New concerns : #Ethiopian opposition say 10 Oromo students killed in protests in Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Ethiopian police killed 10 Oromo students who were demonstrating peacefully over plans to integrate the capital, Addis Ababa, with surrounding towns in Oromia region in the past three weeks, an opposition leader said.
High-school and university students from across Ethiopia’s most-populous region are protesting to demand the government shelve a master plan for the city, said Bekele Nega, general secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress.
“The protest is not as usual, they are not backing away,” he said by phone from Addis Ababa. “They are not willing to stop until the demands are met.” Authorities gave a lower number of fatalities.
Ethiopia, which the International Monetary Fund forecasts will have sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy this year, is seeing tensions between its plans for rapid development and its constitution, which enshrines the right to ethnic self-administration. Oromo critics say the integration of the capital with surrounding towns amounts to annexation of the ethnic group’s territory as farmers will be evicted and the language and culture lost.
Integrated development will benefit Oromo residents of peripheral towns and there will be no changes to administrative boundaries, said Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s communications minister.
Four students died and 20 police officers were injured when protesters became violent, including an attempt to take control of a police station in Toke Kutaye in West Shewa zone, Getachew said by phone from Gambella town on Wednesday.
“We know the protests are based on false claims by some political elements, but whatever the source of protest they should be done in a peaceful manner,” he said. “Generally security forces have been exercising significant restraint, but there were areas where they have been overwhelmed.”
Around 150 people have been injured and 550 arrested, although persistent demonstrating has led to the release of 140 detainees, Bekele said. A worker from the state-owned Fincha sugar factory was killed on Dec. 7 during a protest, he said. The Sugar Corp. is seeking further information on a reported incident at Fincha, which is in Horo Gudru Welega zone, spokesman Zemedkun Tekle said Wednesday by phone from Addis Ababa.
A student reported to have died at Haramaya University by falling from a window when police raided dormitories is recovering, Alemshet Teshoma, a university spokesman, said by phone from East Hararghe zone.
Oromo community protests in London over ‘forced eviction and ethnic cleansing’
Members of the Oromo community in the UK have gathered in central London to protest against the forced eviction of their people in Ethiopia. Protesters argued the Ethiopian government’s so-called “master plan” to expand the borders of capital Addis Ababa into the regional state of Oromia will lead to the eviction of Oromo people from their farmlands.
The forced evictions allow authorities to build roads and infrastructures. As a result, Oromo people lose their livelihoods and become poor. Demonstrators also argued that forced evictions as well as a perceived marginalisation by the government threatens the survival of their culture and language.
Activists also claimed Ethiopian security forces persecute and kill Oromo protesters. Earlier in December, reports alleged that at least seven Oromos were killed during protests against Addis Ababa expansion. Oromia police confirmed three people were killed, defying them as “anti-peace forces”.
In May 2014, at least 11 students were killed during demonstrations against the master plan. Protesters set fire to a bank, a gas station and some government buildings, said the police, while the government denied that protesters were killed.
Several NGOs have condemned the persecution of Oromos in Ethiopia. Amnesty International said in a 2014 report that Oromo dissidents were arrested tortured and killed. The report said: “The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality. This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”
Abiy Berhane, Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Ethiopia in London, told IBTimes UK he was not aware of the protest occurred on 10 December. He said: “Such a demonstration can only be held by the usual group of people with the same agenda that has not attracted support from many Ethiopians inside or outside the country.
“The protesters are members and sympathisers of violent opposition groups who are determined to overthrow the constitutional order in Ethiopia by force. The allegations they made are fabrications that are designed to gain propaganda mileage for the violent objectives they are trying to promote in Ethiopia.”
“There has never been any eviction of the Oromo people from their farms,” Berhane continued. “The purpose of the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan, which is said to be the subject of their protest, is to ensure that towns that are adjacent to Addis Ababa and located in Oromia region, benefit from development activities taking place in the capital city.
“These opposition groups have made it a habit to engage in a malicious campaign to tarnish the image of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a federal state composed of more than 80 nations, nationalities and peoples, among which the Oromos feature prominently and contribute enormously for the socio-economic transformation currently taking place in the country.”
Calgary Ethiopian community calling for action in Oromia student deaths
About a hundred people from Calgary’s Ethiopian community held a rally outside city hall Thursday to draw attention to violence happening in their home country.
People in the Oromia region have been protesting the Ethiopian government’s plan to integrate the country’s capital city, Addis Ababa, with surrounding towns in the area.
Calgary demonstrators say the Oromos are dying at the hands of the Ethiopian government and security forces.
Firatol Shune took part in the rally and wants Canada to send Ethiopia a message.
“Our people are suffering there, we are protesting here, they are being killed for exactly what we are doing,” Shune said.
“Yes, there needs to be foreign aid given to third world countries but there also needs to be an intervention and negotiation between the Canadian government and the Ethiopian government to stop harassing people.”
Rallies against the violence in Oromia are happening all over the world.
The demonstrators say they want the Ethiopian government to respect the democratic rights of the Oromos and other Ethiopian people.
Who are the Oromos?
Oromo people are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and their population amounts to more than 25 million (around 35% of Ethiopia’s total population). They originated in the Horn of Africa, where they are believed to have lived for millennia.
The Oromo are divided in two main sub-groups. People belonging to the Borana Oromo group mainly inhabit southern Ethiopia and parts of Kenya. The Barentu Oromos can be found in Oromia as well as other areas of Ethiopia.
Oromo people majority are Muslim and they have historical roots in the land of Abyssinia.
Somalia and Sudan were the most prominent role for Islam in East Africa.
Oromo people speak Afaan Oromoo, as well as Amharic and Tigrinya. They are mainly Christian and Muslim, while only 3% still follows the traditional religion based on the worshipping of the god Waaq.
Oromo are mainly farmers and cattle herders. They have distinguished themselves throughout history for their strong military organisation.
In 1973, they created the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that stemmed from the discontent among people over the marginalisation by the government. OLF also calls for the self-determination of the Oromo people. It has been deemed as a terror organisation by the government.