Oromia-Ethiopia: Ethiopian Govt Spokesperson Says Oromo Political Prisoners Shouldn’t Be Called “Oromo”
Referring to the the case of the 100 forgotten Oromo political prisoners in Oromiyaa, VOA’s Peter Heinlein reports on his May 17, 2012 coverage of the trails of these political prisoners:
“Almost forgotten has been the case of more than 100 ethnic Oromo political activists. Prosecutors have alleged they were involved with the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF.
Oromos are the largest of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups, and the defendants include top leaders of the two main Oromo opposition parties, as well as former members of parliament.”
Continuing, the report says the Government Spokesperson, Mr. Shimeles Kemal, has advised journalists to not call the Oromo political prisoners “Oromo.”
“Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal strongly denies there is any intent to crack down on ethnic Oromos. He accuses opposition groups of trying to steer the issue to their own advantage. ‘[The] government does not espouse a policy that would precisely target certain members of ethnic groups, isolating them, and prosecuting them. So you journalists, you should not stick an ethnic tag to cases. You should be careful because it would sound like the government is prosecuting a certain tribe or ethnic group. This is misleading,’ he said.”
Two of the 100 Oromo political prisoners are Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM), and Olbana Lelisa, a spokesman for the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) – both have been imprisoned since August 2011.
Human rights organizations have widely reported the persecutions of Oromo nationals by the TPLF-led Ethiopian government since 1991. And, the recent report by The Advocates for Human Rights, a Minnesota-based human rights organization, lists a number of human rights violations by the Ethiopian government against the Oromo people. Some of the violated human rights of the Oromo people include the right to self-determination, the right to work (in which, in several cases, Oromo job-seekers are forced to change their Afan-Oromo names and hide their Oromo-ness in order to get jobs), the right to education, and the right to take part in cultural life (it’s to be noted that Macha-Tulama Association’s leaders and supporters are currently in prison for promoting Oromo culture and history). The report, by The Advocates for Human Rights, had been submitted to the 48th session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- Here’s the full report from VOA (May 17, 2012) – “Trials of Politicians, Journalists Test Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law”
- Report by The Advocates for Human Rights: Ethiopia – Violations of the rights of disadvantaged ethnic groups protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
RELATED: Video – Mr. Tony Beasley, a representative from The Advocates for Human Rights, a Minnesota-based human rights group, speaks at the 4th Oromo Awareness Day at the University of Minnesota (UMN) on April 9, 2012 about the human rights violations against the Oromo nation by the TPLF regime, whose military occupation of Oromiyaa began in 1991.