Genocide in the making in Oromia

Brief account on the Oromo protest from Nov. 2015 – Nov. 2016

By Tarekegn Chimdi (PhD)

Background

The Oromo people constitute over 40% of the total population and a single largest national group in Ethiopia. Since the date of colonization by the Abyssinians at the end of 19th century, their political, economic, social and cultural life was undermined. Historians noted that after more than three decades of fierce wars of resistance their demographics were reduced from 10 million to 5 million. They were faced with cruel subjugation, exploitation, discrimination and marginalization; forced to slavery and servitude. Their egalitarian and democratic system of governance known as Gadaa was abolished. Successive regimes in Ethiopia had been furthering their subjugation and repression through heavy-handed cruel, inhumane policies (be it under the guise of democracy or socialism). The current Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led totalitarian regime is the worst the Oromo people witnessed.

The TPLF dominated authoritarian regime ruled for a quarter of century with complete control on political, economic and social life in Ethiopia after toppling over a century old Amhara hegemony in 1991. Currently, it controls 80% of the economy through its conglomerate the Endowment Fund For the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), 98% of the military and security leadership controlled by the TPLF membership, 100% of the parliament controlled by the TPLF and its puppet People’s Democratic Organisation (PDO)s remotely operated. As a result, the TPLF elites and PDO operatives amassed billions of dollars from trading on the natural resources under their control; restricting the ownership of businesses and industries, sprawling real estates and mansions in big cities; foreign direct investment, aid and leasing millions of hectares of lands to foreign investors. The TPLF operatives benefitted from the illicitly maintained economic, political and security power without observance of the rule of law.

On the other hand, the Oromo people were faced with rampant human rights abuses and systematic repressions that were repeatedly reported by international human rights organizations and yet largely ignored. Untold sufferings and systematic repressions in the last 25 years include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, raping and torture. However, the Ethiopian government champions itself for being the fastest growing economy and key ally in the fight against terrorism to hide its genocidal character against the Oromo people. The reality on the ground shows that the Oromo people are targeted on the basis of their racial origin. As a result, over 95% of the prison cells in Ethiopia are filled with the Oromos and Afan Oromo has become the official language in prisons.

Land grabbing as a trigger to peaceful protest in Oromia

Land grabbing negatively affected the livelihood of millions of farmers and forcibly evicted from small subsistence farming, pastoral and grazing areas. Forced eviction and relocation in the name of investment that was orchestrated by internal and foreign actors, has evicted over 1.5 million Oromo farmers without their consent and compensation from around Finfinne (Addis Ababa) in the past ten years. Millions of hectares of arable land was confiscated mainly by agribusinesses from foreign multinational companies and the ruling regime (TPLF) cadres and their operatives resulted in the uprooting and destitution of the millions that led in part to further the starvation of the ten millions of peoples in Ethiopia. Such unethical and inequitable investment had been observed to yield abysmal poverty, food insecurity, broken communities, loss of identity and culture and aggravated environmental degradation. Above all the Oromo people in and around Finfinne (Addis Ababa) became the epicenter of the episode and in a way it reflects the way the Oromo people were conquered, robbed off their land and properties, reduced to serfs and slaves, and kept under inhumane subjugation.

The dynamics of the land grabbing that was aimed to expand Finfinne (Addis Ababa) by ~2000% from the current 54,000 ha to 1.1 million ha started with the horticulture industry, mainly the cut flower plantations. In less than a decade, several dozens of cut flower investments from within and abroad mushroomed within the radius of 80km surrounding Finfinne (Addis Ababa) to takeover the land from subsistence farmers that fed millions before the change of ownership. The establishment of these plantations and the expansion of real estate within the peripheries were the stepping stone to establish the boundary of Finfinne Special Zone of Oromia which later to be incorporated into the infamous “Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan” or shortly “Master Plan”, in 2014. Similarly, Midroc’s and Karturi’s farms were meant to benefit and export crop produces into their countries of origin; jatropha, castor oil and sugar cane plantations were not established on non-arable terra nulis land, but on small subsistence farms whose owners were forcibly evicted without (with small) compensation and the security to their livelihood deprived. In general, the Oromo people are deprived of their livelihood by the Ethiopian successive regimes. As a result of deep historical and current grievances, suffering from oppression, exploitation and persecution for years, the students staged peaceful protests over Oromia for years and the response were being quelled heavy-handedly by the security forces of the Ethiopian government. The announcement of the infamous “master plan” further triggered the already deep-rooted grievances to explode. The plan was opposed by the Oromos from all walks of life: Oromo political parties, civic organisations, students, farmers, etc. for several reasons as it was unconstitutional, not inclusive and without the consent of the people. Moreover, it was deliberated to destroy the identity, livelihood, culture and language of the Oromo people.

