UNPO Condemns Recent Crackdown of Oromo Student Protests by Ethiopian Government
Following last month’s violent answer of the Ethiopian armed forces against peaceful protesters in Oromia, UNPO expresses its support to the victims’ families. Urgent attention from the international community to the situation of the Oromo people in Ethiopia is required.
Over the course of the month of May, students in Oromia have been facing harsh repression by Ethiopia’s authorities. The peaceful student protests against the government’s planned education reforms, were met by excessive violence, causing the death of approximately 30 students and teachers. Reportedly, the youngest victim was only 11 years old. Ever since, international outrage spread, and in many cities solidarity protests were held. The Ethiopian Government has denied any responsibility, and is exercising a strict control over the local media.
By staging the protests, the students wanted to express their concern about the government’s project to expand the municipal boundaries of the capital city, Addis Ababa. This would imply that the Oromo students’ communities, currently under regional jurisdiction, would no longer be managed by the Oromia Regional State. In addition, the reform would include the displacement of Oromo farmers and residents. Considering their vulnerable status in Ethiopian society, this would make the situation for Oromo individuals even worse than it already is.
The discrepancy between the nature of the protests and the Ethiopian authorities’ reaction is extremely alarming, and gives further evidence of the human rights abuses to which the Oromo community is systematically subjected in Ethiopia. The Oromo suffer from severe discrimination, not only in terms of freedom of expression, as was the case in these recent events, but also in terms of basic human rights, cultural expression, socio-economic conditions and political representation.
Housing development in Ethiopia regularly happens at the expense of Oromo farmers, who are forced to give up their lands, with insufficient or no financial compensation in return. These acts of forced removal or land grabbing are mostly achieved through violent attacks and killings. Over the past few years, many reports stated that Oromo individuals had been killed by the Ethiopian Special Police Forces, including women and children. According to a recent report published in 2013 by Human Rights Watch, numerous Oromo political prisoners were tortured and executed in secret prisons in Oromia and Ethiopia.
UNPO strongly condemns the crackdown on the Oromo community and urges that those responsible are held accountable. UNPO furthermore calls on the Ethiopian government to stop violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and to respect and abide by the international conventions it signed and ratified.