Remembering the 2005 Peaceful Revolt Against Subjugation in Oromia
By Daandii Qajeelaa
This week Oromo nationalists in Oromia and around the globe commemorate the popular student uprising known as the Fincila Diddaa Gabrummaa (meaning the “Revolt Against Subjugation”) that suddenly broke out on November 09, 2005 following the failed 2005 Ethiopian election in which the Oromo was denied any mean
5. November 16, 2005: Four students were killed when peaceful protesters were fired upon in Qore (Arsi zone). Local residents reacted with more protests, and another six were shot dead (OSG Report No. 42).
6. November 17, 2005: In response to the Qore killings of November 16 (above), students in Kofale (Arsi zone), Negelle, and Kuraya staged large demonstrations. The same day 5,000 Oromo students at universities in Gonder, Bahar Dar amd Mekele were beginning hunger strike in protest against the killings of Oromo students and the harassment of Gonder students under the pretext of investigating the burning of houses there (OSG Report No. 42).
7. November 18, 2005: Student protests continued in Hirna (Hararge) for a week, with nine more students and other residents, including a mentally-disabled person, being thrown into the detention camp there. Many of those detained had been injured by beatings. The same day, farmers around Hirna refused to attend a government meeting, and students and residents of Ciroo blocked roads to the town on another continued protest (OSG Report No. 42).
8. November 19, 2005: Student demonstrations continued in Gindhiir (Bale zone). At around 8:30pm, the police shot a young boy. This had caused much tension in this and neighboring towns. As a result, a nearby town, Dalloo Sabroo remained under siege by heavily-armed government forces for several days. Residents were harassed, and their movements within the town were heavily restricted. The same day, it was reported that all schools in and around Kofalee (Arsii zone) remained closed since the uprising was ignited in early November. Extensive campaign of arrests had been unleashed in both the town of Kofalee and its surroundings. Eyewitnesses had reported that people were jammed into small cells and tortured daily.
9. November 20, 2005: Discomforted by the continued uprising of the Oromo people in Harargee zone, Mr. Minaase W. Georgis, the then President of Oromia, arrived at the city of Sakina, in Daroolabu district (Harargee). When the news of his arrival was leaked, Oromo people quickly gathered in the thousands and staged a demonstration, chanting and demanding implementation of Article 39 of the Ethiopian Constitution and an immediate release of members of Macha and Tulama Self-Help Organization, and voicing their support for the OLF, and rejecting Minaase W. Giorgis as President of Oromia. Minaase immediately turned around and left the area without meeting anyone. Embarrassed by this development, the local OPDO’s later embarked on indiscriminately harassing the residents. Their attempt to murder a resident named Diitaa Ahmad Muummee failed, but Diitaa was wounded slightly by a bullet shot by an OPDO envoy. It was reported that the OPDO had demanded that Diitaa pay for the lost bullet, reminiscent of the Derg regime (OSG Report No. 42).
10. November 21, 2005: Students of Roobee Teachers’ Training College and surrounding schools (Bale zone) staged a demonstration. The same day, Oromo people residing along the main road leading from Roobee to Finifnee (Addis Ababa) expressed their protest by blocking the main highway using boulders and rocks. In retaliation, the police was ordered to arrest anyone seen outdoor after 9:00pm. The police had been conducting 24-hour surveillance around residences of individuals suspected of sympathizing with the OLF (OSG Report No. 42).
11. November 22, 2005: Oromos residing along the main road linking Finifinee and Western Oromia closed the artery highway at a place called Asgorii (Western Wollega). Demonstrators gathered at the blockage and chanted slogans denouncing the Meles regime. The Ethiopian police was dispatched to the area to disperse the demonstrators who courageously resisted the police for several hours.
12. November 23, 2005: Students of Daaloo Elementary School (Hararge) protested on the street burning the OPDO flag and waving the OLF flag.
13. November 24, 2005: The residents of Shambuu (Eastern Wollega zone) protested by closing the main road leading to Baakkoo, thereby cutting the main line to and from the city (OSG Report No. 42).
