Oromo Scholars and Professionals’ letter to PM on crises in Ethiopia

Oromo Scholars and Professionals’ letter to PM on crises in Ethiopia

North America, Europe and Australia

February 1, 2020

Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 1031
Finfinne, Ethiopia

Your Excellency,

We, Oromo Scholars and Professionals residing in North America, Europe, and Australia, are writing this open letter to draw your attention to the crises that is in the making in Ethiopia in general, and in Oromia in particular. Oromia, the breadbasket of Ethiopia, is under relentless attack. For more than a year, nearly a third of the region has remained under illegal state of emergency (military command post). Women and children face rape by the military on a daily basis. The country’s military and security forces, under your command, are operating as though they have the license to harass and indiscriminately take away the lives of innocent Oromo people, young and old. People that are under the command post are being bombarded by fighter jets and helicopter gunships under your leadership. Even Oromia’s wildlife and their habitats are not spared from the indiscriminate assaults. For weeks, the country’s telecommunication and internet services have been cut off from Western and Southern parts of Oromia. We can no longer remain silent when our people are facing gross human right violations of historic proportions. We are obliged to speak up because we believe that a failure to address these emerging crises head on now will have long lasting catastrophic consequences for Oromia, Ethiopia, and the greater Horn of Africa region.

Mr. Prime Minister,

We would like to stress that it greatly saddens us to write a letter about gross human rights violations of the Oromo people in Ethiopia to an Oromo Prime Minister. Our people have been fighting hard to free themselves from the centuries-old yoke of subjugation and marginalization, paying enormous sacrifices in the process. Based on some of your earlier speeches, we thought the days of extrajudicial and indiscriminate killings of civilians by government security forces was over, and peaceful coexistence was going to be the new norm. Our hope jubilated when you won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, primarily for making peace with Eritrea. We thought this would raise your global stature and facilitate the herculean task of building a peaceful country and region. Unfortunately, our hopes and excitements were dashed when we learned that Oromo of all ages are, once again, being harassed, imprisoned, and killed under your leadership for supporting a political group of their choice. Oromo youth (Qeerroo), who are responsible for the current change in the country, including your ascent to power, are facing coordinated attacks in Universities across the country, and in their own towns and villages.

Residents of Western and Southern Oromia are under a state of emergency instituted by your administration without parliamentary approval under a false pretext of protecting the public from “bandits”. A government that deploys its military and security forces to protect the public from “bandits” would not shutdown the internet, phone lines, power, and water services to the public it is supposed to protect. Civilians do not have to suffer for weeks without basic services. The act of shutting down telecommunications, internet and electric power services is against the basic human rights of freedom of expressions and dissemination of information, not to mention the devastating consequence that such acts have on the wellbeing of the citizens.

Information reaching us from local sources indicate that the Ethiopian army is killing unarmed Oromo people that it suspects of supporting the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), raping Oromo women, burning down houses and crops, and harassing and imprisoning people merely on the grounds of suspicion. Gruesome pictures of ordinary citizens mutilated by ammunitions fired by members of the army have become a common place on social media. These atrocities are taking place during a harvest season for farmers and appears to have been intentionally designed to starve people to submission. Using famine as a weapon of war is not only immoral but also a crime against humanity. We believe that the solution to the current crises in Oromia comes only through a genuine dialogue, not by starving people or by use of excessive force. In one of your speeches, after becoming the Prime Minister, you stated that the time for war has ended and fighting with guns is an old fashion. We ask you now to live up to your words and end this senseless conflict between brothers.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Under your leadership, Qeerroo, the fearless generation that stood in front of roaring tanks to demand justice and equality for all citizens, are being attacked. What is shameful is that they are the very people that have been liberated by the heroic actions of the Oromo youth that are now accusing them of terrorism. The attack on the Oromo youth is unacceptable and must stop. Over the last few months, several Oromo youth have been murdered in various higher learning institutions in the country, particularly in the Amhara region. It is also disturbing to learn that the killers of these students have not been brought to justice. As if that is not bad enough, we are witnessing thousands of Oromo students being expelled from their schools for protesting about the death of their friends. The lack of action by the federal and state governments to bring the perpetrators to justice only exacerbates the problem and encourages the murderers to continue their killing spree.

