January 1, 2016 Oromia
Gabisso HalaaleWe are witnessing a human tragedy of biblical proportions in Oromia, Ethiopia today. At the center of the tragedy is the peaceful protests by the Oromo civilians against the so called Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan that will incorporate dozens of cities, towns and rural farm villages from the neighbouring Oromia Region into the federal capital, Addis Ababa. If implemented, this will inevitably displace millions of the indigenous Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands jeopardizing their livelihood security and plunging them into poverty and destitution. Using the rights enshrined in the constitution of the country, the Oromo civilians, i.e. elementary, high school and university students, farmers, civil servants and Oromos from all walks of life staged peaceful rallies across the vast Oromia region since 12 November 2015 to demand an immediate halt in the implementation of the Master Plan, which they regard as a ploy to annex a vast territory of Oromia into the federal capital.
The government response to the peaceful demands of the Oromo civilians was barbaric and brutal to say the least. Instead of listening to the people who have echoed legitimate grievances, the TPLF/EPRDF regime unleashed armed military and federal police forces on unarmed children, elders, men and women killing, maiming, torturing, and imprisoning thousands in the past six weeks. The latest figures of human toll are 125 Oromo civilians brutally killed, 1500 wounded, 800 made to disappear and over 4500 imprisoned. Similar protests at a smaller scale by Oromo University students, primary from Ambo town, in May 2014 against the same Master Plan was crushed by the infamous Agazi military unit which killed over 47 students and wondered hundreds. Hundreds were thrown into prisons across the country. Many of these detainees have not yet been brought before any court of law until today. The extraordinary violence and massacre of peacefully protesting Oromo civilians amounts to a genocide. The TPLF/EPRDF regime is committing genocide in Oromia before our own eyes today. When responding to a question by a journalist in mid 1990s, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi justified the banning of the defunct Workers Party of Ethiopia (WPE) on the basis of the crimes that party committed on civilians in the country. He described the WPE as a fascist party and stated that “banning fascist parties from political spaces was not unheard-of”, to use his own phrases. Well, today, the party and government once led by him, are committing exactly the same, if not worse, crimes against humanity in Oromia. Therefore, using Meles Zenawi’s own definition, we can safely classify TPLF/EPRDF as a fascist party that should be banished from the political space of the country as a matter of urgency.
This is not an isolated crime against humanity by this regime. Ever since the TPLF purged opposition political parties that co-established the transitional government in 1991, it carried out violent suppressions of dissent across the various regions of the country. The government killed hundreds if not thousands of civilians in various parts of the country with impunity at least for the past 15 years. Most of these mass murders bear the hallmark of the ongoing massacre in Oromia today.
The Oromo student killings: March and October 2000. Student protest against massive burning of natural forests in Oromia and the decision to move the capital of Oromia State from Addis Ababa to Adama. At least 2 students were killed and over 300 arrested.
The Addis Ababa University student massacre April 2001: About 41 people killed over the demand for academic freedom.
The Sidama Massacre 24 May 2002: 70 children and elders killed by the military and federal police in Loqqee, Hawassa, for peacefully protesting against the proposal to move the Sidama capital from Hawassa to Yirgalem.
The Anuak Massacre December 2003: over 500 Anuak civilians killed by the military over the land dispute instigated by government.
Massacre of Addis Ababa protesters against the rigging of the 2005 elections: nearly 200 peaceful protesters were killed.
Ogaden Somali Massacre –2007, 125 civilians killed in Gudhis village; December 2013: Over 43 civilians killed by the federal and local police in pastoral areas.
Ogaden-Somali: since mid-2007, in the name of quelling the insurgency, the federal army continued human rights violations on a massive scale in the region arbitrarily detaining and torturing civilians and raping women.
The first round of the Oromo protests against the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan: May 2014: Over 47 students were killed.