14. November 25, 2005: Oromo students at the Jimma Teachers’ College(5) staged a peaceful demonstration. The Federal police attacked and injured several students while arresting 24 others. The same day, students of Galamso intensified the protest which they already began on November 11 (Oromia Times – November 30, 2005).
15. November 29, 2005: Oromo students in Jaldu district of Western Shawaa zone(6) staged a peaceful demonstration. As usual, the Ethiopian police attacked the protesters killing 2 students, Habtaamuu Bayyataa and Fiqaaduu, on the spot, critically injuring two more (one named Nurressaa Katamaa Xaafaa), and also wounding several others. One policeman had been reported hurt during this demonstration. There had been extensive campaign of arrests in this district in both the city and the countryside. All schools in Jalduu remain closed since the uprising began. At the same time, similar protests continued in neighboring districts of Geedoo and Haratoo (OLF – December 05, 2005).
16. December 7, 2005: Classes at Jimma University had been stopped starting from December 7, 2005 because of clashes between Oromo and Tigrean students, leading to several arrests (The Reporter – December 11, 2005).
17. December 8, 2005: Students of Mendi district (Woreda) staged a massive demonstration which lasted all day during which 12 high school students were injured in clashes with the police (The Reporter – December 11, 2005).
18. December 13, 2005: Oromo students of Ziway, Eastern Shoa zone, demonstrated(7) against the regime. The students later clashed with the police; two students and one police were severely wounded. Five other students have been abducted by the regime’s forces (Seife Nebelbal – December 16, 2005).
19. December 18, 2005: The Reporter wrote that students at Jimma University were refusing to resume classes because the police and the army were still on campus.
20. December 21, 2005: The private weekly Tikusat(8) reported that six students died and six others were injured and sent to hospital when students blocked a road in Mendi [Kiltu Kara] to help prisoners, heading to an unknown destination, escape. Members of the military forces that were driving behind the truck which carried the prisoners opened fire and killed six students. The newspaper also reported the arrests of several Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement members in Nejo, Wollega.
21. December 26, 2005: Hundreds of people from the towns of Mendi and Gimbi, Wallega, were rounded up and taken to the Senkele Police Training Center in Ambo. Special forces surrounded the towns after the residents started holding protest rallies demanding the removal of Meles Zenawi and Juneidi Sado (Ethiopian Review – December 26, 2005).
22. December 27, 2005: Dagim Wenchif(9) reported two killings in student demonstrations in Boji Chekorsa, Wollega, and the arrests of several elders and youth in Gimbi. The youth were taken to the Didhessa concentration camp.
23. December 28, 2005: Tomar(10), a private weekly newspaper, reported the arrest of four businessmen in Dembi Dollo, Wollega, Yonas Gelan, Fekade Shibeshi, Kassahun Kitla and Belay Yadeta, and that those who were arrested from Dembi Dollo, Anfilo, Mughi and Gimbi were detained at the Senkele police training camp. The same day, parliamentarians representing the Oromo people petitioned the House Speaker to discuss mass arrests in the State of Oromia, the paper reported.
24. December 30, 2005: VOA(11) reported the closure of three high schools in Nekemte, Wollega, following student arrests and the killings of four students in Wollega that week. The police admitted over 300 arrests to VOA.
25. January 20, 2006: All schools in the following towns had been reported closed due to the continued student protests and extended popular uprisings: Ambo, Tikur-Incini, Dembi Dollo, Gimbi, Qoree, Biyo Karaba, Asasa, Kofale, Gedo, Bako, Sarbo, Shashamane, Nekemte, Lalo Asabi, Jimma, Machara, Finca’a, Kombolcha, Xullo, Dhangago, Ciro, Oliqa Dingilu, Qelam, Haro Maya, Doba, Ginir, Habro, Matufi Darimu, Dire Dawa, Galamso, Badesa, Asabot, Bedeno, Mi’esso, Bordode, Mandi, Daro Labu, Gadulo, Gololcha, Calanqo, Awaday, Bate, Kara-Mile, Harar, Qobbo, Langey, Masala, Awash, Didhessa, Guttin, Haro Sabu and Gibe (OSG Report No. 42).
