Press Release: Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-based Organizations in Diaspora Strongly Condemn the Ethiopian Government’s Dictatorial Measures
Thursday, March 05, 2020
Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-based organizations in Diaspora strongly condemn the Ethiopian government’s massive arrests of the Oromo people, including opposition party members and officials, widespread campaign of intimidation, and the declaration of illegal war on civilians in Oromia and rule by military command posts.
When the opposition parties returned from exile, in 2018, the Ethiopian government agreed to provide conducive political environment and space for the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other opposition parties to participate in fair and free democratic elections. But the government immediately violated the terms of its agreement and declared war on OLF combatants who were in the process of demobilizing in western and southern parts of Oromia. Over the last twenty months, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrested and killed thousands of Oromo nationals on fabricated charges. The government is conducting unofficially declared war, intimidating, harassing and displacing thousands of people. Farmlands in Qellem, Wsetern Wallaga, Gujii, Wollo and Borana zones are destroyed. Farmers and merchants are unable to conduct their daily activities. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has declared war on these people simply because they are suspected of opposing the policies of his government and his newly declared Prosperity Party.
The ongoing war in Western and Southern Oromia and the collateral damages against the innocent citizens are disturbing. Generally, harassments, intimidations and detentions are faced by Oromo political oppositions, university students even outside the war zones. Being an Oromo makes anyone a target. Brutality is the order of the day in Oromia. There is no freedom of movement for farmers to plant, harvest, and market their crops because of unofficial marshal law imposed on them. Economic activities have been disrupted. There is no security in these regions in general. Soldiers shoot people at will because of mere suspicion. Lives are being lost everyday. The people in these regions are facing starvation because of government made disasters. Schools are converted into military garrisons. Human rights abuses are rampant. Telephone and internet communications have been cut off by the government to hide its war atrocities. A hidden inhalation is looming in the regions. The world should open up and look at the atrocities going on behind the curtain in Oromia.
In the meantime, the OLF members and supporters are enduring arrests and intimidations. With the arrest of high-ranking OLF officials on February 29, 2020, the government has taken an alarming and reckless position to disrupt, demoralize and exclude Oromo political organizations from the upcoming elections in August 2020. Abdi Regassa, OLF Executive Committee member, is still in detention. Obviously, this is a critical event which could derail the highly touted reform process and planned elections this summer. By intensifying arrests and conducting illegal war on the Oromo people, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is taking a huge gamble. The OLF is a well-established political party with many dedicated followers among the Oromo people. The party had endured years of armed conflicts, sabotage and political suppression, and has emerged as a symbol of Oromo resistance and identity. Trying to disrupt its peaceful political activities and exclude it from the upcoming elections is suicidal for the Ethiopian government. Instead, the efforts to suppress the OLF may lead to catastrophic consequences in Ethiopia. Although the Prime Minister hopes to create strong and united Ethiopia, by attacking the OLF and the Oromo people, he may facilitate the disintegration of the country very soon.
Unfortunately, the current round of arrests, intimidations, and killings are not limited to OLF Members and supporters. Members of other Oromo political parties, such as Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Paartii Biyyooleesa Oromo (PBO), are also suffering from harassments, intimidations and arrests. Recently, all Oromo parties have published a long list of their members and supporters arrested in different parts of Oromia. Ironically, while the government is releasing some prisoners who were allegedly involved in homicide, corruption and human rights abuses under the TPLF regime, it is sending thousands of Oromo youth into prison. There was no Oromo national among the 65 detainees recently released from prison. This clearly confirms what many Oromos have already known; that is, the government of Abiy Ahmed is particularly targeting the Oromo people. For example, besides many arrests and extra judicial killings previously reported, recent killings include Desta Garuma, 27 years old, young man in Neqemte, Eastern Wallaga. Desta was pursued by government soldiers when he was returning from work and was shot and killed in front of his family members near his home. Similar unreported incidents of extra judicial killings and arrests are taking place all over Oromia daily. Such heinous acts are conducted by the soldiers of the illegal command posts and the State police of Oromia. Prime Minister Abiy is the leader and the commander-in-chief of the killing squad in Oromia. He and his government are collectively responsible for the genocidal massacre in the Oromia Regional State.
