Weeks after winning a silver medal at the Rio games, Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa’s Olympic story is far from over.
His gesture at the finish line and the medal podium sparked a worldwide reaction. In crossing his arms and raised them skyward, he mirrored a gesture used by young Oromos in peaceful protest against the violent persecution of the Ethiopian government.
Images of the runner’s political gesture flooded the Internet. The social media hashtag #OromoProtest has pushed the issue further and brought more attention to the concerns of the Oromo people.
Oromo activist wants the world to “hear the cries” of her people
(Advocacy4Oromia, 22 September 2016) Dhibaayyuu Cultural Festival held at Bururi Uran, Sololo Marsabit County 2016.
The Dhibaayyuu is an annual ceremony that showcases and define the cultural identity and indigenous believe systems of the Borana, one of the two moieties of Oromo people.
According Eddy Ochieng this ceremony is held after the long rains as a thanksgiving for the abundance and also for prayers to protect them from any calamities in the future.
This ceremony is done at Bururi Uran, in Sololo, Marsabit County.
The Borana are one of a peace loving moieties of Oromo nation that living in southern Oromia and northern Kenya in parts of Isiolo, Marsabit, and Moyale.
PRESS RELEASE SEPTEMBER 13, 2016
(Advocacy for Oromia, 14 September 2016) The undersigned civil society organizations applaud U.S. Representatives Chris Smith, Keith Ellison and Mike Coffman for introducing House Resolution 861, entitled “Supporting human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”
H.Res.861, introduced today as companion legislation to S.Res.432, addresses the ongoing human rights abuses and political instability in Ethiopia. It condemns the killing and arbitrary arrest of protesters and calls on the Ethiopian government to conduct a full, credible and transparent investigation into the killing and excessive use of force against protesters in the Amhara and Oromia regions. It also urges the Ethiopian government to allow the UN to conduct an independent examination of the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The resolution calls on the U.S. Government to conduct a review of its security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments and to develop immediately a comprehensive strategy to improve good governance in Ethiopia.
We believe that this resolution is a powerful call to action to promote national and international accountability and redress for the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by Ethiopian government security forces during recent protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The resolution adds to efforts by Ethiopians in Ethiopia and around the world to bring about democratic reforms, inclusive governance, and respect for human rights in Ethiopia. By specifically instructing the Department of State and USAID to improve oversight and accountability of U.S. assistance to Ethiopia, the resolution highlights the obligation of donor countries to ensure that aid given to the government of Ethiopia is not used to suppress the legitimate demands of citizens for accountable government and equal representation at all levels of the political structure.
We express our support for this resolution and the intent behind it, which is to focus attention on helping the Ethiopian people and the Ethiopian government find a path forward out of the deepening human rights crisis. We encourage members of the House to support H.Res.861 and urge members of the Senate to support S.Res.432, the companion resolution introduced by Senators Cardin and Rubio in April.
Africa Faith & Justice Network
Amnesty International USA
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars
Ethiopia Human Rights Project
Human Rights Watch
Oromo Advocacy Alliance
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition
(Advocacy4Oromia, 11 September 2016) As Ethiopians prepare to celebrate their New Year and the Muslim feast of Sacrifice, shops in the town of Burayu are shuttered and streets strangely empty amid fresh anti-government protests.
But after months of on-off trouble in the central Oromo region — home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group — this small town close to capital, Addis Ababa, is in virtual lockdown after a call for a general strike against the government’s stance on Oromo demands.
“I’ve never seen the city like this,” said a grocer manning one of the few market stalls still open.
“Police officers came and said we have no right to close our shops and if we close, they’ll close us for good.”
But despite incessant police patrols, most shops have remained shuttered.
“The whole Oromo region is ruled by the military,” said 26-year-old Abdisa, who vows while chatting with a couple of friends that his family’s small cafe will stay shut until the New Year, as agreed by traders.
“This boycott is a way of showing our disagreement with the government,” adds Abdisa, who gives no family name.
The lockdown, he says, is a sign of respect for those killed in the region since November, which rights groups say number in the hundreds.
With security forces readily using live bullets against demonstrators, there have been fewer protests in recent days.
“We don’t want to celebrate the New Year with joy…They’re killing people. We need the killings to stop,” said Falmata, a young jobless university graduate.
And when talk focuses on Ethiopia’s last elections in May 2015, when the ruling EPRDF coalition — in power for a quarter of a century — won every parliamentary seat, Falmata’s anger boils over.
“This result is totally false,” he says.
It was a government decision a few months later to appropriate Oromo lands for an urban development scheme — a decision now rescinded — that raised fears by farmers of expropriation, triggering months of deadly trouble.
