Posted: Caamsaa/May 8, 2014
Date: May 6, 2014
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C St NW Washington, DC 20520
Re: Ethiopian Government on going violations of human rights and land-grab
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We, the Oromo Community of Chicago, write this letter to bring to your attention and seek your intervention in the widespread and systematic violation of human rights, discrimination and persecution that Oromo people in Ethiopia are facing. Our heart is bleeding while we tell your good office the Ethiopian government’s continued massacre and shocking suppression of peaceful protesters and journalist continued unabated. These acts of state violence, apart from destroying the targeted society, will cause irreparable damage not only to Oromos and the wider Ethiopia but also the international community’s geopolitical interests in the region over the long run.
The Oromo people, the single largest nation in the Horn of Africa, constitute about 40 percent of the population of Ethiopia. The ruling Ethiopian regime came to power following the collapse of the Communist military dictatorship in 1991. The regime is dominated by the former rebel group Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which hails from the Tigray people. The Tigray people approximately constitute about 6 percent of the Ethiopian population and dwell in the barren and over cultivated land of North Ethiopia. The Oromo country, the largest and richest region in Ethiopia, is the breadbasket and the economic backbones of Ethiopia. For Ethiopian elites, who are traditionally the Northerns, maintain a tight grip on the Oromo country. Therefore, in Ethiopia, despite their numeric superiority and richness of their land, the Oromo have always been treated as a minority group, perpetually subjected to political, economic, and cultural depredations and dispossession. Because of their preponderant number, the Tigrayan minority considers the Oromos an existential threat to its political hegemony. For this reason, the TPLF regime is hell-bent on undermining the human, economic, and intellectual capacity of the Oromo people. Repressive measures such as targeted killings, abductions and disappearances, unlawful imprisonments and torture against the Oromo people have been widespread for over two decades. The government denies them freedom of association, press and expression; marginalizes them from political decision-making; stifles and intimidates dissent through invoking arbitrary and draconian laws. Several international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and International Crisis Group have archived and well-documented scores of these atrocities over the years.
Decades old practice of discrimination and persecution of the Oromo people is now translating into a broad day massacre of the country’s young lives on the streets and villages of the Oromo people. Just over the past few days, when Secretary John Kerry visited the country, only in one city, at least 47 young lives perished under the weight of live ammunition fired at peaceful protestors drawn from high schools and Universities.
These protests were staged by the students following the government’s so called “Integrated Master Plan” for the city of Addis Ababa. The implementation of this master plan will dislocate and dispossess millions of Oromo farmers off their land. The non-violent protest is facing an extreme and disproportionate level of violence from the government. To date, it has claimed the lives of dozens of students while a greater number of students are seriously injured by government force.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We like to stress that this pattern of gross violation of human rights of the Oromo is repeating itself time and again and has become habitual practice. In 2003, over 300 Oromo students were illegally dismissed from the Addis Ababa University because they protested against the decision of the government to relocate the seat of Oromia from Addis Ababa (Finfinnee). The students were banned from schools, their only ticket to life in the country of little opportunity. Most of them ended up in jail and lived incommunicado for a long time. Some of them died crossing border to escape persecution at home.
We, the community of the Oromo Community of Chicago, would like to draw your attention to these tragic series of events in the last couple of weeks as we call on you to use your office’s diplomatic and/political influence, resources, and network of friends in order to put pressure on the government of Ethiopia by calling upon it:
- To stop the acts of violence immediately and to stop implementing the so called “Integrated Master Plan”.
- To establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the violation and recommend the remedial measures that need to be taken to restore the victims and to penalize the perpetrator;
- To bring the perpetrators of this atrocious crimes to court to account for their acts of violence;
We also like to call upon you to voice your solidarity with the victims to alert the international community to the events unfolding in Ethiopia. We have faith in you that you will act promptly before the violence and unrest evolve into a full-fledged humanitarian crisis and destabilize the region.
Ibrahim Elemo, M. D, M.P.H
President, Oromo Studies Association
The Joint Letter of the Oromo Community Organizations of the United States and OSA:
- The Oromo Studies Association
- The Oromo Community of Chicago
- The Oromo Community of Ohio
- The Oromo Community of Michigan
- The Oromo Community of Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee
- Oromo Community of Kentucky
- The Oromo Community of Seattle
- The Oromo Community of South Dakota
- The Council of Oromo Elders of Minnesota
- The Oromo Community of Denver
- The Oromo Community of Atlanta
- The Oromo Diaspora Association of New York