Oct 31, 2017

Oromo: Twenty-Six Years After… Which Solution to End the Vicious Circle of Violence?

Photo courtesy of: Oromia Movies

On 28 October 2018, the Government of Ethiopia was reported to be pursuing massacres against the Oromo community in the Oromia State. Despite the Oromo’s demands for democracy and justice, government forces violently massacre them, leaving them in deep sorrow and fear. Moreover, the Oromo face a sugar shortage due to a governmental purposeful deprivation policy, that causes a dreadful inflation. Despite the 26 years spent to find a peaceful solution, the Ethiopian government has perpetrated a systematic killings campaign. The Oromo community demands the punishment of the perpetrators in the name of the international community’s R2P (Responsibility to Protect) agenda. 

Please find enclosed a report published by the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa: 

The Government of Ethiopia commits crimes against humanity by massacring citizens by its well-trained killing squads, "Agazi force" to quell the dissent. Ambo Oromo, who are famous for their persistent confrontation against the regime by arguing for their basic rights in the Oromo protests for democracy and justice for over three years, from April 2014 to the present, continues to constitute the largest number of victims of the Ethiopian regime. The HRLHA Reporter in Ambo confirmed that the latest protest on Oct 25, 2017 was triggered by recent shortages of sugar, which had escalated in price from 24 Birr (Ethiopian Currency) to 70 Birr after devaluation of Ethiopian currency two weeks ago. The HRLHA reporter in the area observed that the protesters blocked the town's main road to Addis Ababa after a rumour spread that trucks passing through were carrying scarce sugar on the orders of the government. The people in Ambo believed that the sugar was heading to an area loyal to the government, assumed to be Tigray, and that caused the protesters to block the truck's passage. However, the Agazi force arrived at midday on October 26, 2017 in Ambo town and fired randomly at the protestors killing ten and injuring over sixteen others.

The Bloody Massacre perpetrated by Agazi force in Ambo against Oromo youth on October 26, 2016 was a part of the continued repression by the Federal Government of Ethiopia designed to silence by force the demands of the citizens instead of finding a solution for their grievances. The World community has witnessed in the past four or more years that the Ethiopian people in general and the Oromo people in particular have suffered or are still suffering under the EPRDF government: over 3,500 Oromos, from young to old, have been brutalized, tens of thousands have been incarcerated and other thousands have been forcefully disappeared.

For the past 26 years, the world has seen that this Ethiopian government does not believe in finding peaceful and sustainable solutions through negotiations with opposition political organizations or find solutions for the grievances of the people. The EPRDF government pretends in front of the world governments it is practicing democracy, while the facts on the ground show that the Ethiopian government is committing a deliberate act, a systematic campaign against Oromos that cause human suffering, or death on a large scale-a crime against humanity. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998 article 7 (1) murder, torture, rape, and imprisonment are among eleven elements listed as crimes against humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population” which have been committed against Oromos for the past two and half decades. The Rome Statues of the International criminal court also further elaborates the case of crime against humanity, that it is not necessary to prove that there is an overall specific intent. It suffices that there is a simple intent to commit any of the acts listed, with the exception of the act of persecution, which requires additional discriminatory intent. The perpetrator must also act with knowledge of the attack against the civilian population and that his/her action is part of that attack. The past trends of the EPRDF government wrongdoings suggest that it is more than likely to simply continue on its way committing heinous crimes.

The world community must learn from past crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, Sudan in 2003/2004- people there were killed indiscriminately and, more sadly, the perpetrators went unpunished until it culminated in a full genocide. What is happening now in Oromia by the EPRDF government against the Oromo nation is not new and donor governments such as the USA, the UK, Canada and government agencies (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, EU Human Rights Commission and UN human rights council) have regularly expressed their concerns but have not taken any concrete actions. The HRLHA urges the aforementioned donor governments to stop just expressing concern and take concrete action. One of the UN’s obligation under their own Constitutive Act, which provides for intervention inside a member state against genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, is to intervene to protect the civilians from the crimes that states commit. This is a cosmopolitan ideal of protecting people inside states against mass atrocities as a matter of common obligation. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), coined in 2001 under the leadership of the Canadian government and adopted by 150 heads of states and governments in 2005, obliged the international community to intervene to stop atrocities. As a matter of principle, a state shoulders the primary responsibility to prevent and protect its own citizens against horrific acts, but if it is unable or unwilling to prevent and protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the responsibility shifts to the international community. It states”, when a state is unable or unwilling to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crime against humanity and ethnic cleansing, the international community has the responsibility to intervene”. Therefore, the HRLHA again calls upon the international community to act collectively in a timely and decisive manner – through the UN Security Council and in accordance with the UN charter on a case-by – case basis to stop the human tragedy in Ethiopia.

For the Ethiopian human rights crisis, two ways can be helpful in restoring peace and stability. The international communities and agencies (AU, EU & UN) can play a decisive role by doing the following:

- Intervene using the principles R2P adopted in 2005 by the UN General Assembly;

- Major donor governments, including the USA, the UK and the Canada, should stop founding the authoritarian TPLF/EPRDF government;

- Put pressure on the TPLF/EPRDF government to allow neutral investigators to probe into the human rights crisis in the country as a precursor to international community intervention.