Jun 12, 2006

Oromo: Stop the violence against Oromo students

The oppressed nations and nationalities of Ethiopia including the Oromos have been struggling to exercise their internationally recognized right for national self-determination

The fall of the communist regime of Mengistu in 1991 brought hope for the oppressed people of Ethiopia who had been longing for equality, justice, self-rule, and democracy. Such hope was shattered when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) minority government consolidated its tyrannical rule over the people of Ethiopia in general and the Oromo people in particular.

In order to extend its tyrannical rule, the regime of Meles Zenawi has been engaged in weakening and suppressing dissenting voices among the Oromos, the largest ethnic group of Ethiopia, by direct use of force and indirectly by instigating clashes between Oromos and other ethnic groups.

As a platform to answer the long-standing question of national self-determination, ‘ethnic’-based federal structure was put in place to serve, in part, as a political remedy for the historical oppression of nations and nationalities of Ethiopia including Oromos whose human right, language, and culture was undermined by the successive regimes of Ethiopia. However, the Tigrian-led regime has failed to uphold the ideals enshrined in its own constitution as well as international norms, including the right of nation and nationalities of Ethiopia to exercise their right for self-determination, holding free and all-inclusive elections, freedom of free speech and assembly, etc.

The TPLF government began derailing the democratic process when it forced genuine political organizations with wide public support such as the Oromo liberation front (OLF) to leave the political process thereby denying Oromos the choice to elect leaders of their preference. These are the main issues of discontent voiced by many Oromos for which the regime responded with violence.

The ‘ethnic’-based Federalism has become nothing more than the TPLF government’s ploy, carried out through its surrogate parties, to undermine the co-existence and harmony between different ethnic groups in Ethiopia to extend its rule over the majority. High on the government’s agenda has been instigating ethnic clashes and sowing the seeds of mistrust and disharmony between Oromos and other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The motive is clear: an undemocratic minority regime with meager popular support can only thrive by weakening the majority. The Oromos and Oromia are at the center of Ethiopia’s and East Africa’s geo-politics; Oromia borders almost all ethnic groups in Ethiopia as well as three sovereign East African Countries thereby facilitating the minority regime’s plan of creating havoc between Oromos and many of their neighbors.

Such government’s machination of weakening and suppressing Oromos is often times taken to institutions of higher learning, where activism for the rights of Oromos finds its roots. Oromo students have been persistently subjected to harassment, jailing, dismissal from academic institutions, beatings and killings by the government agents. These right violations are expressed and well documented by notable International Organization and governments among those include: The Human Rights Watch reports, The US State Department Human Rights Report, The Amnesty International report and alerts, The EU Human Right reports, the African Union, the UK secretary of State for international development, etc. Sadly, such reports did not compel donor countries to chastise the regime of Meles Zenawi for its atrocity against Oromo students. The government, with all its wickedness, is also utilizing students, mostly from Tigre ethnic groups, to spy on Oromo students at all levels of academic institutions.

While the harassment of Oromo students is widespread, Oromo students attending institutions outside Oromia, particularly Gonder University and Mekele University, have frequently complained about verbal abuses and threats they receive from TPLF cadres (some of whom are students), from University staff and officials. They had sent letters to appropriate authorities expressing their concern and they had also gone on hunger-strikes in an effort to be heard by higher authorities. However, the University administration, the State and Federal authorities have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the innumerable safety concerns of these Oromo students. The condition at Mekele University is significantly alarming and the violence against Oromo students in this institution has become a well coordinated activity involving some civilian residents of Mekele who are agitated by TPLF cadres, TPLF’s ‘student’ cadres, the University authorities, and the state’s security apparatus. Such a coordinated violence against any particular ethnic shall not be overlooked especially in such an ethnically polarized society such as Ethiopia.

Mekele is the capital of the Tigrian Regional State - the home of the TPLF minority regime. Unlike many Oromia towns, Mekele is not known for its diversity and, not surprisingly, many Oromos do not feel at home there. This is partly due to the government’s divisive policy in which Oromos are portrayed as significant threats to the only strong institutions that some agitated Tigrians believe to possess - the TPLF government. Thus, Oromo students at Mekele University have been repeatedly subjected not only to unwelcoming remarks, but also to state-sponsored violence including killings and also insults that is incorporated into one of Mekele University’s teaching text.

Incidents leading up to the current standoff between Oromo students at Mekele University and TPLF’s ‘student’ cadres and supporters include the publication of a history text book, with significant support from Mekele University administration, by a Tigrian faculty member where in the book Oromos are referred as “uncivilized and inferiors”. The aim of this ethnic provocation is clear. To this provocation, Oromo students responded in a civil way by writing a protest letter to the sponsoring Mekele University Administration. A few days later, an Oromo student was injured in a hand-grenade attack.

Source: Ethiopia Media