Oromo Scholars and Professionals – North America, Europe and Australia

Contact: Gareemou@gmail.com, March 22, 2020

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the undersigned Oromo scholars and academics, write this letter to alert the international community that the gathering political storm in Ethiopia might lead to state collapse, with profound adverse consequences in the region and beyond. We are concerned that the deterioration in state-society relationships in the country could entail a humanitarian catastrophe that surpasses the Syrian tragedy in terms of civilian deaths and population displacement. We acknowledge that others who are following current affairs in Ethiopia might have a different projection than we do, but we believe that our collective views and perspectives – formed on the basis of our background, education and life-experiences – should carry some weight, when it comes to how international forces conduct themselves to help nudge the country in the right direction before it is too late.

All the signatories of this open letter are first generation immigrants who overcame many odds to become contributing citizens of our respective countries. Many of us are academics who have dedicated our lives to studying the causes and consequences of the multidimensional problems afflicting countries like Ethiopia, with some recognized for excellence in scholarship and teaching in their respective fields. It is thus fair to assume that we, as a collective, possess valuable insights into the political and socio-economic affairs affecting the country of our origin. Our group is diverse in terms of age and political outlook, yet we have a converging and well-founded concern about the recent political developments in Ethiopia. We are anxious that Ethiopia is heading for a man-made humanitarian disaster of first-order magnitude with far reaching consequences if remedial actions are not taken immediately.

When Mr. Abiy came to power less than two years ago – largely on the back of the grassroots movement known in the popular media as #Oromo Protests – many were intrigued by his apparent charisma and readiness to tackle the multifaceted problems facing Ethiopia, which were many and centuries in the making. Although it was obvious that his government couldn’t possibly solve some of the more structural and deep-rooted problems, many people of good will felt it was reasonable to offer him some time and space to lead the stabilization of a country that was facing what had at the time seemed insurmountable economic and political problems. For a period in late 2018 and early 2019, for instance, the country was facing a balance of payment crisis that heightened the risk of severe disruption in economic activities. Therefore, many reasonable people, including those in the opposition parties, were focused on averting the looming disaster than opposing a young politician who seemed too eager to serve and was promising that his ways of governing will be better than his predecessors.

Unfortunately, barely two years into his premiership, he has walked back his promises, and is undertaking measures and half-baked policies that are making the country virtually ungovernable and dangerous for the average person. It is our collective opinion that the following constitute serious violations of the public trust that was vested upon him when he took the oath of office, albeit unconventionally and without a popular will expressed through the ballot box.

  1. Despite the promises he publicly and repeatedly made in the early months in power to engage the opposition constructively, for which he has earned a tremendous amount of political capital internally and externally, his government is narrowing the political space through the security establishment at its disposal, by harassing, intimidating, imprisoning, and killing members and leaders of key opposition parties, in a flagrant violation of the spirit of the understanding which made its very existence possible. Difficult as it may be to believe, Dr. Abiy’s government has resumed the practices of his odious predecessors in extrajudicially jailing tens of thousands of Oromo suspected of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front, a political party that is widely considered to be the custodian of Oromo political, economic and social interests. In a recent shocking event, high-ranking members of the Oromo Liberation Front were abducted by the police from their residence in a humiliating way – without any court order – in a dramatic escalation of the government’s aggressive posture towards meaningful opposition political parties, without whose participation in the political process, the country will NOT make a single positive step towards peace and stability.We are thus deeply concerned that the planned national elections that were hoped to institute a legitimate government in the country for the first time, may not take place after all, dashing the hopes of tens of millions of people once again; or if they are conducted, they will largely be nominal and deliver meaningless results that will NOT be accepted by the majority. As a matter of fact, the aggressive actions already taken by Mr. Abiy’s government can be interpreted as the beginning of election-related violence that could get out of control and rock the country, with devastating consequences to human life, the natural ecosystem, and other resources. Given that the country is deeply fragmented along ethno-linguistic lines, and that the Oromo majority will NOT accept when its legitimate national aspirations are being compromised through shortsighted political machinations by wannabe dictators; we think that it is imperative for the international community, particularly powerful governments, to use the financial and diplomatic assets at their disposal to induce Mr. Abiy to reconsider his steps, and follow through with his promises of holding free and fair elections in a timely manner. We are convinced that Mr. Abiy is willing to put millions of lives at risk than vacate his position through the ballot box. He has openly expressed his obsessive ambition to stay in power for the next decade or so, regardless of the outcomes of the planned national elections, and we view his government’s recent crackdown on the OLF as part of his desire to decimate any meaningful opposition to his rule.
  1. We would also like to bring to the attention of the international community the undeclared war that Mr. Abiy is waging against civilian populations in Western and Southern Oromia, under the pretext of establishing law and order. It is our considered judgement that the combatants that are operating in western and southern Oromia are legitimate stakeholders in the affairs of the country, and they need to be brought into the political process through procedures that are internationally accepted. We don’t believe that the conflict can be resolved through the barrel of the gun; it can only be addressed through committed and respectful political and diplomatic engagements with the rebels. The ‘my way or the highway’ approach taken by Mr. Abiy – when it comes to resolving the outstanding issues – is not going to yield any tangible benefits to Ethiopia and its diverse population; it will only exacerbate the already fraught social divisions that define the country.In connection with this, we would like to highlight the sad reality that the Ethiopian security forces have unleashed their undisciplined personnel on civilian population that live in Western and Southern Oromia, in attempts to break their will and force them to support Abiy’s government. Murder, rape, and confiscation of private property are common places, particularly in Western Wollega; as a result, many have opted to flee their homes to save their lives, and the tragedy is only going to worsen if the government continues to stay on its current course. To hide its unlawful deeds, the government has recently turned off telecommunications and internet services in much of these areas, and one can only speculate the magnitude of the damage it is inflicting on innocent people that have been caught in the crossfires. What makes these measures particularly disturbing – arguably indicating the genocidal intent of the Abiy regime – is the fact that they are in place, even as the rest of the world is grappling with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, and responsible governments are doing all they can to disseminate information to the public using the available vehicles of communication.In a spectacularly failed attempt to wage a propaganda war on the residents of Wollega, Abiy’s government has also crossed a line that no responsible actor would dare, when it concocted a false story that Amhara young girls were abducted by unidentified Oromos living in the region. The contemptible and duplicitous ‘return our girls movement’, which was fabricated by amateur propagandists in the higher echelons of the Ethiopian government (the so-called girls were reportedly found in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region), was intended to paint a segment of the Oromo population with an ugly picture, imitating the practices of previous racist Ethiopian rulers who portrayed the Oromo people in general as brutes who have no regard for civilized norms; it was also intended to marshal the moral support of the outside world, which had rightly embraced the cause of Nigerian girls who were abducted by Boko Haram. This failed propaganda exercise demonstrates one disturbing fact: In order to stay in power, the government of Abiy Ahmed is willing to sow seeds of further mistrust and division in a country that is already saturated with internal divisions that require all-hands-on-deck to reconcile.

