Concern about the killings of Oromo students in the Amhara Region
Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minster
P.O. Box 1031
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
I am writing this letter on behalf of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), out of grave concern about the widespread killings and the stranding of thousands of Oromo students in the Amhara region at the hands of the Amhara ultranationalists. I write on behalf of OSA, a scholarly organization for whom the well-being of Oromo students sits squarely within its mission.
We are exceedingly concerned on the notice that the Amhara ultranationalists’ ideas and colonial nostalgia are settled in the minds of the Amhara regional government officials, police forces, university professors, students, and others. The problem is so widespread and deep that we envision no quick fix. For this reason, we ask you help the Oromo students stranded in the Amhara region by pulling them out of this danger zone and bring them back to Oromia and other friendly universities so that they can peacefully pursue their studies in Oromia or elsewhere. We also ask that those who are responsible for the killings and physical, as well as psychological injuries, be brought to justice. It is our hope that your government puts in place a healthy teaching and training program to diffuse and pacify this region where hate crime is becoming the norm to which our young have fallen victims.
What are the motives of hate speech, crimes, and colonial nostalgia? The founding father of the Ethiopian state is emperor Menelik II—an Amhara national. Hence, certain sects of the Amhara society claim special status, and some even boldly say, “as human beings bow to the creator, the Ethiopians need to bow to the founders, i.e., the Amharas. Therefore, the objectives are a) framing the Ethiopian state structure and policies in the Amhara interest; b) legitimizing the ethnic cleansing committed in Finfinnee/Addis Ababa, Dire-Dawa, and other places; c) glorifying the ruthless emperor; d) reversing and stopping the political reform; e) and maintaining and widening the unfair advantage that the Amhara elites are enjoying. This makes colonial nostalgia one of the dangerous social forces in the region. Instead of enhancing collaboration, coordination, and understanding, promoting colonial nostalgia and ignoring the horror committed by the emperor is widening the differences between people and creating a fertile condition for violence.
Violence is predictable and preventable. OSA upholds the view that hate can be detrained, and respect for human rights can be cherished through education. But it defeats the very purpose when learning institutions become the place where hateful crimes are committed. It saddens us when Oromo students are killed, and thousands of them stranded simply because of their identity, being Oromos. It saddens us, even more, when the killings are so savage, i.e., stoning and stabbing the victims. The rise of hate speech dehumanizing a segment of the population and the romanticizing ruthless emperors as universal heroes have all contributed to the worsening situation.
Violence is contagious, and it thrives in the absence of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights. As I write this letter in several universities, Oromo students are harassed by the Ethiopian security forces. When the government authorities sponsor violence, it makes it acceptable for individuals and groups to instigate violence. Preventing violence necessitates that state-sponsored violence stopped. Universities do not prepare students to be blind followers; instead, make them critical thinkers. We also ask your government to respect the rights of students to question authorities and peacefully protest.
Dear Prime Minister:
An attack on the Oromo students is a hate crime, and it is an attack on the future of the Oromo nation. The emotional scar on young people is long-lasting, affecting their cognitive, emotional, physical, and moral character. This is the time when they develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Exposing young Oromo men and women to violence and a toxic social environment, i.e., psychological terror, anger, and hate, hinders the development of those essential life skills and the overall healthy development of the young. In its turn, it impedes the sustainable development of Oromia and the Horn of Africa. The role of the Federal and Regional governments is to stop hate speech, crime, and create a safe learning environment.
Wittingly or not, the regional government-funded, trained, and armed the ultranationalist group later turned criminal rouges killing and harming Oromo students. They trained them for trench war, sabotage, spying, intelligence gathering, and misinformation. Consistent with their training on regular and social media, the Amhara regional government authorities undermined the seriousness of the savage killings of Oromo students and even hinted that it was just a kind of justifiable “revenge.” Prominent Amhara media personnel twisted the causes of the problem and widely circulated false information. They explained the problems as if the Oromo people and students caused them. Ignoring horror and undermining the demands of the people for social justice is a recipe for conflict. No society benefits from conflict- except criminals.
We understand that the socio-economic problems of Ethiopia are complex. Most of the people live below the poverty line. Hate speech, colonial nostalgia, and hate crimes are part of the problem. Colonial nostalgics have a historical memory of their emperor Menelik II, whom they call “እምዬ ምንልክ” — “Mother Menelik”. They call him mother because he had rescued many hungry Amharas from starvation. He rescued them at the cost of other people. Indeed, the emperor indiscriminately killed Oromo people and others, looted their cattle, grain, sold their children into slavery, and starved them. Private and public media present one side of the story about the emperor and created nostalgics. Violence consumes lives and resources, and it does not offer a solution for social problems.
To summarize, widespread hate speech and violent rhetoric are promoting destruction. The killings of Oromo students in Universities of the Amhara region are excellent examples of hate crime and collective violence perpetrated by organized criminals. The role of the Federal and Regional governments should be protecting innocent people and healing the wounds those affected. The Oromo people and other peoples of Ethiopia expect to transform their regions from a killing ground and a place of fear and imprisonment into a peaceful land of freedom. We call upon you to become swift in bringing about the expected social transformation by being an agent of change. Agents of change drive and create a culture that promotes equity, diversity, and unity. In this spirit, we appeal to you to:
- Immediately pull all Oromo students from the affected Amhara regions and enroll them in universities in Oromia or other safe regions,
- Bring to justice those who perpetrated criminal acts against Oromo students,
- Put in place a process which safeguards and protects Oromo students from similar harm in the future,
- Provide support, counseling, and advise to all affected students who remain within the troubled areas or have managed to escape,
- Assure the safety of all students in Oromia, Oromos, and non-Oromos likewise, against any revenge or imposter harm,
- Help Oromo students who were conditioned to leave the Amara region enrolled in Universities in Oromia,
- Criminalize hate speech and romanticizing king Menelik II and his army Neftegna just as romanticizing Adolf Hitler, Nazi, and the Holocaust are criminalized in the Western World.
Let me end my letter with the wise words of legendary human rights activist and antiapartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, that says, “in many societies, violence is so dominant that it thwarts hopes of economic and social development. We cannot let that continue”
Begna Dugassa, Ph.D.
Obbo Shimelis Abdisa, Deputy President of Oromia region
Presidents of Universities in Oromia
OSA Board of Directors