Mr. Prime Minister,

We understand that a transition from dictatorship to democracy is difficult. We also know that you took the responsibility of transitioning Ethiopia to democracy knowing fully well that it is going to be a rough ride. Therefore, you have an obligation and a responsibility to lead with courage and integrity. Your decisions about the future of the country must be based on what is good for the future, not on maintaining the status quo that brought the country to where it is today. You may have good intentions for the country and the region. However, imposing your own wishes and convictions, and prescribing a political order against the will of the people, does not bring a lasting solution. This approach has been tried before but never succeeded. Using the same old tactic, but expecting a different result, is not a good leadership quality. A good leader is one who listens to people’s grievances and have a genuine dialogue with them to bring a lasting peace. We believe that it is only through dialogue that we can build a democratic country that we all accept as our own and create a political order that treats all its citizens equally. It is, therefore, in this spirit that we ask you to:

  1. Unconditionally lift the illegal state of emergency imposed on Oromia and other regional states and return the military to the barracks
  2. Establish an independent inquiry commission to investigate an abuse of power by the military in areas that are under the state of emergency
  3. Reinstate communication and other services to the affected areas
  4. Listen to people’s grievances and start genuine dialogue with disgruntled groups
  5. End the killings of Oromo students attending various universities
  6. Take legal actions against those responsible for killings of the students
  7. Release Oromo students that are unlawfully detained in universities in the Amhara regional state
  8. Reinstate students of higher institutions that have been illegally expelled
  9. Reopen universities that have been closed for political reasons

Hoping that you will pay due attention to our plea, we look forward to seeing a peaceful resolution to the looming disaster in Oromia and Ethiopia. To this end, we also look forward to know your response in addressing our requests, a response that we await via an offline address we provide soon. Should you need our assistance in resolving these disputes, be assured that we stand ready to help.

Respectfully,

Signatories:

  1. Bekele Temesgen (Ph.D)
  2. Bedassa Tadesse (Ph.D)
  3. Koste Abdissa (Ph.D)
  4. Adugna Birhanu (Ph.D)
  5. Alemayehu Biru (Ph.D)
  6. Amanuel Gobena (Ph.D)
  7. Asefa Jalata (Ph.D)
  8. Asfaw Beyene (Ph.D)
  9. Ayana Gobena (Ph.D)
  10. Bahiru Duguma (Ph.D)
  11. Baro Deressa (MD)
  12. Begna Dugassa (Ph.D)
  13. Benti Getahun (Ph.D)
  14. Berhanu Kedida (MD)
  15. Bersisa Berri (Ph.D)
  16. Bichaka Fayissa (Ph.D)
  17. Daniel Ayana (Ph.D)
  18. Dessalegn Negeri (Ph.D)
  19. Desta Yebassa (Ph.D)
  20. Gizachew Tesso (Ph.D)
  21. Guluma Gemeda (Ph.D)
  22. Haile Hirpa (Ph.D)
  23. Ibrahim Elemo (Ph.D.)
  24. Iddoosaa Ejeta (Ph.D)
  25. Ismael Abdullahi (Ph.D)
  26. Jamal Ebrahim (MD)
  27. Jemal Hebano (PharmD)
  28. Jenberu Feyisa (Ph.D)
  29. Junaidi Ahmed (MD)
  30. Mekbib Gebeyehu (Ph.D)
  31. Mekuria Bulcha (Ph.D)
  32. Moa Apagodu (Ph.D)
  33. Mohammed Hassan (Ph.D)
  34. Mosisa Aga (Ph.D)
  35. Namara Garbaba (Ph.D)
  36. Oli Bachie (Ph.D)
  37. Rundassa Eshete (Ph.D)
  38. Samuel Geleta (Ph.D)
  39. Solomon Geleta (Ph.D.)
  40. Teferi Margo (Ph.D)
  41. Tekleab Shibru (Ph.D)
  42. Tesfaye Tesso (Ph.D)
  43. Thomas Baisa (MD)
  44. Workineh Torben (Ph.D)
  45. Worku Burayu (Ph.D)

CC:

Government Agencies:

  1. The US Department of State
  2. Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada)
  3. UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (UK)
  4. Minister for Foreign Affairs (Sweden)
  5. Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway)
  6. Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (France)
  7. Federal Foreign Office (Germany)

Human Rights Groups:

  1. UN Human Rights Council
  2. Africa Union (AU)
  3. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  4. Council of Europe, Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Human Rights Watch

Media and News Groups:

  1. Oromia News Network
  2. Oromo Media Network
  3. Aljazeera English
  4. VOA Afaan Oromoo Program
  5. BBC Afaan Oromo Program
  6. DW-Amharic
  7. Addis Standard
  8. The Washington Post
  9. New York Times
  10. The Guardian
  11. Reuters

