Obama Should Stay Away From Ethiopia

Washington wants a stable partner in the Horn of Africa. But cozying up to the repressive regime in Addis Ababa isn’t the way to go about finding one.


Thousands of Ethiopian opposition activists demonstrate in Addis Ababa on June 2, 2013. The protests were the largest in the country since post-election violence in 2005, in which 200 people were killed and hundreds more arrested. The activists have vowed to press ahead with demonstrations calling for government reforms and the release of political prisoners. The demonstrations were organised by the newly-formed Blue Party opposition group. Government spokesman Bereket Simon said up to 4,000 people joined Sunday's demonstration, while some observers put the number at 10,000. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

(Foreign Policy) — Later this month, President Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to ever visit Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country, and a nation viewed by many as a bastion of stability in a region otherwise beset with civil strife. The trip — which will also include a stopover in Kenya — is being billed as part of the Obama administration’s regional efforts “to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.”

These are indeed laudable goals and should be actively pursued by the U.S. government. But the timing and tenor of the visit to Addis Ababa sends a worrying signal that Washington’s priorities — not only in Ethiopia, but on the entire continent — are actually at odds with the president’s oft-repeated rhetoric about advancing human rights and strengthening African democracy and institutions.

Let’s be clear: Ethiopia is not a model of democracy that should be rewarded with a presidential visit.

Let’s be clear: Ethiopia is not a model of democracy that should be rewarded with a presidential visit. The long-ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, now in power for 25 years, claimed al andslide victory in legislative polls held in May, winning all 547 parliamentary seats, which places it among the ranks of North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Iraq in terms of the sheer efficiency of its electoral sweep. The results should not have come as a surprise: The ruling party swept the last four elections, including in 2010, in which it took a whopping 99.6 percent of the vote. This time around, Washington and the European Union did not even bother sending election observers, knowing full well that an EPRDF victory was a foregone conclusion.The lead up to the May 24 vote saw a widespread crackdown on journalists, human rights activists, and opposition supporters. What’s worse, Obama’s trip was announced on June 19, the same week it was revealed that threeopposition party members weremurdered in the country, all under highly suspicious circumstances.

So why is President Obama visiting a country where democracy is in such a sorry state and where human rights violations remain systemic and widespread? Because, despite the obvious lack of political rights and civil liberties in Ethiopia, and its status as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is palatable to Washington and other Western donors precisely because of who he is not: a retrograde dictator in the mold of his regional counterparts, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea or Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. The brutal and often heavy-handed oppression exhibited by the latter two regimes is brazen, whereas Desalegn and the ruling party work within the (regime-controlled) judicial system, giving their repression a veneer of legality.

A former academic, Desalegn’s elevation to the highest office in Ethiopia came courtesy of thesudden death in 2012 of Ethiopia’s strongman, Meles Zenawi, who had ruled the country for two decades. Zenawi was a favorite in Washington: Though he brutally crushed political opponents and implemented a series of draconian laws meant to muzzle the press and stifle dissent, he also managed to establish an image of Ethiopia as a stable and growing economy in the troubled Horn of Africa. Zenawi’s Western allies, particularly the United States, applauded the country’s modest economic growth and the regime’s willingness to endorse the so-called “War on Terror.” As a result, leaders in Washington routinely turned a blind eye to the EPRDF’s rampant human rights abuses and its ongoing suppression of civil society, the media, and political opposition.

Several key Obama advisors were close associates and personal friends of the late prime minister. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor and former top diplomat at the United Nations, for instance, made no secret of her esteem for and friendship with Zenawi, whom she eulogized as “a servant leader.” Another top Obama aide, Gayle Smith — the current nominee to lead the United States Agency for International Development, which provided Ethiopia nearly $500 million in 2013 — was also never shy about her admiration for Zenawi.

Desalegn, largely seen as a compromise candidate for the shaky, ethnicity-based EPRDF coalition, has continued to rule in the same mode — and Washington’s perverse need to embrace a dictator in technocrat’s clothing has continued. In April, one month before Ethiopia’s sham elections, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman publicly praised Ethiopia’s “democracy” during a visit to the country, which State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf further bolstered by saying “her statements fully reflect the U.S. government’s positions.” Even a cursory glance at Ethiopia’s abysmal human rights record would turn this bogus claim on its head.

On June 25, the State Department released its annual human rights reporton Ethiopia, citing widespread “restrictions on freedom of expression,” “politically motivated trials,” “harassment and intimidation of opposition members and journalists,” “alleged arbitrary killings … torture,” “limits on citizens’ ability to change their government,” and restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and movement. Yet Ethiopia’s donors, including the United States, which provides nearly half of Ethiopia’s national budget, have continued to ignore these signs of trouble. The facade of economic growth and the West’s eagerness for a “development success story” to tout on the international stage has seemingly precluded genuine diplomatic pressure to reform.

To be sure, deeply afflicted countries surround Ethiopia. Despite recent progress, Somalia faces credible and ongoing threats from the al Qaeda affiliated militant group, al-Shabab. South Sudan has devolved into an intractable civil war with no end in sight. Kenya has yet to fully overcome the ramifications of post-election violence in 2007–2008, not to mention its inability to ward off al-Shabab’s cross border attacks. Eritrea, dubbed by some as the North Korea of Africa, remains a highly repressive police state from which hundreds of thousands continue to flee. Further afield, Yemen is in a state of bloody lawlessness. By contrast, Ethiopia has remained largely stable.

Despite this outward veneer of stability and progress, Ethiopia’s current system is unsustainable. A onetime vocal opposition has been systematically weakened. Ethnic discontent is rife. Religious revival has been met with brutal state repression. Economic prosperity is not widely shared and inequality continues to rise. Nepotism and corruption plague an already bloated bureaucracy. Youth unemployment is a persistent and serious challenge. Independent media, the human rights community, and civil society writ large have been decimated. And countless citizens are being displaced from their ancestral lands under the guise of development. These factors, taken together, may ultimately sow the seeds of a tangled conflict that could reverberate across an already troubled and tense region.

