The Home of Oromo Views & headline News from the Horn of Africa

Gabcast! Gotoota Oromo Haa Yaadannu. #17 - Wallee.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The political dimension to the deadly floodwaters in Dire Dawa's Dechatu River

Foreigners or strangers who know Ethiopia as a country chronically struck by drought and often its problems qualified and known to them in a denigrating phrase “Ethiopia’s food aid addiction” rather than “floodwaters”, the story of Dachatu river of Dire Dawa that has currently overflown its banks causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of displacements, should surely be received by a surprise. We have seen the world wrestling with enormous natural calamities such as Tsunami, and different forms of hurricanes along the coasts of the United States of America. Indeed, in the eyes of these major unpredictable and uncontrollable calamities, the floodwater that bursts out of the riverbanks and claims lives and demolishes property in Ethiopia is insignificant and even incomparable. Except for Tsunami the deaths caused by different forms of hurricanes were minimised by relentless rescue efforts. Of course, Ethiopia is too poor to compare to U.S.A in terms of rescue efforts and capabilities. But still the disasters caused by a small local river is much more stunning, worrying. At least about 500 people were killed by the incidence of Dachatu river over a night, unknown number of them were trailed down the course of the river, and about 15,000 more shack dwellers have been left homeless. Within Africa itself, Mozambique a country that usually faces flood disasters, the rescue efforts and campaigns have been very impressive in terms of keeping death tolls lower. In India also floodwater rescue effort minimises deaths to a level much lesser than Ethiopia’s.
Unlike other natural disasters that are unpredictable like hurricane, or earthquake, the overflow of Dachatu and Awash rivers take place only during the rainy season once a year for about two months maximum. In spite of this, the Ethiopian government, both the federal and the regional, knows from past trends that the rivers Awash and Dachatu overflow because of their narrow banks. But it has never used these trends as a forewarning for preventing or minimising the cyclical disasters that hit every year July to September. What the central and the local EPRDF/TPLF governments have rather done from 2003 on is to follow a policy of resettlement and expanding of city residences along the banks of the mentioned rivers. The TPLF/EPRDF name such a scheme “City Development”. The people who live along these riverbanks are not really living decent lives. They are kinds of people who can be categorised as living in absolute poverty (lucky ones, earning less than $ 50 cents and others earning nothing). So, you might rightly expect the kinds of settlement to be of the type called shack or shantytown. Before the floods swept away everything, there were people who even used to live in tattered plastic tents hardly having their meals even once a week. The major problem is not, however, the type of settlement here.The core problem is that the Ethiopian government has done little or none to minimise or prevent the stunning figures of human loss this year or/and the previous years along the banks of Dachatu and Awash rivers. Basically, in times of such minor floodwaters, it is appropriate to see at least some rescue efforts to save lives in the sites. But this has never happened; no helicopter or boats were seen around rescuing engulfed people operating at both local and national government levels. No one who knows the reality on the ground disagrees with the legitimate accusation that TPLF/EPRDF does not care about the people in times of fatal emergencies caused by Dechatu and Awash river, inter alia. Three fundamental insidious policies and actions taken by TPLF/EPRDF in courses of such disasters against Oromo people and other oppressed Ethiopian people can be mentioned without any overstatement. Firstly, it has categorised residents of the areas under floodwater as supporters of Oromo Liberation Front, a veteran political organisation which struggles for the freedom and democracy of all peoples of Ethiopia in general and for Oromo in particular. Thus, as a manifest draconian act, the government is more than happy to see civilians which it calls “enemies” being washed away. Secondly, at both national and local government levels, the governments attention is very poor in lines of carrying out rescues during water caused or fire caused hazards.Its attention is focussed on crushing political opposition in all it forms and it spends billions of birr in that line. That is why there are less rescue boats, less trained rescue personnel and disaster fighters- immense lack of interest in exercising public safety of all sorts. Thirdly, it follows an uninformed policy of urban development and expansion of cities and towns. For instance, it would have been possible to dig and expand the narrow riverbanks of relatively smaller rivers such as Dachatu to prevent recurrent disasters. Or it could have done the resettlement and “urban development” away from the reaches of the river.This county is a landlocked country and most of its waters are streams or tributaries that can really be controlled at least at the level of rescuing lives. As such it has been the negligence and indifference of the EPRDF/TPLF regime that has been reflected in the deaths and displacement of innocent Dire Dawa residents. It is really one of the shames that our government lives with. We know other neighbouring countries in Eastern Africa have rivers and even bigger lakes like lake Victoria. But why does not floodwaters sweep away humans and houses there? What is unique about rivers in Oromia, Ethiopia? Thus, the international community and aid organisations must take critical view of what is happening in Oromia, Ethiopia before they just reach a conclusion that it is just another uncontrollable natural disaster striking Ethiopia like elsewhere. The EPRDF/TPLF is responsible for seeing the people vanish without attempts to rescue. The arrival of the Prime Minister after the event only shows a contempt and disrespect for people. Perhaps, what Meles contemplates is how he can use the deadly event to ask for more foreign aid to build his army. Kerranssoo Biyyaa

