To: Members of the Diplomatic Community:
We, the Executive Committee Members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), a legally registered political party, make an urgent appeal to members of the diplomatic community on behalf of the Oromo students and the larger Oromo population.
The Ethiopian government is committing an atrocious act of brutality against Oromo students and the larger population, who are peacefully protesting across Oromia for their rights. Consequently, most universities, colleges, high schools as well as elementary sections across Oromia are also closed. Far worse, for the last four weeks, over 85 students and ordinary citizens have been mercilessly killed; thousands have been wounded while several thousands have been detained. Moreover, the government security personnel have targeted our members who were candidates and observers during the 2015 elections. None of the imprisoned persons are charged with any crime and brought to the court of law as the Ethiopian law requires. We think, the arrogance of the Ethiopian regime comes partly from the lack of serious pressure from the international community, especially from countries such as the US and the African Union, which watches the senseless drama silently.
As you might aware, the Oromo youth and the larger Oromo population are demonstrating against the so-called Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia towns Integrated Development Plan (Master Plan), which was done without the consultation of the local population whose livelihood, depends on land. Similar opposition to the same plan in 2014 claimed not less than 78 students’lives in Ambo town and other Oromo areas. No one was made accountable for that vicious act.
The Ethiopian government that shelved the plan for one year arrogantly revived it recently, provoking a fresh unrest. During this interregnum, except in few limited areas, at that under a controlled environment, the government did not conduct any discussion with the Oromo population on the Master Plan and its effect on poor Oromo farmers. Furthermore, none of the opposition parties and independent civil organizations was consulted as stakeholders. Sadly, for its brutal killing of students in 2014, the Ethiopian regime did not face any condemnation from the donor governments which prop up the regime except the western-based human right organizations, which did a good job. Thus, encouraged by the silence from the diplomatic corps and their foreign governments, it is now repeating the same act with a new vigor and sense of impunity.
Contrary to the claim of the Ethiopia government, the Oromo students and population are not against development per se. The Oromo students are protesting against massive land grabbing and the displacement of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land under the guise of development in several places. For your information, we have evidence that shows – after the 2005 elections alone more than 150,000 farmers were displaced with their families from the environs of Addis Ababa and nobody knows as to where about of these farmers and their children. Land is not just a material possession for the Oromo. It is intimately tied to their way of life and who they are. Thus, the Oromo students are also protesting against the systematic destruction of their traditions, values, language and other distinct Oromo traits that follow the loss of their ancestral land. Moreover, students are protesting the de facto annexation of Oromian territory that follows the implementation of the Master Plan that envisages encompassing nearly 3 times the current boundaries of the city. This is not only land grab, but also power grab, dismantling of the federal system and an existential threat for the Oromo.
Even before the implementation of the Master Plan, the City of Addis Ababa had exponentially grown horizontally into the peripheral Oromia territory. As a result of this, hundred thousands of farmers have continued to be disposed of their land, the only basis of their livelihoods. As indicated above, thousands who were disposed of their land at a nominal compensation have left their ancestral land and some of them moved to the harsh and unforgiving city life in Addis Ababa where they have become either homeless, daily laborers or beggars. The Master Plan is the continuation of the massive land grabbing across the country in such places like Gambella, Beni-Shangul, Afar and Oromia. Far worse, the corrupt government officials and cadres are recklessly displacing poor farmers for their own personal enrichment.
We strongly believe that looking away from the crimes of the Ethiopian regime and allowing it to terrorize millions of its citizens under the guise of fighting international terrorism is both morally as well as politically wrong. And partnership in fighting international terrorism should not be taken as a license to kill innocent citizens by authoritarian regimes such as that of Ethiopia. As we write this appeal to you, the Oromia region is under a practical state of emergency where the army, the federal police and other armed units of the regime have become the law of the land by themselves. Therefore, we urge you to put an utmost pressure on the Ethiopia government to stop its senseless killings and cease to use excessive force. We further request you to support the legitimate question of the Oromo students and ask the Ethiopian government to immediately stop the implementation of the Master Plan, release imprisoned students and other citizens as well as bring to justice those who have used excessive force against the peaceful demonstrators. As this is also a delayed reaction to the total robbery of the May 2015 elections by the EPRDF regime, we urge you to advise the regime to engage the country’s democratic forces by opening up the political space for all the concerned stakeholders so as to find a durable solution through a national dialogue.
For the OFC Executive Committee, Merera Gudina (PhD) & Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations,
Chairman, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)
Vice – Chairman & Head of Foreign Affairs of MEDREK.