In this context, Obama’s upcoming visit to Ethiopia sends the wrong message on Washington’s stated commitment to strengthening democratic institutions — not strongmen — in Africa. What is more, turning a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses for the sake of counterterrorism cooperation and so-called “regional stability” may prove to be a self-defeating strategy that is bad in the long term for the United States, as well as for citizens throughout the Horn of Africa.

If the United States wanted to help strengthen democratic institutions and stand in solidarity with Africans, who are now more than ever demanding democracy, then Nigeria would have been a much better alternative model. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest economy, held landmark elections this March, in which an opposition candidate ousted an incumbent who then graciously accepted defeat. In Ethiopia, this scenario remains a pipe dream for its 96 million citizens. The ruling party is now set to lord over the country at least until 2020, allowing it to further entrench its repressive machinery and to extend its dominance long beyond its current mandate.

It is unlikely that Obama and his handlers will change the itinerary of his upcoming trip. However, it is not too late for the president, and for the United States government, to speak honestly to the people of Ethiopia, making it clear that the historic visit is not intended to validate or otherwise endorse the EPRDF’s autocratic dominance. Rather, Obama should be clear with EPRDF leadership, both in private and most importantly, in public that the United States appreciates the complex challenges facing the country and that repression is not an acceptable means of addressing them.

Obama and his staff should also meet openly with Ethiopia’s political opposition and civic leaders, including those based in the country and abroad in Kenya, where many have been forced to relocate due to increasing oppression at home. Obama should additionally raise the issue of the recently murdered opposition members, as well as the many cases of journalists, activists, and political prisoners who have been wrongly jailed and arbitrarily detained under a raft of draconian laws that have criminalized dissent.

In the long term, the U.S. government should redouble its commitment to Ethiopia’s beleaguered civil society. Obama’s 2016 budget request includes more than $400 million in assistance to the country, of which less than 1 percent is allocated for democracy and human rights programming — an actual improvement from last year, when zero was devoted to this vital sector, much of thespending going towards health and humanitarian aid. A robust, reenergized, and empowered Ethiopian civil society, in which human rights groups are free to operate, is central to deepening democratic principles, not only in Ethiopia but also throughout the East and Horn of Africa.

Overall, Obama must firmly reiterate that stability and security, and respect for basic human rights, and the legitimacy of civil society are not mutually exclusive objectives in Ethiopia or elsewhere. Rather, he should be unequivocal — in both rhetoric and in practice — that, together, these issues help form an unshakable and long-term pillar for U.S. engagement on the African continent.

Is Democratic Change through Electoral Process 100% Dead in Ethiopia?

TPLF’s ‘democratic election’ an oxymoron

By Alem Mamo


It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.” – From Tom Stoppard’s philosophical play Jumpersfirst produced in 1972* * *
“It doesn’t matter who votes; it matters who counts the votes.” – Joseph Stalin

* * *
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

Most international and national political analysts and observers of political discourse in Ethiopia weren’t the least surprised that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) regime would declare itself a winner in the May 24, 2015 ‘election’. What surprised most observers was the brazen nature and audaciousness of the regime to claim 100% of 547 seats in the parliament. This, even by the standard of Africa’s electoral practice, is unprecedented. In recent years, authoritarian regimes in Africa (with a few exceptions) have given directives to their electoral commissions to trim election victories away from the traditional 99.9 – 100% victory. In this regard, the TPLF’s ‘victory’ defies any form of mathematical algorithm and logic including common sense.

In effect what this means is that TPLF has officially removed its democratic mask and joined the rank and file of North Korea’s Workers Party that declared 100% in 2014 election, Iraq’s Bath Party under Saddam Hussein, which claimed 100% victory in a 2002 referendum on whether or not to continue Saddam Hussein’s decade long rule. Raul Castro and the Cuban Communist Party earned 99.4% votes in the 2008 Cuban election. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad claimed 97.6% of votes for his 2007 presidential referendum. Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov and the Communist Party of Turkmenistan declared 99.5 % in the 1992 national election, and most recently Sudan’s Al – Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), declared 94 % victory in national election.

The political reality in Ethiopia can no longer be described as a ‘nation at a crossroad’. The fact is that Ethiopia has crossed the road into a path of inevitable conflict involving multiple players, groups and citizens disenfranchised and excluded from the political, economic and social discourse of the country. For those who have been keenly following the political atmosphere in Ethiopia over the last two decades. This new emerging direction of conflict, unfortunately, is by no means a surprise. In fact, some would argue that it is long overdue. As we have seen in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt over the last few years when citizens are denied of their dignity, fundamental human rights and stake in the political and economic process of their country they are left with no option but to rise up. Thus, it is a choice imposed on the people of Ethiopia by the TPLF led regime that makes a mockery of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Twenty four years is a very long time to promote national reconciliation, build democratic institutions and guarantee citizens’ rights under the rule of law, and most importantly to create a political environment where citizens determine in a free and fair election which political party should govern them. Sadly, TPLF has squandered the last twenty four years for personal gain, ethnic nepotism and belligerent authoritarianism.

The rumblings of conflict in Ethiopia has been on the horizon for a long time, including sporadic skirmishes between different resistance groups and TPLF defense army. This time, however, the dynamic and nature of conflict has different complexities and magnitudes. This unfolding situation could have a reverberating effect for the country, as well as the entire Horn of Africa/East Africa region.