Unmitigated security crackdown on Oromo students escalating

Unmitigated security crackdown on Oromo students escalating
In writing about the segregated government crackdown against Oromo students, I do not wish to rewrite the human rights violation reports in Oromia by International human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organisations. I would rather focus on some of the sources of the causes of segregated attacks against Oromo students on university campuses in Ethiopia. Government security agents who infiltrate students and staff protract the attacks and orchestrate conflicts. Isolated attacks against the Oromo students have been common phenomena since the coming to power of TPLF/EPRDF in 1991. These attacks and discriminations have, however, escalated since 2000 as the popular uprising against the regime started gaining momentum and expanded to all corners of the country in quest of self-determination of peoples from excessive oppressions. The phenomenon has been recurrently hitting Oromo students in all Universities in the country. Some of the universities notorious for intensively segregating Oromo students are Addis Ababa University, Mekele University, Aromaya University, Bahirdar University, and Adama University.These causes of isolated attack against Oromo students take a number of masked forms on university campuses: verbal attacks that are provocative and denigrating to the Oromo people; textbooks that directly or indirectly insult the Oromo; T-shirts printed and worn by security agents with derogatory labels against the Oromo; and dehumanising words used in the national television and radios.Verbal attacks, and derogatory textbooks
These forms of assaults have been observed to be the common method the government security forces use to provoke and create an excuse to attack Oromo students in isolation. For instance, Oromo students were called derogatory names at Mekele University just for being Oromo. At the same university a pro government lecturer wrote a derogatory textbook (derogatory of the Oromo Nationals) in 2005 and stored in libraries as a main reference, following that students followed all the right procedures and have petitioned to get the book removed and the lecturer suspended legally. But the university president did not attempt to address the said problem in any way. Then students started boycotting classes, an event which was followed by the surrounding up of Oromo students by campus special forces. What makes this event an isolated attack on Oromo students is that only Oromo students were beaten, shot at, and thrown to jails. Besides denying Oromo rights to education, the degree of atrocities, as a result of excessive and indiscriminate use of force, often result in deaths of students and their being handicapped. Note that the verbal attacks, the writing of derogatory textbooks and the crackdown are exclusively formulated and implemented by government security forces. Most of the books that are derogatory of Oromo as people are history textbooks. Similarly, years back in 2000,2001 and 2002 Oromo student were segregated and attacked at Addis Ababa University for the same reason while no punishment was handed to pro government lecturer who wrote abusively. Because government is behind them, these kinds of people are encouraged to come up with more of these kinds of racist books. This can also allude to the crises in the academic integrity of poro government academic staffs who beat drums of racism and exclusion.Aromaya, Jimma and Adama University Derogatory T-ShirtsThe other causes of provocation and attack of Oromo students on University campuses that is currently being undertaken by government security agents is the wearing of T-Shirts with dehumanising labels. One label called Oromo “the greatest animals in the world”. These T-shirts are deliberately manufactured and printed with labels for the purpose of segregating Oromo as groups and individuals by the government itself. Conflicts arising from controversies over such matters have resulted in deaths and complete academic dismissal of several Oromo students without any judgement or trial. Because of “ethnic conflicts” between pro government and Oromo students at Aromaya University alone over 70 students have sustained serious injuries and have been hospitalised.
