned demonstrations on Friday, saying they “threaten national unity.” He called on police to use any eans necessary to prevent the protests.

Opposition groups from the Oromo, the country’s largest ethic group, organized the protests. For months, they have been protesting against what they see as government discrimination. The Oromo were joined recently by the ethnic Amharas who have protested in other areas of Ethiopia.

The two ethnic groups make up the majority of Ethiopia’s population. They believe they are suffering discrimination, with the government favoring the ethnic Tigrayans, giving them key government jobs and giving them favor in security forces positions.

Photo from Hailemariam Dessalegn/Twitter

 Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, on Friday, outlawed all protests, but several ethnic groups took to the streets near Addis Ababa to protest what they believe is unequal distribution of wealth and favoritism toward a minority ethnic group.Six people were killed by police.

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6 killed in anti-government protests in Ethiopia: Locals

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Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, August 6, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

At least six people have reportedly lost their lives and dozens of others been detained in anti-government protests in Ethiopia.

The fatalities were announced by locals, who said they occurred during two days of rallies on Friday and Saturday as hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Ethiopia’s northern region of Gondar, located 700 kilometers north of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Authorities in Ethiopia have yet to confirm the death toll.

Sources said some 500 people also gathered on the capital’s main square despite heavy police presence, expressing their anger with what they said was an unfair distribution of wealth in the East African country.

“We want our freedom,” and “Free our political prisoners,” the protesters shouted.

The rallies were reportedly called by opposition groups from the main Ethiopian ethnic group, namely the Oromo people.

“This is a mass movement of civil disobedience, which is not organized by political parties,” said Merera Gudina, the chairman of the Oromo People’s Congress, a political party representing the Oromo people.

“People are totally fed up with this regime and expressing their anger everywhere,” he added.

A policeman attempts to control protesters chanting slogans during a demonstration in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, August 6, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, had already announced a ban on demonstrations, saying the move would threaten national unity, and calling on police to use all means at their disposal to prevent them.

At least a dozen people had been killed in recent weeks during clashes with police over territorial disputes regarding the expansion of the municipal boundaries of Addis Ababa into Oromia, the region where the Oromo people are concentrated.

The move could result in farmers from the Oromo ethnic group being displaced and losing their land and property.

The Ethiopian government was forced to revoke the expansion project in January but sporadic protests have continued in the region.

This story from http://presstv.com/Detail/2016/08/07/478855/Ethiopia-antigovernment-protests-Addis-Ababa-Oromo.


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Oromia: Deaths and Detentions As Protests Flare

Category : Uncategorized

(GrandMarch4Oromia, 7 August 2016) At least fifty people have been reported killed over two days of protests in Oromia while dozens were arrested in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Martyred Mustefa Mohamednur, 6 August 2016

Martyred Mustefa Mohamednur, 6 August 2016

A source indicated that more than fifty people were killed and dozens of others have been detained in anti-government protests on Saturday in Oromia.

Ethiopian authorities would not confirm the death toll.

The reported deaths come as dozens of  Oromo protesters were arrested in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

At least 500 Oromo people – protesting against alleged economic inequality and discrimination – gathered amid a heavy police presence on the capital’s main Meskel Square.

The protesters, who shouted slogans such as “we want our freedom” and “free our political prisoners”, were dispersed by police using batons. Dozens were arrested.

A Reuters news agency video of the confrontation showed unarmed protesters being beaten and kicked by police officers, as protesters ran to evade arrest.

Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn on Friday announced a ban on demonstrations, which “threaten national unity” and called on police to use all means at their disposal to prevent them.

The rally was organised by opposition groups from the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, who have held protests for months against what they say is government discrimination. They have been joined recently by ethnic Amharas, and protests have been reported in other parts of the country.

The Oromo and Amhara together make up some 80 percent of Ethiopia’s population and claim they suffer discrimination in favour of ethnic Tigrayans, who they say occupy the key jobs in the government and security forces.

Ethiopian authorities told the AFP news agency that at least a dozen people have been killed in clashes with police over territorial disputes in recent weeks.

Local people told AFP there had been rallies and clashes with police in the city of Ambo and Nemekte, in the Oromo region, as well as a calls for protests in Baher Dar in the Amhara region.


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THE GRAND OROMIA RALLY FOR FREEDOM, JUSTICE, VOICE, AND PEACE!!!

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For Immediate Release 

August 5, 2016

 

cropped-13912610_922644407494_4697843083121126648_n.jpgThe Grand Oromia Rally is a national act of protest by the Oromo and non-Oromo citizens of Ethiopia to gather in unison to express deep-seated mass grievances, country-wide anguish and suffering, widespread violation of rights that is perpetrated by the TPLF regime over the past several decades.

In the past 9 months alone, the Oromo people saw one of the bloodiest military response from the regime that murdered over 600 lives, shot and injured over 5000 persons, incarcerated tens of thousands and caused forced disappearances of thousands. The regime has also rendered hundreds of thousands landless, jobless, homeless, and placeless. It has demolished houses of thousands who have been rendered homeless and left out in the punitively cruel cold weather of the rainy season. All this is mainly, although not merely, because of the people’s decision to protest the government’s Master Plan that illegally and unconstitutionally annexed their ancestral lands in and around the Capital Finfinnee/Addis Ababa.

This Grand Rally is going to be staged in all the major cities and district towns of Oromia. This rally is a peaceful rally expressing the people’s general yearning for a just peace.

