Ethiopia rising

An Olympian's gesture shone a light on the human rights violations happening in Ethiopia

The unheard pleas, excessive use of force by the Security Forces and the continued oppression against the Oromo and the Amhara people go unnoticed every other day. There is no one to speak up for the affected people apart from a few activists, whom no one pays the due heed.

The undying waves of protests raise important yet rarely asked questions in the minds of the general public. How many more people have to be killed to bring an end to this commotion? How many more mothers have to bury their young sons for the authorities to see their unjust use of force? Sadly, no international institution of peace and justice is taking this matter seriously, and the same attitude is shown by global media. The protests aren’t getting much coverage due to which a lot of people are still unaware of the ongoing deadly situation in the regions of Oromo and Amhara. The Oromo and the Amhara people are ethnic tribes that have been raising their voices against the unjust corruption for too long. Although both the ethnic tribes are fully supporting each other, the main reason that forced the two tribes to protest is extremely different but has the same essence.

The unrest in Oromo

The recent unrest in Oromo started with the economic, structural development and the expansion of the state of Addis Ababa, where the capital is. Whereas the expansion means the economic development of Ethiopia for the government officials, it also sends a wrong message to the people of Oromo. The Oromo people would be deprived of their lands they have successfully held for many generations, or their properties would be bought off from them in exchange for a trivial amount. Oromo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia and have owned most parts of the lands for residential and farming purposes. With no suitable choice to opt for, they resorted to peaceful demonstrations against the unfair expansion of Addis Ababa in the November of 2015.

What started as peaceful protests took a turn for the worst with the security personnel’s excessive use of power against the protestors. This resulted in the death of some young people, many of which were students. Since the protests escalated, many of the people have been arrested, and others have been captured as political prisoners by the Special Forces, with no intention of releasing them anytime soon. Till now, activists and Human Right Groups have accused the government officials of killing 400 protesters, 100 protesters alone in the previous week, many of which had not even reached the age of 16.

Although the protests are dissolving, that doesn’t mean that the Oromo people would let the sacrifices of their people to go quietly into the dark of the night. Recently, the Oromo activists called for a major public demonstration that was dubbed as the Grand Oromia Rally. Needless to say, the rally proved to be a success as many people from various regions including the capital Addis Ababa joined hands and showed support for the oppressed people.

The Protests in Amhara

Anti-government protests found its way to the people of Amhara in August. The cause of the public demonstration was on administered lands. Many people took to the streets to vent their anger over the unfair administration of the territories. The Amhara people held many greater areas until a political group known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front introduced a new system that restructured the major portion of the Amhara land into the Tigray region. The people leading the protests demanded the land to be returned to the administration of the Amhara region. These protests turned into deadly clashes with the police who resorted to using tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protestors.

The higher authorities defended their decision of using excessive force by stating that many of the protestors have caused considerable damage to the public properties. Moreover, they stated that the clashes had caused the deaths of ‘only’ seven people.   According to many of the activists and witnesses that were present at the time when the clashes spiraled out of control, the number of the dead people was far greater than what the government officials stated in front of the media. Many Ethiopians believe that the killings are carried out in a systematic way to remove the culturally and historically rich Oromo and Amhara. This fact is justifiable considering that the current government has stayed 25 years in power, and no step has ever been taken by the officials to introduce any policies to further the economic development in both tribal regions, especially in Oromia.

Root Cause of the Continuous Unrest

Recently, the Ethiopian government promised to bring justice to the families of the people killed in the demonstration. They further stated that the Security Forces would be held accountable for all their actions. This statement was made public after the Ethiopian government gave in to the demands of the protestors and held back the plans to urbanize the Oromo region. The government discontinued its plans; however, the protests didn’t stop there.

Perhaps it is because Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia but it is also the most oppressed regional tribe. Possibly, the protests didn’t end because the Oromo people are afraid of being ethnically cleansed and want more than mere words from the government to ensure the survival of their coming generations. Seemingly, there isn’t any connection between the protests by two different tribes, but they have been supportive of each other’s cause. It may be because both the tribal regions have been targets of the Tigray tribal group.

Tigray tribal group makes up 6.1% while the Oromo makes 34.4% and the Amhara makes up 27% of the whole Ethiopian population. Despite the fewer numbers, Tigray dominates the majority of the political domain. So it is no wonder that they have been accomplishing everything unjustly with the help of politics, solely for their own benefits.

Ethiopian government envisions a bright future for the Ethiopia, but unless the unjust practices, the feelings of hatred and the deprivation of the basic rights of other tribal regions are politically addressed and effectively dealt with, there can never be a bright future for Ethiopia.

Human Rights
Mehari Fisseha

Mehari has PhD in Social Policy and Social Work, Masters in Government and Public Policy. Mehari has been an advocate for refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland. Mehari is a passionate champion on Human Rights and Development issues, with a focus in Ethiopia and Eritrea. He is also interested in the reform of the United Nations. His academic work is driven by his commitment to empowerment and ‘betterment’ of the powerless (people, communities), often invisible in the eyes of policy makers, that policies ignore their very ‘realities’. Mehari is a recipient of European Academy of Diplomacy award for the best candidate in the European diplomacy and Foreign policy workshop.
One Comment
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    Musa Ali
    29 August 2016 at 12:46 pm
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    Very insightful article. Brilliant work. I wonder what the Ethiopian Government will do next?

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