No one for certain can predict when and how the emerging path of conflict would be resolved. What is certain is the proud people of this ancient land have been humiliated, abused and collectively traumatized under the TPLF rule of the last twenty four years. This humiliation and suffering has led them to the place where they are now, which is full out resistance to reclaim their dignity and change the meaning of citizenship to its true definition.

No one should celebrate conflict, but one must also remember the wise and powerful words of President John F. Kennedy: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” In the end, the historical autopsy of the last twenty four years will show the fact that TPLF’s criminality and belligerence. TPLF is not known for resolving conflicts through peaceful negotiation and diplomacy, and it’s not in the regimes DNA to do so. However, the regime must be forced by the international community not to lead the country into the abyss of conflict with serious and unpredictable consequences. Regardless of the regime’s opposition to peaceful conflict resolution and national reconciliation, all peace loving citizens and the international community must realize and advocate for a comprehensive national reconciliation.

Ibsa Ejjetnoo Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo


Finfinnee, Oromiyaa

Nuti Qeerroon dargaggootni barattootni Oromoo dhaabbilee barnoota ol-aanoo biyyatti garaagaraa irraa ogummaa garaagaraan eebbifannee fi kanneen barachaa jirru haala qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoo ABO durfamuu fi Warraaqsaa FDG; ilaalchisuun,haala rakkoo siyaasaa biyyatti, dawwannaa Peresidentiin Ameerikaa Barak Obamaa Adooleessa 2015 dhumaa gara Ethiopiatti gochuuf jiru, rakkoo diaspora Oromoo fi qabsoo Oromoo fi akeekaa Maaster Plaanii Finfinnee ilaalchisuun sadarkaa garaagaraa fi mooraalee dhaabbiilee barnoota olaanoo Yuunibarsiitota kanneen akka Jimmaa, Wallaggaa, Amboo, Finfinnee, Adaamaa, Harammayyaa,Dirree Dawaa, Maddaa Walaabuu , Wal-Qixxee, Mattuu, Gimbii, Walisoo, Shaambuu , Arsii fi Bolee Horaa akkasumas kolleejjii barsiisota Jimmaa, Neqemtee, Shaambuu, Mattuu, Baalee Roobee, fi Allaagee irratti torbee tokko guutuu marii qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoo daran jabeessuu fi Oromoo gara tokkotti fiduun humneessuu irratti erga godhannee booda Mootummaa Wayyaanee abbaa irree EPRDF/TPLF/’n durfamuu, fi fedhii uummata Oromoo fi lammilee cunqurfamoo biyyatti malee humna waraana afaan qawween mirga uummata keenyaa ukkamsuu fi oloa filannoo marsaa 5ffaa 100% injifadhe propaganda sobaa olola garbummaa labsachaa jiruu balaaleffachuu fi tarsiimoo sochii warraaqsa FDG irratti jaabeessuun kan dura dhaabbannu tu’uu murtii keenyaa dabarfachuun Ibsa Ejjennoo qabxii toorba(7) dabarfanne jirra.

