Urgent Open Letter to The Ethiopian Government, the WHO and International Community

The Ethiopian Government should be part of the World Community in Fighting Against COVID-19 and Respecting Human Rights of the Citizens

Monday, April 06, 2020

We, Oromo Civic, Professional, and Faith-based organizations in Di

aspora write this letter out of grave concern that COVID-19 might cause preventable loss of lives in Oromia and the whole of Ethiopia upon all political prisoners, temporarily displaced persons such as refugee and homeless peoples who are extremely vulnerable because of their unhealthy living conditions. We are also concerned by the damages that could be done by the movement of the military personnel and the continued deployment of the illegal command posts in several Oromia regions during this period of fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic. At this critical global health emergency, deployment of the military should be to contain the COVID-19, not to harass, kill, displace and plunder the citizens.

COVID-19 is unprecedented pandemic, and it exerts multifaceted threats. We have no cure or vaccination for this highly contagious disease. The only tool we have is prevention and mitigation. Prevention strategies are complex, and they take place at different levels and require coordinated efforts. This necessitates the government and the public to go extra miles. The WHO recommended prevention strategies are social distancing and personal hygiene. Social distancing means being two meters apart from each other, avoiding public meetings, and restricting travels. But the Ethiopian prisons are overcrowded with political prisoners and luck clean water. These conditions put the prisoners and the general public in unnecessary public health risks.

Moreover, the ruling Prosperity Party of Prime Minister Abiy is continuously holding public meetings and forcing people to attend in Oromia Regional State, in packed halls with thousands of people for political orientation. This is neglecting or prudently violating the global health guideline- one of which is social distancing. Such action is deliberately or negligently exposing the people to the deadly virus. This tantamount to genocide.

Ethiopia also has historical practices where the movement of soldiers unwittingly led to the spread of infectious diseases from one place to another and transmitted disease-causing agents. At this time, the Ethiopian army is deployed to several regions and is serving in the command posts.

For over a year, Western and Southern Oromia zones are under illegal command posts or martial law. The soldiers of the command posts are engaged in killings, imprisoning, and harassing civilians. In those regions, farming, businesses, schooling, and other activities are either entirely stopped or significantly disrupted, and the condition has subjected the people to live in poverty and malnutrition.

Poverty and food insecurity also make people vulnerable to infections. Hence, the illegal command post has created unhealthy social conditions and generated unnecessary risks to the transmission of COVID-19. From the zones ruled by the martial law and others, people who feared the atrocities of the Ethiopian security forces are massively fleeing from their homes to major cities. Many of them are now in cities and live in overcrowded housing or homeless. In the last twenty years in Finfinne/Addis Ababa area, the Oromo people have been evicted massively from their homes with little or no compensation, and many of them are now homeless.

Resulted from the Ethiopian government’s divide and rule policies, over two million Oromos have been evicted from their homes. Most of them live in overcrowded housing, and others are homeless. Homelessness and overcrowded housing are major risk factors for COVID-19. The Ethiopian public health action plans to contain the COVID-19 needs to include housing the homeless people and respecting human rights principles.

The widespread human rights violations are causing people to flee from their homes and displacing them locally and making them international refugees. The movement of the armed forces and the displacement of civilian populations are creating fertile grounds for the transmission of COVID-19 and putting the local and global communities at risk.

Breaking the chain of transmission of infections is possible only if we effectively communicate the risk of transmissions and preventive strategies. The significance of effective communication during emergency and epidemics are well known, and the WHO gives specific guidelines. During an emergency, the information should be delivered by the most trusted institution. Mixing politics and public health is counterproductive. However, in Ethiopia, politicians are mixing their party’s political agendas with health information. Some of the Ethiopian government political figures on their Facebook pages describe their political opponents as “the Coronavirus”. The political figures who openly use detestable languages also deliberately misinforms the public. Mixing politics and health education compounded with inaccurate messaging repeal those who do not adhere to party politics and make health education ineffective. At this critical juncture mixing politics and health education and giving misinformation is counterproductive. Health education should have primacy over political indoctrination.

COVID-19 does not discriminate between the supporters of different political parties, languages, religions, and ethnic-national-race groups. In such understanding, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire among all parties involved in armed conflict. We know that human rights violations, war, and armed conflict have exposed our people to famine and HIV/AIDS. We urge the Ethiopian government to settle the political differences with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) peacefully and focus on the common enemy-the the disease-causing agent. Evidence-based public health policy directions in prevention and mitigating COVID-19 suggest the need for coordinated and multilateral efforts. Highly credible sources suggest that holding back this deadly virus is on the hand of the public, and everyone need to play their parts. This necessitates the need to build the social, economic, political, and cultural capacities of a group of people and individuals. Developing these capacities requires advancing individuals and group rights and communities’ capacity to prevent and mitigate the problem.