    Based on our insights, we are convinced that no amount of scorched-earth strategy pursued by the Ethiopian government is going to resolve the serious problems that have always bedeviled Ethiopia. The political trajectory that Mr. Abiy has set in motion is only going to replicate the tragic experiences of Syria in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, we issue this urgent call to all peace and justice loving people of the world, as well as all responsible political actors leading and representing powerful (and yes pragmatic) Western governments and institutions with global reach and vested interest in World peace, to exert the maximum possible influence on Mr. Abiy to rethink his steps, before the fire he has carelessly set in parts of Oromia consumes the entire country. We would also like to call on the distinguished members of the Nobel committee to take a stand and express their concerns about the behavior and direction of Abiy Ahmed, the committee’s most recent recipient of the highly coveted peace prize.

We will be happy to offer some more insights into these issues to any group, government, or international organization that has the stature and capacity to influence the facts on the ground in Ethiopia. We sincerely hope that western governments that have a vested interest in stemming the flow of international migrants into their countries are willing to talk to us, rather than pursuing the same old and tired policies that they have implemented in Africa for many decades now – policies that are misguided and have proven to be ineffective, mainly because African views and voices are not included in their formulation. We won’t cost you anything; we will only offer you our well-informed views in what might be ailing Ethiopia and its populations. Our main objective is to see the country of our origin make a peaceful political transition for the benefit of its long-suffering population.

Respectfully,

1.       Adugna Birhanu (Ph.D) 19.    Dessalegn Negeri (Ph.D) 37.    Moa Apagodu (Ph.D)
2.       Alemayehu Biru (Ph.D) 20.    Desta Yebassa (Ph.D) 38.    Mohammed Hassan (Ph.D)
3.       Alemayehu Kumsa (Ph.D) 21.    Galaana Balcha (MD) 39.    Mosisa Aga (Ph.D)
4.       Amanuel Gobena (Ph.D) 22.    Gizachew Tesso (Ph.D) 40.    Namara Garbaba (Ph.D)
5.       Asefa Jalata (Ph.D) 23.    Guluma Gemeda (Ph.D) 41.    Oli Bachie (Ph.D)
6.       Asfaw Beyene (Ph.D) 24.    Habtalem Kenea (Ph.D) 42.    Rundassa Eshete (Ph.D)
7.       Ayana Gobena (Ph.D) 25.    Haile Hirpa (Ph.D) 43.    Samuel Geleta (Ph.D)
8.       Bahiru Duguma (Ph.D) 26.    Hambisa Belina (Ph.D) 44.    Solomon Geleta (Ph.D)
9.       Baro Deressa (MD) 27.    Ibrahim Elemo (Ph.D) 45.    Teferi Margo (Ph.D)
10.    Bedassa Tadesse (Ph.D) 28.    Iddoosaa Ejeta (Ph.D) 46.    Tekleab Shibru (Ph.D)
11.    Begna Dugassa (Ph.D) 29.    Ismael Abdullahi (Ph.D) 47.    Tesfaye Negeri (Ph.D)
12.    Bekele Temesgen (Ph.D) 30.    Jamal Ebrahim (MD) 48.    Tesfaye Tesso (Ph.D)
13.    Benti Getahun (Ph.D) 31.    Jemal Hebano (PharmD) 49.    Thomas Baisa (MD)
14.    Berhanu Kedida (MD) 32.    Jenberu Feyisa (Ph.D) 50.    Tolawak Beyene (MD)
15.    Bersisa Berri (Ph.D) 33.    Junaidi Ahmed (MD) 51.    Workineh Torben (Ph.D)
16.    Bichaka Fayissa (Ph.D) 34.    Koste Abdissa (Ph.D) 52. Worku Burayu (Ph.D)
17.    Daniel Ayana (Ph.D) 35.    Mekbib Gebeyehu (Ph.D)
18.    Degefa Abdissa Ph.D) 36.    Mekuria Bulcha (Ph.D)

 

Government Agencies

Human Rights Groups

The US Department of State UN Human Rights Council
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada Africa Union (AU)
UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Amnesty International
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden Human Rights Watch
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France Council of Europe, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Federal Foreign Office, Germany Council on Foreign Relations, Global Communications and Media Relations
Minister of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China The Brookings Institution
Minister of Foreign affairs, Australia

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