Monthly Archives: August 2014

Oromia: Enhanced Master Plan to Continue Committing the Crimes of Genocide

The actions taken were aimed at destroying Oromo farmers or at rendering them extinct.  

~Ermias Legesse, Ethiopia’s exiled EPRDF Minister

The announcement of the implementation of the Addis Abababa Master Plan (AAMP) was just an extension of an attempt by EPRDF government at legalizing its plans of ridding the Oromo people from in and around Finfinne by grabbing Oromo land for its party leaders and real estate developers from the Tigrean community. The act of destroying Oromo farmers by taking away their only means of survival—the land—precedes the current master plan by decades.  Ermias Legesse, exiled EPRDF Deputy Minister of Communication Affairs, acknowledged his own complicity in the destruction of 150,000[1] Oromo farmers in the Oromia region immediately adjacent to Finfinne. He testifies that high-level TPLF/EPRDF officials are responsible for planning and coordinating massive land-grab campaigns without any consideration of the people atop the land.  Ermia’s testimony is important because it contains both the actus reus  and dolus specials of the mass evictions[2]:

Once while in a meeting in 1998 (2006, Gregorian),the Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi , we (ERPDF wings) used to go to his office every week, said.  Meles led the general party work in Addis Ababa.  We went to his office to set the direction/goal for the year. When a question about how should we continue leading was asked, Meles said something that many people may not believe. ‘Whether we like it or not nationality agenda is dead in Addis Ababa.’  He spoke this word for word. ‘A nationality question in Addis Ababa is the a minority agenda.’ If anyone were to be held accountable for the crimes, everyone of us have a share in it according to our ranks, but mainly Abay Tsehaye is responsible.  The actions taken were aimed at destroying Oromo farmers or at rendering them extinct.  29 rural counties were destroyed in this way.  In each county there are more or less about 1000 families.  About 5000 people live in each Kebele (ganda) and if you multiply 5000 by 30, then the whereabouts of 150,000 farmers is unknown.
Zenawi’s statement “the question of nationality is a dead agenda in Addis Ababa” implies that the Prime Minister planned the genocide of the Oromo in and around Finfinne and others EPRDF officials followed suit with the plan in a more aggressive and formal fashion.

Announcement of the Addis Ababa Master Plan and Massacres and Mass Detentions

AAMP was secretly in the making for at least three years before its official announcement in April 2014.[3]  The government promoted on local semi-independent and state controlled media the sinister plan that already evicted 2 million Oromo farmers and aims at evicting 8-10 million and at dividing Oromia into east and west Oromia as a  benevolent development plan meant to extend social and economic services to surrounding Oromia’s towns and rural districts. Notwithstanding the logical contradiction of claiming to connect Oromia towns and rural aanaalee (districts) to “economic and social” benefits by depopulating the area itself, the plan was met with strong peaceful opposition across universities, schools and high schools in Oromia. Starting with the Ambo massacre that claimed the lives of 47 people in one day[4], Ethiopia’s army and police killed over 200 Oromo students, jailed over 2000 students, maimed and disappeared countless others over a five-month period from April-August 2014.

The protests were sparked by the realization that the plan would compromise not only the territorial integrity of Oromia by dividing Oromia into two administrative regions and by forcefully separating Oromo from one another by settling aliens on depopulated lands,  but also by facilitating large-scale evictions that would result in genocide and slavery.

I will provide a brief context to the plan and what it means in terms of dividing Oromia into the east and the west and in terms of weakening and preparing the Oromo for genocidal occupation by Tigirean power.   The real intent of the plan—destroying Oromo people in whole or in part—is hidden under false narratives of “service provision” and “urban development”.

Not only did the Oromo not consent to the plan, but the plan is also unconstitutional on multiple levels.[5] First, the expansion and the evictions violate the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution’s Article 49 (5), which provides: ” The special interest of Oromia in Addis Ababa shall be respected in the provision of social services, the utilization of natural resources and in joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Ababa within Oromia State. The law shall specify the particulars.” In spite of the provision, the special interest of Oromia was never respected and no law was passed to determine the particulars over the last 23 years.  Oromos have been cheated out of their constitutional right by a manipulative minority in power. In fact, the ERPDF regime has denied Oromia the benefit of having Finfinnee as a capital city and kicked the OPDO administration in and out of it at whim to weaken the political influence of the Oromo in the nation’s and the region’s capital.

