Urgent call to UN and international community
January 20, 2020
To: The United Nations Security Council
Office of the Ombudsperson
Room DC2 2206
New York, NY 10017
United States of America
Tel: +1 212 963 2671
Subject: Urgent Appeal to stop the killings of innocent civilians in Oromia/Ethiopia
We, the undersigned Oromo Civic and Professional Organizations, write this letter to you, because we are seriously concerned about the violence in Oromia/Ethiopia resulting from the government’s deliberate military aggression and occupation under the command post in Wallaga, Gujii, Wollo and Borana zones of Oromia Regional State, and the violence against Oromo students at universities in Amhara Regional State.
At a time when the country needs peace and stability as it moves closer to the national elections scheduled to take place in August 2020, the Ethiopian government is expanding its military operations in Wallaga, Gujii and Borana zones. In the meantime, Oromo students are violently attacked, some seriously injured or killed, at universities in Amhara region since August 9, 2019.
First, the Ethiopian government military operations in western and southern Oromia began shortly after the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leadership returned from exile in September, 2018. Although the OLF agreed to participate in peaceful political processes in Ethiopia, the government deployed the National Defense Forces to Wallaga, Wollo, Gujii and Borana in December 2018 alleging to suppress armed OLF combatants. Instead of giving peace a chance, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rushed to declare war, on small group of OLF fighters who did not disarm, without adequate consultation either with the OLF or other stakeholders. Nor did the prime Minister present the case to Parliament, as it is required by the Ethiopian Constitution before imposing a state of emergency on any people. But these Zones were placed under illegal military Command Post since late 2018.
Going on for over a year, the conflict in Wallaga, Gujii, Wollo and Borana Zones have disrupted the lives of peaceful population and normal economic activities. It is now reported that government soldiers are engaged in burning of houses, destroying the farmers’ corn fields, coffee trees and forests to flush out armed combatants. Using the Command Post control the government has suspended the constitutional rights of the people, and has arrested thousands of farmers, merchants, students, teachers and civil servants. There are now about 9,000 Oromos in various detention centers throughout Oromia, including those in Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) prisons. Despite the government’s claims that prison conditions have improved since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018, the detainees are still exposed to horrible treatment. This is confirmed by Colonel Gemechu Ayana who was released from one of these prisons in December, 2019, after spending eleven months on fabricated charges.
Tragically, many innocent people are still injured, maimed, or killed daily by Ethiopian security forces. For example, last year on June 9, 2019, Kaku Tesfaye, a five-year old child and his father were shot at Gaara AbbaSeenaa, West Wallaga Zone. Kaku lost one of his legs and spent several months at St. Paul Hospital in Finfinnee. He still needs long-term treatment. His family is still unable to return to their home in Qellem, Wallaga. On December 5th 2019, Reverend Ittefa Takatu Rebu, an evangelical Pastor and Superintendent of Garjeda Chabel Parish of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus was arrested by government security forces, taken to Kebe and in the same night brought to his home area near Wallel mountain, killed and his body was found near Full Gospel Church of the area. Earlier, on July 24, 2018, Birhane Mamo, a pregnant woman in labor was shot and killed on her way to a hospital in Dambi Dollo. Unfortunately, her unborn baby also died with her by bullets fired by government forces.
Ironically, while so many innocent people are suffering and dying due to illegal, undeclared and unreported war in these parts of Oromia, the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, is being awarded Noble Peace Prize for 2019. This is unconscionable. Even if he was awarded presumably before these tragic incidents are known to the Committee awarding the Noble Prize, as a recipient of such prestigious award for peace, the Prime Minister is morally obliged to end this illegal war. The award should be for the past, present, and future peace deeds. Not living according to the principles should have consequences. Thus, he should take full responsibility for the arrests, displacements, injuries and deaths of hundreds of people in the conflict zone. The killings were going on long before he was awarded. The award committee either turned a deaf ear to his actions, or simply ignored it or did not make any investigation of the actions and behavior of the Prime Minister when it decided to award.
Second, since August 2019, violence on university campuses in Ethiopia is disrupting normal teaching-learning process and the government has failed to find any solution. At universities in Amhara region, violence has claimed the lives of at least eight Oromo students, including Adi Waaqo Boru, Masho Umar Mohammed and others. Many others are wounded or injured. Almost all of the students killed were Oromos studying at the universities in the Amhara Regional State. But regrettably, the Amhara Regional State, its police and security forces have been very slow to prevent the violence or turned a blind eye to the attacks not to save the lives of these students. Even worse, many students have reported to the media that, the state police and security agents are protecting and sheltering the perpetrators of violence while preventing Oromo students from leaving the region. Many Oromo students were stranded in several cities, such as Bahr Dar and Gondar, and were neither able to continue their education nor return to their parents in Oromia for several weeks. Sadly, only the dead bodies of the victims were returned to their relatives.
