Sunday, March 18, 2007

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A New “War on Terror” Franchise in East Africa: Oromo Americans to Rally for Adequate Media Coverage

A New “War on Terror” Franchise in East Africa: Oromo Americans to Rally for Adequate Media Coverage

Abdi Galgalo

Silently, the Horn of Africa has become the Bush Administration’s new “war on terror” franchise. This joint venture of the United States and the terrorist ethnocratic regime of Ethiopia has led many in the region to question the meaning of this “war on terror” and at what and whose cost it is being waged.

Following the horrible incident of September 11, many authoritarian regimes have jumped on the anti-terrorism bandwagon in order to quell domestic political demands and obtain support from the U.S. This includes the repressive regime of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, which has made incessant attempts to mischaracterize the legitimate struggle of the Oromo people for national self-determination. Despite this effort, the world is increasingly recognizing this legitimate struggle against tyranny, oppression, and marginalization.

When the unpopularity of the Zenawi regime reached its climax in 2006, which coincided with the emergence of strong Islamic militia in Somalia, the regime frantically jumped onto the “war on terror” bandwagon and effectively exploited the Islamophobia of the West in its presentation of Somalia under Islamic courts as terrorists’ heaven. Consequently, in addition to divert attention from its domestic political crises, Zenawi has managed to emerge as a principal beneficiary of the U.S.’s military and political backings.

Since the U.S. backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the political climate at the Horn of Africa has changed for the worse--Somalia has descended into chaos, and the repression of the Oromo people is intensified and is being perpetrated in the territories of Somalia and Kenya. Oromo refugees are being hunted down in Somalia for bounty and handed over to the invading Ethiopian militia. Some are killed on the spot by Ethiopian military forces and the fates of those who are taken to Ethiopia are unknown.

The heartbreaking pleas of Oromos from Somalia and Ethiopia are heard by fellow Oromos from across the world. In their respective communities, Oromo expatriates have rallied to be voices for their oppressed compatriots. Since Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the ethnic cleansing of the Oromo people has become intensified. Sadly, this act of crime against humanity has neither elicited adequate response from the international community, particularly the sponsors of Ethiopia’s invasion, nor received proper media coverage.

In order to address these disconcerting issues, Oromo Youth leaders are organizing a rally at the Nation’s Capital to express their dismay at the lack of response from the international community to these atrocities and the “deafening silence of the mainstream news media surrounding these atrocities”. In its press statement, the International Oromo Youth Association (I.O.Y.A) calls for an immediate cessation of the “harassment, illegal detention, kidnapping, lynching, and cold-blooded murder of Oromo refugees in Somalia” and calls on all peace-loving people to attend the rally.

The rally, which is going to take place on March 31, 2007 at 12pm starting at the State Department in Washington DC, is expected to be attended by many Oromos and non-Oromos from all across North America.

The full text of the press report from the International Oromo Youth Association follows:

Rally to Address Inadequate News Reporting in the Horn of Africa

On December 25, 2006, the government of Ethiopia launched a military campaign in neighboring Somalia, alleging that its sovereignty was threatened by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The government of Ethiopia has been controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since 2005, a regime that has not only repressed all forms of democratic dissent, but also has persecuted ethnic groups. Having driven out the UIC from Mogadishu, the TPLF forces in collaboration with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, has now shifted its mission towards fulfilling its main agenda of persecuting dissenters.

The International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA) is deeply dismayed by the incessant harassment, illegal detention, kidnapping, lynching, and cold-blooded murder of Oromo refugees in Somalia by the Ethiopian and TFG joint military forces, and by the deafening silence of the mainstream news media surrounding these atrocities. Niyata Gemechisa, an instructional technologist from Philadelphia, PA said, “Journalism is powerful, and has the ability to shape and change the world. Unfortunately, the practice of true journalism has not been evident in news reports of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. The American news media has failed in serving many of the voiceless citizens in one of the most potentially volatile places in the world.”

The Oromo people, the largest ethno-national group in Ethiopia, have been deprived of their basic human rights under successive Ethiopian regimes. In spite of their contribution to the country’s socio-economic development, the Oromo people have been marginalized from participating in the social, economic, and political decision-making process. Because of their continued demand for self-determination, freedom, justice and equality, Oromos have become major targets for the authoritarian Ethiopian government. Just like its predecessors, the current TPLF government led by Meles Zenawi has committed endless acts of state-sponsored terrorism against Oromo civilians, professionals, students and political dissidents.

Ethiopia and Somalia fought two border wars, in 1964 and 1977. During these two wars, Oromos were caught in the middle of the war waged by two dictators: Ziad Barre of Somalia and Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia. Oromos comprised a significant proportion of Ethiopia’s conscript soldiers that fought during the Ethio-Somali wars. Due to the geographical proximity of Oromia and Somalia, the 1977 war caused a humanitarian crisis including death of civilians, internal displacement and immigration to neighboring countries. Thousands of Oromos fled to Kenya and Somalia and many lost their lives on the way and thousands never returned to their homeland.

Due to the geographical proximity of Oromia and Somalia in the border conflict of 1977, thousands of Oromos fled to Kenya and Somalia and many lost their lives on the way and thousands never returned to their homeland. Today, Somalia is home for over a quarter of million Oromo refugees who fled their country due to persecution and forced displacement by successive Ethiopian governments.

Over the last ten years, the TPLF has been meddling in Somali internal affairs to pursue Oromo refugees. Meanwhile media coverage of the affairs in the horn of Africa has not only neglecting the Oromo perspective but also native Somali Muslim perspectives. We call on the media to give voice for all sides, as well as to continue the truly investigative reporting that has emerged recently on the various stake holders in this conflict.

The IOYA is holding a demonstration to present these issues to the media on Saturday March 31, 2007 beginning at 12pm in front of the U.S. State Department located at 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520. For more information contact: Gelane Gemechisa OR Maya Tessema

Justice for the Oromo People, Justice for All

International Oromo Youth Association



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