Second, surpassing the protection of Oromia’s special interest, the EPRDF has committed another constitutional violation and attempted to destroy the territorial integrity of Oromia by planning to split it into two halves and inserting settler occupation in the middle–all in order to grab land and shrink the geo-political size of Oromia.  In Article 39 (1), the EPRDF constitution says: “Every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia have an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.”  By splitting Oromia into two halves—west  and east—the EPRDF imposes decisions of Tigrean elites on the Oromo without their  consent and unconstitutionally violates the Oromo people’s right to self-determination in Oromia. On the bleakest side, the plan intends to destroy the lives of millions of Oromo farmers and town dwellers in the area as declared by the Prime Minster when he said the “nationality agenda is dead in Addis Ababa.”  Of course, one cannot kill a collectivity’s agenda without killing them as threatened.

The plan and its implementation has already evicted a significant portion of the Oromo population, has brought a significant amount of Oromo land under EPRDF elite control, and has altered the demographic composition of Oromia. The plan is explicit about the regime’s intentions to incorporate over 6 Oromia’s cities and 8 rural aanaalee(counties) in the vicinity of Finfinnee[6] into Fininne against the will of the Oromo people.  Sululta, Bishoftu, Sabata Dukem, Holeta and Ambo are among the cities planned to be gobbled up by Addis Ababa.  Regime authorities  estimated that Finfinne, which currently sits on 54,000 hectares of Oromo land obtained through 19th and 20th century crimes of genocide, now wants to gain 1.1 million hectares of land from Oromia by the same criminal method—genocide.

The Oromo responses to this enormous project of extermination, which resembles Hitler’s “final solution”, have been equally enormous. Oromian students from primary schools to tertiary education demonstrated in thousands and protested the implementation of the plan and expressed that the plan benefits the Tigrean elites while destroying the Oromo people.[7] The loss of ancestral land accompanied by the loss of culture and identity binding the Oromo nation have been among concerns expressed by protesters as well as opposition party leaders.  The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) condemned the AAMP as follows:[8]

 In the countryside, Oromo farmers are being evicted from their plots of land without compensation and without any employment guarantee. In cities, the houses and properties of [Oromo] persons are being demolished and the owners are rendered propertyless and sanctioned to perpetual poverty. In contrast, it is seen that individual supporters of the regime (EPRDF/TPLF) are amassing wealth upon wealth by acquiring land in urban and rural areas using their connections, relatives and group memberships to get 30-40 land maps  and then trading in those maps to generate profit.
The rate and conditions under which Oromo farmers are evicted and exposed to poverty-stricken and diseases-infested calculated life conditions that will cause their demise is clear. Other consequences of the master plan that have already been witnessed have to do with the loss of language, culture and identity given that Abyssinian language, Amharic, and northern Ethiopian cultures have been violently imposed in the area systematically. OFC provides evidence supporting this all-rounded genocide:

It is not only land that is going to be taken from the people [the Oromo], it is also the right to speak and learn his[9] own language [Afan Oromo], the right to be judged in courts in his own language, the right to develop one’s own culture…all of these will be gone. As a result, the harm that will be inflicted on the region [Oromia], on the people [Oromo], and the farmers around these areas will be very heavy [difficult].

Evicting farmers because of membership in a group is an internationally recognized crime of genocide under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide Article II (A-E).[10]  The land grab in Oromia, which has had genocidal characteristics, started in the last quarter of the 19th century and it is ongoing.  While crimes listed under the UNGC are being committed against the Oromo people on a daily basis, including “killing members of the group,” (Art 2(A) and “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” (Art II (B), a provision that is specially applicable to the mass eviction and impoverishing of  Oromo famers is UNGC Article II (C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”[11]

Under the Derg and the EPRDF governments from 1990 to mid 2000s, a total of 27,000 Oromo civilians of 200,000 captured and returned from Somalia were killed and buried in 10 different mass graves.[12] The skeletons were accidentally unearthed during a “government-sponsored construction work.”[13] The discovery reveals “one of the most gruesome mass murders” committed against people of Oromo nationality in one of several Ethiopia’s military camps used as concentration camps simultaneously. General Getachew Gedamu, Derg military commander and Smura Yunus, army chief of staff and commander of TPLF army’s eastern command, were in charge of gruesome killings described below:[14]

..they began angrily executing high profile prisoners during the day. When the night fell, the brought five bulldozers from the city and dug up huge holes outside the compound at the place called Sharif Kalid. First they loaded up bodies of those killed during the day. Then tied up the remaining prisoners and told them to line up facing the holes. They fired on them from behind. Many of the victims were thrown in alive. The bulldozers put back the soil on the top [covered them with soil].  

