RE: Urgent appeal for peace and the ending of the suffering of our people (open letter)
By Professors: Mohammed Hassen Ali, Asafa Jalata and Asfaw Beyene
December 28, 2018
Your Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister
The Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Finfinne (Addis Ababa)
Your Excellency Dr. Lema Megersa
President of the Oromia Regional State Finfinne (Addis Ababa)
Your Excellencies Dr. Abiy Ahmed and President Lema Megersa:
We are writing this urgent appeal letter to urge you to do all in your power to thwart the looming danger of civil war and unrest in Oromia and end the long suffering of the Oromo people.
We recall that Agazi and the Somali Liyu Police conducted a very destructive war against the Oromo behind the cover of “the state of Emergency”, which resulted in the death of thousands of people. While the wider world was unaware that more than a million Oromo nationals were deliberately displaced from the border areas of eastern and southern Oromia during the 2017 calendar year. What is more, almost over hundred fifty thousand Oromo women, children and men have been forcibly removed from their homes in the Somali Regional State alone, during and since September 2017. The displaced people were settled in different camps where they were exposed to hunger and diseases. In some cases, when they protested about their conditions, they were massacred as it happened twice in Hamarssa in September and October 2017.
Since the beginning of 2018, the Somali Liyu Police frequently attacked regions of eastern and southern Oromia, including, Cinaksan, Gursum, and Babile in eastern Hararghe, Bordode in western Hararghe, and Moyale in Borana. In March 2018 more than 30 civilians, including minors, were killed by the military-run Command Post which oversaw the emergency decree. Almost 60,000 people fled from Moyale area to seek safety in Kenya. The commander who ordered the killings around Moyale and caused the flight of 60,000 people to Kenya is still in his post in Moyale. On April 15, 2018, the heavily armed Liyu Police attacked the town of Roge, in eastern Hararghe where 42 children, women and men were killed, and thousands displaced. In fact, in eastern Oromia, the Liyu police force have penetrated 200 kilometers into Oromo territory and fortified their positions.
Between November 11-18, 2018, there were repeated Somali militia attacks around Moyale, which led to displacement of 75,000 people, and the killings and wounding of several children, women and men, the burning of 236 houses and a high school. On November 27, 2018, twenty children, women and men were killed around Cinaksan in eastern Hararghe.
Additionally, since the end of September 2018 another war front has been opened in Western Oromia, where more than 220,000 people have been forcibly displaced from the Benishangul- Gumuz Regional State. The displaced people have been suffering from absolute poverty, homelessness, hunger and disease, and they do not receive adequate help from the regional and federal governments. Several schools have been closed in Wallaga, where education of thousands of students has been disrupted.
In the backdrop of these disturbing conditions, we are alarmed at the simmering conflict between the OLF on one side, and the regional government of Oromia and the federal government of Ethiopia on the other side. In the Ethiopian political culture, conflict is not resolved through dialogue, tolerance and forbearance. Rather conflict is mostly settled by war, which may bring a short-lived victory. We hope and pray that governments led by your Excellencies will not follow the Ethiopian political culture of settling conflict through war. It is very easy to declare and start a war, but it is very difficult to estimate its cost in terms of human lives, economic destruction, and long-term consequences for the Oromo and other people of Ethiopia.
We earnestly request that you give chance for dialogue with the OLF leadership. We firmly believe that through genuine dialogue, all contentious issues can be rationally discussed and settled amicably. Dialogue enables both sides to develop trust with each other and establish mechanisms and institutions with which to manage and regulate the emerging conflict. It gives both sides valuable experience during the challenging journey from mistrust to cooperation.
Your Excellencies: The road to democracy is long, treacherous, and difficult. It is a history-making process that will face many challenges and setbacks. The immediate change of policy direction in favor of peace, security and stability in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia is extremely essential for the democratic process and for survival of our nation. We strongly believe that you have a remarkable opportunity for building a legacy of inclusion, democratic stability and peaceful leadership in Oromia and Ethiopia, which will be a unique example for Africa at large. We humbly request that you exert your energy and diplomatic skills to protect the Oromo civilians, avoid armed confrontations particularly with the OLF, and create conducive political environment for building tolerance and political unity among Oromo political organizations. We thank you for your interest in the wellbeing of the Oromo and other people of Ethiopia.
- Mohammed Hassen Ali, Professor of History, Georgia State University, Georgia, Atlanta.
- Asafa Jalata, Professor of Sociology and Global and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Asfaw Beyene, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, San Diego State University, San Diego, California.