October 10, 2016

Oromo: State of Emergency Declared in Response to Protests

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri @Quartz Africa

On Saturday 8 October 2016, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency in response to unrest and protests in Oromia. Ethiopia has faced heavy criticism over its human rights abuses, especially for the use of lethal force to counter the protests. The case of the Oromo gained further international attention when the athlete Feyisa Lilesa crossed his wrists in protest as he finished the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The situation escalated on 2 October 2016, when an attack during the Irrecha festival in Oromia left at least 600 civilians dead and thousands wounded. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) urges the international community and the UN Security Council to take collective action to protect the people of Ethiopia. 

Below is a press release by the HRLHA:

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailamariam Dessalegn has informed the public through the state run TV that a six-month state of emergency has been declared as of October 8, 2016 because "the current situation in the country posed a threat against the people of Ethiopia"

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn indicated in his emergency declaration that the Council of Ministers declared the state of emergency after they discussed the damage caused by protests across the country during the past week.

HRLHA reported in its "Ethiopia: The TPLF Hidden Agenda of Reducing the Oromo Population Must be stopped" on April 17, 2016 that the Oromia regional State has fallen under the TPLF Security intelligence officer generals' control when they removed the civil administration and declared unofficial martial law as of February 26, 2016. The recent declaration is designed to legitimize the previous military administration of TPLF government.

Background:
The protests in Oromia regional state, which have continued steadily since November 2015, escalated on October 2, 2016 after many Oromo people were killed by the Agazi force on the ground supported by helicopter gunships at the Irrecha Festival - which left reportedly at least 600 civilians dead and thousands wounded.

The Oromo nation has been under attack since November 2015 when Oromo protests restarted in West Showa, Ginchi town. The protests demanded that the Chilimo forest clearing by land buyers should stop. In response to the peaceful protest against the land grabs- which included the Addis Ababa Master plan- the TPLF/EPRDF deployed its Killing Squad Agazi force to quell the protests. In the past eleven protest months, including the October 2, 2016 Irrecha festival massacre, an estimated 2000 civilians have been killed and several thousands have been taken to detention centers.

Despite the brutalities committed against Oromo civilians during the past eleven months, the international community has not made a concerted response to end the crisis in Oromia. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa has appealed several times to the world community, including the UN Human Rights Council, UN Security Council and Donor States such as USA, Canada, UK, Sweden and Norway to put pressure on the government of Ethiopia to respect the constitution of the country and International human rights standards to solve the political crisis in the country in general and in Oromia regional state in particular.

HRLHA is deeply concerned that if International Communities fail in responding to the killings presently taking place in Oromia Regional State as soon as possible, this could lead to a genocide comparable to those in Rwanda (1994), in Yugoslavia (1998) and in Darfur, Sudan (2003).

Therefore, the HRLHA respectfully demands that the International community including the UN Security Council take concrete actions by:

1. Using its influence to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to respect international human rights, its own promised obligations, as well as domestic and International laws and refrain from its ethnic cleansing and respect the fundamental rights of Oromo Nation

2. Passing a decision to intervene to stop the killings in Oromia using the mandate of the three pillars of the responsibility to protect, as stipulated in the Outcome Document of the 2005 United Nations World Summit (A/RES/60/1, para. 138-140) and formulated in the Secretary – General’s 2009 Report (A/63/677) on implementing the responsibility to protect :

A. The State carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, and their incitement;

B. The international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist States in fulfilling this responsibility;

C. The international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.