War on Unarmed Oromo Protesters

In May 2014, the Oromo students from different universities, secondary schools and the general public from all over Oromia engaged the Ethiopian government in a peaceful protest in tens of thousands to denounce the “master plan” and voice their legitimate concerns. In the demonstration that started at Ambo, 100km from the capital, more than 50 civilians were shot and killed by the Ethiopian government security forces. In total over 80 unarmed civilians were killed in different parts of Oromia the same momth. Several hundreds of unarmed civilians were injured and thousands were arrested. The Ethiopian government shelved the implementation for a while until it issued final version of its master plan in the last quarter of 2015.

On November 12, 2015, peaceful student protest broke at the town of Ginchi, 80km from the capital to the West of Addis Ababa, against the sale of Ginchi stadium to an investor and the clearing of Chilimo forest. The government security forces killed two students and the population were angered. As a result, peaceful protests engulfed all parts of Oromia within two weeks. In order to legitimize its discriminatory policies, the Ethiopian Government issued a decree for Oromia to be ruled under martial law from the end of December 2015. Over 50,000 regular and special army was deployed under the command post led by the Prime Minister, Head of Army, Police and Security Chief to stop the protest mercilessly.

In Figure 1, the maps in the years 2015 (upper) and 2016 (bottom) show the distribution of protests from November 2015 – November 2016. In the last one year, peaceful demonstrations were staged mainly by the students and farmers across almost all Oromia districts at least once. They were all peaceful until turned violent by the heavy-handed measures of the Ethiopian security forces. As shown in Figure 1, 2015 (upper) in the last quarter of 2015, there were sporadic protests in Oromia that matured to cover all parts of Oromia intensively, some parts of Amhara and other southern regional states after July 2016.

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Figure 1: the maps of the distribution of protests in 2015 (upper) and 2016 (bottom)

Table1 below shows the scale of fatalities over one year period across the states in Ethiopia. The total number of fatalities from November 12, 2015 to December 31, 2015 was 137 in total, with Oromia at 102. In the year 2016, violent crackdown from the Ethiopian security forces spread all over Oromia and a total of 1855 persons were killed in the last ten months. The security forces also reacted violently against protesters in Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Amhara, Dire Dawa, Somali and Southern Nations and Nationalities (SNNP). In the Amhara state, the protests that started in July 2016, in Gondar, was triggered by the opposition of the inclusion of Welkait district into the Tigray state. Over 233 persons were killed in this state in the last five months in Gondar, Bahir Dar etc in relation to peaceful protests. Similarly, in Konso and Gedeo districts of the Southern Nation and Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) state dozens of protesters were killed. The data shows the cause of fatalities in the Gambela, Somali, Harari and Tigray different from peaceful protests. In general, the scale and distribution of the protests and fatalities in Oromia over the other states indicate the degree of harshness and discriminatory measures carried out by the Ethiopian government and the genocide is in the making against the Oromo people.

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Table1: the scale of killings over one year period (Nov.12, 2015 Oct. 29, 2016)

By definition the killings of over 1000 people from the same social group in a year qualifies the term “genocide” and killings of unarmed civilians in mass also refers to “massacre”. The graph in figure 2 shown below covers the daily fatalities across Oromia and Finfinne (Addis Ababa) where those killed are from the Oromo national group. In the graph the killing from the beginning of August 2016 to the end of October 2016 was covered. The first peak corresponds to the killings on the Oromia grand protest staged all over Oromia on the 6th of August 2016 and over 188 people were killed by the Ethiopian security forces. On this particular day, peaceful protests were held in over 200 towns and cities across Oromia and Finfinne (Addis Ababa) (see figure 3) and tens of thousands were arrested from all over Oromia and Finfinne in inhospitable remote malaria infested Tolay, Awash Arba, Huriso and Dhedhessa military camps.