Not a single colonised people in history than Oromo have ever suffered segregation of this magnitude continuously on its own fatherland in the hands of oppressors. As an attribute of any segregating regime, the government security forces cause ethnic conflict among students and support students from pro government ethnic groups to beat Oromo ones. Being beaten by other students at the gunpoint from security guards often traumatises Oromo students and makes them desperate. Instead of mediating and preventing conflicts among politically opposed groups, the regime, gives support to certain groups that goes to the extent of shelling student dormitories, beating them with buttons and gun batt. These days, it is easy to witness numerous totally irresponsible security acts and violence on campuses and school compounds.In a similar instance, the current throwing of hand grenades by Tigrian students on the lives and properties of Oromo students on university dormitory buildings at Jimma University are condemnable instances. Unless closely observed and known from experiences, these kinds of things are done in secrete and are often difficult for Human Rights Groups to discern at a time unless follow ups are made. A few Tigrian students on campus are often discovered to be armed because whenever conflict breaks out and they (pro-government) use pistols and hand grenades against their fellow students. What country is there in the world that lets students of one tribe to be armed to attack others on university campuses? I leave that to your imagination. Given these degrees of physical and emotional instability of Oromo students, it is difficult to expect students to learn properly.To progress from the most recent to the past events, in 2004 Oromo Students of Addis Ababa University were attacked, jailed, and dismissed in many hundreds just because of conflicts caused by security crackdown of the nature under discussion. These students did nothing except peacefully demonstrate against the unconstitutional removal of the capital city of Oromia from Finfinnee (Addis) to Adama. This group of segregated students and other civilians are suffering in jails up to date.Similarly, in 2005 Oromo students were called derogatory names at Bahir Dar University in their residence buildings. I do not wish to specify the derogatory names because of the immense racist connotations that it bears. That actually happened when the dormitory official denied Oromo students of their usual routine of watching TV news in the evening after study. The issue is not about being denied of watching TV, it is about how it is denied which caused isolated crackdown. The security agent trivialised that Oromo students watching or not watching Oromo TV program “does not make them better humans”.Why Instigating and expanding conflicts now?
I am not just recounting what happened to Oromo students in and of itself. I would rather want to emphasise that in all the causes of conflicts caused and suppressed by government security, there is always a deeper political objective that the government wants to achieve. The foremost purpose of isolating and pitying Oromo students against pro government ethnic group (Tigre for instance) is to weaken the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD). Right after the formation of the AFD early 2006, there have been growing signs of unity amongst all Ethiopian political organisations to fight the fascist regime. The EPRDF/TPLF views AFD as the most dangerous enemy to be dealt with at any cost. One of such costs being shattering the lives of innocent students in unexpected conflicts very far away from their parents or guardians home-on university campuses. The method is to use security agents from students, workers, and civil society to insult the other, most of the time Oromo, to achieve a scale of conflict. Then using these opening, the government will spread propaganda that one group is a threat to the other while none is not, and promises to be on the side of anyone against Oromo or any other potential challengers to the system. It does this to spread an atmosphere of mistrust both amongst member organisations of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) and thereby amongst the people the organisations stand for at large. EPRDF/ TPLF wants this conflict to make sure students are divided and weakened enough when they come back to school in the new academic semester. If students stand together under the aims of AFD, then TPLF knows it is going to be a loser and that is inevitable indeed. Such is not really a sophisticated strategy, but it is a very tragic one often invoking a kind of danger that resembles the Rwanda Genocide of 1994 which Meles Zenawi camp subscribes to.Way forward
Not cooperating with the objectives of divide and rule of the tyrant Tigrian minority rule is the only best way out from tragic consequences of such schemes. Political stakeholders, supporters, and opposition parliamentarians must stand against these TPLF draconian acts and must make sure dissent is directed against the system, and not against any people what so ever. If all can live up to this expectations, then it is possible for urging and pressurising the reluctant international communities and countries such as United States of America, the European Union, and the African Union to support the aspiration of the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia.By Keerransoo Biyyaa