“The plan brought a lot of blood, and that blood started everything,” said Falmata.
“We don’t want this regime to continue. It’s ruled by a few people dominated by the TPLF,” he added, referring to the Tigray Liberation Front that overthrew Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorial regime in 1991 but is now also accused of monopolising political power.
The unrest, the first such protests in a decade, has spread to the northern Amhara region.In August, simultaneous protests took place for the first time in the two regions that together account for 60 percent of the country’s people.
The protests were violently suppressed by security forces who opened fire on crowds in several places leaving at least 100 dead, according to rights group Amnesty International.
In Burayu, the main bus station is deserted, with activists stopping all traffic to western Oromo, where the protests have been specially violent.
Civil disobedience appears to be growing in the region, with artists now openly joining the protest movement.
“I am on the side of the people,” popular singer Abush Zeleke said on Facebook. “People choice is my choice. I am not going to perform any concert.”
Local media says around 20 artists have decided to boycott New Year celebrations on Sunday.
Yousuf gave an exclusive interview to Al Bawaba about his plight, which provides a glimpse into the Ethiopian government’s ongoing crackdown on the ethnic Oromo.
With a population of at least 35 million, the Oromo are the largest tribe in Ethiopia. They’ve suffered discrimination at the hands of the ruling Tigray tribe for decades.
The Ethiopian government, which is dominated by the minority Tigray, is a key ally of many Western countries in the “War on Terror.”
Yousuf is from an Oromo Muslim family in the eastern city Harar. He began working as a radio and TV journalist in 2013, covering Ethiopian politics and the Oromo protests that began in November 2015when the government attempted to appropriate Oromo farmland to expand Addis Ababa, the country’s capital.
The government responded to mostly-peaceful demonstrations by beating and arresting people andopening fire on the crowds. Since November, Ethiopian soldiers have killed 500 demonstrators, Human Rights Watch says.
The government has also cracked down on journalists who publish things that go against the party line.
Last year, Yousuf was imprisoned for three months for his coverage of the ongoing Oromo demonstrations.
“As a journalist, I did my professional job, which is reporting,” he told Al Bawaba. “But the government doesn’t like journalists. They want to hide what’s going on in our country. That is why they arrested me. Because I exposed that youth were being imprisoned and killed.”
Yousuf said he was tortured while he was in prison.
Though he was released after three months’ detention, Yousuf said the government tried to arrest him again, which led him to flee the country for neighboring Kenya.
Yousuf said goodbye to his family and took a series of buses with what little money he had to travel from Harar hundreds of miles south to the Kenyan border.
At the border, Yousuf was forced to spend the night in a hotel room while waiting for the crossing to open the next morning. He said the Ethiopian intelligence services were looking for him and others in area hotels, and he had to flee his room and sleep in the street to avoid getting caught.
The next day he crossed in to Kenya, and rode more buses to get from the border to Nairobi. He arrived in Nairobi on Aug. 16, and is now trying to win asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Yousuf said part of the reason the Ethiopian government doesn’t like him is that his father was a supporter of the Oromo Liberation Front, a political party that the Ethiopian government declared a terrorist organization in 2011. Yousuf said his father was imprisoned and killed by government agents in the early 1990s, when Yousuf was only three-years-old.
In August, civil unrest in Ethiopia intensified, as a second ethnic group, the Amhara, joined the demonstrations. Over the course of three days in early August, Ethiopian soldiers killed an estimated 97 people during protests in half a dozen cities around the country.
“Hospitals have been filled by dead and wounded victims,” one witness told Reuters.
The US, which gives millions of dollars in aid to the Ethiopian government every year in exchange for military cooperation in the volatile Horn of Africa, has refused to condemn the government’s massacres, saying only that it was “deeply concerned” with the violence.
Other Western nations, who also use Ethiopia as a military and security partner, have been similarly tight-lipped.
It seems obvious that the inaction of Western powers is perceived by the Ethiopian government ascarte blanche to continue beating, arresting and slaughtering its own citizens.
“Still now the Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources,” Yousuf said.
-By Hunter Stuart
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Email me at email@example.com
…these are tough times. Tough times demand tough measures commensurate to our challenges. This campaign week, because it is holiday week, is a time of heavy economic activity in the country. The campaign’s modest goal is to hit hard on the economic activity of the week by a simple act of boycotting the wanton consumption and provision of products needed thereof.
This is done in order to weaken the regime’s economic power deployed to repress our people. It is also done to identify businesses and traders that side with the people’s just causes and those that stand in support of the regime’s imperative of killing and brutal repression. We call upon all other justice-loving people to join our people in this campaign. We will also call upon them to understand, to pay attention, to bear witness, and to respond to this appeal to conscience.