During this planned Grand Oromia Rally, we expect the Oromo people to remain connected using the Internet, mobile technologies and social media platforms. We strongly urge the government to refrain from blocking communications channels, using tactics of fomenting conflicts, provoking and meting out violence and mass arrest in order for it to disrupt and restrict lawful assembly and peaceful protest. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Oromo and non-Oromo citizens are ready to gather across more than 200 districts, over 20 zonal cities and in the Capital, Finfinnee (also called Addis Ababa), to join in this peaceful protest as a part of the grassroots Oromo movement.

On August 6, as we march, we acknowledge millions who are also marching in solidarity with us. So, we march in the company of all people who, like the Oromos, were wronged by the regime’s ruthless dictatorial, at times, even terroristic practices. The Grand Rally comes at a time when the regime lost all kinds of reason by placing elite political benefit over public service, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, and most importantly privileging members of one ethnic group over those of others. Let it be known to all, near and far, local, national, and international, that we are peacefully assembled here, as it is our God-given right. Also, we feel obliged to highlight these facts as worth noting by all:

  • Oromo and friends of Oromo people are united in their anger and outrage against the sickening brutality of its military on peaceful innocent civilian population. We also like to underscore the obvious mal-governance by the TPLF regime–rampant corruption, mass arrest, mass killings, dehumanization, torture, and rape by the regime’s military that also colluded with its business and political elite since 1991.
  • The Oromo people categorically and unequivocally express their rejection of the regime; and that it has indisputably lost its legitimacy, the legitimacy it hardly had at any rate, among the Oromo people.
  • All foreign visitors and expatriates working and living in our country will be given an extra-care by the protesters. Hence, there is no need to fear. We are inherently bound by our Gadaa democracy to ensure the safety and security of our guests. To the extent the people can, they pledge their full protection to all residents.
  • On August 6, 2016, starting 8:00 AM in the morning (ganama keessaa sa’a lama akka lakkofsa Oromotti), the march will take place in all districts and zonal cities and towns across Oromia. We reiterate in the strongest of words that it is a totally peaceful march. Consequently, there will be no weapons in the rallies. Roads shall not be blocked. Government offices and officials will not be bothered.
  • Given the tendency of the regime’s military and security force to use live ammunition to shoot at the protesters from a point blank range and cruel treatment of protestors in response to the situation, the grand rally will continue to show the utmost ethical standards in terms of ensuring orderliness, peace, and non-violence. There will be no reason to fear any attack against any property.
  • Demonstrators shall march steadily and in a completely orderly procession. There will be no rushing, running, or a resultant commotion. We call upon all peace loving people to pay attention and to bear witness as we, today, march for justice, peace, voice, dignity, equality, and liberty for all.

 

Sincerely,

 

Organizers of the Grand Oromia Rally

E-mail: oromomarch@gmail.com

 

Freedom, Justice, Liberty, Dignity, and Democracy for ALL!


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The Grand Oromo March, 6 August 2016: marching for Life, Justice, Peace, and Voice

Category : Uncategorized

Today, Oromia marches. To demand justice. To lament the suffering of its people. To mourn its dead. To voice its horror, anger, and rage in the face of an act of State terror.

This is a march for peace, justice, and voice.

This is a march for life. This is a march calling for immediate cease to the indiscriminate killing of our people, young and old, male and female, worker and farmer, everywhere.
13912610_922644407494_4697843083121126648_nThis is a march for freedom of the mass of Oromo bodies that have congested in Ethiopia’s jails. This is a march against torture of our citizens. This is a march calling for the dismantling all torture chambers and all repressive institutions. This is a march for government atrocities on people. This is a march of love–to denounce hatred, institutionalized and disseminated by the regime in power. This is a march against all forms of prejudice: ethnic, religious, and cultural. This is a march for civility and moderation within and beyond our borders.

This is a march for equality of all peoples. This is a march for socio-economic justice. This is a march for immediate freeze of all acts, discourses, and acts of land grab. This is a march against the bureaucratic machine producing unnecessary suffering through eviction, demolition of houses, and dispossession of farms. This is a march for restoration of the evicted into their rightful places. This is a march for a consultatively determined, fair, and just compensation. This is a march against displacement, current and historic. This is a march against the dispossession of the poor to favour the rich. This is a march against the oppression of the powerless and the vulnerable to favour the powerful. This is a march to resist the dumping of urban waste on defenceless poor farmers. This is a march for a clean and pure natural environment. This is a march for social justice.

This is a march for voice, for the people’s truth. This is a march to be heard. This is a march for rights. This is a march for our natural rights to life, liberty, equality-in-dignity, and security of the person. This is a march for our freedoms, freedoms to speak, believe, express ourselves, write, associate, assemble, and vote. This is a march for true, equal citizenship.

This is a march for self-rule of Oromos and all other peoples of Ethiopia. This is for an immediate stop to indirect rule through mercenaries, co-opted, corrupt, and unrepresentative EPRDF cadres. This is a march for a genuine federalism. This is a march for equal recognition of the identities of all peoples in Ethiopia, a march for the respect of languages, histories, cultures, traditions, names, and all its accompaniments. This is a march to call for recognition of Afaan Oromo as a working language of Ethiopia, co-equally with other languages, including Amharic. This is a march for our rightful title over the Oromo land including the cities of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. This is a march for affirmation of our dignity on our own land, the land that is the embodiment of life, sustenance, and sovereignty for us.

Above all, this is a march for a just peace. This is a march that says NO to state-driven war against peoples. This is a march for rest in the land of our ancestors. This is a march for the state artilleries to be deflected from our peoples.

We say NO to all forms of violence, atrocities, insecurity, and any manufactured miseries. We say NO to killings, and we disavow death!

We march for life, its sustenance, reproduction, and flourish in a just, peaceful, and prosperous social order.

Nothing more nothing less.


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