One of the most important responsibilities of any government is protecting the safety and security of its citizens. Unfortunately, both the federal and regional governments have failed to avert violence on college campuses and in several communities. The failure of both regional state and the federal governments to stop the violence is a great tragedy. They could not continue to blame the problem on others while they are miserably failing to fulfil their responsibilities.
We believe that the violence and deaths of students on university campuses resulted from hasty and ill-advised decisions by the federal government and its Ministry of Science and Higher Education in assigning students randomly to universities far away from their homes. It is not clear why the government preferred to do this. Although the policy could be justified on pedagogical grounds, sending thousands of students away from their cultural networks without their choices, inadequate financial and social support creates a huge social stress and tensions that have now resulted in deaths of so many innocent students. For example, it is reported that 72,000 Oromo students are assigned to universities in Amhara region.
Although the federal government and the Amhara Regional State bear full responsibility for the ongoing violence at universities in the Amhara Region, the killings targeting Oromo students in these colleges and universities are deplorable, a very serious matter that should concern not only Oromos but also the Amhara people and all Ethiopians. We also believe that the Oromia Regional State has not done enough to protect Oromo students from facing death outside the state of Oromia. Because of the State’s lack of protection and immediate support for the students, the killings targeted Oromo students in colleges and universities in Amhara region.
We are particularly disappointed by the failure of Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s government to act quickly when the students are attacked all over the country. The ongoing killings and harassments of Oromo students are part of the suffering of the Oromo people that Dr. Abiy’s government has ignored ever since the Primer’s advent to power.
Third, compounding the problem, besides the unnecessary escalation of conflict in Wallaga, Gujii, Wollo and Borana Zones and its failure to end the student killings, the federal government continues to stifle students who are protesting against the killings of students at universities in Amhara region. Recently, a 5th year Oromo student, Natnael Mengistu, who studies in Bule Hora University was killed on January 10, 2020 and several others were injured while they were participating in peaceful protest against the ongoing human rights violation. Moreover, the government of Prime Minister Abiy is arresting students and closing or threatening to close universities. The media reports in the last three weeks, for example, indicate that several Oromo students were detained at Addis Ababa University, and some universities in Oromia are closed when students attempted to express their concerns about the political situation in the country.
We, therefore, condemn the harassment, the killings and the escalation of violence in Wallaga, Gujii, Wollo and Borana Zones. Both the Federal government of Ethiopia and the Amhara Regional State are fully responsible for their failure to end the violence, and bring the killers of innocent students to justice. We are gravely concerned that these violence may spread to university campuses in other regions and intensify the mistrust between the two major populations - the Oromo and the Amhara.
While we understand that Dr. Abiy has inherited a troubled country, instead of addressing the problems, he added fuel to the fire. Hence, the current crisis in Oromia/Ethiopia is fundamentally his own making. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is also failing in statesmanship. He recently made a very tragic televised mistake when he reduced the Oromo nation to a group status. Reducing the Oromo nation to a group status, which actually constitutes about 50% of the Ethiopian population is national despise and disgrace. His remark has agonized the Oromo nation and eroded the peoples’ support and respect for him. The people deserve open apology from Dr. Abiy. His remark has created a wedge between him and 50% of the Ethiopian population. The rest of the Ethiopian population also should be against his despicable remark against the Oromo nation.
We call upon the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, The Arab League, the United States Government and all other donor governments, and the world community at large, to put the necessary pressure on the Federal Government of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to end the war in Wallaga, Guji, Wollo and Borana regions immediately, and stop arresting students who are protesting government repression and its failure to establish peace and stability in the country and behave responsibly.
Signatories (Oromo Civic and Professional Organizations):
Oromo Studies Association (OSA) – USA
Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLH) – Canada & Ethiopia
Global Gumii Oromia (GGO) - USA
Oromia Support Group (OSG) - UK
Oromo Communities’ Association in North America (OCA-NA) - USA
Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organization - Germany
International Oromo Women’s Organization (IOWO) – USA
International Qeerroo Support Group – USA
Horn of African Genocide Watch – USA
Oromo Legacy Leadership and Advocacy Association (OLLAA) - USA
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