Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sub-Commission on the Promotion

and Protection of Human Rights

Working Group on Minorities

12th Session, August 8 - 11, 2006

Geneva, Switzerland

Tarekegn Chimdi

Human Rights Defender


Thank you distinguished chairperson for giving me an opportunity to introduce to the Working Group the situation of the Oromo people in Ethiopia and their plight.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Oromo people represent the largest national group in the country accounting about 35 million people out of the total 75 million people of the total population of Ethiopia. They are considered as one of the indigenous peoples inhabiting the Horn of Africa.

Despite their numeric majority, the Oromo people are in a minority-like situation in the country. Since the colonization by the Abyssinians, at the end of 19th century, the political, economical social and cultural life of the Oromo people in the Ethiopia has been marked by discrimination and marginalisation. The egalitarian and democratic institution of governance of the Oromo people, known as the Gada system, their belief in one God- Waaqa-, their cultural and language were banned; their means of subsistence including their traditional land were confiscated and the people were reduced to serfs and slaves.

Since then, the situation of the Oromo people has been worsening under the various successive regimes in the country. The current Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has reportedly continued the subversive autocratic rule of Oromia in the name of the national territorial integrity of the Empire. It allegedly musters total control of all government machineries, the judiciary, the army, and the press. Attacks and harassment against the Oromo people continue allegedly by the security forces perpetuating the fears of the people in Oromia and other southern parts of Ethiopia. Human rights violations such as cases of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings are constantly reported by the people. Furthermore, the Oromo people, as well as other nations and nationalities in the southern belt of the Empire, reportedly face forced evictions and resettlement, growing epidemic diseases, extreme poverty and skewed educational programmes.

Since the TPLF/EPRDF regime came to power in 1991, systematic repression has been reported against Oromo people resulting in untold sufferings in the whole of Oromia, particularly in the countryside far from the sight of the international community. The government reportedly subjects often its critics to harassment, extrajudicial killings, imprisonment and torture. As a result countless Oromos languish in detention camps and prisons in the country. In 2005, over 25, 000 people were in prison throughout Oromia and Finfinne (Addis Ababa). This number, if anything, has grown ever since as a result of the repeated unrest following peaceful demonstrations.

Intellectuals, students, teachers, journalists, aid agency workers, artists, human rights activists and peasant farmers are particularly targeted solely on the basis of their origin. Children are as well reportedly subject to harassment and abuses. Accordingly renowned international Human Rights Organisations believe that the Ethiopian authorities are guilty of racism

Mr. Chairperson, alouw me to provide some examples.

The Macca and Tulama self-help Association (MTA), Oromo high school and university students, civic organisations, farmers and journalists peacefully protested against deforestation, skewed taxes, exorbitant rise in the price of fertilizers, educational policies, change of the capital city of Oromia from Finfinne (Addis Ababa) to Adama etc were met with heavy handed forces of the security and police who acted with impunity. At the moment of finalization of the present statement, all detained in connection with the mentioned protests were still detained in different prisons. According to reports, some of the protesters died allegedly as a result of torture. Some were denied medical treatment and died. And still more are suffering from diseases related to poor conditions in the prison. Those who managed to run away are suffering as refugees in the neighbouring countries. Related to these incidents over 350 University students were dismissed from classes and some were thrown into to the jails in 2004. Two of these Gaddissa Hirpassa and Alemayehu Gerba were killed from torture and live bullet in the Kallitti prison.

The leaders of MTA Dirribi Demissie, Gemechu Feyera, Sintayehu Workneh and Ayelu Ittisa and more than a dozen of Oromo university students and journalists Shiferaw Insarmu and Dhabasa Wakjira are still in custody even though different benches of court ordered their release on several occasions. Amnesty International and other human rights organisations consider them as prisoners of conscience and appealed for their release since 2004.

These peaceful demands of students and farmers continued in May 2006 in the high schools and universities across Oromia. Following the incident, 22 farmers were massacred in Horro Guduru in February of this year, dozens of students were killed and wounded from live bullet from security forces, several thousands of Oromo nationals were kidnapped and detained in different prisons in Oromia state and Finfinne (Addis Ababa). Students like Jagama Badhane and Kabada Badhasse were killed just in front of their school in town of Ambo. Events coming from different Universities, report that graduates of Oromo origin, in particular from Makalle University, are denied of their certificates after completion of their studies.

The Government is reported to contrive the conflicts in neighbouring Borana and Gujji Oromos led to the internally displaced persons of over 100, 000 people and over 135 deaths. Similarly, in August 2005, 73 people were killed and more than 85,000 flee their homes from villages in Miesso in West Hararge region of Oromia. Most of them remain displaced without proper attention and support.

Uncompensated evictions of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land in Oromia, particularly around Finfine (Addis Ababa) and other cities in Oromia have reportedly reached untold proportions. In the name of investment, the Government has systematically uprooted farmers from their ancestral lands without due compensation and turned thousands of farmers landless and victims of ecological degradation and hazardous health problems emanating from the new agglomerations. The expansion of flower farms has aggravated the situation around Finfinne (Addis Ababa.)

Control over fertilizer and agricultural inputs and credits in particular have given the government an effective tool for quashing dissent in rural parts of Oromia. A TPLF owned company in charge of importing fertilizers systematically regulates distribution and price of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs. Farmers are forced to pay exorbitant prices that do not often compare their income. Those who as a consequence fail to pay are thrown into the prison and finally were forced to auction off livestock or household goods to get out of prison. This is in a stark contrast to the hypocritic claim that the government of Ethiopia boast to achieve food security.