4 Comments

  1. I am a bit amused by the Ph.D. and MD Mengaa ( to use a pejorative Amharic term/word) that indicates the signers of the letter to Prime Mister Abiye Ahmad by ” Oromo Scholars and Professionals” If the attempt is to scare the Prime Minister by the credential of the said group (Mengaa), both the writer and the signers failed to impress the Oromo activist as whole and perhaps even the Prime Minister himself. Is the objective to portray how erudite the Oromo Diaspora, hence, their views and understanding has greater credence and significant influence on the Prime Minister?
    It is a pathetic screed that does not indicate the names and activities of the larger Oromo Diaspora who’ve engaged in a persistence resistance against the diabolical and successive Abyssinian oppressive morass. As someone who’ve engaged in the Oromo struggle in the past 40 plus years, I can only recognize a few names in this list credentialed and “professionals”— the likes of Mohammed Hassan, Mekuria Bulcha, Guluma Gamada Asefa Jallata– people who’ve paid their dues in the struggle for the Oromo Nation. The remaining bunch is just wanted to be activists without noticeable deeds in the struggle for Oromia. Names Like Ibssa Gutamaa, Lubee Birruu, Abera Tefera, Daniel Namara, Teferi Fufa, Bonnie Holcomb, Etanna Gamada, Ibissaa Ahamd, Abraham Olumaa, etc, etc, people who’ve credibly sacrificed their own careers and livelihood for the past 40 years– may not obtain PHDs and MDs but immensely contributed to the glorious struggle to free Oromia– the Prime Minter could have recognized the weight of the letter–than the Mengaas indicated in the letter solely they have MDs and PHDs after their names. The proper role of public intellectuals is to engage in the Oromo struggle and confront the Ethiopian police state until its cataclysmic end—not merely sign a petition against the extreme deprivation of Oromo people in that dystopic Empire!

  2. Great job, Oromo Scholars and Professionals!

    Thank you for writing this letter to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr Abiy Ahmed, requesting him to stop the violence perpetrated against the Oromo people by the Ethiopian security and military forces. We hope that Dr Abiy Ahmed will act swiftly to bring the sufferings of our people to an end, and find political solutions to the problems, which have led to the massacres of civilian population and destruction of properties by government armed forces. Also, the mistreatments and killings of Oromo university students, particularly, in the Amhara region as well as the grave dangers posed by “Amhara” vigilantes must be stopped, immediately.

    In the mean time, since the killings in Oromia amount to “crimes against humanity”, Oromo communities and civic organizations around the world must be prepared to bring cases of targeted killings and violence, against innocent Oromo civilians, before the International Court of Justice. That is, the Ethiopian government must be held to account for presiding over the inhumane acts of gross violence in Oromia.

    Moreover, the great Oromo people must act in unison and put pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop unleashing its military and security forces on innocent civilians. It mustn’t be “business as usual” in Ethiopia, where government security forces are let loose, and terrorize Oromo villages, spilling civilian blood without facing any consequences for their actions.

    Truth and justice prevail!
    OA

  3. Thank you very much for sending this letter especially to international community. However, I agree to the comments raised by Burqaa Dorry and OA that many Oromo professionals and activists have been excluded. I also noticed that women are not included. We know that there are many Oromo women activists. The degrees they hold is not an issue but the signatures should have used OSA as well as Oromo communities in North America, Australia, Europe etc rather than listing individual names. Yet, I support their initiatives.

  4. Let us focus on the urgent matter that our scholars and professionals raised, in their letter to the prime minister of Ethiopia, rather than bickering about who signed and who did not sign it. I believe that given the magnitude of the violence our people are subjected to and the urgency of the issues at hand, the scholars and professionals did the right thing in getting the letter signed by the people who can possibly reach each other, easily, may be via their own social circles.

    Since we cannot expect 45 million people to sign a letter, it is absolutely fine for the signatories to sign it on our behalf. It is okay for individuals and groups alike to contribute in any way they think will help to stop the sufferings of our people. Hats off to salute you guys for standing with your people and voicing your concerns!

    What we expect and encourage the scholars and professionals to do next is for them to follow up on their demands, and also establish a strong permanent body of “Oromo think tank” in order to map out the future of the great Oromo people, and guide the struggles for freedom, helping our leaders to conduct Oromo affairs at the highest standards.

    Justice for the Oromo people!
    OA

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