August 15, 2011

Oromo: WEF Should Petition Ethiopia over Oromo Human Rights

Apart from oppressing the Oromo people and being the highest recipient of aid in Africa, Ethiopia has been praised as a diplomatic hub with ‘lessons for the rest of Africa’ as it is ironically honoured with hosting the World Economic Forum’s 22nd annual conference in May 2012.

Below is an article published by the East Africa Investor Magazine.

Ethiopia is set to host the next World Economic Forum's 22nd annual conference in May 2012. Among the reasons for holding its African forum in Addis Ababa, said a WEF spokesperson, are that it is a diplomatic hub – including: it hosts the African Union; it is extending development to the rural poor, with lessons for the rest of Africa; and it has never been colonized.

This is an irony as the Ethiopian government has one of the worst human rights records on the continent. To the contrary, the Addis Ababa regime is setting a dangerous precedent and bad lessons to the rest of the continent. The uninterrupted human rights violations by the Ethiopian government should be a disgracing factor among the community of nations, including the WEF.

By allowing Ethiopia to host the WEF parley next year, the international community is directly endorsing the protracted annihilation of the Oromo people. WEF, among other international institution, should be on the fore front of petitioning the Addis Ababa regime to grant the liberty of the Oromia.

It is through such fora that attention could be drawn to the widespread imprisonments, harassment and indiscriminate killing of Oromo students, men and women of different ages, religious backgrounds, and professions by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led Ethiopian government – motivated by fear of public uprising and hate against the Oromo people.

By taking the conference to Addis Ababa, WEF will be joining the ranks of AU and COMESA, among other international institutions, which have failed to use their enormous influence on the government of Ethiopia to stop the imprisonments and killings of innocent Oromo in particular, and other people of Ethiopia in general.

The Oromo people constitute the single largest national group in Ethiopia and the Greater Horn of Africa. The size of the Oromo population and the geographical location of their country, Oromia, make the Oromia regional state in the heart of Ethiopia. Ethiopia mainly depends on the human and natural resources of Oromia. However, the Oromo people are one of the most impoverished and terrorized indigenous African people.

The Zenawi regime fears the Oromo numerical voting power. In fear of free and fair elections, the regime has been systematically destroying all independent Oromo political and civic organizations, and closed down their newspapers and magazines.

Even the Macha and Tulama Association, a civic association, which was established in 1963 was banned, its leaders detained, and its property confiscated. The Oromo Relief Association, established in 1979, was also closed down by the Zenawi’s regime and millions worth of property seized.

Out of hate and fear, the TPLF led government is currently perpetuating collective violence and indiscriminate shooting against the Oromo students. Currently, the Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi is worried that the people’s revolution that forced the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorial regimes out of power is coming to Ethiopia.

Driven by fear, the Zenawi security forces in a single event shot and wounded over one hundred Oromo students in Tepi-Mizan University and are massively imprisoning Oromo men and women throughout Ethiopia. According to the Human Rights Leagues of the Horn (HRLHA, April 11, 2011), the students, who are the victims of the rampage shooting, did nothing illegal, but simply asked the administration of the University to discipline Mr. Zenawi’s agents and cadres, who made blatant racist remarks against the Oromo people.

Unfortunately, Meles Zenawi is also resorting to very alarming and inhuman acts against the Oromo University students. Recently, the regime’s security forces allegedly poisoned the food prepared for University students at the Adama and Arba Minch Universities. The timing and the site of poisoning the Oromo students are not coincidental. It is a deliberate and desperate act to terrorize the Oromo people in general, and the youth in particular. This act proves that TPLF regime has a proclivity of committing genocide against the Oromo and the other peoples of Ethiopia in order to perpetuate its minority and unjust rule.

The extent of human rights abuse in Ethiopia is documented by annual reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the US State Department. Other reports by Human Rights Watch and the Oromia Support Group (OSG) include many detailed accounts of individual violations of basic human rights.

A large number of Oromo asylum-seekers escaping persecution in Ethiopia have fled to neighbouring countries like Kenya, where many have been subject to killings and refoulement. It's especially saddening for refugees to be affected by internal crises of their temporary host countries in North Africa and Middle East countries.

The land grabbing, which is currently displacing many farmers across the country, particularly in Oromia and Gambella regions, is another worrying situation in Ethiopia.

The WEF, slated for Addis Ababa next year, should instead take practical measures, to reduce human misery and promote democracy in Ethiopia by petitioning Meles Zenawi to respect the constitution and stop extra-judicial killings, rampage shootings and arbitrary arrests of innocent people and prolonged detention without trial.

The forum should also petition the western powers to suspend economic assistance to the Ethiopian government until such a time that the government of Meles Zenawi shows its commitment to the rule of law and exert pressure on the regime to bring individuals who have committed the killings to justice.

It is only prudent that the international community compels Zenawi to bring to speedy trials or unconditional release of hundreds of Oromo students who have been detained without due process of law and to allow all Oromo students to continue with their education freely, legally and peacefully without fear of harassment, detention and loss of life. WEF has the capacity to positively contribute to creating a conducive political environment for establishment of the rule of law in Ethiopia.