In the last four weeks furious clashes have occurred between peaceful Oromo protesters and Ethiopian security forces. Protests erupted in opposition to the government’s Addis Ababa Master Plan, which protesters fear would expand the capital into the towns and rural areas situated in the outlying zone of Oromia.
Students, urban dwellers, and peasants across Oromia are peacefully demonstrating rejecting the violent imposition of the so called Master Plan, which, if implemented, will lead to the mass eviction of poor Oromo farmers from their ancestral land to make way for the capital’s expansion. Moreover, the protests highlight the thorny and complex relationship, both historical and contemporary, between the Ethiopian state and the Oromo society. It reveals the deep-rooted struggle over identity, resources, and rights.
We are extremely saddened and disturbed by the heavy-handed response by the security forces. Thus far dozens of Oromo students and other civilians have been killed and hundreds have been detained. We strongly condemn this savage act unleashed against our compatriots trying to peacefully exercise rights supposedly guaranteed by the country’s constitution.
The Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) opposes the implementation of the so-called “Addis Ababa and Surrounding Oromia Zone Special Zone Integrated Master Plan” because of the following reasons:
First, Ethiopia’s capital has to date failed to reflect the transformation of the country into a multinational federation by still continuing to project the image of a single nation. This has to be corrected by affording all nationalities to put on display their voice and existence by various means such as: having cultural centers, naming streets buildings, squares and other facilities after them, erecting statues honoring their heroes, histories and cultures. These measures and other creative policies should be implemented in order to demonstrate the diversity entailed in the current multinational federal system. So long as the capital continues to exhibit the dominant characteristics of a mono-culture, mono-language, a single identity and the socio-economic interests of particular urban elite, it is no wonder that the Oromo are rallying in opposition to the capital’s expansion. In fact, it is in the interest of all supporters of the multinational federation to reject the implementation of the so-called Master Plan.
Second, the so-called Master Plan is ill-advised seen from the Oromo perspective because any plan concerning the capital must be preceded by passing a law protecting the “Oromia’s special interests” as stipulated in Article 49 (5) of the constitution. The Master Plan violates the basic spirit of the constitution by evading the special interest of Oromia and imposes the interest of the city on the surrounding zones of Oromia on the contrary.
Third, viewed from a historical context, the Plan fails to address and redress the previous wounds that were inflicted upon the Oromo people when the capital and other towns were created as the camps of the conquering armies. History attests that the Ethiopian capital and other cities in Oromia had been built by forcefully dislocating and evicting the Oromo people from their ancestral lands. It is also wise to remember that the imposition of politico-military garrisons on the Oromo people during the occupation had bought dramatic demographic changes, whose effects reverberate and resonate with the Oromo. The Master Plan further institutionalizes the injustice committed against the Oromo people in the last century.
Fourth, the process of imposing the Master Plan from the above without consulting the concerned population is incompatible with the principle of democratic governance. It violates the federal principle by ignoring and overstepping pleas even by the regional government not to rush towards implementing the plan.
Finally, one of Ethiopia’s major ills has been the concentration of employment creating opportunities in the capital. Urbanization and the promotion of industrial development should be spread out to afford everyone equitable opportunity.
Cognizant of the gravity of the situation, the ODF calls on the Federal Government to desist from further security measures and instead take the following steps:
Publicly and unambiguously annul the controversial Master plan, which has triggered and is fueling the ever-widening civil unrest.
Set up an independent commission of inquiry that investigates and reports the finding on the death of Oromo protesters and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Release all detained students and civilians and free all political prisoners and journalists.
Take practical steps to allow Ethiopia’s diverse nations and peoples composing the country’s population to display their identity in the capital by naming streets, buildings, and squares to freely celebrate their particularities in the capital.
Pass a law protecting Oromia’s “special interest” clause of the constitution.
Scrap laws and measures instituted during the last decades to stifle dissent.
Muster the political will necessary to open a level playing field for the domestic opposition and allow groups operating outside the country to freely and legally participate in shaping the country’s future.
Initiate an all-inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders to move the country forward.