Killing and Arresting Peaceful Oromo Protesters Will not Resolve Ethiopia’s Political Predicaments
Ever since the TPLF/EPRDF came to power 23 years ago, the number of Oromos detained, tortured and killed merely for demanding their legitimate rights runs into tens of thousands. This now decades-old persecution of the Oromo people has attained new heights this week with our people staging another round of peaceful demonstrations throughout Oromia demanding freedom, democracy and the right to own and manage their resources. The heavy crack downs of the past have proven futile in settling the enduring political conflict between the Oromo people and the incumbent Ethiopian government. The current round of violence against peaceful demonstrators is certainly doomed to fail even more spectacularly.
The enduring political conflict in Ethiopia is not restricted to the Oromo people alone; as other peoples in Ethiopia have also similar democratic demands. At the heart of the conflict is the disjuncture between what the ruling party preaches and its actual practice of governance. While the Constitution guarantees the right of all nations and nationalities to self-administration, in practice, exercising this right is negated by the ruling party’s strict central control. The Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) believes that the only way forward out of the current political impasse in Ethiopia is working toward the realization of the next breakthrough in instituting the self-government of nations and nationalities primarily by upholding individual freedoms. Sustainable peace and stability can only be achieved by respecting citizen’s democratic rights and not through orchestrating persecution and violence.
The Oromo are presently raising a question that is legitimate as it concerns the Oromo people’s entitlement to use and manage their own resources like any other people. As Finfinne (Addis Ababa) constitutes part and parcel of Oromia, the Oromo people thus have a legitimate right of ownership and of having a say in determining its use and management. This right is enshrined in Article 49 of the current Ethiopian constitution, which clearly stipulates that the Oromo people have a special interest in and relations with Finfinne. The focus of the ongoing peaceful demonstrations throughout Oromia is legally and peacefully demanding that this constitutional right be respected. Instead of heeding the peaceful demonstrators’ legitimate demands, the ruling party is presently unleashing its security forces against our people. The Oromo Democratic Front condemns the killing and detention of our people in the strongest terms possible and urges the regime to immediately halt its anti-people policies and practices. We stand by our people and are ready to render our support in all available manners.
At this tough time of agony, once again, we call upon all Oromos to set aside political and other petty differences and stand in union in solidarity with our people marching for freedom and democracy.
We also call upon other Ethiopian communities not to quietly watch from the corner while the Oromo people are subjected to myriads of persecution as similar abuse can also befall them in the future. We would also like to caution our people to vigilantly guard against acts and behaviors that could detract from your aim of achieving freedom and democracy. In particular, we call upon you to foil the wishes of anti-people elements whose purpose is pitting you and members of other nationalities against each other.
We also would like to remind the government that its attempts to suppress the peoples’ yearning for freedom and democracy by resorting to naked force has proven futile now for close to a quarter century and will continue to fail. Furthermore, the TPLF/EPRDF should realize that the ongoing confrontation could easily veer out of control. And we are convinced that the ruling party cannot single-handedly resolve the intricate political challenges presently prevailing throughout Ethiopia. Consequently, we call upon the government to reach out to all stakeholders in the country with the aim of involving them in charting a course toward more open political space for all and a level playing field. In order to have the immediate effect of defusing the current political tension, we suggest the government take the following measures:
• Respect the Oromo people’s constitutionally guaranteed right to and special interests over Finfinne (Addis Ababa);
• Immediately release all those languishing in prison merely for expressing their political positions and views;
• Call for an all-inclusive political and community conference to deliberate on outstanding political issues and chart a win-win and lasting political solution for the country.
Oromo Democratic Front (ODF)
May 1, 2014