Oromo Protests and Ethiopian Repression: Overview
The current round of Oromo protests is a continuation of previous peaceful protests against the government’s illegal land grabbing. The Ethiopian government massacred over 78 university students in Ambo in 2014 but left their questions unanswered. The current protests ask the same unanswered questions but they also raise deeper grievances and longstanding issues of injustice, identity and fundamental human rights. They particularly focus on the brutalities of the last 25 years of totalitarian repression to which the international community has turned a blind eye.
Ethiopia and the World
Ethiopia is a darling of both the West and the East of the now unidentifiable Cold War divide. In the West, Ethiopia is praised for being a key ally in the war on terror and for hosting refugees. In the East and the Middle East, she is celebrated for opening up the country for land grabbing.
Both sides applaud Ethiopia for creating the fastest growing economy in Africa and for allowing their banks and companies access to land and investment for economic development.
What is hidden in the praise for hosting refugees is the mind-boggling number of refugees that Ethiopia herself produces by turning the country into a bloodbath for dissidents. What is hidden is that some of those who flee atrocity cannot make it to asylum or resettlement because the Ethiopian regime hunts them down and captures them, because they are eaten by wild animals, or because they drown in oceans and big seas in their desperate attempt to reach safety.
What is hidden in the praise for Ethiopia’s alliance against terrorism is the barbaric terrorism of the Ethiopian state itself. What is hidden is that Ethiopia uses its anti-terrorism proclamation as a weapon for silencing any form of dissent. What is hidden is that many thousands of innocent political opponents, journalists, artist, musicians and peaceful protestors are marked as terrorists and beaten, jailed, tortured, killed, or otherwise exiled.
What is drowned out in the applause of economic development is the staggering human cost of land grabbing and the brute bestiality of Ethiopian state terrorism to snuff out indigenous land claims. The savage massacre of thousands of innocent indigenous peoples in Gambella, Ogaden, Oromia, Tepi, and Wolkayet are only a few examples of genocidal ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that the Ethiopian government commits in the name of development.
Social Engineering: Minoritizing the Majority
Ethiopia is an incredibly diverse multinational and multi-faith state of 100 million people. The Ethiopian government is admired for its bold attempt at ethnic federalism in order to address the controversial national question and foster democratic relations among its diverse polity.
What is hidden, however, is that the so-called ethnic federalism is a sham and the incredibly beautiful diversity is eclipsed by the totalitarian repression of a single-party dominated by a handful of elite, namely the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from a minority national group from Tigray.
What is hidden is that this minority clique from Tigray clings on to power by pitting nations against nations, by muzzling free expression, and by jailing, killing and exiling its political opponents. What is hidden is that this repressive clique used iron fist over the last 25 years to entrench its exclusive empire. What is hidden is the extreme greed and lust for power that put a tight absolute control of the country in the hands of a few hand-picked TPLF members.
What is hidden is that Tigray, the nation from which the TPLF clique hails, makes only 6% of Ethiopia’s population but this clique takes exclusive absolute control over the politics, economy, military and media of the entire country. What is hidden is that Oromos constitute 90% of political prisoners while they are only 40% (close to 40 million) of Ethiopia’s population.
What is hidden is that the late Meles Zenawi, the architect of the current TPLF Empire, had vowed to destroy those he considered major threats, particularly the two most populous nations, Oromos and Ahmaras. He vowed to reduce Oromos to a minority because of their numerous population and their crucial demographic, geographic, and geopolitical centrality for the entire Horn of Africa region. As for Amharas, he vowed to break their dominance because he fostered vengeance against them for what he saw as their former ruling-elite chauvinism.
What is deeply hidden is that his policy of destruction is being carried out through the social engineering of mass evictions of people from ancestral lands, mass massacre of those who resist, permanent mass exile of those who manage to escape, mass incarceration and genocidal ethnic cleansing of those who remain. What is hidden is that fertile land from which indigenous peoples are massacred or illegally evicted without compensation is given to TPLF members or leased to foreign investors for some ridiculous 99 years. What is hidden is this silent TPLF take over, TPLF turning itself into a majority though social engineering and political vote-rigging.
What is not so hidden is that the shameless declaration of 100% election victory (read 0% dissent tolerance) in May 2015 by the cliquish ruling party is a suicidal pill at the culmination of its lust for power. What is not so hidden is that this victory is an utter failure incurred through merciless killing, jailing and harassment of people and broad-day robbery of their ballots. What is not hidden is that the 100% victory of 2015 is the grand finale of the 2005 election where this clique massacred over 200 opposition party protestors and robbed them of their election wins.
One thing is deeply troubling: the TPLF clique is committing all the mind-boggling atrocities with utter impunity under the watching eyes of a world that fails to take any meaningful action to stop the carnage. What is troubling is that tyranny is rewarded as good governance, emboldening the regime to continue with its genocide and ethnic cleansing. What is troubling is Ethiopia’s economic development is celebrated even as its most vulnerable children are exposed to famine.
What has become obvious, however, is that all the praised economic development has not spared the cliquish regime from begging food aid for 20 million of its fellow citizens facing starvation. What is so obvious is that, although drought may be the result of El Nino and climate change, food scarcity is the result of the greedy clique gobbling up the wealth of the entire nation.
Impunity or not, the people seem to have discarded the regime. The peace-loving ordinary people of Ethiopia, people renowned for their strong forbearance and unlimited patience, have now run out of patience. These law-abiding people are confronted by a totalitarian clique that refuses to abide by any law, including its own constitution. The people have now said: enough is enough!
The peaceful protest triggered in the largest and most populous nation of Oromia is spreading to the entire country. People are turning its claim of 100% election victory inside out. They are demonstrating their overwhelming rejection.
Focus on Oromo Protests
March 12, 2016 marks exactly four months of the ongoing Oromo peaceful protests which started on November 12, 2015. The protests have rocked every corner of Oromia and they are spreading to other parts of Ethiopia. They started in response to the illegal land grabbing by the government, which left millions of indigenous Oromo farmers landless and homeless. This was in utter violation of their constitutional rights and fundamental human rights.
Primary and high school students, the children of the farmers who felt the pinch, started the peaceful protests which quickly engulfed the entire state of Oromia. Instead of listening to their legitimate grievances, however, the Ethiopian government responded by unleashing its military forces and mercilessly beating and killing unarmed peaceful protestors. Marking an entire nation as terrorist and turning its defence forces against its own citizens, the government dissolved civilian administration and imposed a martial law. The besieged state of Oromia is now ruled by eight of the country’s top war generals under the central command post of the Prime Minister.
Soldiers are now ravaging the Oromo communities. Over 450 peaceful protestors have been massacred, including many children and pregnant women. The death toll continues to rise as bodies are still being discovered in the ditches, forests and rivers. Mothers are killed while protecting their children. Elders as old as 80 are killed alongside children as young as 2. Many thousands are savagely beaten and maimed. Over 12, 000 are jailed and tortured. Mostly young students are being targeted. Soldiers are regularly breaking into university dormitories, beating students and raping young women. They are regularly breaking into private homes, beating men and raping women in front of their families. Girls as young as 12 are gang raped by soldiers.
The carnage continues today, four months into the protests. Ongoing appeals to donor nations resulted in some public condemnations of the atrocities but fell short of taking meaningful action. Sadly, western governments have pushed human rights and justice to the back burner, prioritizing security and the economy.
Please share this information with all who care about human lives and human rights. The claims made here are all documented in the accompanying Info Kit [pdf file] for your reference.