  1. Adeemsa dawwaannaa peresideentii Amerikaa Baarak Obamaa yeroo ammaa imala gara Ethiopiatti taasisuf jiru Mootummaa abbaa irree Uummata Oromoo fi sabaa fi sab- lammoota biyyatti mirga namummaa, dimookiraasii fi mirga abbaa biyyummaa mulquun afaan qawween ukkamsee bitaa jiru kan jajjabeessuufi daran olaantummaa fi abbaa irrummaaf kan aangawoota Ethiopia kakaasuu waan ta’eef akka saba cunqurfamaa hin fayyadne hubachiifna.Hawwii uummata cunqurfamaa haamlee dheebuu fi fedha bilisummaaf qaban kan faallessu waan ta’eef mootota diktaatera akka Ethiopia do’achuun abbootii irree daran jabeessuu waan ta’eef jabeessinee balaaleffatna.
  2. Adeemsa Diaspora’n Oromoo Mootummaa abbaa irree EPRDF/TPLF/OPDO’n mookfamuun walitti dhufeenya, sossobanii biyyatti galchuun qabeenyaa isaanii fi guutummaa mirga isaanii waliigalaa ajajuu irratti aangoo guutuu argachuuf toftaa fi tarsiimoo abbaan irree Wayyaanee hawaasa keenya irratti diriirsaa jiru jabeessinee kan balaaleffannu ta’ee Ummatni keenyaa ilmaan Oromoo diaspora tatanii biyyoota ambaa garaagaraa keessatti argamtan adeemsa Wayyaanee kana duukaa kanneen fiigaa jirtan mootummaan Wayyaanee yeroo amma kana Oromoo dhibbootaan lakka’aman gaaffii mirgaa waan gaafataniif ajjeese, kumootaan kanneen lakka’aman ukkamsee badii tokko malee hidhaatti darbaa jira, kumootaan kanneen lakka’aman biyyaa,hojii fi barnoota irraa arii’achaa jira; addatti immoo Maqaa Maaster Planii Finfinnee jedhuun tarsiimoo fi karooraa garboomsaan uummata keenyaa dhabamsiisuu fi geographical location Oromiyaan qabdu balleessuuf utuu diinni fiigaa jiruu, ololli diinaa dhugaa isinitti fakkatee utuu beektaniis utuu hin beekinis abbootii irree fi diktaateroota akka Wayaanee jala fiiguun seenaa keessan gorrachessitanii akka dartanisin beeksina.
  3. Ammas Filannoon waliin dhahaa fi sobaa marsaa 5ffaa Wayyaanee EPRDF/TPLF/OPDO’ n caamsaa 24/2015 gaggeeffame abbaa irrummaa Wayyaanee kan ibsu kan afaan qawwee fi sirni milishaa, waraannii fi poolisiin federaalaa sagalee uummataa qawween ukkamsee, fallaa dimookiraasii fi adeemsa siyaasaa olaantummaa fi abbaa irrummaan dhuunfatame waan ta’eef sabni Oromoo alaa fi keessaan dimokraasii fakkeessaa fi filatnoo kijibaa Wayyaaneen goyyomuu dhiisee qabsoo jabeessuun furmaata.
  4. 4. Dhaabbileen Siyaasaa maqaa Oromoon ijaaramuun (KFO) qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoo karaa nagaa fi Dimookiraasii Wayyaanee EPRDF/TPLF waliin mormii gochuun aangoo fudhachuun ni danda’ama jechuun tilmaama turtan mootummaan Wayyaanee dhiigaa lammiileen biyyattii mootummaa darguu kuffisuuf dhangalaseen aangoo qabatee irratti of ijaaree marsaa 5ffaaf gowwomsaa fi sobaan waan aangoo qabateef jedhcha dhaabonni siyaasaa wayyaanee irraa filmaataan mootummaa fudhanna jedhtan irra deddeebi’anii goyyomuu irraa akka of qusattan dhaammatna.
  5. Uummaatni Oromoo: Qotee bulaan, barataa fi barsiisaan, hoojjetaan, daldalaan, poolisiin, milishaan, hojii dhabdootni, fi kanneen waraana wayyaanee keessatti argamtan mootummaan sirna cunqursaa fi saaminsaa gaggeessaa jiru kun jireenya saba Oromoo fi cunqurfamtoota biro gaaffii guddaa jala galchee biyyattii gara badiinsaatti oofaa waan jiruuf yeroon dammaquun qabsoo mirgaa fi dimokraasiif ta’utti makamuun uumata Oromoof nagaa,dimokraasii fi mirga dhala namummaa akkasumas guddinaa fi badhaadinni akka maluufiif qabsaawuun yeroon isaa amma jenna.
  6. Nuti Qeerroon dargaggootni barattootni Oromoo dhaabbilee barnoota ol-aanoo irraa eebbifamnee fi barachaa jirruu qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoo galmaan geenyee mirga abbaa biyyummaa fi bilisummaa uummata keenya gonfachiisuuf warraaqsa FDG gaggeessuun wareegama qaalii baasaa turre jabeessuun kallattii hundaan FDG jabeessuun mootummaa Wayyaanee dura kutannoo fi murannoon kan dhaabbannuu ta’uu waadaa keenya haaromsinerra.
  7. Sabboontotni Ilmaan Oromoo kumootaan lakkaa’aman Oromummaan yakkamuun mooraalee mana hidhaa Wayyaanee keessatti kanneen dararamaa jiran, kanneen barnoota isaanii irraa arii’ataman waan qabnu fi dandeenyu hundaan cina akka dhaabbannu dirqama lammummaa waliif dabarsina, akkasumas kanneen rasaasa wayyaaneen wareegaman matii isaanii jajjabeessuu fi cina dhaabbachuun dirqama keenya ni baana kan jedhuu fi qabxiilee armaan olii irratti gadii fageenyaan erga marii guddaa gochuun marii keenyaa milkii guddaan xummuratne.

Injifannoon Uummata Oromoof!!
Gadaan Gadaa Bilisummaa Oromooti!!
Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo

Adoolessaa 8/2015

Bekele Gerba will be OSA’s featured Speaker at the 2015 Annual Conference


Studies Association (OSA) annual conference to be held at Howard University, Washington DC from August 1-2, 2015. The theme of this year’s annual conference is Expanding the Frontiers in Oromo Studies: Pathways into the Future”  A well-known academic and human rights leader, Mr. Bekele Gerba brings a wealth of experience and knowledge that has direct bearing to the theme of this conference and the objectives of the Oromo Studies in general. What is more exciting in the field of Oromo studies than the highly respected Bekele Gerba delivering  this years’ featured speech  along  with  the well-known Professor John Markakis.

The presentations of these two luminaries along with those by both established as well as emerging scholars will make the 2015 annual conference another landmark in the three decades history of our scholarly association. OSA members, friends and all interested parties are warmly welcomed to attend this annual Conference. The conference will provide a wonderful opportunity for learning from the experience and wisdom of  the likes of Mr. Bekele Gerba and Professor John Markakis. Such very rare golden opportunity should not be missed by OSA members and all those who are interested in the future and wellbeing of all the people of Ethiopia and the horn of Africa.


MUST-READ | Looking Back – Oromo Liberation Front’s (OLF’s) Statement from 1978 (From Archives)

Some of the highest-ranking OLF leaders in 1978 (when the below statement was issued)

The following excerpt from a 1978 statement of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is published herein to seek comparative analysis between the affairs of the Oromo people and Oromia under the Dergue Abyssinian military occupation of the changed over the last four decades, after reading the below statement, one can observe the affairs of Oromia in 1978 have fundamentally remained almost the same, if not worse, in 2015 (except some token appeasements – “temporary outlets” – here and there from the occupying Abyssinian military forces), and the current dismal State of the Oromo Nation will also remain the same in the future as far as Oromia remains under the Abyssinian military occupation. Historically, this statement was released when many, if not all, of the founding leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front were still alive (see photo here). At the time, this statement was widely distributed all over the world, including being published in a U.S. academic journal for the Horn of African region. The revisit of this statement is also for those reactionary forces which are naively convinced that “national self-determination” and “nations and nationalities” (in some instances, the “OLF” itself) were invented by the TPLF takeover of state power in Ethiopia in 1991. In the letter/statement, OLF argues that the support the Cubans were giving to the anti-people Dergue were shortsighted; true to this analysis, a few years after this letter, the Dergue falsely believed its ‘win in the East’ was a testament for the popular support for its regime and mobilized its forces to ‘crash’ the Eritrean national movement in the North, and with that campaign, the Dergue itself died, though it took almost a decade for Dergue’s slow death to be realized in 1991. – The Editor


Oromo Liberation Front (1978)


Dear Friends:

… We would like to briefly describe the current Ethiopian situation and circumstances that led to it in order to bring to your attention the realities of this Empire state and the role you and your government are playing, purportedly under the illusion of aiding a progressive government. The facts below are not complete, but are intended only to inspire you to arrive at the whole truth.

