The Hunger for Freedom in Oromo Land
Martin Luther King once said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, but the eyes of the world and super powers became blind and their ears became deaf to notice historical injustice that happened on Oromo people by ignoring committed cultural, historical, social, and economic genocides for more than a century. Before they fall under the tyranny of Abyssinian empire Oromo land was free and autonomies democratic society. It is believed that the oldest endemic democratic system of this world is found in Oromia. Long before the concept of democracy was introduced in Greece, Oromo people were using their own democratic political system that is known as Gadaa system. It is a democratic system in which a leader known as “Abba Gadaa” elected in every eight years and the right of women and children protected well. But all those precious things changed into just a myth after a tragic genocide that results in the death of thousands of Oromo people and cutting of hand of men and breasts of women by Abyssinian war lord known as Minilik and then followed by continues colonization and harassment consecutive Ethiopian regimes.
According to a documentary by David G. Charles, historically Oromo people of Ethiopia considered them themselves as the Part of no part in the country. Before they fall under the colony of modern Ethiopian state by Abyssinian warlord “Minilik”, they were considering themselves as a state calling themselves “Oromo” and their country “Oromoia” with a traditional democratic ruling system known as “Gada” system. For more than a century they were seen as and treated as they are subject of a colony. Their identity and their ruling system were gone. Their language was prohibited to speak in the country. (David G. Charles 2016). Historically, Oromos have been pushed to the margin of the country’s political and social life and rendered unworthy of respect and consideration. Oromo culture and language have been banned and their identity stigmatized, becoming invisible and unnoticeable within mainstream perspectives.
When Derg regime came into power, it continued the previously begun exploitation and dispossession. The major three overarching Oromo questions – language, land, and self-rule remained unanswered by this regime and Oromo liberation front (OLF) cooperated with other parties in overthrowing the Derg government. Oromo nationalism has been growing more than ever since the introduction in Ethiopia of the multinational federalism in the early 1990s.
The current Tigrian elites copied their Amhara elite’s, their predecessors, in presenting their Empire as a unitary and at peace with itself while waging an unprecedented war of genocide on the Oromo people and other nations. During its rise to power in 1991 Tigray people’s liberation front (TPLF) government made a policy to alienate and to systematically target the Oromo people. They began by excluding them from political systems and from political participation for more than twenty-five years. They excluded various Oromo armed groups Particularly Oromo liberation front (OLF), the former ally that helped TPLF to secure victory against DERGUE regime. Not satisfied with the victory TPLF develop dubious and barbaric plan to eradicate the OLF and all other politically active Oromo organizations by labeling them as terrorists and anti peace and by killing, torturing and detaining the leaders and followers of the organizations.
Shortly After taking power TPLF created their puppet political party known as Oromo people’s democratic organization (OPDO), which is an agent party for Tigre government in Oromo land. This organization targets Oromo people politically, socially and economically. In the past twenty-five years, tens of thousands of Oromo students have gone missing, arrested tortured, intimidated or killed by Ethiopian government with the help of this party. According to a report done by Human rights watch, since 1992 security officials have arrested tens of thousands of Oromo whom they have accused of being members of OLF since the organization was banned in 1992. According to the US department report on human rights dated 1993, they were credible that TPLF security personnel often from OPDO were implicated in the killings, biting and torture of detainees and any person alleged to be politically active.
In 1995 The Oromo relief organization (ORA) led by Addisu Beyene is one of the Oromo organization closed by Tigre government after being publically announced as an OLF cover organization. Perhaps unsurprisingly the issues were never heard in the court of law, instead, members and leaders were simply detained and the attack against Oromo people and Oromo organizations was quickly covered up and continued in undercover.
In 1997 the human rights watch petition the Tigre government to release the prominent Oromo leaders that were arbitrarily accused and arrested of being OLF members. Their petition cited the fact that many prisoners who had medical conditions were not allowed to see physicians and none of those incarcerated had received no due process. In late March 2002 several hundred Oromo students protested the economic and educational policies introduced by Tigre government. In response to the students and peaceful protestors, the government applied brutal force, killing several students and leaving many others wounded. Many of the students involved were imprisoned and tortured. During the 2005 election, thousands of Oromo students and other several ethnic students were arrested under suspicion of voting for a coalition and for unity democracy party. The Tigre Government actively and willfully suppressed the students’ right to organize and express.
Since 2011 thousands of Oromos were have been killed in Eastern Hararghe region under the government policy of ethnic cleansing. The Tigre government has given an exclusive authority to enforce their ethnic cleansing policy to “liyu police” which is Somali militia trained and funded by TPLF. Human rights watch accused Liyu police of engaging in series abuses against civilians throughout the region. According to an Ethiopian satellite (ESAT) report from May 2013, as many as 20-30 thousands of Oromo has been ethnically cleansed from Eastern Hararghe by liyu police.
More recently tens of thousands of Oromo students from various towns were involved in the protest against the ambiguous integrated development master plan of Addis Ababa, an expansion plan proposed by the government in the March of 2014. The protest began Ambo town which is located in around 80 kilometers away from the capital and quickly spread to other cities and universities throughout the Oromo land. The government responded swiftly and violently by killing hundreds of protestors and detaining thousand more without any due process of law. According to Advocates for human rights, most of the victims were university students and teachers and some of those arrested and injured include high schools and junior high school students. As Dr. Awol Kassim presents Oromo People protest in Ethiopia is taking place since April 2014 when Ethiopian government announced the new master plan that presumed by people to displace them from their farm. The protests were initially over a plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa into the Oromia region. Even though government dropped the plan that costs the life of hundreds of people, demonstrations exposed some underlying issues and protests continued. The Oromo’s, who make up around the third of the population, have long complained that they have been excluded from the country’s political process and the economic development (Awol. K, 2016). The Ethiopian human rights council even made a formal statement regarding the arrest and expulsions saying “the illegal act committed by the government forces entering the student’s dormitories illegally arresting them and inflicting physical and psychological punishments instead of taking suspects to the court of law.
The most recent massacre took place on Oromo people by the TPLF government in Bishoftu town of Oromia region in 2 October 2016 were more than two million Oromo people gathered together to celebrate “Irecha ceremony” which is annual thanks giving ceremony. They protested against government action towards protestors and they asked the government to step down from the power by their slogan “Down down Weyane” and “Enough is enough”. In this particular day, hundreds of peaceful protestors were killed by security officials while thousands were arrested. From that day on until today government continued arbitrary arrest and massacre on civilians by using the law of the state of emergency. The government totally blocked internet services and social Medias in the country for several months.
Like Obama once said “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change we seek”, Oromo people never gave up struggling for their freedom and expected others to give them their freedom. But those consecutive murderers and cruel leaders endured resisting Oromo struggle for freedom for more than a century with the help they get from great powers like Europe and USA. Those great powers and countries failed to satisfy Oromo hunger for freedom not only by not helping them securing their freedom and but also by helping and providing for the killing and arrest of Oromo people. The machine guns and the budget TPLF government using to silence peoples voice is given to them from foreign countries. Finally, in conclusion, I have to point that those countries and organizations that assumed themselves as human protectors should stand with the people fighting for their freedom rather than sampling ignoring the truth and cooperating with the killers.
Photo: HRW; Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.