July 18, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Pierre James Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We members of the Ethiopian-Canadian community in Edmonton, Alberta, are writing to bring your attention to the recent security and political developments in Ethiopia in order to clarify the false narrative presented by certain groups among the diaspora Ethiopians in Canada regarding the facts on the ground in Ethiopia.
On June 29, 2020 a popular Ethiopian singer and activist, Haccaalu Hundesa, was assassinated while in his car in his neighborhood. The Ethiopian government declared that the killing was politically motivated and orchestrated by entities whose objectives were to incite inter-ethnic clashes, undermine the federal government’s authority and derail Ethiopia’s focus on economic development including the finalization and use of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The following day, a vast mayhem unfolded in at least nine cities, towns and localities in Oromia region where a mob of hundreds and thousands of Oromo-youth killed 167 Ethiopians, according to official statements, and burnt down houses and businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The killings and property damages were vicious, genocidal and mainly targeted at non-Oromo Ethiopians. The mob moved from house to house killing individuals and families of certain ethnic backgrounds, defiled their dead bodies in the most gruesome manner imaginable including in at least in one instance dragging the dead body of their victim behind a motor bike around town and in another instance hanging the dead body on a wooden pole. In at least one case, a hotel guest was burnt to death inside a hotel that was set on fire by the mob.
The government of Ethiopia is to be commended for apprehending those who are directly connected to the assassination of Haccaalu Hundersa. The police has also arrested a number of individuals who are suspected of playing a part in the assassination of the artist and using his death to instigate a dangerous inter-ethnic clash between the two major ethnic groups – the Oromo and the Amhara. These individuals hijacked the artist’s body against the wish of his family and brought it to Addis Ababa along with their personal armed bodyguards and incited their mob followers for violence, as a result of which at least 10 individuals lost their lives in the ensuing clashes.
The government is also to be credited for its swift action in closing down some media outlets that have a history of fomenting discord among ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Together with the temporary blackout of the internet, we believe the government has averted what could have been a much more catastrophic outcome. Sadly, the federal and regional governments failed to prevent the carnage and destruction in the Oromia region, even though they have subsequently taken into custody thousands of Oromo youth for taking part in the ethnically motivated killings and property destruction. Dozens of Oromia state and security officials were also arrested for either taking part in the violence or failing to fulfil their duties of protecting citizens from the violence.
In the past two years, the new Ethiopian government has been reluctant to exercise its law enforcement responsibility in fear of being seen as stifling legitimate dissent, to tolerate unintentional and “minor” transgressions in the exercise of newly found democratic rights, and to not give extremist ethnonationalists an excuse to cause more instability and violence. For example, the government refrained from taking any meaningful action when, in October 2019, a similar ethnic violence was instigated by one of the individuals currently in police custody causing the death of at least 86 Ethiopians in the hands of a mob of Oromo youth.
The refrainment or lack of meaningful law enforcement action on the part of the government only emboldened the extremists, setting the ground for the recent violence. In the process, the political democratization efforts, the economic reforms, and the peace and stability of the country are sabotaged by extremist ethnonationalists vowed to advance narrow, exclusionary and undemocratic agendas at whatever cost.
We trust the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa has briefed the Canadian government regarding these unfortunate developments in Ethiopia. What we want to bring to your attention in particular is how the truth of these sad events has been shamelessly falsified and presented by some individuals and groups here in Canada including via a letter addressed to the Right Honourable Prime Minister and in interviews to the Canadian media. This propaganda concocted by some groups among the diaspora Ethiopians of Oromo heritage charges the Ethiopian government as killing ethnic Oromos. This falsehood is not a mere blame-shifting or scapegoating exercise; it is a meticulously orchestrated propaganda intended to, on one hand, smear the legitimate law enforcement actions of the Ethiopian government as human right abuses and, on the other hand, to agitate the Oromo youth in Ethiopia for another cycle of ethnic violence. The individuals who are masterminding this propaganda from the comfort of their residence in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia are as we speak using satellite television stations and social media calling upon the Oromo youth for violence in much the same way Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) did in Rwanda during the ethnic genocide over 25 years ago.
These individuals and groups even have the audacity to call upon the Canadian government to revise its diplomatic relations and withhold any developmental assistance it makes to the Ethiopian government. They have attempted to infiltrate popular causes such as Black Life Matters. In their desperation to gain media and public attention, they even make a mockery of the historical injustice indigenous people suffered here in Canada and elsewhere by drawing a parallel to an utterly fabricated ill-treatment of ethnic Oromos in Ethiopia. The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia making up over 30 per cent of the Ethiopian population; the Oromia region is entirely governed by ethnic Oromos and most key civilian, police and military positions at the federal level are occupied by individuals with an Oromo heritage, not to mention the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia is an Oromo by ethnicity.
We also acknowledge the peace-loving nature of the Oromo people in general. The Oromia region is inhabited by tens of millions of Ethiopians with non-Oromo or mixed ethnic heritages who lived there for generations and have no other place they call home. The ordinary Oromo have nothing to do with the recent carnage or the many before it. On the contrary, many ordinary Oromo have lost their lives protecting their non-Oromo neighbors and friends. The problem in Oromia as in some other parts of the country is exclusively the creation of the elite and organized political and armed groups who brainwash and use the unsuspecting youth to achieve their political power ambitions undemocratically.
In closing, we ask the Canadian government, the media and the public to investigate the truth before forming an opinion or reaching any conclusion on the basis of the loud voices of those who have no respect for the truth.
President, Ethiopian Canadian Community Association in Edmonton 10585 – 115 Street Edmonton, AB T5H 3K4 Tel.:780 – 708 -3176
The Honourable Jason Kenny, Premier of Alberta
H.E. Nasise Challi Jira, Ethiopian Ambassador to Canada