The above selectively reported incidents are few of the widespread popular unrest in the entire Oromia – East, West, South and North – that was ignited on November 09, 2005 and had continued for nearly two years. Tens of thousands of students, farmers, teachers, businessmen, and all sectors of the society have been jailed, tortured, disappeared, and killed in broad daylight and in prison cells. While the international media generally ignored this long-lived and massive popular unrest, and unimaginable human rights abuse and loss of life, some humanitarian organizations, such as the Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, the Oromia Support Group, have shaded light to a small part of the uprisings, massive unrest, and brutal killings. On January 30, 2006, the Amnesty International in its issue (AI Index: AFR 25/002/2006) reported:
“… The 11 students named above are among several thousand school and college students from the Oromo ethnic group who have been detained in a series of anti-government demonstrations in different parts of the Oromia Region, in the capital, Addis Ababa, and in other towns. All those named above are detained incommunicado at a number of different locations, and are at risk of torture or ill-treatment. The arrests have taken place during a wave of student demonstrations which began on 9 November 2005. The demonstrations are still taking place in some areas. Most of those taking part were secondary school students, some of them children under 18 years old, but teachers, farmers, businesspeople and others have also been detained in connection with the demonstrations. Most demonstrations reportedly began peacefully but some police and demonstrators were injured, property was damaged and explosions were reported in some places. The demonstrations are said to have taken place after a call by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an armed opposition group, for demonstrations against the government. Demonstrators called, among other political demands, for the release of Oromo political prisoners, including officials of the Mecha Tulema Association, a long-established Oromo welfare association.” (emphasis mine)
The total number of those killed in cold-blood during and after the student demonstrations in Oromia remains unknown, or is simply under-reported, but it is believed to be several hundreds. The International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA)(12) reported on December 10, 2006 that “… 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 …” On February 15, 2006 (about 3 months after the protests first broke out), the OLF reported in a press release:
“… Since the last press briefing many school children, university students, the young and elderly have been killed, and disappeared while tens of thousands have been imprisoned where they routinely faced torture. According to reliable reports, more than 105 have been killed in different parts of Oromia while 232 have disappeared without trace. The recent cold-blood massacre of 22 innocent people in Guduru is a graphic example of the facts on the ground. Prisoners are being picked from detention centers during the night never to return either to their prison cells or to their relatives.” (emphasis mine)
The protests and peaceful demonstrations Oromo students are manifestations of the anger and frustration of the Oromo people against the current brutal regime in Ethiopia. It also shows that the Oromo people are still under a “hidden” and new form of subjugation. The current regime in power may think it has extinguished the popular fire (uprising) that was ignited in the entire Oromia by force. But, the student movements are reflections of the overall struggle of the Oromo people for democracy, justice and freedom. It will only stop when ALL the oppressors (those who are in power and those who intend to replace them) step down from power, and when the Oromo people freely determine their fate.
It is to be noted that the above report is focused only on the protests in Oromia, which broke out on November 09, 2005 and had continued on-and-off in the entire region for nearly two years. The time these protests started also coincides with the widely reported protest in Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) and several major cities organized by the then CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) in which some 200 people have been brutally murdered and tens of thousands jailed. The massive popular unrest in Oromia and in the entire Ethiopia against the current brutal regime may now look subdued for several reasons, but it is actually a ticking bomb that can explode at any moment just as it exploded suddenly on November 09, 2005 following a call from OLF and the post-election protests called by the CUD. And when it does, it has the potential to put the entire Horn of African region in turmoil and political unrest.
1. Oromia Support Group (OSG No. 42), Press Release No. 42, 2005 – 2006, Malvern, the UK.
2. The Reporter, November 13, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
3. OSG No. 42
4. The World Prout Assembly, Kolkata, India.
5. Oromia Times, November 30, 2005. http://oromiatimes.blogspot.com/2005/12/barattooti-oromoo-24-kollejjii.html
6. OLF Press Release, “Popular Oromo protests in 25th Day”, December 05, 2005.
7. Seife Nebelbal, December 16, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
8. Tikusat, December 18, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
9. Dagim Woncif, December 27, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
10. Tomar, December 28, 2005, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
11. Radio Voice of America, Afan Oromo Service, Washington, D.C.
12. IOYA Press Release – Novemeber 10, 2006