Jan 06, 2014

Oromo: Union of Students in Europe-Germany Submits a Letter of Complaint

Union of Oromo Students in Europe-Germany (UOSG) has submitted a letter of complaint to the Broadcasting Board of the DW (German Radio) on the DW Amharic Service’s defamatory and discriminatory program against the Oromo people

Below is a letter published by Gadaa:

Deutsche Welle (DW) Broadcasting Board,

Herrn Klaus Bergmann
Leiter Internationale Angelegenheiten
Kurt-Schumacher-Straße 3
53113 Bonn

Letter of Complaint of the UOSG to the Deutsche Welle Broadcasting Board

Dear Mr. Bergmann,

It came to our attention through our members that the DW Amharic Service’s December 8, 2013 program, which we found to be insensitive and derogatory against the single largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa, the Oromo people. We, members of the Union of Oromo Students in Europe-Germany (UOSG)[i] and the Oromo community residing in Germany, are, therefore, deeply offended by the DW Amharic Service’s program, which was defamatory and discriminatory against the Oromo people of Ethiopia to say the least.

What disappoint us the most is, the well respected international media like Deutsche Welle (DW), which aspires itself to promote intercultural dialogue, to work to further international understanding and tolerance, to communicate the values of liberal democracy, and to support respect for human rights, to be used for hate propaganda like the Radio Rwanda and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines of the Rwanda were used during the Rwanda genocidal era.

Our compliant and disappointment begin with the way this specific program was represented. By inviting two professors of history – representing the right wing extreme ideology, and an economist from the Oromo side, the host has deliberately set up an unbalanced and unfair discussion forum about the darkest historical event in the Ethiopian Empire. Even though the declared aim of this program was to conduct a fair discussion about the Oromo and Emperor Menelik II, the lack of proper representation to tell the Oromo narrative in the presence of extremists, who harbored hate towards the Oromo, have made the so-called discussion a hate propaganda. Moreover, we are forced to assume the moderator’s intention to be deliberate during the program, when he tolerated, if not cheered, the inflammatory and derogatory comments from the two guests. To put gas into flame, the moderator also engaged himself in discrediting and disrespecting his honorable Oromo guest representing the counter argument. It is with this respect we are forced to write this letter to inform the broadcasting board this inflammatory and discriminatory program targeting the single largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa.

Dear Mr. Bergmann, to put things into context, the Oromo people are the single largest ethnic group in East Africa and make up a significant portion of the population occupying the Horn of Africa. In the Ethiopian alone, Oromo constitute about ~40% (close to 40 million) of the Ethiopian[ii] population. During their long history, the Oromo developed their own uniquely democratic political and social institution known as the Gadaa system. During the late 19th century, King Menelik of Abyssinia conquered the vast Oromo land that now constitutes most of the landmass of the present-day Ethiopia[iii]. The conquest was very bloody – with an estimated 5 million Oromos either killed as a result of the wars or the aftermath plagues. The survivors were evicted from their ancestral land and turned into serfs or sold as slaves with no national right to the Oromo language, culture, history and their beloved socio-political institution, theGadaa system. After the conquest the entire Oromo, their socio-political values were banned from their own country (Oromia) and labeled as the enemies of the state under the imperial regimes of Menelik and then Haile-Selassie II . They had been given a derogatory name called “Galla,” which is banned from public speech in Ethiopia today[iv].

