February 16, 2006
The basic demands remain the same: respect for human dignity and basic freedoms, justice through an impartial court of law, implementing the right to self-determination enshrined in the constitution and making it functional and meaningful, the release of all political prisoners, the reinstatement of the Mecha Tullama self-help Association and addressing the grievances of the Oromo people through a peaceful political means rather than through repression. The continuation of these protests despite the harsh response from the regime and the overwhelming support of the people for their vanguard organization, the OLF, have further frustrated the Meles government. However, rather than seeking a political solution as the situation demands, the regime is irresponsibly continuing with its ruthless action of summary and indiscriminate executions, torture, abductions, and unlawful imprisonment of peaceful protesters and innocent people who have not taken part in the protests. Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), and Associated Press (AP) have confirmed the intensification of intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detentions.
Despite the harsh crackdown, the popular uprising has engulfed all parts of the country. Moreover, different sectors of the population are joining the demonstration. Although the government has tried to deflect the attention of the people by organizing bogus meetings under various names, the replies it is getting is unambiguously clear- the regime can no longer sideline the yearning of the Oromo and other peoples for freedom, justice and democracy. At the moment, the Meles government has set up military barracks in every region and locality where protests are taking place daily. In a development that frightens the regime disagreements are brewing even among the regime’s security forces stationed in Oromia. There are reports of exchange of gunfire between those sympathetic to the legitimate demands of the people and those loyal to the regime. In addition the fact that the regime is unable to rely on the local police and has to increasingly deploy the Agazi Special Force indicates that the uprising has indeed reached a new and decisive phase.
Since the last press briefing many school children, university students, the young and elderly have been killed, and disappeared while tens of thousands have been imprisoned where they routinely faced torture. According to reliable reports, more than 105 have been killed in different parts of Oromia while 232 have disappeared without trace. The recent cold-blood massacre of 22 innocent people in Guduru is a graphic example of the facts on the ground. Prisoners are being picked from detention centers during the night never to return either to their prison cells or to their relatives. There have also been cases where families visiting their imprisoned loved ones themselves faced detention. In many instances parents are under continuous pressure by the OPDO (local appendage of the regime) to sign affidavits to bear responsibility for any action taken by school children in a bid to forestall their participation in the protests.
Amnesty International on a letter dated Jan. 30, 2006 has urged urgent action and an appeal to the Ethiopian government against the rampant and random abduction and imprisonment. The international community should not remain silent about the tragedy unfolding in Oromia in particular and Ethiopia in general. The growing tension between the peoples and the regime has serious implications for the region. It is therefore in this spirit that, we call upon all concerned, the United States of America, the African Union, the European Union, the UN, and other government and non-governmental agencies to stop supporting the Meles regime and rather swiftly seek a comprehensive political solution to thwart the looming crisis.”
Oromo Liberation Front