April 24, 2014
Ethiopian students of our generation are known for being politically very active. We grew up chanting “Land to the Tiller, Merete LeArashu”. Many died for that cause and it seems this generation of Ethiopians known fighting among ethnic lines in colleges and universities came up with their slogan of keeping lands that “belong” to them to remain with them. They exchanged Land to the Tiller for ” Land to My Tribe ” !!!
The Ambo University students on April 25, 2014 were heard chanting slogans, “Burayu is not for sale”, “Sululta is not for sale”, “Legetafo is not for sale”. “Oromia for Oromos”. They also cry Finfine/Addis Ababa is Oromia.
They claim that the new Master plan for Addis Ababa is going to be built by taking huge land from the surrounding Oromia. They said similar encroachment is underway in Diredawa, Melka Jeldu, Ambo, Bishoftu and other Oromia areas.
Their fear is Oromia surface area is shrinking on its way denying them to build viable Oromo Republic. If the protest was in support of the farmers in the surrounding area why have we not seen such protest organized by students when foreign land buyers took huge amount of land by dislocating farmers. This protest was not about the farmers.
As one person truly put it on the discussion on the master plan it is about Identity. Oromo Land is only for Oromos. The students at Ambo University could have brought other students if their demand was about the farmers. Who said that all the farmers surrounding Addis Ababa are only Oromos. How comes we did not hear this voice when Amhara farmers were kicked out recently from Ambo area ??
For Ambo University protesters Addis Ababa is Finfine but they know very well that the residents of Addis Ababa are comprising Ethiopians from all ethnic groups. Was a referendum on the name ???
Addis Ababa is a city that has grown from 137.63 square km in 1991 to 527.06 square km in 2014 according the data released covering the protest. The population of Metro Addis Ababa is estimated 4.5 million according to recent census. Addis Ababa will not build fence to stop the flow of people who are coming to start life there. The Addis Ababa I was born and grew up has expanded in all directions without any plan in the last two decades.
The Addis Master Plan is a plan modeled after Chinese development plan to accommodate the expansion of the city whose population has quadrupled in the last two decades. The “Development Government” can do whatever it wants. Public input is zero. It is given from top down and has to be implemented whether any one likes it or not.
The students protest should challenge the planning process executed without consulting the people. If the protest is about “identity” or keeping once Kilil from ” foreigners ” it is not going to get huge support. Oromo Kilil like the rest of Kilils was not designed by consulting people. It was a political “map” of divide and rule.
Kilil Identity is a time bomb and it is up to all of us diffusing this bomb. The interest of Ethiopia and Ethiopians should come first before Kilil Identity and interest. We need to build a “Renaissance Generation” on the foot step of “Land to the Tiller” patriotic Ethiopian generation of our student day, The Golden Generation !!!!
Tedla Asfaw is an Ethiopian human rights advocate and social activist for the entire Horn of Africa. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>