First, today’s Ethiopia came into being ninety years ago during the European colonial powers’ Scramble for Africa. Before that, Abyssinia or Ethiopia proper formed only one-fifteenth of the present Empire state of Ethiopia. It comprised of Tigray and Begemdir provinces and the three high land Awrajas of Eritrea (the then Bahr Negash) and one Awraja of Shoa (Menz plus Gishen). Although the northern provinces of Gojam and northwestern Walla were virtually under Abyssinian (Ethiopian) occupation for some years prior to the colonization of the rest of the present-day Ethiopia, the peoples of these provinces never gave up their struggle against alien domination.

The dozens of peoples inhabiting the central, eastern and southern parts of Ethiopia today, viz, the Oromo, Afar, Wallaita, Kambata, etc. were then living under their respective governments enjoying freedom. However, in the latter half of the 19th century, the age-old desire of the Amharas to occupy and colonize the Oromo and other peoples’ lands coincided with that of the European colonial powers. This historical coincidence provided Menelik II, the then head of the Abyssinian Kingdom, what he needed in order to fulfill his ambition. The European powers had the objective of controlling Abyssinia and the adjacent countries. The inevitable clash of interests between the powers and intense rivalry to outmaneuver one another saved Abyssinia from direct colonization. Accordingly, in order to accomplish their colonial ambitions, they resorted to indirect means of colonization by aiding Menelik II to expand and control the adjacent regimes under their auspices, thereby fulfilling their objectives through him. They competed ardently in providing Menelik with arms, military and intelligence advisers, etc. From the European colonial powers, Menelik found all that he was lacking to colonize the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia, thereby bringing under his rule peoples of diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The Oromo, which constitutes over 60% of the entire population of the country, and others were thus brought under Amhara rule and reduced to the status of colonized peoples. The present situation of Ethiopia can only be correctly understood when viewed in this historical perspective.

Second, the colonization was not attained easily. Our people made ferocious resistance on every inch of their land sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives. However, lack of modern weaponry – and expert advisers, which the enemy had in abundance, made the war of unequals to end in favor of Menelik and his European overlords. The colonization of our people resulted in the reduction of our predominantly agrarian society to tenancy, exclusion from political affairs and the ruthless suppression of their culture and language.

From the day they lost their independence, the Oromo people have never paused from struggling for national liberation. At different times and in various places, our people have waged political and armed struggles. They rose up in arms against the Amhara colonizers several times. In 1928 the struggle of the Oromo people in Raya reached such a stage as to compel the colonial regime to call in the aid of foreign forces from Aden to subdue the rebellion. Similarly, the heroic struggle of the Bale Oromo that lasted from 1962 to 1970 required the aid of many foreign counter-insurgents and engineering experts to bring a halt to it. Of a special significance is the armed struggle conducted in this province under the leadership of the OLF in 1973-1974 – mobilizing the entire peasantry against the landlords and settlers; this made a tremendous contribution to the overthrow of the Haile Selassie regime. Our force has grown several fold since then. These are but only three major instances of several armed struggles our people waged for liberation.

Third, the struggle of the Oromo people, other oppressed peoples and genuine democrats from oppressed nations underwent tremendous ideological transformations as years passed by and the cumulative effect of their struggles brought about the 1974 February Revolution. The fact that the uprising of 1974 was limited to areas of oppressed peoples attests to the hard reality that the movement was more inspired by the aspirations of the oppressed peoples for liberation.

Today, the Dergue attempts to pose as the vanguard of the revolution to the outside world. The truth, however, is to the contrary. The revolution, which was brought about by the arduous struggles of the Oromo and other oppressed peoples, had the following popular slogans in the late 1973 and early 1974 (the greater part of which the Dergue is still suppressing in spite of popular unrest and resentment): land to the tiller; the recognition of the sovereignty of nations and their rights of self-determination up to and including secession; release of political prisoners; equality of religion; granting of basic democratic rights, and formation of a democratic provisional government that is capable of realizing the aforementioned demands as the OLF and other political organizations that rallied the masses around the foregoing demands were then too weak to lead the people to consummate the national democratic revolution. The military, which was until the last minute defending the Haile Selassie regime, usurped the leadership from the people by massacring thousands of students, workers, democrats and nationalists, thereby ascending to the apex of political power undeservedly. Then, after its accession to power, it struggled hard to halt the popular movement. However, the peasantry of the colonized peoples defied the Dergue’s orders and persisted in their struggle by defeating landlords. The Dergue found the trend irresistible, fearing that, unless certain reforms were effected, the revolution would go far beyond the land question, it legalized the action of the peasantry by issuing the March 1975 land proclamation. Although this measure gave a temporary outlet for the masses upsurge, it was not long before the chauvinistic Dergue exposed its true nature by siding with the settler landlords and the anti-people colonial bureaucracy in the showdown for power between the peasantry and bureaucracy. There is no need to explain to you the fact that any thorough going democratic revolution is a farce under the leadership of an anti-people bureaucracy.

Colonized peoples struggling for national liberation are not to be quenched by land reform alone. National self-determination pertaining to political independence and freeing the suppressed cultures and languages are yet to be attained. Hence, the Oromo and other oppressed peoples vowed to take the revolution to the final conclusion until the total liberation and equality of all peoples are attained.

