Alarming Gross Human Rights Violations in Oromia, Ethiopia and a Grave Concern for the Safety of Prisoners of Conscience

By Oromo Scholars and Professionals,  July 28, 2020

Gross Human Rights Violations

To :

  1. UN Human Rights Watch; 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor, New York, NY 10118-3299 USA; Tel: +1-212-290-4700; Fax: +1-212-736-1300;
  2. UN Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner: Petitions Team, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva; 1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland); Tel: Tel.: +41 22 917 90 00; Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters); E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org;
  3. Amnesty International: 1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW, UK; Tel: +44-20-74135500; Fax: +44-20-79561157; email/General Enquiries: contactus@amnesty.org
  4. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; 31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District; Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul, The Gambia; Tel: (220) 441 05 05, 441 05 06, Fax: (220) 441 05 04; Email: Au-Banjul@Africa-Union.Org.

RE: Alarming Gross Human Rights Violations in Oromia, Ethiopia and a Grave Concern for the Safety of Prisoners of Conscience.

We, the undersigned Oromo Scholars and Professionals residing in North America, Europe, and Australia, are deeply concerned with the news of extremely alarming gross human rights violations we receive daily from Ethiopia. Allegedly perpetuated by the government of Ethiopia and its collaborators, Oromo opposition party members, supporters, activists, businesses firms and private and public organizations have been targeted. Families are not informed the whereabouts of their detained members.

In addition to being consistent with those reported by multiple international human rights advocates and defenders, such as the May, 29, 2020 and July 18, 2020 Amnesty International reports, credible news that we receive also indicate that the Ethiopian government has decided to eliminate the illegally detained leaders of Oromo opposition political parties and suppress the Oromo resistance movement once for all.[1] While the Oromo leaders are being incarcerated in unmarked underground cells, thousands of Oromos are herded in overcrowded prisons without trial and are being exposed to COVID-19.

Accordingly, we are concerned for their lives and  hereby call up on the international community, human rights organizations, governments, international financial institutions, and development organizations to remain vigilant and urgently engage the government of Ethiopia to avert the impending crisis, the consequence of which is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to predict for the country and the region.

Since Emperor Menelik II conquered brutally and forcibly incorporated Oromia into (modern day) Ethiopia 130 years ago, five successive regimes of the empire ruled over Oromia with brute force, where massacres, purges, and mass incarcerations were standard governance practices. Thousands of Oromo intellectuals, politicians, university students, activists, journalists, and religious leaders were mercilessly tortured and murdered over the years for no other reason than advocating for Oromo basic human rights and right to self-determination.

Oromo’s relentless peaceful resistance and struggles against this tyrannical rule, specially the sustained Oromo youth peaceful resistance from 2015 to 2018, forced reform within the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)  coalition. During the three years of bitter struggle that toppled the TPLF-dominated regime, over 5,000 Oromo youth were murdered, and thousands were incarcerated, paving the way for Dr. Abiy Ahmed of (Oromo People’s Democratic Organization OPDO) to be appointed as a Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Shortly after his appointment as the new Prime Minster, Dr. Abiy Ahmed announced a flurry of major policy changes that Ethiopians and international community welcomed with a sigh of relief. Among other things, he declared that political harassment is gone for good and condemned the killing of political adversaries as a sign of weakness. He released tens of thousands of political prisoners, and pardoned opposition parties previously declared terrorists and invited their exiled leaders to return home and participate in a peaceful political process. He declared freedom of speech and press and permitted private media houses such as Oromia Media Network (OMN) and Oromia Network News (ONN) to legally operate in Ethiopia. He ended a 20-year conflict with neighboring Eritrea that earned him the 2019 Nobel peace prize award in December 2019.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Abiy’s honeymoon with democracy was short-lived.  With the return to the country of the leaders of Liberation Fronts who command overwhelming public favor and support, as demonstrated by the massive turnout of supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to receive their leaders, the mood in the ruling group soured and quickly changed. The tolerant political space they promised to create abruptly stopped in its track. Contrary to the Federal system, the TPLF-led EPRDF espoused, the new regime began signaling its commitment to reincarnate the long discredited and abandoned unitary system of governance. They did this by way of reinforcing teaching Amharic as a compulsory language in all schools in all regional states in the country, portraying Ethiopia as a primarily Orthodox Christian state, and glorifying deceased emperors responsible for state designed and implemented genocide in the incorporated nations and nationalities in west, central and south Ethiopia. Advised by individuals who seek to reverse Ethiopian politics and administration to its pre-1974 imperial mold, Dr. Abiy is planning to redraw the political/administrative structure of the country by geography instead of the current map that follows linguistic boundaries consistent with the Federal form of Governance. To this end, the Prime Minster has repeatedly signaled that he is considering the revision of the country’s constitution specifically to get rid of article 39 that guarantees nations’ and nationalities’ right to self-rule, right to use their own language, and right to self-determination, including the right to establish own independent state. Arbitrarily taken, as he intends to, this will without any doubt lead the country to a disastrous civil war with serious implication to the region.

