Appeal for Intervention in Ethiopia to End the Ongoing Bloodshed in Oromia
Oromo Scholars and Professionals, March 22, 2021
Contact Email: Bduressa@comcast.net
To whom it may concern:
Subject: Appeal for Intervention in Ethiopia to End the Ongoing Bloodshed in Oromia
Oromia, the largest of the ten Regional States of Ethiopia has been under martial rule since mid-2018. Currently, the Ethiopian security forces are repeating in Oromia the so-called policy of “keeping law and order” that has brought immense disaster on the civilian population of Tigray, as noted by several human rights organizations and governments. While international public attention is focusing largely on the tragedy of the Tigrayan people, the situation in Oromia is going from bad to worse. The leadership of major Oromo opposition parties including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) have been imprisoned falsely accused by the government of fueling political violence following the assassination of the Oromo artist Hachaalu Hundessa in June 2020.
The government forces have since arrested and thrown into jail civilians in thousands all over Oromia, accusing them of supporting the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), or “OLFShane”. Federal Security forces burn crops and homes of poor Oromo farmers. They rape mothers and daughters, which apparently is the hallmark of the behavior of Ethiopian security forces as recently admitted by the county’s Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, Filsan Abdulahi Ahmed, regarding the current sad situation in Tigray.
Many civilians were taken out of their homes by government security forces at random, shot, and thrown into the bushes in many places in Oromia. We will only mention the case of a few victims out of hundreds.
Mr. Kitilaa Guddata, a 32-year-old teacher and a father of two from the town of Sekela, was one of the victims of the atrocities of the Ethiopian security forces. His family told the BBC that Mr. Kitilaa was taken from his home by police officers on the night of 19 November 2020 and never returned home. After searching desperately for his whereabouts, his relatives found his dead body and that of two other people a couple of days later. His hands were tied, and he was shot from behind and thrown on a riverbank.
Galaana Imaana, also a father of two, was another victim who was taken from his home in the city of Ambo in November and killed. His younger sister Chaaltu told a BBC Afaan Oromo reporter that they desperately searched for him for four days until they received news that the police had found a body by a riverside. They then went to a local police station where officers confirmed they had found a body and buried him. Chaaltu said she showed the police her brother’s photo and was told that the man they had buried matched the photo and the description she gave them. According to the police officers, her brother had died of a gunshot wound. Chaaltu said “we only know about his arrest. We don’t know what his crime was, we don’t know why they killed him instead of taking him to court.” According to Chaaltuu, her brother had only served on a committee organized to welcome OLF leaders who had returned from exile in 2018. He was not a member of the organization.
Today, extrajudicial assassinations like the above are committed all over Oromia regularly. Prisoners are reportedly picked up from their cells and executed overnight and their remains are discarded in the wilderness. The Oromo youths are also often mercilessly beaten, or detained as they go about their daily business, or are even gunned down. Similar atrocities were inflicted upon five Oromo youths; Araarso Kebede, Raguel Hailu, Henok Yohannes, Seifu Kedir, and Yisihak Zelalem, who were killed in Nekemte town in October 2020.
Regrettably, what is worrying Oromos now is the worsening security situation in Oromia by the involvement of Special Forces that belong to other regional states. In particular, the deployment of the Amhara Special Forces in Oromia where the OLA and government forces are in conflict is a prime example. As in Tigray, units of the Amhara Special Forces are operating in Horro Guduru and other districts in Wallaga, western Oromia alongside the federal forces, allegedly to control the activities of the OLA. According to reports from residents, the federal forces, and recently units of Amhara Special Forces have engaged in atrocities which are falsely blamed by government and private media outlets on the OLA.
In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) on March 10, 2021, the commander of OLA, Mr. Kumsaa Diribaa, said that units of Amhara Special Force were engaged alongside with regional and federal government forces in combat with the OLA in Horro Guduru, Wallaga. He said that they are committing atrocities against civilians that they suspect of supporting or sympathizing with the OLA. He told the VOA that the OLA unit had killed some of the Amhara Special Force fighters, kept their identity cards (ID) and apprehended others.
In addition to the military and the Amhara Special Forces, the local report suggests that the Amhara settlers are regrettably being armed and used or misused as local militia by the government to control the activities of OLA. At the same time, the government has been disarming the indigenous Oromo, suspecting them of being supporters or sympathizers of the OLA insurgents.
The report we have received from residents in Horro Guduru indicates that units of the Amhara Special Force were sent in secret by the Amhara Regional State to the area under the pretext of “protecting Amharas” settled there and have exacerbated the already tense and volatile situation. Whether they are invited by the authorities of the Regional Oromia State or not, the deployment of the Amhara Special Forces to the district is a serious mistake. Wallaga has always been a major destination hub of seasonal farm workers from the Amhara region for decades, if not centuries. The region has also amicably accommodated Amhara households who were displaced by drought and famine since the 1960s. In the late 1970s and mid-1980s, the Oromo population of the region had accepted and integrated drought and famine displaced households from other regional states.
Horro Guduru is one of the districts in Wallaga that had received tens of thousands of displaced Amhara and Tigrayan households in the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike other districts, Oromo, and settler-households have lived interspersed and integrated in communities. Regrettably, like in Tigray, units of the Amhara Special Forces are also committing outrageous atrocities in these communities and encouraging hostilities between their Amhara and Oromo residents.
The attack of the Amhara Special Forces on Oromo communities is not limited to Wallaga. Units of the same force have been perpetrating atrocities on the inhabitants of the Oromia Special Administrative Zone of Kemise which is in the Amhara Regional State since March 20, 2021. According to the media, many innocent people were killed, and unspecified amount of property destroyed since the hostilities had started. We believe that the deployment of Amhara militia in Oromia will incite insurmountable violence between the Amhara and the Oromo communities with catastrophic consequences for Ethiopia as a whole. We, members of the Oromo Scholars and Professionals, hereby:
- Call for an unconditional withdrawal of the Amhara militia from Oromia and demand an immediate secession of hostilities against all civilian population in the regional state.
- Demand an independent investigation into all crimes that were and are being committed in Oromia including the assassination of Activist Hacaaluu Hundessa, and mass killings in the wake of his assassination.
- Demand immediate release of all political prisoners and lift the ban on independent media.
- Appeal to the Africa Union, the UN, and EU to impose pressure to bear on the Ethiopian government and to find a comprehensive solution to the deep-rooted and longstanding political conflict between the Oromo people and the Ethiopian state in consultation with all concerned Oromo political parties and concerned bodies without delay.
- Ask international organizations that any support given to the Ethiopian government be based on respect for human rights, freedom of the press, the opening of the political space, freedom of assembly, and an independent legal system.
Finally, we hope our appeal will be given the necessary attention by your office. We are grateful for your immediate response to and consideration of this matter.
Bekele T. Duressa, Ph.D.
Chairperson, Oromo Scholars and Professionals