Oromo is a single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia estimated over 40 million populations (about 47% of Ethiopian population). The Oromo also make up a significant portion of the population occupying the Horn of African countries like Kenya. Ecologically and agriculturally, Oromia (Oromo country) is the richest region in the Horn of Africa. Economically, Oromia is the bread basket for Ethiopia (in particular) and the Horn of Africa (in general). During their long history, the Oromo developed their own cultural, social and political system known as the Gadaa system. It was a uniquely democratic political and social institution that governed the life of every individual in the society from birth to death. Up to the 19th Century, the Oromo people ruled themselves under the Gadaa system in which the power is democratically transferred every 8 years. The Oromo are among the indigenous people of ancient Cushitic civilizations.
The Oromo are marginalized following the Abyssinians conquest in the last quarter of the 19th Century. They have been languishing under repression of successive Ethiopian regimes. Over the last 130 years, in Ethiopia, the power is under two minority of Abyssinian ethnic groups- the Amhara and Tigre. Oromo is uniquely targeted by consecutive Ethiopian systems because of its resources, geographic strategy, and fear from its majority in number.
The Oromo are suffering countless stories of oppressions. As human rights activists, we are advocating for the God’s given right to human being and its dignity as the United Nations identified in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
In Ethiopia, the number of political prisoners is estimated over 45,000; of these more than 90% are Oromo. The former Head of Ethiopian Ministry of Defense, Mr. Seeye Abreha, who was part of the persecutors, witnessed that by stating “Ethiopian prisons speak Oromo language.” According to Oromo Support Group (OSG), a non-political organization which attempts to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, as of May 2012, it has reported 4,407 extra-judicial killings and 992 disappearances of civilians suspected of supporting groups opposing the government where most of these are Oromo.
The present Ethiopian regime led by the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF) officially declared its policy of land grabbing from the indigenous people of Southern Ethiopia: the Oromo, Gambella and Benishangul. According to Oromo Study Association (OSA), a scholarly association focused its study on the Oromo and the Horn of Africa, since 1996, the total area of agricultural land transferred to the investors is 4 million hectares. A total land transferred to investors will be 7 million hectares of agricultural land by the end of 2015. Over 94% of the land assigned to Tigrayan and foreign investors is located in Southern Ethiopia i.e.,the non-Tigrayan and non-Amhara regions. This is part of the continuation of the dominance of Abyssinians in every aspect including the economic sector. Oromo farmers are forcedly displaced from their ancestral land. This ruined these indigenous people without shelter and foods. It accompanied by limitless human right violations, if they survive, steering the vast number of immigrants in the horn of Africa.
Currently, there is a situation engaged in massacring and flustering Oromo farmers in Eastern Oromia by the armed forces of the Ethiopian regime. In Central Oromia, thousands of people and their livestock died due to the industrial pollution directly released to the rivers and lakes. Forests including a UNESCO’s registered and privileged forestry as “diversity of living habitat”, which is located in Ilu Aba Bora Zone of Oromia, are dismantled by the TPLF’s coal mining company known as EFFERT.
On August 2nd, 2013, in Kofele and Wabe towns in West Arsi zone of Oromia, the Ethiopian government’s armed forces killed 25 and arrested about 1500 innocent Oromo farmers while the nearby hospitals in Hawassa and Shashamane crowded with wounded people.
Though it is not uncommon in Ethiopian prisons to take out bodies of Oromo prisoners every time, Engineer Tesfahun Chemeda, an Oromo rights advocate and former UNHCR recognized refugee, killed on August 24th, 2013, due to torture at Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. It is a short period of time- reminiscence that Oromo students like Gadissa Hirpessa and Alemayehu Gerba were also killed in the same prison.
We very appreciated Al Jazeera’s recent exploration and its broadcasting the story of Oromo repression: “Oromo Seek Justice in Ethiopia”, on June 25th, 2013. There are countless human rights abuses against Oromo people. In the fight against tyrannical systems, like Ethiopia, free media played great roles. Therefore, we urge all international media for their commitments to stand with Oromo- the voiceless people.