  • Macca and Tulama association leaders, journalists, teachers, students, farmers and other thousands of Oromo citizens arrested should be released immediately and unconditionally,
  • Those responsible for the extra judicial killings, torture and severe beatings in different schools around Oromia should be brought to justice,
  • The right to association, freedom of expression, education and the right of the Oromo to Waqeffanna as a religion should be respected and the investigation through concerned special rapporteurs should be conducted,
  • The right to self-determination of the Oromo people should be implemented and respected

Thank you for your attention

Tarekegn Chimdi

Aource: Human Rights Council

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Press Release by Getachew Jigi (Dr)

MP of House of People’s Representatives of Ethiopia

To introduce my self, I am MP of the House of People’s Representatives of Ethiopia, run and elected as candidate of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) from Mana Sibu-Kiltu Karra district of Western Wallagga, Oromia region. I am one of the founders of this organization and a member of its Executive Committee.

We, the founders of OFDM had high hopes and aspiration that by participating in the legal political forum of Ethiopia we would contribute to the democratization process and bring stability and development. It was with strong belief that the Constitution of the land will be respected and supremacy of law will prevail, that we decided to join the legal political system. It was also our firm belief that democracy and working federation would solve the problems of Ethiopia . Unfortunately all our aspirations were dashed, hopes turned sour and our morale crashed within few months after May 2005 elections. We learned in the hard way that there is no democracy or supremacy of law in Ethiopia .

In this statement, I want to give my honest and sincere testimony of the conditions currently prevailing in Ethiopia and particularly since May 2005 elections. This testimony is in no way intended to defame the ruling party and its cohorts. The main purpose is to expose the hidden realities in Ethiopia and in Oromia in particular.

Today, there is no peace and stability, democracy, and rule of law in Ethiopia . What really exists is dictatorship of one party and gross violations of democratic and human rights. The regime carried out mass killing of civilians in Gambela, Sidama, Shaka Mazengir, Oromia and CUD supporters in Finfinne. In all of these incidents the perpetuators were not brought to justice. The ruling party has two very contradicting political images that it uses according to time, place and its audiences. In and around the capital city -Finfinnee- the ruling party shows the image that it is democratic and respect rule of law. This semblance is targeted to diplomats of donor countries to gain their support to finance and strengthen its other hidden image. For any foreign dignitary that visits Ethiopia and discusses with the Prime Minister, Ethiopia is really a promising democratic state. Elections are conducted periodically, there is ¨private¨ press, there are opposition parties with seats in the parliament, etc. These are facades to attract and win the sympathy of donor countries. The reality on the ground is completely to the contrary.

The other image of the EPRDF regime hidden from the outside world is its true nature. EPRDF is simply a dictatorship. It does not respect its own Constitution nor abide by the supremacy of the law. Everything is done at the whim of EPRDF officials who can reverse court ruling as they wish, kill, detain, torture, and harass innocent citizens without any evidence or crime committed. Anybody that they suspect as a threat is eliminated. The Oromo are in the forefront to be subjected to EPRDF’s bad-governance.

Since May 2005 elections, gross violation of democratic and human rights are being conducted in Ethiopia by the ruling party. Citizens are being killed indiscriminately, thousands are detained for long period without charges and tortured to sustain life long injuries. Tens of thousands are forced to flee their country fearing harassment and intimidation. Properties of innocent individuals are confiscated without court order. In short today in Ethiopia there prevails a total atmosphere of fear and terror.

Legally registered and operating organizations like Oromo Federal Democratic Organizations are facing the severe hand of the dictator ruling party. While top leaders of opposition organizations are sitting in the parliament, meeting the Prime Minister, attending consultation meetings with donor groups, invited to parties with diplomatic dignitaries, there members are languishing in prisons, their offices closed and properties confiscated in the regions. Opposition MPs are not allowed to go back to their constituencies to hold meetings and gather public opinions of their constituencies. Even if an opposition MP manages to go back to his constituency, it is crime for the residents to greet and talk with the person they elected to represent them. From my experience many Mana Sibu -Kiltu Karra residents who greeted me were detained and heavily fined. This is the bitter reality that is existing in Ethiopia outside of the capital city.

The EPRDF regime is on a wide campaign of detaining Oromo nationalists, students, farmers and merchants for no crime committed. An Oromo individual who asks the democratic and human rights of the people to be respected is automatically branded as OLF member and thrown into prison to stay there for years without appearing before appropriate court. Oromo students who voted for us are being killed, dismissed from schools without any reasons. Dozens were refused their university certificates. These are the vivid reality under which my people who voted for me to be MP are living under.

I have been hoping things would get better over time. But instead the situation in Oromia in particular and in Ethiopia in general is getting worse daily. This has been giving me mental torture for the last several months. Now it became so unbearable that I had to make my decision. I have been receiving death threats for speaking up against the wanton disregard for the rule of law by EPRDF. Under the circumstances my conscience could not allow me to continue to be a member of parliament when I cannot speak with and for the people who elected me and cannot spare them from the daily harassment, intimidation, repression, extra-judicial killing, torture and displacement. Hence I have chosen to desist myself from the EPRDF regime and its rubber-stamp parliament.

To sum up, today in Ethiopia , democratic and human rights are grossly violated, the rule of law is trampled upon by none other than the ruling party. The regime is doing everything it can to stay in power that it lost in May 2005 elections, in which it was totally defeated. The regime is purposely instigating and fanning religious and inter ethnic conflicts. The situation in Ethiopia is very dangerous. There is disaster looming over the country. Finally I call upon OFDM members and supporters, the Oromo people in particular and the Ethiopian peoples in general, opposition party members to stand up in unison to avert this looming disaster. And remind the international community to play a constructive role expected of them rather than continue to appease a tyrannical regime.

Dr. Getachew Jigi

November 11, 2006