By Mahlet Fasil
In a disturbing e-mail message received by Addis Standard, an eyewitness who said he was on guard the morning of Saturday Sep 3, says that armed prison guards were indiscriminately shooting at prisoners” most of whom were running “frantically to extinguish the fire” that broke at Ethiopia’s notorious prison ward known as Qilinto, in Aqaqi, on the outskirts south of the capital.
The government has not released the extent of the fire, not the cause of it, but several social media accounts allege the death toll reaching above 20.
Until this morning families of prisoners who want to know the safety of their loved ones are not allowed to pass the Tirunesh Beijing Hospital, located at about three km before the prison. Some families said the prison administration told them information on the safety and whereabouts of the prisoners will only be available on Wednesday this week.
In the e-mail, the person who also attached his work ID but said he wishes to remain anonymous wrote many prisoners were “kept at gun point” from approaching the area where the fire was destroying parts of the prison in the “southern end of the ward.” “I have seen about five prisoners gunned down in the spot by armed security guards from two different towers during the first 20 minutes only,” the email said. It added: “unarmed guards at the gate, including myself, were told by the prison admiration to instruct family members who were already at the gate and who came to visit their loved ones to return back.”
The maximum security prison is administered by the Addis Abeba Prison administration but since Saturday morning the “federal army has taken over the security and most of the prison guards, including myself, are not allowed inside since then.”
The fire broke at around 8:10 AM in the morning and lasted a good “two hours” before the fire brigade from the Addis Abeba Fire and Emergency Prevention and Rescue Agency arrived at the scene. The state-affiliated news portal FBC reported that three firefighters were treated at a hospital for smoke related breathing problems while it maintained only one person was killed in the accident.
However, in the email received by Addis Standard, the security guard revealed that he has helped “18 bodies being taken out of the prison in the late afternoon. As far as I know none of the dead were due to the fire. They all died of gunshot wounds.”
Qilinto is known for the harsh treatment of its prisoners, many of who are prisoners of conscious including the prominent opposition leader Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and 21 others with him facing charges of terrorism. It is also where Yonatan Tesfaye, the young senior opposition Blue Party member, and prominent rights activist is held.
Recently Bekele Gerba and others with him were mobilizing activists from their cell by sending letters which were secretly smuggled out of the maximum security prison. One such letter called for peaceful resistance as part of the ongoing #AmharaProtests and #OromoProtests and asked supporters of the protests to shave their heads and wear black, to which supporters responded in numbers.
Three days after the tragic incident exact figures of causalities (both death and injuries, as well as property damages) are still hard to come by. The prison itself is not accessible to anyone and is being guarded by heavily armed federal police officers who are also conducting rigorous searching of residents living nearby.
Eyewitnesses say the remaining prisoners were taken on Saturday afternoon to Ziway prison, located some 200km south of the capital. However, due to the inaccessibility of the prison and unavailability of official information, Addis Standard is unable to verify both the e-mailed information and other eyewitness accounts.
Courtesy for picture: Advocacy for Oromia
Here is a partial list of Oromos that have been killed as a result of excessive force by Ethiopian Government armed forces during peaceful demonstration on August 6,2016, Oromia, Ethiopia .
This picture of the Ethiopian marathon runner, Fiyesa Lilesa, at the Rio Olympics helped to draw global attention to plight of Ethiopia’s Oromo people.
The country’s biggest ethnic group says it has long faced discrimination and marginalisation at the hands of the ruling elite. Lilesa’s crossed wrists are the symbol of the Oromo protest movement, which has been growing for the last ten months.
And the government’s response has been increasingly violent – with reports of hundreds killed and thousands arrested.
Yvette McCullough reports.
(Advocacy for Oromai, 26 August 2016) The family of the Ethiopian runner who is planning to seek asylum in the US after staging a protest at the Olympic Games in Rio has been speaking to the Reuters news agency from their home in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Feyisa Lelisa’s wife Iftu Mulisa spoke about how she felt when her husband crossed his arms at the finish line in solidarity with protesters from the Oromo ethnic group:
I was very scared at the time but I wasn’t surprised because I know him. He was burning inside when he sees on social media all these dead bodies… people being beaten and people being arrested. So I was not surprised because I know he had a lot of anger inside.”
His daughter Soko Feyisa had a brief message for her father, currently in Rio while lawyers prepare his US asylum request:
Baba I miss you, where are you?”
And his mother Biritu Fulasa cast doubt on the government’s assertion that her son would be treated as a hero if he returned to Ethiopia:
Do you really believe what the government is saying? I don’t believe so. He should stay there. I would have liked him to come but what can I do? I was crying too much the other day but now I am feeling better. I want him to stay there.”