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Targeting Oromo students raises ethnic tensions

International Oromo Youth Association

Press Release

The Targeting of Oromo students and youth does not serve any purpose aside from intensifying ethnic tensions in Ethiopia!

November 9, 2006 — We have learned and are strongly alarmed by the cold blooded murder of a young Oromo student Shibiru Demissie at Mekele University. Shibiru was strangled to death on the evening of Saturday, November 4, 2006 at Mekele University where he had traveled hundreds of kilometers to receive education. According to the Oromo Student Union at Mekele University, Shibiru Demissie a third year history student was dragged out of his room after the campus electric power was disconnected. We have no doubt that this is another deliberate action taken by security forces as it has been done to numerous Oromo students at Mekele University and else where in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government has been killing and imprisoning hundreds of innocent Oromo students since it came to power. The past five years has especially been a nightmare for Oromo students who were made major targets of political assassinations and mysterious disappearances. Thousands of them were taken from their school and are serving long-term jail sentences without trial. Young under age female students were raped and tortured brutally by government soldiers. These are a few of the cases that where reported by international human right groups.

In 2000, Oromo students of various universities and colleges asked the government to assist them in putting down the fire, which was engulfing vast Oromian forests. Their request was met by street shootings and late night assassinations. For instance, On April 2, 2000 government soldiers in Dembi Dollo, Western Oromia, gunned down Dirribe Jifar, a high school female student. The preceding sentence should not be deleted. Another high school student Alemu Disasa was killed and his body was dumped in a river. On March 9, Getu Dirriba was beaten to death at military detention center in Ambo.

In 2002, an Oromo student Simee Terreffe was murdered at Mekele University and in a similar fashion his body was dumped in a river near Mekele town.

In 2004, more than 350 Oromo students were expelled from Addis Ababa University for protesting peacefully. Many of these Students were followed to their home village and murdered by security force. In the same year the vanguard Oromo civic association, Macha and Tulama Self Help Association, was disbanded. Its entire leadership, including Oromo students and numerous Oromo journalists are still serving prison without trial. The instances stated above are just those that were reported, one can only begin to imagine how many actually occur. This pattern of behavior has become a norm for the Ethiopian government. Needless to say, these types of tragedies are far too familiar to the Oromo people.

In 2005, Jagama Badhane was shot dead by security forces while leaving his school compound. In the same year; Alemayo Garba and Mohammed Teyib were shot dead in Kaliti prison while serving jail terms without trial. Their classmate and later inmate Gaddisa Hirpasa, a 4th year engineering student at Addis Ababa University was tortured to death within few months. In the years 2005- 2006 alone, more than 500 students were killed by government’s security forces of which the record is available and widely reported by different media and human rights groups.

This is not new to Oromo people. Successive Ethiopian regimes have been committing gross human rights violations against the Oromo people. The current ruling party is not different from its predecessors. What makes the act of this regime very dangerous is its intention to pit the Oromo people against its neighbor with whom they coexisted for thousands of years. In February 2006, EPRDF cadres instigated conflict among students in Gonder and Bahir Dar Universities. Oromo students who spoke Afaan Oromo in those cities were beaten, and were made to believe that the act was committed by the Amhara community where the universities were located.

In April 2006, a Tigrian student who was attending Adama University committed suicide. However; Tigrian residents of Mekele were told that he was murdered by Oromo students and the Tigrian’s marched to Mekele University demanding the expulsion of all Oromo students from the university as revenge. In June 2006, 44 Oromo students were denied their Certificate of Graduation after successful completion of their four-year degree programs. Some of these students have disappeared while others were unjustly imprisoned.

In August 2006; students of Jimmaa, Haromaya and Adama Universities clashed with each other based on their ethnic affiliation because a student’s cadre of the government wore a t-shirt that bears a derogatory word against the Oromo people, in an orchestrated move to inflict ethnic tensions. In this clash, which was clearly instigated to pit Oromo students against Amhara students, at least 10 lives were lost. As a result, 44 Oromo students from Haromaya, 30 from Adama, and 23 from Jimma University were expelled. In October 2006, religious conflict between Christians and Muslims erupted in Jimma and Ilu Abbabor zones of Oromia. We have a string of evidence to believe that this was also instigated by government security forces, as the followers of the two religions lived together for thousands of years without any recorded history of communal violence. As various top government officials who fled the country disclosed, the ruling party “kill whoever they like and then ask: ’Who killed them?’"

Such malicious actions by the government security forces does not benefit anyone but rather it results in complete destruction of the social fabric among the nations and nationalities of the country as well as the region. We believe targeting Oromo students as a means of suppressing the Oromo quest for freedom democracy and justice is a grave miscalculation on the government’s side. Pitting Oromo people against its neighbors is as dangerous as detonating atomic bomb in the country. We consider instigating religious conflict between followers of different religions, to gain cheap political score, as a crime against our nation and humanity at large.

Therefore; we call up on the Ethiopian government:

1) To stop killing and imprisoning unarmed and innocent Oromo students.

2) To establish an independent inquiry commission that will investigate the murder of Shibiru Demissie at Mekele University and to bring those who committed the crime to justice.

3) To release all Oromo students and political prisoners who are being detained at various concentration camps without adequate food and medication.

4) To stop instigating religious and ethnic conflict among the nations and nationalities in the country.

5) To respect the right of Oromo students as citizens to receive education without fear of death and torture.

6) To respect the right of Oromo people to exercise their collective and individual rights as it is stated in the country’s constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We call upon the International Community, Human Rights groups and donor organizations to

1) Give special attention to the gross human rights violations being inflicted by the Ethiopian government against Oromo people in general and Oromo students in particular.

2) Pressure the regime to stop killing Oromo students and to release those who are serving jail sentences without the right to a trial.

3) Increase or devise political and/or economic sanctions where and when necessary to bring urgency to this issue.

4) Pressure media sources to shed light on the current plight of Oromo students and the Oromo struggle for human rights.

The last but not least, we call upon Oromo communities and political organizations, to join hands to raise awareness about the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Oromo people by the current minority regime. We would also like to renew our unwavering support to the Oromo students, political prisoners and farmers are who standing firm against tyranny.

Justice for Oromo People and Justice for All!!