By Qeerransoo Biyyaa
Framing: What We Are Told Is Not What It Is
Tigire ruling elites often misleadingly frame genocidal massacres against the Oromo people in various parts of Oromia as “inter-communal violence, ethnic conflict, border conflict or water conflict” in order to absolve themselves from responsibility and possible future indictment in local and international courts.
Aslii Oromo, an exiled Oromo political prisoner and torture survivor, cited the late Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zanawi ( from Tigray) who said, “We [TPLF or Tigrean elites] will reduce the number of Oromos from 40 million to 4000 without the knowledge of the world.” Yet, many, including some well-meaning Oromos, have hesitated calling widespread massacres against Oromo a “genocide”, and comfortably stayed on the human rights violations side of a much protracted problem.
Ethnic Tigire elites declared their intent of destroying the Oromo partially or fully and have acted on their declarations. Where they did not declare these intents, they can be inferred from the actions of singling out and massacring and displacing Oromo en masse or selling their lands to land grabbers by the millions of hectares. Even an airhead would understand that no one group will massacre other groups just out of love or to do them some favor by killing them off of their land. Calling massacres against Oromo “genocide” has been avoided mainly because some people make false strategic calculations and believe that it is enough for the Oromo to claim human rights abuses instead of claiming genocide too. Human rights violations are indicators. There are some who see the talk of genocide as an inflation or overstatement. But, connecting evidence on the ground can show us that massacres in Oromia are indeed conspicuous acts of genocide.
Let’s just go beyond routine condemnation press releases, which echo the official framing of such massacres as “border conflicts or ethnic clashes etc”, and come to grips with the reality–genocide. The methods are multi-pronged: direct massacre, displacement, landgrab, spread of lethal infectious diseases, starving, withholding services, destroying crops to just list a few. In the process, it becomes important to see these massacres as part of an ongoign genocide, “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic,racial, religious, or national group”
With absolute military, economic and diplomatic powers, Tigirean elites have ever been emboldened to destroy the Oromo nationality and its material, cultural and intellectual properties. They are accountable to no one–not to their laws, not to international law and not to moral principles. TPLF elites’ arrogance is becoming limitless, soaring. While they engage in genocidal activities in Oromia, the international community has afforded them the complete silence they so want. However, the human and material destruction caused by Tigire elites in Oromia is no short of the Syrian crisis or Darfur, but Western cameras are not focused on Ethiopia as its has been considered a regional counter-terrorism linchpin even now when Somalia is on the path of stability and reconstruction.
Reductionists may say, “oh yea, ethnic clashes have been going on between Oromo and others for decades, so what is the big deal about what is happening now?”
As stressed earlier, these are not just ethnic clashes between equally armed or unarmed groups trying to settle their differences violently. To understand what is going on, we have to make the links between the different events of massacres in Oromia. Briefly comparing the recent genocide hotspots in eastern Oromia, southern Oromia and western Oromia will offer a much needed deep perspective.
Patterns of Genocide
1. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Eastern Oromia
The mass atrocities against Oromo in Eastern Oromia (Qumbi county) started in 2011 when TPLF elites provided advice to armed bands of Ogaden militants to lay claim to six districts that traditionally belonged to Oromia region. Land claims are TPLF incentives to another group to get the group to indirectly commit genocide on their behalf. Who does the planning of the genocide–TPLF elites–are more important than the agents on the ground hired to do the depraved job of massacring and looting. This violence has been intensifying over the last six months. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa describes the massacre and the displacement in the following terms:
….this government-backed violence that has been going on in the name of border dispute around the Anniya, Jarso and Miyesso districts between the Oromia and Ogaden regional states has already resulted in the death and/or disappearance of 37 Oromo nationals and the displacement of about 20,000 others. Around 700 different types of cattle and other valuable possessions are also reported to have been looted. The reports indicate that the violence has been backed by two types of armed forces (the Federal Liyou/Special Police and the Ogaden Militia) from the Ogadenis side, while on the side of the Oromos, even those who demonstrated the intentions of defending themselves in the same manner were disarmed, dispossessed and detained.
2. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Borana, Moyale
BBC reported in July 2012 that scores of unarmed Oromos were massacred and over 20,000 were displaced by the same force from the neighboring Ogaden region. Like the Eastern Hararge massacre, the Moyale massacre was a result of cross- border raid into Oromia from the neighboring Somali region. This group was also heavily armed with military convoys, trucks, AK47s, machine guns, and other kinds of heavy weapons that only a group armed by the Ethiopian government can afford to have. Tigrean leaders have provided Oromo lands as incentives upon a successful completion of massacre in this area as well. The Oromo got displaced and the land was occupied by the armed settlers from a neighboring region. The attackers fulfilled their short-term goals of sharing the spoils of genocide, while their TPLF elites master-minding this massacre have made progress toward their goal of destroying the Oromo nation. TPLF elites do not care because the violence against Oromo does not affect their co-ethnics in Tigray region who are far removed from the actions. We are talking about the distance between Mekele and Moyale here (951 miles or 1530kms). Tigreans are sheltered from the kind of genocidal violence their elites unleash on Oromos everyday.
3. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Eastern Wallega
The massacre in eastern Wallega (western Oromia) began in 2008 and went on for over 5 years. This also shares the features of the two other massacres and massive displacements. The only difference is the difference of another neighboring group from Benishangul Gumuz that Ethiopia trained and supplied to do the same job of perpetrating genocidal violence on behalf of Tigire elites. These elites are capable of extremely evil schemes that no rational person can contemplate. The same applies here—they don’t care because the violence doesn’t affect their Tigrean co-ethnics who live removed far from the actions–we are talking about a distance between Nekemete and Mekele (675.5 miles or 1087km).
Oromia Support Group describes eastern Wallega massacre in the following way:
….the slaughter of defenceless Oromo by Benishangul Gumuz militia in the Didessa and Hanger valleys, Eastern Wallega, from 17-19 May.Well-trained and armed by the government with AK47s and heavier machine guns, Gumuz militias attacked unarmed Oromo villagers as they slept, slaughtering men, women, children and babies, cutting throats, dismembering bodies and casting body parts aside – limbs, breasts and genitals.
Overall Picture of Genocide in Oromia
The cases above, among others, show us how the ruling Tigrean elites are aggressively hiring, training and supplying Oromo neighbors to perpetrate genocide on their behalf foolishly thinking that that would absolve them from responsibility. The arrogance of Tigrean power in Ethiopia is growing by the day. It’s an unrestrained power of a hate-intoxicated minority elites who would stop at nothing short of wiping out Oromos slowly as their leaders have claimed or implied in the past. The misrepresentation of these massacres and displacements targeting the Oromo are promoted by both TPLF elites as well as the international media that relies on Tigirean sources for their news reporting and opinions.
Since Ethiopia prohibits journalists and the press direct access to these sites of genocide, the act is often wrongly labelled inter-ethnic clashes over borders, pasture and water. They did not or could not see what it really was. Looking at the nature of the state-backed heavily armed militia groups makes the cases rise above ordinary clashes between civilians of equal power.
The Desire for the World to Know