We, therefore, urge the Ethiopian government to respect human rights principles, release political prisoners, remove the command posts and protect vulnerable population groups such refugees, those internally displaced, and homeless individuals from the spread of COVID-19. We call upon the Ethiopian government to immediately take the following critical public health measures:

  1. Release all political prisoners.
  2. Make prison cells are consistent with the WHO recommended social distancing principles.
  3. Lift the martial law in the Oromia Regional State because it hinders people from leading a healthy life and playing their role to contain and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
  4. Stop all forms of human rights violations because it kills the aspiration of people to understand and solve problems.
  5. Stop displacing people locally or making them international refugees,
  6. Stop armed conflict and settle political differences with the OLA by a peaceful means.
  7. Overcrowded housing and homelessness are the manifestations of the ill-planned policy, and the government needs to strive to correct those wrongs.
  8. Stop holding public political meetings, because most of them do not fulfill the principle of social spacing
  9.  Stop harassing and threatening independent mass media, including Oromia Media Network and Oromia News Network and let information to freely flow in Oromia.

Respectfully,

Oromia Global Forum: A consortium of Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-Based Organizations

Signatories:

  1. Advocacy4Oromia
  2. Bilal Oromo Dawa Center
  3. Canaan Oromo Evangelical Church
  4. Charismatic International Fellowship Church
  5. Global Gumii Oromia
  6. Global Oromo Advocacy Group
  7. Global Waaqeffannaa Council
  8. Horn of Africa Genocide Watch
  9. Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
  10. International Oromo Women’s Organization
  11. International Qeerroo Support Group
  12. Mana Kiristaanaa Fayyisaa Addunyaa
  13. Oromo Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
  14. Oromo Communities’ Association of North America
  15. Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington DC Metropolitan Area
  16. Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society
  17. Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organization
  18. Oromo Legacy, Leadership and Advocacy Association
  19. Oromo Lutheran Church of Baltimore
  20. Oromo Parliamentarians Council
  21. Oromo Studies Association
  22. Oromia Support Group
  23. Tawfiq Islamic Center
  24. Union of Oromo Communities in Canada
  25. United Oromo Evangelical Church
  26. Washington DC Metropolitan Oromo SDA Church

CC:

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
Director of World Health Organization (WHO)
Avenue Appia 20 1211, Geneva
Telephone: +41-22-7912111
World Health Organization – Regional Office for Africa
Cité du Djoué, P.O.Box 06 Brazzaville Republic of Congo
Telephone: +(47 241) 39402 Fax: +(47 241) 39503
Email: afrgocom@who.int CC: chaibf@who.int
harrism@who.int jasarevict@who.int

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

  • The US Department of State (USA)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada)
  • Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (UK) Minister for
  • Foreign Affairs (Sweden)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway)
  • Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (France)
  • Federal Foreign Office (Germany)

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Africa Union (AU)
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Council of Europe,
  • UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Amnesty International
  • Human Rights Watch

MEDIA AND NEWS GROUPS

  • Oromia News Network
  • Oromia Media Network
  • Hegeree News Network
  • Radio Sagalee Walabummaa Oromiyaa
  • VOA Afaan Oromoo Program
  • BBC Afaan Oromo Program
  • Addis Standard
  • Aljazeera English
  • DW-Amharic
  • The Washington Post
  • New York Times
  • The Guardian
  • Reuters

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Comments

  1. Appeal to the International Community in general and to the UN particular,

    I pray that you are safe from COVID 19 pandemic. I hope you have read the above crises and tragedies happening to the Oromo people in front of your eyes. Please do not ignore these whistleblowing messages and let the massacres and genocide that happened in Kosovo and Rwanda happen to the Oromos in Ethiopia. I recommend that the UN should deploy a peacekeeping mission immediately to Oromia to save the lives of innocent Oromo lives. The Oromos are being attacked by the PM Abiy Ahmed colonial army and the COVID 19 pandemic.

  2. I hope the international communities will take action without further delay. It is their moral responsibilty to save the lives of many Oromo political prisoners who are ellegally detained by the current Ethiopian government under the leadership of Dr. Abiy Ahemed.

  3. Although the United Nation/UN/ vowed “Never Again!!”after the Rwandan Genocide; history is repeating itself in the eyes of the world! Another Hidden Genocide is underway behind closed doors in Oromia of Ethiopia!! Shouldn’t the UN Council take the Responsibilty for its deaf ears and blind eyes when the so unkind dictator; Abiyi Ahmad of Ethiopia infiltrates a hidden Genocide against the Oromo Nation under its Military Comand Post? Should the African Union be silent? What happened to the European Parliament; why silent?? Thousands of lives have been diminished; thousands deteriorating in prisons under heavy Tortures; hundreds of villages have been burnt down to ash in western and southern Oromia alone!! The Oromo demands an immediate Response from all responsible bodies of the global society!!

  4. After promising a leadership committed to open and democratic process, inviting exiled opposition leaders to return home and participate in a peaceful political process, Dr. Abiy has clearly demonstrated he is anything but democratic. In his recent speech at a PP members meeting now available in public domain, he has repeatedly promised the members only he and they are qualified to govern Ethiopia; thus be prepared to remain in power for the foreseeable future. How he intends to accomplish this lofty outcome is no longer secret: terrorize opposition party members, subdue, incarcerate or murder those who dare to challenge PP’s supremacy as has been the case in south and western Oromia where he has posted illegal command posts for this purpose; and keep thousands of jailed Oromo youth in crowded and appalling detention centers, exposing the to possible mass casualty of the ongoing pandemic. The international community, especially those supporting this regime should compel the regime to end this genocide.

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