- The latest Amnesty International report accuses the government of committing atrocities against the Oromos on suspicion of being supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
- The report says at least 5,000 ethnic Oromos have been arrested between 2011 and 2014 based on their actual or suspected opposition to the government.
A rights group is once again accusing Ethiopia of human-rights abuse, which Addis Ababa has denied, saying it is fighting subversives and terrorists.
The latest Amnesty International report accuses the government of committing atrocities against the Oromos on suspicion of being supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
The report titled “Because I am Oromo – Sweeping repression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia,” released on October 28, alleges that ethnic Oromos are arbitrarily arrested, kept in prolonged detention without charges, tortured and sometimes killed by the state. OLF was branded a terrorist organisation by parliament in 2011.
“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality. This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.
The report says at least 5,000 ethnic Oromos have been arrested between 2011 and 2014 based on their actual or suspected opposition to the government.
These include peaceful protesters, students, members of opposition political parties and people expressing their Oromo cultural heritage.
Much of this repression, according to the report, was out of fear that the 2011 Middle East and North Africa popular uprisings could be replicated in Ethiopia, resulting in mass arrests of the Oromos perceived to the sympathetic to opposition.
Between 2012 and last year, Muslims staged a series of demonstrations against alleged government interference in Islamic affairs by seeking to influence who leads them.
In April and May 2014, events in Oromia received international attention when security forces fired on protesters. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested.
Amnesty International believes there is an urgent need for intervention by regional and international human-rights bodies to conduct independent investigations into these allegations of human-rights violations in Oromia.
However, Meles Alem, the charge de affaires at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi, told The East African that this is not the first time Amnesty International is producing “baseless and fictitious reports that are far removed from the realities on the ground.”
He said the Oromia is a self-governing region and since 1991, every community in Ethiopia has been enjoying the fruits of democracy and the benefits of the fastest growing non-oil economy in the region.
“Ethiopia is a progressing democracy like any other developing country. But to claim that certain communities are targeted is pure fabrication. Amnesty International is free to come to Ethiopia and verify these claims on the ground,” said Mr Meles.
Amnesty International acknowledges in the report that they have not been allowed to enter Ethiopia since 2011, but says the report is based on more than 240 testimonies, including 176 face-to-face interviews with Oromo refugees collected between July last year and July 2014, in Nairobi, Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Hargeisa in Somaliland and Kampala.
Oromo artists, writers and singers have been arrested because the government equates Oromo cultural expression with anti-government activities, fearing that cultural expression can be used as a catalyst for opposition to the government.