Local residents shocked by the skeletons they saw during the digging staged a three-day protest. The government fired on the protesters demanding dignity for the remains of their loved ones and injured a few.  Activists have issued statements asserting that what was revealed at the Hamaressa mass graves were the tip of the iceberg since EPRDF government-run military camps where people vanish are too many.

Western/Eastern funders of the Ethiopian government’s project of dislocation and massacre in Oromia have been gagged by official government rhetoric about development. The only voice denouncing the AAMP is that of Oromo students and it has been systematically silenced over the last 5 months (April-August, 2014). Students were killed, maimed and suspended from universities in droves across Oromia and state officials and their foot soldiers who carried out the massacres still enjoy impunity, promotion and pay increase per the kill they register with the government.

A second round of mass detentions, maiming and selective killings restarted this August following the refusal of Oromo students to accept the regime’s plan to indoctrinate and pacify them.   The students are put in a difficult position of accepting or agreeing with the crimes perpetrated on them by Ethiopian security forces, police and soldiers. The penalty to refuse to accept own death in the hands of the state ranges from mass expulsion from universities, selective detentions of those who demanded accountability and justice, and killings of outstanding activists.

There seem to be no real strategies and tactics on part of the Oromo political groups in ensuring the safety of Oromo students and  in answering the national questions they have raised.  Diaspora peaceful rallies and social media campaigns wax and wane with each passing day as volunteers experience burnouts and drop out due to over-extended time and the lack of relentless institutionalized leadership.

 

 

[1] These numbers are conservative estimates by an insider to the ruling party. Other people estimate that over 2 million people were evicted before the plan came into existence.

[2] Ermias Legesse,  “How More than 150,000 Oromo Farmers Were Evicted from 29 Oromia counties surrounding Addis Ababa [Finfinnee]. 2014 ESAT television interview. Retrieved May 2014 from, http://youtu.be/W0T5ajOk3l4 The interview was translated from the Amharic original into English by the current author.   Ermias’ estimates are the most conservative as he was involved with the regime and he might not have wished to reveal the whole truth. After the official implementation that followed the unwritten implementation many years before, it’s projected that 8-10 million Oromo farmers and residents in neighboring rural counties and small towns will be affected by the seismic activities of the Tigirean government policy of selectively removing the Oromo people from their ancestral land calculated to subject them to life conditions that will bring about their slow-motion demise.

[3] http://addisfortune.net/articles/plan-to-connect-addis-abeba-with-surrounding-special-zones/

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27251331

[5] 1994 Ethiopian Constitution

[6] Finfinnee is the indigenous Oromo name for Addis Ababa.  Finfinnee was renamed Addis Ababa after Menelik’s  19th century genocide campaigns wiped out several Oromo ethnic groups and clans from the land on which Finfinne was built as a garrison city for Amhara armed settlers, naftagna.

[7] Ambo massacre http://oromopress.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-ambo-masscare-tplf-military-kills.html

[8] Gadaa.(2014, April).  “Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Sounds Alarm about the Ongoing Land-Grab in Oromia; Condemns the Ethiopian Govt’s Land Policy Being Enforced in Oromia Without Oromo’s Participation as Plan to Ignite Violence between Oromo Farmers and Investors.” Gadaa.com. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from

http://gadaa.com/oduu/25385/2014/04/15/oromo-federalist-congress-ofc-sounds-alarm-about-the-ongoing-land-grab-in-oromia-condemns-the-ethiopian-govts-land-policy-being-enforced-in-oromia-without-oromos-participation-as-plan-to-ignite/

This is a news item from Gadaa.com based on the statement by OFC. Quoted translation of parts of the statement  from Afan Oromo into English is by the current author.

[9] “His” is possessive for the Oromo people. The noun “Oromo” is masculine- gendered in Afan Oromo grammar.

[10] UN. 1948. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  Retrieved April 16, 2014 from  https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-I-1021-English.pdf

[11] Emphasis added.

[12] Gulele Post. “Hamaressa Mass Grave: Background. http://www.gulelepost.com/2014/06/11/hameressa-mass-grave-background/

[13] Amy van Steenwyk, 2014.http://amyvansteenwyk.tumblr.com/post/88451067229/reservations-and-mass-graves-in-minnesota-and-oromia

[14] See footnote number 12.