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Figure 2: the scale of killings by the security forces in Oromia and Finfinne (Aug. Oct. 2016)

The second peak corresponds to the killings at Qilinto maximum-security prison located in the southern part of Finfinne (Addis Ababa) on September 3, 2016. A local newspaper    Addis    Fortune    reported    that    the    government    security    forces indiscriminately shot at the prisoners after fire broke on the premises. The government sources report 23 prisoners died of suffocation from fire. However, the Ethiopian Human Rights Project (EHRP) put the figure to 67 and the Oromia Media Network also reported additional two killings. Local sources alleged the Ethiopian government sources for starting the fire and indiscriminately shooting the prisoners.

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Figure 3: the map showing the geographical coverage of protests in Oromia on August 6, 2016

The third peak in Figure 2 corresponds to the Irreechaa massacre at Hora Arsadi of Bishoftu town, 40km to the East of the capital that occurred on October 2, 2016. On the Irreechaa annual thanksgiving festival, over 2 million Oromos from all over Oromia were gathered to celebrate. The Ethiopian government agitated and provoked the festival by installing its close operatives and cadres to takeover the stage from the legitimate leader of Gadaa (Abba Gadaa) who is in charge of the event. The celebrants were angered and started chanting slogans and crossing wrists above head – the popular sign of Oromo protest. The security forces deliberately started roaring Humvee in the crowd, hovering helicopter in the sky, firing the tear gas and bullets to suffocate the people on a narrow space. Most of the people perished in the ditch and the lake. Some sources put the death toll at 55 and above citing the cause of death simply as a deadly stampede. However, local and opposition sources put the figure of the death toll to at least 678. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the people away from the ditch through fencing and/or soil filling; avoiding any provocative acts, unblocking the safe exit and panicking the population on narrow space unless it deliberated and planned to cause massacre.

After the Irreechaa massacre, the Oromo people reacted with deep sorrow and responded through difference means of peaceful resistance against the Ethiopian government. The roads to different parts of the Oromia and Ethiopia were blocked, the economic boom of the TPLF elites was devastated. In a week to Irreechaa massacre, the Ethiopian government declared state of emergency that applies to the other states as well. The security forces reportedly killed more that 283 people (see figure 2, the fourth peak) in one week of the state of emergency.

Summary

The Ethiopian security forces continued their unparalleled genocidal crimes of torturing, raping and killings, largely hidden from the eyes and ears of the international observers, embassies and the media. Records show that over two thousand Oromo civilians (students, farmers, teachers, civil servants, elders, leaders and members of the Oromo opposition party) were killed in the last one year from live bullets of the Ethiopian security forces. Witnesses out of Oromia show exceptional heinous crimes of killing that includes children from age 1 to the old men to the age of 80, pregnant women and mothers, a mother killed with her two sons, three siblings from the same parent. There are evidences of mothers and siblings ordered to sit on the dead body of their loved ones after being killed by the security forces. Wives and daughters were gang raped in front their husbands, loved ones and parents. Moreover, every independent Oromo person is routinely subjected to harassment, extrajudicial killings, imprisonment, rape and torture. Several thousands were wounded from live bullets and estimated over 50,000 were arrested in different detention camps in remote areas labeled as “terrorists” without convictions and/or rare trials.

The TPLF/EPRDF is still acting with impunity despite continued call for investigation into the genocidal crimes it commit by the renowned international human rights organizations, the UN Human Rights Council, African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights in the last several months. The western governments such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and others issued the statements of concern and travel warnings which may not be enough to curb the looming dangerous situation. The Ethiopian government had been major recipient of direct investment and economic aid earnings mainly from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the US, UK and the EU used to further human sufferings. Western governments are requested to sanction, use their diplomatic leverage to pressure the Ethiopian government to allow an independent UN and African Commission investigations over the massacres, completely halt the state of emergency and remove command posts from the villages, unconditional release of Oromo politicians and civilians from detention camps. Furthermore, the perpetuators of the massacres must be brought before international tribune to curb the genocide in the making in Oromia.