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Repression against Oromo in Ethiopia

The EPRDF/TPLF elite force scandal at the Oromo annual thanks-giving festival
By Qeerransoo Biyyaa

October 5, 2006 — On the first week of October every year, there is an Oromo thanks-giving festival called ‘Irreechaa’. Hundreds of thousands of Oromos and friends of Oromo come together from all over Oromia for this festival. On the morning of October 1, 2006 people started arriving at the site of the celebration in Bishoftu, a small town about 44 kms away from the capital city, Finfinnee (Addis Ababa).

But something shocking and scandalous was awaiting all passengers at all the entrances of the town. Special government elite forces stopped and searched the passengers by ordering them to come off the buses, lorries and taxies.

You may think they were doing it for the safety of the festival passengers, but that is a complete no. When it was my turn and I got off the bus to be searched on the ground I could not believe what I was seeing. I was seeing security forces pointing guns into the faces of festival passengers intimidating them to take off the Oromo Cultural outfits.

Those who were intimidated to take off their cultural outfits and who did were made to kneel down on roadsides and the forces were beating them by gun batts and batons. Police was continually scoffing and mocking at them. But those who refused were ordered and coerced to climb a military convoy waiting to take them to unknown detention centres. Who knows what happened to them afterwards? This happened in all the corners to hundreds of people wearing Oromo cultural outfits that day. All that I could think of, then, was the Abu Ghraib torture and prison abuse in Iraq at the beginning of 2003.

Those festival passengers did nothing except putting on Oromo cultural outfits to celebrate the big national event. Imagine how much it would be painful to coerce adult men and woman who were heading to celebrate a thanksgiving day of their God to strip off their clothes. There were couples coerced to do that. Many were crying when this unethical crime was being committed against them. Taking the pictures of those who were forced to strip off as well as those who were being thrown on security convoys were unthinkable. If one attempts to take pictures in that tense confrontation live ammunitions are only a trigger pull away.

Of course for Oromo this kinds of scandals have been going on in a hidden manner. The government elite forces have a track record of scandalous, inhuman and savage violations of human rights including raping children, killings, and detentions.

But this one has occurred in open air sending away the message that the government is daily gaining momentum in perpetrating acts of cultural and human genocide against the Oromo people without being held accountable.

The army and police work completely differently in Ethiopia than in the west. In the west the police and the army work to protect public interest and to defend national interests. Here the army and the police are unbridled weapons of mass control in favour of the government. Most elite forces can hardly read and write, and they are ready to shoot if instructed without asking themselves why they have to against the very people they come from. As long as the elite forces are loyal to government, they go away with these kinds of scandals very easily. They are even praised as heroes by their commanders.

The festival day was just full of havocs and scandals of those types. Lastly, I want to leave a message to the international community and media to follow up and expose these types of unethical and scandalous activities of EPRDF/TPLF soldiers who engage in degrading human dignity; like international community had resolutely worked to expose the Abu Ghraib tortures and prison abuses. These abuses are common in Ethiopian prisons as no one could take pictures at all.
* The author is from Ethiopia. He can be reached at meettaa@gmail.com

Map of oromia

Map of oromia