by Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni
Today, November 12, 2016, marks the First Anniversary of the start of the yearlong and still ongoing #OromoProtests.
In this one year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are imprisoned for demanding
(1) their right not to be evicted from their ancestral land through the globalization scheme of wealth and land transfer from our people to the politically empowered and politically connected groups and their foreign benefactors;
(2) the Oromo people’s right to use Oromo language as federal language to end a century of Oromo exclusion from Ethiopian government power, services and jobs; and
(3) the Oromo people’s right to self-administer themselves in genuine federalism and jointly govern Ethiopia with other nations and nationalities of Ethiopia.
These legitimate and peaceful demands of the Oromo people garnered support both at the national and international levels.
Nationally, the Amhara people who constitute the second largest linguistic group next to the Oromo joined and supported the nationwide #OromoProtests and raised their own sets of demands including their rights to live on their own ancestral land and self-administer themselves, and end their own exclusion and marginalization from political and economic powers by the TPLF led EPRDF government.
Internationally, Athlete Feyisa Lelisa, the Rio Olympic Silver Medalist, globalized the #OromoProtests earning worldwide around the clock news coverage of our people’s demand when he crossed the finish line with his wrist crossed over his head in solidarity with the #OromoProtests.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continued to be the global voices of the Oromo people in diligently reporting and documenting the #OromoProtests even when Addis Ababa-based foreign correspondents and journalists refused to cover the nationwide #OromoProtests either out of fear of the regime or to cover-up the impact of global multinationals and their funders who are working in concert with the EPRDF government to evict and grab the ancestral land and natural resources of the Oromo people.
The Ethiopian government on its part, in spite of publically professing and recognizing the demands of the Oromo people as legitimate for the sake of Western media consumption; domestically continued to kill Oromo political activists and leaders in their hundreds, jailing in tens of thousands, and terrorize the Oromo people by deploying the military and security forces throughout Oromia Regional State.
To date, the Ethiopian government did not address a single demand of the Oromo and Amhara people. Even, the so-called Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan which the OPDO claimed to have “stopped” implementing was not taken off the table, and is not legally repealed by the concerned authorities of the Oromo Regional State, Addis Ababa Municipality, and Federal Agencies. About a dozen land grab laws that were used to evict the Oromo people of their ancestral land are not repealed. Land grab institutions like the Industrial Park Corporation were not dismantled. Afaan Oromo is not made Federal Working language on equal footing with Amharic.
Instead, the Ethiopian government declared the state of emergency, giving the security and military forces of the country the license to kill, jail and terrorize people with impunity. This is another political tragedy. It is mind boggling why the EPRDF declared this state of emergency, after publically admitting in its various party meetings that the sources and causes of the ongoing national discontent are the failures on the part of the government to respect the rule laws and failure to reign on the excessive abuse of its officials and security forces to enrich themselves and their cronies. Why and how the government empowers the same forces who caused the problems in the first place to solve the problems they themselves created by taking away any pretense of law including the nominal administrative discretion some officials used to exercise to restrain these forces by introducing this ill-advised state of emergency is beyond reason!
The state of emergency was not declared to solve or address the demands of the Ethiopian people. From what we could see, it is declared to protect the ill-gained property of foreign and domestic land grabbers and crony capitalists from the popular rage through the state of emergency decree instead of addressing the demands of the Oromo and Amhara peoples through political and legal processes. It is another major political blunders of the EPRDF Administration in Ethiopia that is comparable to the government’s declaration a year ago of Oromo protests as agents of foreign terrorist groups and witches.
The reasons are simple why this state of emergency will be dangerous for the country. The government declared the state of emergency to contain the #OromoProtests and #AmharaResistance through security measures of extrajudicial killing and imprisonment of Oromo and Amhara activists and community leaders who voice the concerns of these communities. The added objectives of the state of emergency could be to terrorize the Amhara and Oromo population into political submission through a sheer power of military and security forces. The government will not achieve any of these objectives.
To the contrary, this is ill-conceived and ill-advised state of emergency measure will end up in Balkanizing Ethiopia and institutionalizing systems of ethnic profiling by the law enforcement, security and military apparatus of the regime with deadly consequences in the future social, political and economic relationships of various nations and nationalities of this multiethnic and multilinguistic country that coexisted peacefully for centuries for large part.
First, any serious attempt to ethnically profile and attack activists and leaders the Amhara and Oromo communities, the population that constitute about three fourth of Ethiopia’s population, by the law enforcement, security and military forces of the regime will soon fire back and create fractures in the military and security apparatus of the country along ethnic lines. Sooner or later, Oromo and Amhara security and military officers will start siding with their people and will not continue to implement these harsh measures on their own people.
Second, if the excesses of the state of emergency reach beyond a reasonably controllable stage, the OPDO and ANDM, the two wings that represent the Oromo and Amhara in the EPRDF, respectively, might start revolting against the state of emergency measures leading to the demise of the EPRDF itself.
Third, the ethnic profiling scheme the government might introduce, even inadvertently, through this state of emergency measures will force the Oromo and Amhara population to start their own ethnic profiling scheme of other minorities who live among them and who might be used against them by the government during this state of emergency period which will severely impact intercommunal social, economic and political relations of our communities. For the good of this country and the peaceful coexistence of various nations and nationalities of Ethiopia, I cannot over emphasize the importance of this critical point. Unless the government immediately lift this state of emergency, its impact will far outlive its temporal shortsighted purposes with fatally detrimental impact on the future of this country. One should not go far to foresee the implication of this misguided and ill-advised state of emergency. It suffices to just look back at the backlash at the real or perceived presumption that the people of Tigray are unduly benefiting politically and economically under the TPLF led EPRDF administration, and how it is impacting the relations of the people of Tigray with the rest of the Ethiopian population.
Fourth, through its violent behaviors and this act of the state of emergency, the TPLF led EPRDF government is turning a simple political and legitimate demands of the people into security issue which will produce ungovernable violent and hostile society out of a very peaceful and welcoming Oromo and Amhara population. It might even lead to civil war.
Fifth, foreign governments, multinationals, and international funders of the wealth and land transfer globalization agenda in the name of development who are emboldening the EPRDF government to take this uncalled for risky measures will soon dearly pay for their actions and excesses which will ignite and provoke strong nationalism and patriotism in the hearts and spirits of Ethiopian people to fight and take back their country as they have done for centuries against well-armed and well-funded colonial powers of the past. The EPRDF government must reverse its agenda of turning the Ethiopian people into rented slaves where all our lands and natural resources are owned and controlled by foreign corporations and their domestic surrogates.
The road forward is very simple and easy to chart. All it takes is the political will of the EPRDF Administration to heed and address the demands of the people in peaceful and civilized political and legal processes. The existing Ethiopian constitution, with few amendments, gives an excellent platform to address most of the demands of the Ethiopian people.
Starting today, in the coming one week, in commemoration of the start of the still ongoing yearlong nationwide popular movement, I call upon all concerned Ethiopians of all ethnicity, particularly the Amhara and Oromo activists, leaders, and general public to hold social media and mainstream media campaign to highlight 1) the key demands of the our people, 2) call upon the Ethiopian government to release all people whom it arrested in connection with the ongoing peaceful protests, and 3) call upon the Ethiopian government and its foreign backers to immediately remove this ill-advised and ill-conceived state of emergency and start addressing the demands of the people through open, transparent, inclusive and legitimate political and legal processes.