With all these authoritarian tendencies on display, the regime decided to illegally postpone the election scheduled to have been conducted in June 2010, presumably because of COVID 19, and began openly attacking opposition parties and their supporters. They deployed command posts throughout Oromia where the men and women in uniform conduct daily extrajudicial killings in Oromia, rape, burn Oromo peasant homes and produce, and incarcerate ordinary citizens they allege are OLF supporters.

Most recently, in what appears to be a crime orchestrated by the regime, a popular Oromo singer and human rights activist Hachaluu Hundeessaa was assassinated in the capital Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) on Monday, June 29, 2020. Hachaluu’s assassination is only one in a series of targeted assassinations of Oromo notables, activists, scholars, and community leaders; a phenomenon that is all too familiar for Oromos in Ethiopia. What is even more shocking is what happened immediately after the assassination of Hachaluu. Oromo businesses were destroyed in the capital city and prominent Oromo political leaders and activists were unjustly arrested and jailed, predominantly from OLF and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) leaders, including Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Dr. Shigut Geleta, Michael Boran, Gemechu Ayana, Kansa Ayana, Dawit Abdeta, Lemi Benya, Degene Tafa (reportedly contracted COVI-19 while in prison) and Chaltu Takele (single mother of a baby) and thousands other activists and journalists.  The whereabouts of leaders arrested in months and weeks leading to the killing of Hacaalu including Abdi Regasa, Yazo Kababa, and Kayo Fufa still remain unknown to their families and party.

Regrettably, private media houses such as Oromia Media Network (OMN) and Oromia Network News (ONN) which serve as the only voices of the Oromo people are closed, most of their journalists imprisoned, and their properties are confiscated by the regime. Consequently, the Oromo, who make up more than 40 per cent of the Ethiopian population and are the single largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, are without a single independent domestic TV network and newspaper to make their voice heard today.

The latest and most frightening rumor suggests some senior personalities in the ruling Prosperity Party have allegedly approved the assassination of leaders of Oromo opposition parties in their custody and the few that are not jailed. The where about of most of these political prisoners is not even known .Thus, Thus, we call upon the international community, the red-cross, and Hunan rights groups to demand access to all political prisoners and allow their families to visit them and remain vigilant and urge the Ethiopian Government to immediately and unconditionally release all Oromo political leaders.

Sincerely,

Oromo Scholars and Professionals

Signatories,

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

CC:

  1. The US Department of States; WASHINGTON, D.C. HEADQUARTERS; (202) 895-3500, Office of Foreign Missions; 2201 C Street NW; Room 2236 Washington, D.C. 20520; Customer Service Center; 3507 International Place NW; Washington, D.C. 20522-3303; Email: OFMInfo@state.gov
  2. UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Parliamentary House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA; Tel: 020 7219 4055 Fax: 020 7219 5851; Email: hammondp@parliament.uk
  3. Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada); Enquiries Service (BCI) Global Affairs Canada, 125 Sussex Drive’ Ottawa, ON, K1A 0G2, Canada; Email: Francois-Philippe.Champagne@parl.gc.ca

[1] Posted at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/05/ethiopia-rape-extrajudicial-executions-homes-set-alight-in-security-operations-in-amhara-and-oromia/  & ; https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/07/ethiopia-account-for-all-people-arrested-after-hachalu-hundesa-killing/

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