July 1, 2008
Members of the Union of Oromo Students in Europe (UOSE) congregated in Brussels on 30 June 2008.
Below is an article published by UNPO:
Brussels, 1 July 2008 - Ethiopia’s government, led since 1991 by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has used the nature of the diverse multiethnic state to muzzle opposition to the incumbent Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) regime and to perpetrate civil and human rights abuses against the numerous ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia’s citizens.
The largest of these ethnic groups, the Oromo, number over 30 million people, but remain largely unrepresented in the major decision-making bodies of the state. Despite a deepening drought and growing food shortages, the abuses against Ethiopia’s citizens have continued unabated and the Ethiopian government remains one of the most serious abusers of international human rights conventions.
It was to highlight this fact and to raise the profile of the Oromo representation that members of the Union of Oromo Students in Europe (UOSE) congregated in Brussels on 30 June 2008. Coming from all over Europe, they brought the issues of Oromo human rights to the doorsteps of the major European institutions with demonstration in the Place Jean Rey and outside the European Commission Berlaymont building.
Senior members of the UOSE and Oromo diaspora were also present to deliver a dossier of information on the latest human rights violations reported against the Ethiopian government. As a consequence, succinct meetings were held with senior officials within the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Commission, European Council, European Parliament, and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States.
In meetings with senior officials, clear support was given for the need to support civil society within Ethiopia. This need has grown in importance since news that the Ethiopian government intends to promulgate its draft Charities and Societies Proclamation which stands to severely limit the freedom of non-governmental organizations. It is hoped that the meetings held on Monday 30 June will be the first of many and will provide a useful channel for information exchange between the European institutions and Oromo groups.
It remains to be seen whether the European institutions will fully adopt the calls to action advocated by the UOSE, but its chief points are noted below:
To condemn the brutality and systematic repression being perpetrated against the Oromo by the TPLF government in Ethiopia;
To exert all necessary pressures on the TPLF government to desist from its inhuman and destructive policies of deliberately setting the people it purports to govern against each other;
To monitor and ensure the implementation of unilateral and bilateral agreements signed by Ethiopia which are intended to uphold the respect of human rights, the promotion of democracy and the furtherance of good governance;
To appeal to the governments and non-governmental organizations of your member states to stop funding flows which can, or do, support the divisive policies of the TPLF government;
To help facilitate the delivery humanitarian aid to those who have been left dispossessed, displaced, and in urgent need of relief as result of the policies and mismanagement of the TPLF government.
Raising the plight of Ethiopia’s citizens has sent an important signal to the policymakers of Brussels that the Oromo people, together with the other victims of the Meles Zenawi administration, are determined to make their voices heard. Moreover, it is crucial that the international community begins to show Ethiopia that the country must abide by the international conventions on human rights which it has signed. If it fails in this, it is making a mockery of these instruments and everything for which they stand.
To read an analysis of the Ethiopian government’s draft Charities and Societies Proclamation, prepared by Human Rights Watch, click here. (PDF format, 72kb)