References

  1. The data for this analysis was extracted from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) database http://www.acleddata.com/
  2. Tarekegn Chimdi “Systematic repression and rampant human rights abuses against the Oromo People in Ethiopia (2008) ” presented at AFSAAP conference, “The Oromo People and Finfinne (2004) ” intervention at the UN office of High Commission for Human Rights www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/IPeoples/WG/IGFM1-oromo-4b.doc
  3. Addis Fortune newspaper on Qilinto prison indiscriminate killings 4. Human Rights Watch, Society for Threatened Peoples and Amnesty
  4. International reports in 2015 and 2016
  5. Press releases from the UN Human Rights Council, African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, foreign offices and governments
  6. News from Oromia Media Network, Al Jazeera, VOA, DW and others

8 Responses to Genocide in the making in Oromia

  1. Mormor November 13, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    kan ummata lafaa irraa haxaa’aa jiru caalaa kan ummata Oromo akka waliin hin gurmoofnee fi sagaleen isaa hin dhaga’amne godhuu hojjatan murna oromo leadership jedhee olii gadi fiigan kana jedhee amana akka nam tokkootti.
    Yeroo ammaa kana fi duriis oromoon leadership hojjatu qaba,sunis abo dha kan biroo kan bakka isaa bu’ee hojjachaaru ykns hojiin argisiisaaru hin jiru.
    Murni tplf diignadeen gabbisaa akka ololaa geggeessaniif ijaare,maqaa leadership konferensei jedhu kana keessa of cuuphanii akka jiran shakkii hin qabu.Namoota garii leadership konferensce kana keessaa qooda fudhatan akka dansaa waan ta’aan kan beeku tayu kootiif.
    Qeerroo ijaaramuu fi akka itti sochoo’aa turee fi sochoo’aa jiru Diasporaa teenyee hogganna jechuu dhaan kan ija baasaaran hundi jarreen amma dura WBO kibbaa hiodhannoo waliin tplf itti galchanii gara kaaniin opdo gimbot 7 galaniidha.Jarri kunii fi murni Diimaa Naga’o Waardiyaa emiye minklik fi dantaa dhuunfaaf kan hojjatan tahuudhaan,haala itti qeerroo basaasanii fi qabsoo laamshesanii harka alagaa jala galchuun hidhannoo sammuu fi waraanummaa hiikkachisuu fi gabrumaa qooda oromo fi oromiyaa godhuuf warra hojjatuudha
    Yeroo kuun WBO ijaaree jabeessuu kuun WBO diiguu fi ummanni oromo dhaaba tokko hidhachiisuu fi walaba tahee sochoo’u dhabamsiisuuf hojjatu eenyu kan nu miidhaaru jedhame of gaafannu misha.
    ABO diiguu jechuun tokkummaa ummata oromo fi dhaaba walaba walabummaa oromoof hojjatu diiguu jedhuudha,ABO jechuun daa’imaa hadha wareegamaaruu fi manguddoo kaleessa itti rakkataniidha,kaayyoo kana fiixa baasuuf.kaayoo kunis oromummaa ijaaruudha,oromummaa ijaaramu hidhannoo sammuu qabaachuu jechuudha,hidhannoon samuu wbo hidhateeru waliin qabsoo geggeessuu jechuudha.
    kan humaa ooooo$hin hojjannee Diasporaa taa’ee waan komatu,kan saglii tokko ijaaruu hin dandeenye kan ijaaru arrabsuu fi ummata adda qooduuf hojjatu qeerroo hoggana jedhee diasporaa yoo xibaaruun isaa basaastuiuu dha eenyu ille tahu.
    ABO kan diiguu fi dhabamsiisuuf hojjatan habashaa yeroo tyahu kan oromo ofiin jechaa ABO diiguu fi dhabamsiisuuf ololan maal jennaan ?kan jennuun opdo diasporaa ajooftuu tplf branch foreign and political affairs irraa birrii guurrattee ololtuudha.kanaafuu diina keenya waan biraa miti.

  2. Serawit November 13, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    I don’t understand for how long the Oromo intellectuals write histories about the genocide, while people are being annihilated. Instead of yelling about genocide why don’t they look for the ways of finding the last solution for the suffering people.