Additionally, the government has imposed telephone and internet blackout on many zones in Oromia. In western part of Oromia where the government is conducting an undeclared war on innocent people, telephone and internet services were cut off for over two months. This is confirmed by General Birhanu Juula, Chief of Operations of the National Defense Forces, who, when responding to BBC- Afaan Oromoo service, admitted cutting communications to facilitate military operations in western Oromia. The government’s strategy is to hide its genocidal crimes from the eyes of the outside world. Human rights organizations should investigate these crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable at the International Criminal Court. The world should not ignore the genocidal war in Oromia simply because the perpetrator is a Noble Prize winner.
It should also be remembered that hundreds of Oromo students in different universities have been summarily dismissed and left without support far away with their families. Their crimes are being Oromo and exercising their academic freedoms. Their Oromo names on IDs were sufficient for dismissal. It is another indication that the government is harassing and attacking Oromos in different sectors of the society outside the war zone. In the meantime, independent Oromo media organizations such as the Oromo Media Network, Oromia News Network and Sidama News Network are harassed, their leaders are imprisoned, and their journalists are threatened to lose their licenses for reporting government abuses.
As the national elections are approaching, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is openly sabotaging the preparations for free and fair elections. For example, the ruling party is freely utilizing government resources to conduct party workshops, seminars and recruiting members by coercing workers and civil servants to participate in its political rallies. On the other hand, Oromo opposition parties are surreptitiously hindered from conducting their political activities by government cadres who intimidate their leaders, members, supporters, and deny them meeting venues, and impose security threats. Obviously, this will not make the elections fair and free. Instead, it invites political chaos, which could be used as pretext to postpone the elections and keep the ruling party in power. Taking all these human rights abuses and destructive behaviors of Ethiopian government into consideration, we, Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-based Organizations:
- Strongly condemn the human rights violations of the government of Ethiopia against all peoples, and the Oromo people in particular.
- Condemn the denial of telephone and internet services in Oromia.
- Demand the removal of command posts from all regions immediately.
- Request the government to stop intimidations, harassments and mass arrests of the Oromo people and members of opposition political parties.
- Request the release of all Oromo detainees and other political prisoners immediately.
- Request the end of misuse of government resources by the ruling party, coercive recruitment of members and forcing people to participate in the ruling party rallies.
- Request to facilitate level playing field for all parties and stop hindering the activities of opposition political parties by denying meeting places and opening offices covertly or through overt actions.
- Request the government and the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority to stop intimidating Oromo Media Organizations; Don’t hinder them from reporting factual, truthful news and objective public opinions.
If these abuses continue, the government of Abiy Ahmed and its local and international supporters bear full responsibility for the chaos and political crises that may result from such illegal behavior.
Signatories: Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-based Organizations
- Bilal Oromo Dawa Center
- Canaan Oromo Evangelical Church
- Global Gumii Oromia
- Global Oromo Advocacy Group
- Gumii Waaqeffannaa Addunyaa
- Horn of Africa Genocide Watch
- Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
- International Oromo Women’s Organization
- International Qeerroo Support Group
- Mana Kiristaanaa Fayyisaa Addunyaa
- Oromia Support Group
- Oromo Communities’ Association of North America
- Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington DC Metropolitan Area
- Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society
- Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organization
- Oromo Legacy, Leadership and Advocacy Association
- Oromo Lutheran Church of Baltimore
- Oromo Parliamentarians Council
- Oromo Political Prisoners Association
- Oromo Studies Association
- Spring of Life Pentecostal Oromo Church
- Tawfiq Islamic Center
- United Oromo Evangelical Church
Global Gumii Oromia
6909 Laurel Ave, Suite 5219
Takoma Park, MD 20913