Fourth, this hard fact confused the social chauvinistic Dergue. As most of its members came from the oppressor nation, the principle of self-determination is anathema to it. This chauvinistic attitude of the Dergue is reinforced by the training its members had regarding the sanctity of territories under the overthrown regime. Hence, its sole reaction to genuine national movements was wholesale condemnation and massive military build-up to counter the insurgents. After two years of confusion, under public pressure and through persuasion of the former provisional office for mass organizational affairs, it accepted and issued the [April 1976] National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which contains a perverted clause on nationalities. Clause 5 of the NDR program falls far short of the principle of self-determination. It curbs the right of nations to self-determination up to and including secession by limiting the exercise of right to regional autonomy. It is clear to any observer that the extent of the right of nations can only be meaningful and satisfactory to oppressed peoples if discussed in a democratic atmosphere. The NDR was prepared by the oppressor nation without the participation of the oppressed people and, hence, it is arbitrary and represents one viewpoint only. That is why it is not accepted. The drafters of the program were, at least, academically capable of seeing this shortcoming. They urged the declaration of democratic rights even though vaguely in its definition and application. Now two years have lapsed since the declaration of the program, but the prerequisite for Clause 5 to become operational is not forthcoming. The Junta in power, in a usual military fashion, continues giving orders to national liberation movements to lay down arms and surrender to it without taking into account the interests of the oppressed. Its first public and specific call was made to the EPLF. At the initial secret contacts between the Dergue and the EPLF, the Front made it clear that any meaningful negotiation leading to lasting peace could only take place between legitimate representatives of the peoples concerned, and this required the prior proclamation of democratic rights and the constitution of a people’s government. The Dergue could not swallow this demand. Accordingly, it rejected it and went around denouncing the Front as a collaborator of imperialism and Arab reaction to counter the Ethiopian revolution. As you very well know this Front from your past contact, it is a progressive organization.

The struggle of the Oromo people did not have international publicity as that of the Eritrean peoples. However, in its social base and the width and length of the territory it operates in, it is the strongest national movement in the Empire state of Ethiopia. The Dergue is afraid of publicly condemning and/or inviting it for negotiation out of fear that the military, which has an overwhelming majority of Oromos, may defect en masse to the Front, thereby wreaking the despotic rule of Mengistu. That is why, in its meeting of December 1977, it decided to label our force in the east and south as that of Somalia, and those in the west and central provinces as that of the EDU. Since we have sufficiently demonstrated our stand regarding Somalia’s occupation of Oromo land through repeated and effective military actions in both Harar and Bale, we need not waste your time by explaining to you what you already know. Regarding our relation with the EDU, let it be known that it was the force of the OLF that hit back EDU’s thrust from the Sudan into Wollega three times last year. The OLF is a progressive national liberation organization that has the ultimate objective of freeing the Oromo land from alien occupation by organizing and mobilizing the Oromo people against feudalism, occupation and all sorts of reaction. Hence, its choice is not between Amhara aristocracy and Amhara military dictatorship – which are represented by the EDU and the Dergue, respectively. Therefore, the Dergue’susual misrepresentation of facts to confuse the general public and foreigners will not have the adverse effect it intends. We hope that you will not be misled to being used against our struggle lest you regret the consequences.

The EPLF and the OLF are not the only national organizations in this country. There are also the TPLF in Tigray, the ALF in Afarland, the WLF in Sidama, and the KLF in southern Shoa. While some of these are already waging armed struggles, others are making intensive preparations to start, and one can witness that each is fast growing every day so they enjoy increasing support from their respective peoples. It is quite natural that those oppressed peoples, who have not yet started struggle, will soon do so, and this empire state, with the exception of one fifteenth part, will be brought under the fire of national liberation forces. In the light of these developments, it is proper that progressive forces reconsider their stand, i.e. whether to stand with the people or perish with the anti-oppressed peoples’ military dictatorship.

Fifth, despite all these obvious developments, Mengistu and his colleagues seem to relax because of the massive military support from the Soviet Union and Cuba to suppress the peoples’ liberation movements. Mengistu believes that because of the strategic importance of Ethiopia, the socialist countries will concern themselves with the situation in the Horn of Africa to the extent of fighting his anti-people war. So if America offers more materials and human support in order to displace the Soviet Union, which no doubt it will do, he will opt to go over to the American side and send the Soviets and your personnel home. Pseudo-progressives, such as Mengistu and Siad Barre, have no ideology. Their ideology is hypocrisy and power — they pretend to be with any power that is ready to support their tottering anti-people regimes.

Sixth, before ending this letter, we would like to briefly quote from the OLF political program in order to sufficiently clarify our objectives for you:

The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self-determination for Oromo people and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through the successful consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Oromia.

Regarding relations with other nations and nationalities, the Front’s program reads as follows:

It will work to bring about, where possible, political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respects for mutual interests, and the principle of voluntary association.

Working on this current policy on the national question, the OLF has already contacted and established fraternal relations with several national organizations, including those of Eritrea. We believe it is on the basis of this policy alone that unity between peoples can be achieved. The Dergue’s chauvinistic approach to the national question is reactionary and has failed to satisfy the aspirations of the oppressed peoples. In view of this, it is quite evident that the policy is bound to meet further resistance, eventually ending up in disaster.

