Asafa Jalata, PhD
The University of Tennessee
On October 2, 2016, the Tigre-led Ethiopian regime massacred more than seven hundred Oromos and injured hundreds more at Irreechaa, the Oromo national holiday of thanksgiving held in Bishoftu in which millions had gathered. During the Irreecha festival, Ethiopian security forces shot live ammunition into the crowd and fired tear gas, although they claimed that the lives lost were due to a stampede. Western media have joined in this claim, spreading inaccurate information about the tragic events of this day. However, Oromo victims know what happened to them and they are telling their truth. They have used videos, pictures, and social media to release accurate information.
The victims say that the Tigre-led government used live bullets, tear gas, helicopter gunships, armored cars, and snipers to terrify and kill Oromo children, elderly, women and other sectors of the Oromo society that had gathered to celebrate Irreecha. During the holiday, many young Oromos had chanted anti-government slogans to show support for Oromo Protests, a protest movement that has been taking place since November 2015. Although the holiday festival had this political moment, the massacre of hundreds of people on this day was an inhumane violation of one of the most sacred rituals of the Oromo. Irrechaa is a sacred holiday of peace and a celebration of culture, and the Ethiopian regime continues to push the limits of its inhumane violent practices.
For a quarter of a century, the Tigre-led regime has targeted Oromo mosques, churches and Galma (the house of Oromo indigenous religion) and killed hundreds of Oromo religious leaders who have expressed their Oromummaa (Oromo identity, culture, and ideology) through their religions, language, clothing, and other activities. The regime, mainly representing the interests of the Tigre, 6% of the Ethiopian population, has been committing heinous abuses and violence against the Oromo people, the largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, and others, since its coming to power. Furthermore, in the process of transferring Oromo land and other resources to Tigre colonial elites and their collaborators, the regime has also targeted Oromo activists, politicians, students, and farmers who oppose its discriminatory and terrorist policies.
It is estimated that more than one million Oromos have been killed and thousands of Oromos have been suffering in prisons and secret concentration camps. Oromos who have been released from these prisons and concentration camps have exposed how Oromos are tortured, castrated, blinded, incapacitated, killed, and infected with HIV in various prisons and concentration camps. Also, hundreds of prisoners have perished due to the lack of adequate food, clothing, healthcare and other essential services. All these criminal acts have been committed on the brightest and conscious elements of the Oromo society. Unfortunately, the financial, military and diplomatic support of big powers has contributed to these genocidal and terrorist policies and practices for twenty-five years. Still these big powers refuse to take practical actions to stop the regime from its criminal acts. While giving lip service, these powers have continued to provide material support to the regime.
Currently, the Oromo people are determined more than ever to establish their political destiny. Despite continuous violent crackdowns and heinous massacres such as that at Irreecha, they continue to protest peacefully and raise their voices to challenge the Ethiopian regime’s oppressive anti-Oromo policies. Tigre colonial elites and their collaborators have somehow convinced themselves that continuing and escalating violence against unarmed and peaceful civilians is their answer to controlling and quieting a people who are determined to struggle for their rights, sovereignty, and freedoms. The reaction from the Oromo has instead been more protests and more outrage at the Ethiopian regime’s inhumanity.
The Oromo, the Amhara, the Somali, the Konso, the Sidama, the Gambella and others need to join the Oromo protest movement to remove the Tigre-led terrorist and genocidal regime. Learning from the failures of the last two decades, the Oromo movement must rebuild its national organizational capacity and form an alliance with all peoples that are suffering from Ethiopian state terrorism, genocide, and war on the principles of national self-determination and an egalitarian multinational democracy.