December 17, 2015
The Honorable John McCain
2201 East Camelback, suite 115
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Dear Senator McCain,
We, members of the Oromo Community Organization of Arizona (OCOA), write this urgent letter to bring to your attention and express our deepest concerns about the violent crackdown on the peaceful student protesters in Oromia and other regional states of Ethiopia. The Oromo Community Organization of Arizona (OCOA) is a non-profit organization established and registered in Arizona State to serve the Oromo Diaspora and advocate for the human rights of all Oromo and other peoples in Ethiopia (www.oromocommunityaz.com ).
A year ago, when Oromo students protested against the controversial Addis Ababa Master Plan, the Ethiopian government used excessive force—killed at least 78 people, injured hundreds of students severely, and jailed and imprisoned thousands of protesters who are still languishing in Ethiopian prisons and hidden concentration camps. Many students who survived the violence fled the country and went into exile to escape the repression. Despite the massive opposition, the government has arrogantly continued to implement the controversial master plan, which is displacing thousands of Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands and sacred groves around Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) and other places. The Oromo perceive this eviction policy as prelude to exterminate them by destroying their culture, history, language and land.
The resent protests since the mid-November 2015 are reignited when the government recently announced its intention to implement the Master Plan at any cost. The plan proposes the annexation of dozens of towns, farm lands and rural counties to the capital city from the Oromia Regional State within 140 kilometers radius against the will of the Oromo people. Oromo student protesters reject this plan because it was prepared in total secrecy, it is unconstitutional, it is intended to evict an estimated 8-10 million farmers from their ancestral lands, and because it is now imposed on the people without their consent. The peaceful protests involve elementary, high school and university students in all Oromia zones. Parents of the students—farmers, workers, school teachers, and university lecturers have joined youth protesters. At this moment, the Ethiopian government and its armed and security forces are committing the most heinous crimes against defenseless school children in all parts of Oromia. The people are facing violent government crackdown every day. The heavy-handed, excessive use of force has resulted in the death of more than 110 victims and critical injuries of thousands of peaceful people. Hundreds of students are taken into custody and facing torture and death. Because of the governments draconian press laws and the criminalization of independent media, it is, however, difficult to account for all victims of this brutal crackdown at this moment. But we have received credible reports of the death of 72 victims out of which list of the following students and farmers are at our hand:
- Gezahegn Oliqa, University of Haramaya, murdered on December 1, 2015.
- Gutu Abera, High School student, Western Wallaga, killed on December 2, 2015.
- Karrasa Chala, Guluso, Western Wallaga, killed on December 2, 2015.
- Dabala Tafa, Chancho, North of Addis Ababa, killed on December 2, 2015.
- Dajane Sarbessa, High School student, Tole, Western Shawa, killed on December 3, 2015.
- Muftah Junedi, High School student, Western Hararge, killed on December 5, 2015.
- Muraddin Abdi, High School student, Eastern Hararge, killed on December 7, 2015.
- Bekele Soboka, High School student, Western Shawa, killed on December 8, 2015.
- Bekele Seyfu, High school students, Inchini, Western Shawa, killed on December 8, 2015.
- Ebbissa Mebratu, father of four, Finchaa, Eastern Wallaga, killed on December 8, 2015.
- Fikadu Girma, high school, Gedo, West Shoa, killed on December 11, 2015.
- Nasruddin Mohammed, Arsi, Adaabba killed on December 10, 2015
- Misir Haji Namo, Arsi, Adaabba, killed on December 10, 2015
- Tilahun Girma, 8 years old, elementary school, Babichi, West Shoa, killed on December 10, 2015
- Lucee Gamachu , West Wollega, Killed on December 8, 2015
- Ayana Banti Dhuguma, west wollega, Killed on December 8, 2015
- Kenasa Lenca, west wollega, Killed on December 8, 2015
- Bu’ee Dhaba, West Shoa, Killed on December 10, 2015
- Teshale Umnessa, Killed on December 10, 2015
- Bayyisaa Taaddasaa, west shoa, Killed on December 11, 2015
At this moment, as the protest intensifies, the government is escalating its brutal crackdown. The lives of thousands of young men and women are threatened every hour. They are dying while the government that torments them is receiving lavish economic, military, and diplomatic support from the rest of the world, including the United States.
We, members of the Oromo Community Organization of Arizona (OCOA), are hardworking and tax paying citizens and permanent residents of the United States. While we are contributing, through the taxes we pay, to the support that the Ethiopian government receives from the United States; our relatives—elderly parents, brothers, sisters and children—face tragedies of jail, torture and death daily. We agonize and endure immense psychological pain from the suffering and the physical torture of our relatives in Ethiopia. We love this country for what it stands—freedom and human liberty, and for what it has done for us and to generations of immigrants before us. It is unacceptable that the United States, the champion of democracy and human rights, is standing by silently and watching a murderous regime committing heinous acts of terror on defenseless students and their parents. We hope the United States government listens to our voices, feels and understands our pain. The sufferings of defenseless people need and deserve the support of this great nation.
Dear Senator McCain,
We understand that what happens to the Oromo people in Ethiopia does not make the headline news in United States. But the Oromo are very important people. They occupy the largest region in Ethiopia, both in terms of population size and land mass. Their land is endowed with rich natural and mineral resources and serves as the backbone of the Ethiopian economy in all sectors—agriculture, industry, trade, and tourism. Oromo farmers produce one of the finest coffee (globally traded as Ethiopian coffee) which many US citizens consume daily. As we have warned earlier, there is a substantial risk in ignoring the sufferings of such a large population in the Horn of Africa, and its growing Diaspora communities, here in the United States. The situation in Ethiopia is getting worse every day. Continued US support of the EPRDF regime at the expense of the defenseless students, farmers, workers and professionals casts a very bad image on the United States’ foreign policy in the region, and poses serious security consequences for the people and states in the Northeast Africa.
We believe every human being deserves to be treated with utmost respect and dignity. We condemn any kind of violence that dehumanizes human beings and threatens the wellbeing of the society. When the youth of our country of heritage are gunned down daily by a brutal regime, our hopes for their better future are shattered. We also believe that the Ethiopian government is directly responsible and should be forced to account for the atrocities against young people. The United States government should not ignore the undemocratic and brutal practices of this authoritarian-terrorist regime. We, therefore, request that the United States:
- Condemns the brutal acts of the Ethiopian government, and ensures these acts stop immediately.
- Reconsiders or limits all assistance to Ethiopia (including economic, military and diplomatic), except temporary humanitarian aid.
- Advises the US business community to limit or divest all investment projects from Ethiopia until the government ceases its violent behavior and treats citizens fairly and resolves differences peacefully.
- Encourages all allies and the international community to condemn the violence and use their political and diplomatic leverage to change the behavior of the Ethiopian government.
- Urges the Ethiopian government to immediately stop the implementation of the controversial Addis Ababa Master Plan.
- Pressures the regime to release all political prisoners (including students and other protesters detained recently or earlier).
- Pressures the Ethiopian government to establish an independent commission to thoroughly investigate the incidents occurring since April 2014, and bring the criminal perpetrators to justice swiftly.
We trust Senator McCain and his power to influence the United States government to help stop the violent crackdown in Ethiopia and save the lives of Oromo students and their parents.
Oromo Community Organization of Arizona (OCOA)