November 24, 2020
From: Oromo Scholars and Professionals
To: Members of the United Nations Security Council (UN SC), 2020/2021
C/o Her Excellency Inga Rhonda King.
UN Security Council President
Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN
685 3rd Ave., Suite 1108
New York, N.Y. 10017
C/o H.E. Ambassador Jerry Matjila, incoming chair (December)
Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN
333 East 38th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10016-2772
RE: Ongoing wars and alarming gross human rights violations in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia
We, the undersigned Oromo Scholars and Professionals residing in North America, Europe, and Australia, write to appreciate the UN SC’s intervention to bring peace and stability in Ethiopia through dialogue. We appeal that any peace talks involve major political opposition parties including representatives of the Oromo people, the largest ethno-national population in the country, to address the root causes of man-made political problems that have ravaged Ethiopia for decades.
We write in the backdrop of the ongoing wars in multiple fronts of Ethiopia, the sufferings of innocent people as a solid validation to our appeal. We are disturbed by the continued jailing, torturing, and killing of Oromo opposition party members, supporters, and activists. There has been confirmed cases of burning and looting of residential homes, private property, and businesses firms belonging to suspected members or supporters of legally registered political opposition groups. These heinous acts must stop before the country dives into a deeper problem from which it may never recover. What is going on in Tigray regional state is a symptom of the deep-rooted problem of Ethiopia, which, unless resolved for good, has the potential of spilling over to the wider Horn of Africa region.
Your taking on peace issues in Ethiopia is a critical matter for Ethiopia’s chronic problems that Ethiopia’s political leaders gave deaf ears for much too long. As experts and informed scholars on Ethiopia, and the majority of us born in that country, we have the knowledge and the instinct to read the political landscape of Ethiopia. This gives us the firm standing that is also our long-held collective belief, that for such peace talks to have any success, the root problems must be addressed by bringing together all the major opposition party leaders, including representatives of the Oromo people, the largest ethno-national population in the country.
Ethiopia has plummeted into wars of attrition at multiple fronts; innocent lives are lost, and one of the poorest countries in the world is destroying its valuable assets and resources. These wars are undermining regional peace and security, compromising the very survival of the country.
At the root of the problem is the refusal of Ethiopia’s successive political leaders to recognize the inalienable rights of the peoples of Ethiopia, and a drive for cultural supremacy as a means for economic and political dominance. This relentless and perversive drive to control is skillfully concealed under the banner of development and executed in the name of unity of the country. The intended outcome is however domination, an antithesis of what is preached as development or unity.
The data on the ongoing crimes on the Oromo people are well documented, immense, and distressful. Almost half of Oromia, the largest regional State in Ethiopia, is under a Command Post where arrest, torture, rape, burning properties and crops, and wanton killings have been daily events. These reports are consistent with those reported by multiple international human rights advocates and defenders, such as the May, 29, 2020 and July 18, 2020 Amnesty International reports. While the Oromo leaders are being incarcerated in unmarked underground cells, thousands of Oromos are herded in overcrowded jails and makeshift school prisons without trial and are being exposed to COVID-19. Even those cleared by courts of crimes are denied bails and continue to be incarcerated without charge. Consequently, the Oromo people have given up hopes in the system.
From 2014 to 2018, the world witnessed sustained peaceful resistance by Oromo youth which forced a reform within the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. During those three years of bitter struggle for freedom, more than 5,000 Oromos were murdered, and thousands were incarcerated, paving the way for PM Abiy Ahmed (of now Prosperity Party) to be appointed as a Prime Minister of Ethiopia in recognition of the sacrifices the Oromo people paid to usher a hope of new era in the country.
Initially, PM Abiy seemed to have made some radical changes including the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners, making peace with Eritrea, and inviting exiled opposition and armed groups to return home. This initial gesture gave him international praise to the point that he won the 2019 prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Abiy’s honeymoon with democracy was short-lived. With the return to the country of the leaders of Liberation Fronts the public overwhelmingly favor and support, as demonstrated by the massive turnout of supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to receive their leaders on September 15, 2018, the mood in the ruling group soured and quickly changed. The tolerant political space they promised to create abruptly stopped in its track. Contrary to the Federal system, the TPLF-led EPRDF espoused, the new regime began signaling its commitment to reincarnate the long discredited and abandoned unitary system of governance. They did this by way of reinforcing teaching Amharic as a compulsory language in all schools in all regional states in the country, portraying Ethiopia as a primarily Orthodox Christian state, and glorifying deceased emperors responsible for state designed and implemented genocide in the incorporated nations and nationalities in west, central and south Ethiopia.