Dear friends, this letter is written with three objectives, viz’, (a) To inform you about our objectives, the Dergue’s true nature and its prospects so that you are furnished with correct information in order to be able to decide where your support should go in the struggle between the people and the anti-people Dergue; (b) to open a channel of communication for future dialogue, through you, with your government to solicit material and political support for our just cause; and (c) to show you the reality so that your government ceases supporting the anti-people military dictatorship headed by Mengistu and immediately renounce all relations with it lest our fraternal forces clash in the battlefield …

National interest, conflicts of identity politics and conflict resolution

Prof. Hamdesa Tuso , Seminar in Oslo, Norway  | March 25, 2015


Dr. Hamdesa Tuso teaches at Department of Peace and Conflict Studies Faculty of Graduate Studies, The University of Manitoba 252C-70 Dysart Rd. Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2M6


Teaching and celebrating Oromummaa is an on gong and continuous process in order to develop Oromian national interest in the predominantly Oromoo country , Oromia and elsewhere the oromoo people live in the world. Discourses on identity politics as well as the socio economic and political conditions of Oromo society emanates partly from reinforcing Oromomummaa at home land and in diaspora with a special weight and focus on uplifting of Oromians national consciousness of their identity both at a community and national level. By virtue of exercising these very natural rights the contemporary Oromo society is facing many conflicts. According to Dr. Tusoo commencing with regime king Sehile Sillassie of Showa, the Abyssinian elite deployed strategies to conquer and control the Oromo country. Strategies and schemes backed by the European technical advisors were intensively executed and implemented to destroy the Oromo identity from the globe. Hence Oromo’s has been exposed to both external and internal conflicts since the Abyssinian’s domination of the Oromo country.

Why Conflicts and how to handle it?

On March 14.03.2015 the energetic leaders of the Oromo Community in Oslo and its adjacent area organized a very timely seminar where three outstanding oromoo scholars among others Drs. Hamdeassaa Tusoo, Makuria Bulchaa and Girma G/ sambet made their ways to Oslo & held this long awaited pubic seminar . The seminar was aimed at pinpointing the concept of a conflict, conflicts resolutions and management in order to restore harmony between individuals, family members, neighborhood communities , and political entities at local, regional or interregional levels.

Dr. Tusoo the main presenter of the seminar embarked up on the topic under discussion by starting form his own life experiences – referring to his own journey of resistance against the Abyssinian domination of Oromoo identity & culture to stigmatize and demolish anything reflecting the indigenous oromoo culture or Oromomumma. He emphasized that up on the, assertions and views about conflicts by stressing that theoretically conflicts is the relational process where there is a power in balance between the complicating parties. The unmet needs of human beings pave ways for a conflict to erupt at all social levels and at any time. However, Dr. Tusoo Maintain that under the right leadership and right circumstances conflicts can be prevented and resolved.

Dr. Tusoo’s esearch based knowledge about the politics of power relations between different parties and further career specialty in peace and conflict studies focusing on an Oromoo indigenous based knowledge of conflicts management ( Jaarsummaa) made his presentation very attractive to participants . He held the seminar in an easy and understandable manner so that the participants could easily comprehend the subject under discussion. He gave a two part long and elaborative presentations using bilingual in both Afaan oromo and English and this made his presentations more alluring with a high degree of quality, generosity and bigheartedness.
Departing from the contemporary definitions of conflict and Theories of conflicts he went on linking it to the characteristics of conflicts manifesting itself in a colonized people and society. The case in point is conflicts that have been erupting with in the Oromo National Liberation movements and other scenarios pertaining to cause and effects of conflicts and its implication for any conflict escalating parties.

According to Dr. Tusoo the mainstream Oromo worldview which is built on the notion of peace for every living body ( Nagaa waaqaa waan hundumaaf ) is the underlying and core element that a modern oromo society need to nurture and develop by scrutinizing those environmental changes that make and shape the new world order. Oromoos have an ancient and indigenous civilization of governance- the Gadaa social and political system that should be studied and adopted in a way it could contribute to the ongoing human and social developments of the International community .

Following Dr. Tusoo´s informative and educative presentation the panel discussants Drs. Girma and Bulchaa gave their comments by acknowledging the main speaker.

Dr. Girma generously supplied on the ABC of conflicts that were elaborated by Dr . Tusoo and went on recommending that such scholarly forum is very important to build confidence among the oromo public and political parties both at home and in diaspoa. He went on underlying that the rest of Oromo communities across the globe need to follow the Oslo suits.

Dr Bulcha also complemented the presentation by saying that it is an informative and educative seminar which can uplift the moral dignity of all Oromoos who are lingering under the total subjugation of a tiny minority that get legitimacy to dominate the political climate of the Ethiopian Empire that on verge of collapsing. The debutants commented that the development of Oromo identity can pave a way for the emancipation of not only the Oromoo nation but also other oppressed nations and nationalities that are being overlooked by the international community.

Any conflicting parties has to adopt a constructive and the accommodative approaches of conflicts resolving mechanisms as it deem to apply them and work on to get down and minimize the scale of conflicting views in a community, region or country. The harmony in the Oromo Community base on the god will of national interest is important to halt an erupting and escalating conflicts by disrupting it in the camps of Oromo national movements.


After the Abyssinian power demise in 1991, the current ruling elite from Tigray accepted and accommodated the diversity and identity of nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire. The Oromo took this advantage and emerged as a regional political force post the Communist regime in Ethiopia. The Ruling party the TPLF imposed conflict and has been in hostile with not only the Oromoos but also the other nations and nationalities that they consider are a threat to their political power position they assumed after the collapse of the communist regime. History attest that all the successive Abyssinian rulers including the current ones or the old ones obtain Lethal weapons from the West to conquer and control the Oromo’s on their home land. Where there is no democracy and control is in play to govern society conflicts are in evitable. The Oromo world view which is based on the notion of nagaa Waaqaa and Araara Waaqaa fi Lafaa is built on optimism and principles that conflicts can be handled, managed and resolved between the conflicting parties.

The participants attended the seminar with interest and passionate thereby suggesting such forum must be adopted & explored on issues that are of paramount importance to minimize conflicting views and interests among the Oromo public whose wish and dream is a restoration of peace , freedom and justice rather than conflicts that erupt at the cost of peace and stability between community members , and different parties within the Oromo society at both local , regional and national levels.

