The International Oromo Lawyers Association, a non-profit Organization registered in the State of Minnesota with the objective of promoting the prevalence of the rule of law in Ethiopia, is saddened and shocked by the ongoing wanton mass killings and arrests of thousands of Oromo students, supporting parents and teachers in the State of Oromia, Ethiopia. According to information available to us from different sources including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and reputable media networks such as the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, the Ethiopian government has deployed a special armed unit (known as the death squad – Agazi) to forcefully suppress the ongoing peaceful demonstration of Oromo students who are simply exercising their fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression to oppose the so called Addis Ababa Master Plan. The Plan which is alleged to have been secretly designed by the order of few key Federal government officials is in fragrant violation of the Constitution which stipulates that any change in the affairs of the Regional States should be discussed at the parliament, the government and by the people of the respective Regional States.
We feel it is our duty to share the prevailing frustration because of past experiences, that the above mentioned “Master Plan” is nothing other than being a pretext to forcibly displace native Oromos from their ancestral land without or insignificant compensation whatsoever and to allocate the vacated land to foreign investors all under the name of development. We have already witnessed in the past ten years when the Federal Government forcibly removed ethnic Oromos from their land without any meaningful compensation and leased the vacated land to investors who converted the wheat producing land into massive production of flowers, at a time the country is facing massive food shortage. The result, as expected, did not bring development but misery to the displaced population and environmental degradation in the community. According to experts, the prevailing famine in Ethiopia, which has affected nearly 15 million people, is largely attributed to such facts of involuntary displacement of the farming population from their ancestral lands and detaching them from their traditional farming profession.
Protest against the ‘AA-Oromia Integrated Master Plan’ started within the ruling party in early 2014. When the federal government disregards these concerns, the issue turned out to be the issue of the public at large and resulted in street protest. However, the authorities preferred to subdue the dissent by force and do it quickly rather than engaging stakeholders in a genuine way and addressing the issues comprehensively. As a result, several lives were lost and properties were destroyed.
This round of protest started after the authorities reinitiated the implementation of plan. Still, the government followed similar violent crackdown and we are witnessing the killing of over hundreds of protesters, the arrest of thousands and uncalculated damages to bodily harm and property damages. There is credible evidence that the government is engaged in blank point killing of what it calls “anti-development” students and parents. Thousands of members and leaders of the well-known Oromo Federalist Congress party known for its advocacy for peaceful means of struggle, including its deputy leader Mr. Bekele Gerba, are now arrested and thrown into jails without due process of law and without any charge whatsoever. Mr Bekele was released few months ago after serving four years of politically motivated charges. Basically, the ongoing protest is far bigger than the master plan itself. While the master plan is an immediate cause; while several issue linked to corruption, dispossession, nepotism, selective justice and political marginalization of the Oromo’s under EPRDF government are the main causes.
It is a high time for the international community and key stakeholders in Ethiopia (USA, UK, EU, China, Russia and AU) to utilize their leverage to deter the crippling of the country in to a full blown civil war by the irresponsible move of the Ethiopian government. Specifically we urge you to push the government to:
Immediately stop the arbitrary mass killings and arrest of Oromos students,
Release ALL Oromo students and Opposition members (and its leaders) who are arrested and thrown into jail following the recent unrest in Oromia,
Bring to justice those who are responsible for the killing of hundreds of Oromo students and opposition members,
Repel the so-called “Addis Abeba Master Plan” and any other plan of eviction in Oromia, Gambella and other regions of Ethiopia
Implement a comprehensive reform to address the decades of marginalization, nepotism and corruption in the country
Call for a national reconciliation involving all stakeholders and fully implement the constitution of the country.
IOLA will always be more than glad to provide its time and resource to initiate any positive reform, peaceful coexistence, rule of law and help the implementation of the federal constitution in Ethiopia.
The Executive Board of International Oromo Lawyers Association (EB_IOLA)