November 8, 2016

Oromo: First Anniversary of Demonstrations in Ethiopia

Photo Courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator

The peaceful Oromo demonstrations in Ethiopia had their climax one year ago, in November 2015. Several Human Rights Organizations reported that since then, the government has used excessive and lethal force against the protesters. A Human Rights Watch report estimates that more than 400 people have been killed since June 2016. Last Friday [4 November 2016], the Canadian Oromo diaspora protested in Hamilton, Canada, to show their solidarity and to continue raising awareness.

Below an article published by The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton's Oromo community may be small, but they want it known they are standing with their brothers and sisters back home.

A group of about 20 members of the Oromo Community of Hamilton stood outside City Hall Friday [4 November 2016], holding signs with photos of struggles faced by people in Ethiopia's largest region, Oromia.

Canada is known for its tradition of peacekeeping and contributing to the United Nations, said Abraham Turem, 51.

"I hope this government will follow that line of thinking to advocate for peace in that country."

The gathering commemorated the first anniversary of the "climax" of peaceful demonstrations in the region, which is home to most of Ethiopia's estimated 40 million Oromo, said Solomon Germossa. The Oromo are the country's largest ethnic group.

Since November 2015, the government has used "excessive and lethal" force against what is largely peaceful unrest started mainly by students, says a Human Rights Watch report.

The demonstration was initially a response to authorities' decision to clear an environmental area for a development project, the report says. Protesters feared the plan would further displace Oromo farmers, many of whom already lost land for similar projects over the past decade, it says.

The plan was cancelled in January, but the unrest has continued and now reflects broader concerns shared by many Oromo, the report says. As of June [2016], it was estimated more than 400 people had been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested and hundreds — "likely more" — taken from their families.

Friday's group said thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands are in prison.

Germossa, a registered nurse, said he hasn't been able to reach his 11 brothers and sisters in Ethiopia since last month.

"We are extremely worried about our family at this point," he said. "Even when we go to work, our mind is always there."

The Ethiopian government restricted use of social media so connecting with family members has been impossible, he said.

"We don't know if our mothers, our brothers, our sisters are alive or in jail," Germossa said. "We are almost in the dark."

There are about 50 to 60 Oromo families in the Hamilton area, he noted.