Witnesses at Ambo town, in West Shewa zone of Oromia said atleast three dozen Oromos were shot to death by regional security agents. One police was injured and another four Oromo protesters were also gunned down in Jimma city of western Oromia. Several hundred students have also been imprisoned. Some arrests were happening at the same time US secretary of state John Kerry was visiting Addis Ababa.
Dr. Merera Gudina, the leader of Oromo opposition parties in Ethiopia condemned the killing as “barbaric acts against unarmed students.” He also complained about the lack of media coverage on the protests and killings.
The Oromo student protests began last week after news of Addis Ababa expansion master plan spread thru out Oromia and on social media websites. Some Oromos fear that the expansion of Addis Ababa will harm the cultural, political and linguistic development of Oromia. They also say the expansion plan will hurt Oromo farmers.
Addis Ababa Background
Despite being located in the middle of Oromia, the African Union(AU) headquarter of Addis Ababa is today only 19% ethnic Oromo. Meanwhile ethnic Amharas are the majority and Amharic is spoken by everyone since it is the official language.
In 1886, the Amhara Emperor Menelik II established the city but some parts of the area were already settled by Oromos since the 1500s. They call Addis Ababa “Finfinne” in Oromo language. Oromos say they are natives to the land so it should be the capital city of Oromia and Oromo language should be official, not Amharic.
However, both the Amhara and the Oromo ethnic groups are relatively recent immigrants to the Shewa region in which Addis Ababa is located.
The oldest historical account suggests that the Muslim an ethnic Gurage kingdom, lived in most of present day Shewa since the 9th century. Then the Sabaean and Arabic speaking Walashma dynasty later established various sultanates centered at both Zeila, Somaliland and Shewa. Emperor Amda Seyon I conquered the land in the 1300s, bringing in other Semetic speakers. It was after the Adal Sultanate re-conquered the area, that Oromos then gradually immigrated to Shewa in the 1500s and they currently make-up the majority in Shewa. However, the rise of Emperor Menelik II in 1880s triggered another wave of migration to Shewa, especially to Addis Ababa, this time by the Amhara ethnic group. Thus, Ethnically mixed people and the Amharas have dominated the politics and economy of Addis Ababa the last 120 years.
The current dispute over Addis Ababa arises from Oromo fears that the Amharic speaking people of Addis Ababa will expand their influence into the wider Oromo speaking Shewa region of Oromia.