Therefore, what angered us and forced us to write this letter is the fact that those views reflected on the December 8, 2013 program which harbored hate, discrimination and a wish for the return of this darkest historical era for millions of Oromo and other oppressed nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian empire is the view of neo-feudal extremists. Those guests invited, cheered by the moderator, explicitly stated on air that the name Oromo itself was controversial, implying Oromos should be called ‘Galla’ even today. One of the invited guests, Dr. Haile Larebo, went further to question the identity and history of the Oromo people by saying the entire history of the Oromo people, was “myth and fiction.” Those guests went further to declare the Gadaa system, which most anthropological and historical studies find to be the most democratic and egalitarian socio-political system in the world, to be synonymous with terror anddestruction. What’s deeply saddening is, all through this, the DW Amharic Service’s moderator, as a responsible and ethical journalist, neither did stop the inflammatory statements of the guest nor entertain the counter argument given by the the Oromo guest. The moderator went further to dismiss and discredit the third/Oromo guest, who was supposed to represent the Oromo narrative, mainly because these inflammatory statements against the Oromo people fitted the moderator editorial position. We found this to be irresponsible, unethical and racially biased journalism.

It is well observed that, to systematically ridicule Oromo values and propagate inflammatory remarks about the Oromo people have become a common practice in most of the past and present Ethiopian empire elite dominated media in Ethiopia and abroad. Even though such practice are also acceptable in the current Ethiopia empire, due to a continuing subjugation and oppression policies of the successive Ethiopian political elites and government, in a free world like Germany and a free international media like Deutsche Welle (DW), this is utterly unacceptable. The use of one of the free media outlets in the world, DW, by those extremists to praise the ‘Black Hitler of Oromo people’ and to question the very existence of more than 40 million people, not only offended this great people, but also put the independence and the very mission of DW stated in its mission policy into question.

As we love and respect DW as a reliable source of information, we do not believe that this incident was an intended mission of the DW in general to spread such an offending message to the Oromo audience worldwide nor do we surely mean that it happened deliberately; rather we want to remind that it should not happen again.

We, those who live in freedom and democracy, believe in dialogues of mutual benefit, working up the past and promoting a better future.

With this context we, the Union of Oromo Students in Europe-Germany (UOSG), would kindly ask the DW Broadcasting Board:

to investigate the point of our complaint; to take appropriate measures and disciplinary measure in case of misconduct; to air a balanced program on this issue again; for an official apology for the Oromo people for the moral damages the program caused to take appropriate measures to preempt future recurrence by considering the establishment of the Afan Oromo Service by taking the experience of other international media like the Voice of America (VOA) and others with similar radio programs, and to revise the editorial policies of the DW Amharic Service by consulting every stakeholder and consumer of this media outlet.

We would like also to point out the ever-increasing Oromo residents in Germany – after fleeing their homeland for fear of politically-motivated persecutions, and the Oromo mass in Ethiopia are the number one audience of the DW Amharic Service, and therefore, they are the most offended by this program. Therefore, as responsible Germany residents and adopted citizens, we demand our complaints to be addressed as soon as possible, and would be immoral and irresponsible to ignore this compliant. We expect your immediate response to our letter.

With Kind Regards!

Union of Oromo Students in Europe-Germany

- Valentin Schmidt, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board
- Johannes Hoffmann, Head of Corporate Communications and Spokesperson
- Martina Bertram, Editor Corporate Communications
- Günther Nooke, Member of Broadcasting Board, Africa Commissioner


[i] Union of Oromo Students in Europe-Germany (UOSG) is a students organization based in Germany. Founded in 1974 in Germany, it has members throughout Germany, Europe and Ethiopia.

[ii] Central Statistical Agency (2008) – “Population Size of Regions by Nations/Nationalities (Ethnic Groups) and Place of Residence: 2007″ – Census 2007. Addis Ababa: Central Statistical Agency. p.66.

1. Bates, P. 1979. The Abyssinian Difficulty. Oxford University Press.
2. Baxter, P. 1978. Ethiopia’s Unacknowledged Problem: The Oromo. African Affairs, Vol. 77 No. 308, pp. 283-296.
3. Prouty, C. and E. Rosenfeld. 1981. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. London : The Scarecrow Press.
4. Legesse, A. 1973. Gada: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society. New York: The Free Press.

[iv] Cornelius John Jaenen, ‎Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 12, No. 2 – 1956