Nov 22, 2016

Oromo: State of Emergency Is Systematic State Repression in Disguise

Photo courtesy of: Reuters @AlJazeera

In a press release by the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) issued on 20 November 2016, the organisation warns that the state of emergency that was declared in Ethiopia in October 2016 is being used as a pretext for systematic state oppression. Ethiopia finds itself in a human rights and humanitarian crisis since 2014, as recurring protests in Oromia have been met with severe repressive action by the government in Addis Ababa. According to HRLHA, “millions of Oromo civilians […] have been forced to endure a life of hardship under siege” since the state of emergency has been declared back in October. The violence directed towards them includes indiscriminate shootings, rape and the looting of money and valuables. In addition to that, eighty-one Oromo youths have been forcibly disappeared while thousands of them have been detained. The state of emergency has made it almost impossible to obtain information about these incidents, as many information outlets have been suspended.

Below is a press release by HRLHA. The full document can be read here.

The March 2014 Oromo student protests, which began at Jima University and spread quickly to Ambo University then in a few days to all universities, colleges, high schools and elementary schools in Oromia and continued for two months, captured the attention of the world community for the first time. In those two months, over 81 Oromos, mostly university students, were killed and thousands detained by the crackdown on the protest by Agazi force and silenced. After eighteen months, the protest flared up again on November 12, 2015 in Ginchi Town in Western Showa 80 km south of the capital city. Since then, Oromia has remained in a human rights and humanitarian crisis. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) lists over 2000 Oromo deaths, thousands of disappearances and tens of thousands of detentions. Many more thousands have left their homes behind and are now living in forests in order to escape the TPLF sponsored killing squads.

To calm the peoples' anger- after indiscriminate shootings from both the ground and the air of innocent Oromos at the Irrecha festival in Bishoftu on October 2, 2016- the government declared a state of emergency on October 8, 2016. Since the State of Emergency was declared, millions of Oromo civilians across Oromia, including children, have been forced to endure a life of hardship under siege.

Oromo civilians of all walks of life continue to be at the receiving end of frequent indiscriminate attacks by the TPLF government killing force Agazi every day. Killings, rapings and the looting of money and valuables are common; every day people’s houses are broken into by government forces. The killing squad Agazi force also continues to commit other grave violations, including war crimes such as indiscriminate killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Amhara region and Konso zone in Southern people regional state.

According to the HRLHA informants, many Oromo youths have gone missing on a daily basis from their homes, workplaces and universities. Oromos missing from West Shewa districts are listed in table 1 (see original document). About 149 people from Debre Markos town Gojjam zone in Amhara regional state (307 km distance from Addis Ababa) have been detained in Maikelawi Adis Ababa according to HRLHA's informants.

The following are among the many Oromos detained in Showa zones, Central Oromia by TPLF forces in November 2016 (see original document).

Though it is difficult to obtain information from Ethiopia due to the government’s suspension of all information outlets including Facebook, the Internet and others, HRLHA's documentation provide fresh evidence that group exterminations are taking place at night in Oromia. For example, on November 6, 2016 at 5:00 am, three brothers- Marabu Jamalo, Abdissa Jamalo and Tola Jamalo- were killed in cold blood by the TPLF killing squad Agazi force in their home in Easter Arsi Zone in Shirka district. Their father Mr. Jamalo Hussein said "my children have been killed by the fascist government killing squad, Agazi, not because they stole or did anything wrong, but only because they are Oromos". Such crimes are widespread all over Oromia and Amhara regional states, especially at night, and are being perpetrated on an ever-increasing scale and as part of the State of Emergency policy. There is also evidence of the government targeting special groups such as youth, educated citizens and journalists.