  3. Dawey Ibrahim November 13, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

    Thanks Dr, Tarekegn Chimdi for this timely, well compiled and well substantiated article. All Oromo activists need to read and re-read the article.Further, all Oromo intellectuals are required to come up with well thought ideas of this type. This is what this the time requires from Oromo activists and intellectual, where the latter do their utmost to build informed movement, and the former get informed.

  4. Hawwinee Barii November 14, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    “Genocide in the making”: Are you waking up like Juwar who claims Oromo resistance against Ethiopian colonial rule started only a year ago in his dream of shortening the life of Oromians struggle to the time he recognized the existence of Oromians struggle. Genocide has been committed on Oromians since the occupation of Oromia at the end of the 19th century. Wake up man and read history. Menelik massacred 5000000 Oromians, Tewodros massacred Oromians in Walloo. Yohaannis massacred millions of Oromians at Boruu Meeda in Walloo. Haile Sillassiee did the same to Norhtern Oromians in Walloo: Raayyaa, Daawwee, Sagalee, including genocide by hunger and in Baalee too. Mangistuu massacred over 2000,000 students and business people. Tigree massacred Oromians at Wattar in 1992 and still continuing. So, where have you been brother for that long years and wake up today to say genocide is in the making. It is now that genocide is in the making . It has been there since the occupation of Oromia. I suggest that Oromians read history extensively to educate themselves first before trying to educate others.

  5. StarAction November 14, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    A best article that based on facts and supported with evidence.

    Please keep it up.

    Jabadhuu. Kunii baayyeeti gaaridhaa.

  6. Tarekegn November 15, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    Hi all, thanks for taking time to read this brief article which spans a one year period. The artice was written simply as an evidence and present facts.The crux of the matter is I am not qualified historian and as a scientist and seasoned human rights defender I analysed available data and presented to you to make informed decision, instead of emotion driven reasoning to conclude that genocide is in the making.

    Hawwine, please provide me with similar datasets which span a century (centuries) and I will definitely provide you with insights for you to write history books to read.

  7. Hunde Lammi November 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    I liked the fact that every one of us have recognized that the evil terrorist TPLF government has officially declered a genocide against our innocent people.
    The world leaders have ignored the ongoing criminal actions of TPLF wayane. Thus, ALL OROMOS should stand up together to defeat their enemies.

    Therefore, Everyone who is worried about Oromo issues, please join a 1 million Oromo project. It will be a simple strategy as a part of a helpful plan to defend our people. Oromos have been killed/tortured/burned alive/looted/kids and mothers rapped for the last 25 years.
    We will create a credible system with WBO/Qerros to implement this project. It is a simple but a powerful approach.
    For example, if we get 1, 000,000 Oromos to OWN/work on this project
    and we ask at least 10USD(240Birr) per month for 6 months and With in just one month, we will get at least 10USDX1,000,000=10,000,000USD
    That will be 60,000,000USD with in 6 months.
    Recently, I was told to send 1527USD to fully equip one military personnel.
    Thus, 60,000,000USD at the rate of 1527/person will be enough for 39,293 WBO/Qeero men and women. This power can definitely do something about the freedom that we ALL are crying for. This must be DONE, otherwise OROMO, let’s be honest to each other we should STOP crying-We will never do anything any time soon BUT get ready to cry for centuries. WE KNEW that our fathers/grandfathers were crying, we are crying and no doubt about this unless we PLAN to stop it, our children/grand children will keep crying.
    Those of you who are BURNING everyday like myself; please join me to work on this project. No one will ever ask you to send something to individuals or OLF accounts yet. We will reach out to everyone first to hit the minimum 1million Oromos or Oromo lovers. Then we will create a specific strategy with OLF/Qeeros to start working on this. Thus, keep sharing to all your contacts. We Love our diversity (Christians, Muslims as well as Waqefatas), we love each other and will keep working to bring PEACE to our people. GOD/Rabbii/Waaqi Bless you all.

  8. Münchner Freiheit November 16, 2016 at 4:15 am #

    Tarekegn

    Your article is informative and educative.
    Thank you for very much brother.

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