By Buttaa Duuloo

Ethiopia: Digital Attacks Intensify

Spyware Firm Should Address Alleged Misuse

hrwMarch 9, 2015 (New York) – The Ethiopian government has renewed efforts to silence independent voices abroad by using apparent foreign spyware, Human Rights Watch said today. The Ethiopian authorities should immediately cease digital attacks on journalists, while foreign surveillance technology sellers should investigate alleged abuses linked to their products.

Independent researchers at the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab on March 9, 2015, reported new attempts by Ethiopia to hack into computers and accounts of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) employees based in the United States. The attacks bear similarities to earlier attempts to target Ethiopian journalists outside Ethiopia dating back to December 2013. ESAT is an independent, diaspora-run television and radio station.

“Ethiopia’s government has over the past year intensified its assault on media freedom by systematically trying to silence journalists,” saidCynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These digital attacks threaten journalists’ ability to protect the safety of their sources and to avoid retaliation.”

The government has repressed independent media in Ethiopia ahead of the general elections scheduled for May, Human Rights Watch said. Many privately owned print publications heavily self-censor coverage of politically sensitive issues or have shut down. In the last year, at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers have been criminally charged, at least six publications have closed amid a campaign of harassment, and many journalists have fled the country.

Many Ethiopians turn to ESAT and other foreign stations to obtain news and analysis that is independent of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. However, intrusive surveillance of these news organizations undermines their ability to protect sources and further restricts the media environment ahead of the elections. Government authorities have repeatedly intimidated, harassed, and arbitrarily detained sources providing information to ESAT and other foreign stations.

Citizen Lab’s analysis suggests the attacks were carried out with spyware called Remote Control System (RCS) sold by the Italian firm Hacking Team, which sells surveillance and hacking technology. This spyware was allegedly used in previous attempts to infect computers of ESAT employees in December 2013. If successfully installed on a target’s computer, the spyware would allow a government controlling the software access to activity on a computer or phone, including email, files, passwords typed into the device, contact lists, and audio and video from the device’s microphone and camera.

Citizen Lab also found that the spyware used in the attacks against ESAT appeared to have been updated as recently as December 2014. On November 19, a security researcher, Claudio Guarnieri, along with several nongovernmental organizations, publicly released a tool called Detekt, which can be used to scan computers for Hacking Team RCS and other spyware. Citizen Lab’s testing determined that Detekt was able to successfully recognize the version of RCS used in a November attack, but not the version used in a December attack. Citizen Lab concluded that this may indicate that the software had been updated sometime between the two attempts.

These new findings, if accurate, raise serious concerns that Hacking Team has not addressed evidence of abuseof its product by the Ethiopian government and may be continuing to facilitate that abuse through updates or other support, Human Rights Watch said.

Hacking Team states that it sells exclusively to governments, particularly law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The firm told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that “we expect our clients to behave responsibly and within the law as it applies to them” and that the firm will suspend support for its technology if it believes the customer has used it “to facilitate gross human rights abuses” or “who refuse to agree to or comply with provisions in [the company’s] contracts that describe intended use of HT [Hacking Team] software.” Hacking Team has also stated that it has suspended support for their product in the past, in which case the “product soon becomes useless.”

Media reports and research by independent human rights organizations in the past year have documented serious human rights violations by the Ethiopian government that at times have been facilitated by misuse of surveillance powers. Although spyware companies market their products as “lawful intercept” solutions used to fight serious crime or counterterrorism, the Ethiopian government has abused its counterterrorism laws to prosecute bloggers and journalists who merely report on public affairs or politically sensitive issues. Ethiopian laws that authorize surveillance do not adequately protect the right to privacy, due process, and other basic rights, and are inconsistent with international human rights requirements.

Hacking Team previously told Human Rights Watch that “to maintain their confidentiality” the firm does not “confirm or deny the existence of any individual customer or their country location.” On February 25, 2015, Human Rights Watch wrote to the firm to ask whether it has investigated possible abuse of its products by the Ethiopian government to target independent media and hack into ESAT computers. In response, on March 6 a representative of the firm emailed Human Rights Watch that the company “take[s] precautions with every client to assure that they do not abuse our systems, and, we investigate when allegations of misuse arise” and that the firm is “attempting to understand the circumstances in this case.” The company also stated that “it can be quite difficult to get to actual facts particularly since we do not operate surveillance systems in the field for our clients.” Hacking Team raised unspecified questions about the evidence presented to identify the spyware used in these attacks.

Human Rights Watch also asked the company whether contractual provisions to which governmental customers agree address governments’ obligations under international human rights law to protect the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and other human rights. In a separate March 7 response from the firm’s representative, Hacking Team told Human Rights Watch that the use of its technology is “governed by the laws of the countries of our clients,” and sales of its technology are regulated by the Italian Economics Ministry under the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export controls regime for dual-use technologies. The company stated that it relies “on the International community to enforce its standards for human rights protection.”

The firm has not reported on what, if any, investigation was undertaken in response to the March 2014 Human Rights Watch report discussing how spyware that appeared to be Hacking Team’s RCS was used to target ESAT employees in 2013. In its March 7 response, the company told Human Rights Watch that it will “take appropriate action depending on what we can determine,” but they “do not report the results of our investigation to the press or other groups, because we consider this to be an internal business matter.”

Without more disclosure of how Hacking Team has addressed potential abuses linked to its business, the strength of its human rights policy will be in question, Human Rights Watch said.

Sellers of surveillance systems have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes preventing, mitigating, and addressing abuses linked to its business operations, regardless of whether government customers adequately protect rights.

“Hacking Team should publicly disclose what steps it has taken to avoid abuses of its product such as those alleged against the Ethiopian government,” Wong said. “The company protects the confidentiality of its customers, yet the Ethiopian government appears to use its spyware to compromise the privacy and security of journalists and their sources.”

Source: HRW


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