Receiving advice from individuals who seek to reverse Ethiopian politics and administration to its pre-1974 imperial mold, Dr. Abiy is planning to redraw the political/administrative structure of the country by geography instead of the current map that follows linguistic boundaries consistent with the Federal form of Governance. To this end, the Prime Minster has repeatedly signaled that he is considering the revision of the country’s constitution specifically to get rid of article 39 that guarantees nations’ and nationalities the right to self-rule, right to use their own language, and right to self-determination, including the right to establish own independent state. Arbitrarily taken, as he intends to, this will undoubtedly lead the country to a disastrous civil war with serious implication for the region.
With all this authoritarian rule on display, the regime decided to illegally postpone the elections scheduled to have been conducted in June 2020, citing COVID 19 as a pretext, and began openly attacking opposition parties and their supporters. They deployed command posts throughout Oromia where the men and women in uniform conduct daily extrajudicial killings, rape, burn Oromo peasant homes and produce, and incarcerate ordinary citizens they allege are OLF supporters. We would remiss if we don’t mention to you that that Oromos constitute more than 65 percent of Internally Displaced Ethiopians.
We conclude our appeal by bringing to your attention a widely reported sad incident, – the crime orchestrated by the regime, a popular Oromo singer and human rights activist Hacaaluu Hundeessaa who was assassinated in the capital Finfinnee (Addis Ababa). Hacaaluu’s assassination is only one in a series of targeted assassinations of Oromo notables, activists, scholars, and community leaders; a phenomenon that is all too familiar for Oromos in Ethiopia. What is even more shocking is what happened immediately after the assassination of Hacaaluu. Oromo businesses were destroyed in the capital city and prominent Oromo political leaders and activists were unjustly arrested and jailed, including Abdi Ragassa, Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Michael Boran, Gemechu Ayana, kenasa Ayana, Lami Begna, Yazo Kebede, and thousands of other activists and journalists. We appeal that all political leaders be released without any pre-conditions, and that an all-inclusive dialogue organized in the presence of a third-party observer to pave the way for a transitional government. In the absence of their leaders, the Oromo youth are taking to the streets to once again demand the same questions that brought them out in the first place and more bloodshed is taking place in Oromia as we write this letter.
Regrettably, private media houses such as Oromia Media Network (OMN) and Oromia Network News (ONN) which serve as the only voices of the Oromo people are closed, most of their journalists imprisoned, and their properties confiscated by the regime. Consequently, the Oromo, who make up more than 40 per cent of the Ethiopian population and are the single largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, are without a single independent domestic TV network and newspaper to make their voice heard today. We fail to imagine a lasting deal for peace in the absence of an independent and impartial media.
Once again, we firmly believe that in the absence of the full recognition of the rights of various nations and nationalities in Ethiopia, and without full participation of the Oromo people in the political process, there will be no lasting peace in Ethiopia. We therefore hereby call up on the UN SC to remain vigilant and earnestly engage Oromo political leaders to avert the impending crisis, the consequences of which we predict will be dire. As Oromo scholars and professionals, – people who research and write on Ethiopia’s acute problems, we would be happy to appear in front of you, or any other committee and further discuss our recommendations to address the root cause of problems in Ethiopia in the interest of peace for all the peoples of the region.
This letter is also copied to:
E. Ambassador Zhang Jun
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN
E. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere
Permanent mission of France to the UN
E. Nebenzya Vasily Alekseevich
Permanent mission of Russian Federation to the UN
Her Excellency Dame Barbara Woodward
Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN
Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative of U.S. Mission to the UN
E. Ambassador Philippe Kridelka
Permanent Mission of Belgium to the UN
E Ambassador Christoph Heusgen
Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN
E. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the UN
E Ambassador Jose Singer
Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to UN
E Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN
E Ambassador Moncef Baati
Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the UN
E. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy
Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to UN,
E Ambassador Abdou Abarry
Permanent Representative of Niger to the UN
Oromo Scholars and Professionals