These are just few documented cases of barbarity against civilians in the country by the minority TPLF regime, which by the definition of its own former leader is a fundamentally fascist organization. TPLF, which fought a guerrilla war against the military regime in the name of liberating the Tigray people from oppression and abuse of basic human and democratic rights by the military dictatorship, morphed into an exact replica of its predecessor in a relatively short period of time. The regime adopted a reasonable constitution that on paper recognizes the rights of nations, nationalities and peoples to self-determination including secession. On practice, it brutally stifles the basic, God given, human rights, including a basic freedom of speech, as well democratic rights of self-rule. It has demonstrated it fascist characteristic by brutally murdering a mother who was simply attempting to protect her son from harm as any mothers do. We all must ask, what if that was my mother, as all mothers have the same instinct to protect their children! It could have been my mother. It could have been your mother!
The barbaric violence in Oromia is overseen directly by the federal government. The nominal regional autonomy has been abrogated and the OPDO no more administers the region. The regime remains as belligerent as ever and has waged a conventional war on peacefully protesting civilians labeling the peaceful protesters as “terrorists”, a TPLF mantra to stifle civilian freedom. The prime minister, the TPLF stooge from the oppressed Omotic ethnic group, continues to echo an escalatory rhetoric instead of attempting to address the fundamental governance mess that has engulfed his own regime. As a son of the oppressed nation, I would have thought he might sit back and reflect on the unfolding calamity and resign with immediate effect instead of adding fuel to the fire. This will never deter the oppressed nations from forging ahead for freedom and justice.
The brutalization of the Oromo civilians continues amid defiance in the face of a massive human tragedy. The Oromo people, particularly the youth (Qeerroo) have said enough to slavery and dehumanization by the minority TPLF regime. We are at a turning point in the history of the country. A revolution for total emancipation of the Oromo people who are the majority in the country is in the making. The Oromo engaged and collaborative social consciousness has reached a critical level making a revolution inevitable. In particular, the Qeerroo generation of the 21st century will not submit to barbaric dehumanization of the Oromo society any more.
What then will be the role of the other oppressed nations? The answer is unambiguous. The Oromo demands are the demands of all oppressed nations in the country. The TPLF regime has not spared any oppressed peoples in the past 25 years of its rule and will not spare them in the future. The intensity of the suppression may vary across the various regions depending on the size of the region and the natural resource endowment, in particular land, which has become the most liquid commodity to enrich the TPLF ruling elites and their henchmen at the expense of the poor, but its nature remains the same across the board. TPLF is known for its large-scale, land grab policy in which millions of hectares of fertile lands inhabited by the indigenous farmers in Gambella and the Southern region have been confiscated and sold to the so-called domestic and foreign investors who produce flowers for international markets and food crops for their own home countries while the regime begs food aid for 15 million people following the 2015 drought. The ensuing famine, blamed on the natural phenomenon of El Nino, is the result of the failed economic policy of the TPLF regime whose primary economic interest is to expand the 58 large companies owned by its ruling elite at the expense of the private sector.
The “Hawassa Master Plan” is being finalized and will incorporate four districts and about 6 towns from the surrounding Sidamaland. This will displace thousands of the indigenous Sidama farmers from their ancestral land eroding their livelihood security and reducing them to beggars in Hawassa town. Every oppressed nation is vehemently opposed to the TPLF dictatorial political and economic margination in the country. Nonetheless, resistances in the past 15 years have been ad hoc, isolated and uncoordinated. This gave the TPLF regime an opportunity to crush them with relative ease at all times.
This is no more the case with the 2015 Oromo protests. The revolution has started. The Oromos are forging ahead with their rightful demand for freedom and dignity. The other oppressed nations are procrastinating to join the tide of change. Are the resonant social consciousness of the oppressed nations inadequate? As far as I am concerned, the oppressed nations’ understanding of essential interconnectedness between themselves and the Oromo nation has remained inadequate at least in the past 6 weeks. The other oppressed nations failed to comprehend that our political fate depends fully on the fate of the Oromo nation. We will never be free if Oromo is not free. We will never enjoy justice while the Oromo people continue to be brutalized by the monitory TPLF regime. Murmuring about our grievances in our homesteads is not enough. It is time we rise up and stand by the Oromo people before it is too late. The Oromo people can liberate themselves alone at a higher human cost. By standing in unison, we can mitigate the impending catastrophe and minimize the human cost of freedom to all. Nonetheless, we can choose to be bystanders at our own peril.