Source:http://oromopress.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/enhanced-master-plan-to-continue.html

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Indoctrination propaganda intensify our struggle

(A4O, 23 August 2014) Last time political indoctrination of such scale ( involving approximately half a million students) was conducted following the 2005 contested election. Back then, the entire focus was on the past rulers, particularly the Gebar/Naftenga system and how it destroyed the Oromo indigenous system and repressed the Oromo people. OLF was not much of a focus as the threats from the reactionaries were much graver than secessionists during that time. Abbaa Duulaa Gammadaa was on plasma screen offering the teachings. We had good pay and we actually enjoyed it. The talk of the Naftenga was catchy and we devoted good part of our attention, although we forfeit some of the seccessions at times, to the talks. We collected our OPDO IDs at the end of the training and headed back to school.

 

This time around though, things are not the same. The entire training has three important milestones additional to what it had in post-2005 election. First, OLF is back into the scene. They have never allotted such big chunk of their time for OLF before. I think the assumption of ‘’we have destroyed OLF for good’’ has backfired. The federal government wants to consolidate the strategy of portraying OLF as  an evil organization. This would make it easy for the security to kill or harass and yet again blame the victims. Second, however limited data we have, a pattern has emerged from past elections in Ethiopia. The government have realized that the upcoming election is not like the last one. Mergers, diaspora based campaigns and pressure from international community, are mounting and they know they can’t subdue a nation-wide protest.

The government knows students are its enemies because they are the major forces behind the opposition movements, extending their reach deep into rural constituencies. So it wants to actually lure some of the students to its member organizations, to intimidate others with propaganda, and debilitate many more not to take part in opposition parties. Third, the recent report and recommendation by Addisu Legese is resonating among OPDO and ANDM officials and they are desperately attempting to beg for the youth to embrace their political path. Although Abbaa Duulaa was successful in drawing the ‘’Genius Youth’’ in the past, the interference from TPLF would only mean both OPDO and ANDM would continue to be parties of idiots.

The trainings are given at all higher education students across the country in their respective regions. But there is a stark difference and exception when it comes to universities in Oromia. In Oromia, the universities are surrounded by security forces and students are kept away from urban population. This is taken as precaution to avoid any possible alliance between the students and the inhabitants, that for example, have happened repeatedly in Ambo town. Moreover, in case students resist or walkaway, the security wants to take measures without the knowledge of the inhabitants of the cities, but that often is not the case.

In other regions such as Amhara and SNNPR, students are not surrounded by security forces and they are free to speak their mind. As sources indicate from Bahirdar, Gondar and Debre Markos, the entire situation is calm and people are fiesting and nobody is questioning the students for their opposition to the training. At Bahir Dar, students even sidelined the manual of the training and no ‘’Agenda’’ could dictate the discussion.

One might ask why are these all chaos in Oromia? The answer is very easy. Since May last year, the region is under military occupation. It is being ruled by a TPLF military. The military doesn’t even trust the Oromia police and it moves into and keeps a permanent presence in places such as Nekemte, Ambo and Jimma.

While appearing as if trying to bridge continuously rifting gap between two largest communities in the country, TPLF is actually firing conflict. There are already irreconcilable differences and questions between students from the two communities. Oromo students demand for greater autonomy of Oromia while the Amhara students insist for more centralization. And the Oromo students are the only victims of imprisonment, torture and death just for asking such questions. And it is easy to imagine how these students see one another when back to school in September.

Such training in Oromia would not be successful for three reasons. First, it serves as means of resistance for students who already are mourning from deaths of students during last year’s #OromoProtests. Second, militarizing the trainings demonstrates the savage nature of TPLF and that would certainly adds up on the the rife resentment against it. Third, such trainings are instrumental to develop the discussion culture among the Oromo youth, however unlikely they can discuss freely. So in a way, it is helping the youth shape its future, evaluate political paths.  Just like the training during post-2005 election, this training will backfire and will only intensify the Oromo struggle for freedom. There is no way the Oromo quest for freedom can be contained by some designed training; our struggle is based on truth and no propaganda should prevent us from our journey towards freedom.

Source:http://reinventethiopia.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/indoctrinations-propaganda-intensify-our-struggle/

The Oromo strategy:building Oromummaa to tackle the deoromisation system

Oromummaa is the knowledge of long period process; shared knowledge. Here is the depth conversation  need to be listened and again.

“..the Oromo is no less or no better than others. We are just human being!”

FOR OROMO, ‘SURVIVAL ITSELF IS A REVOLUTIONARY ACT’

By Ayantu Tibeso*

It is a great honor to be part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Macha Tulama Association. For a people facing complete erasure, survival itself is a revolutionary act.

The fact that we are gathered here today to honor the founding of Macha Tulama 50 years ago speaks to the fact that despite all odds, we, as a people are survivors. Ethiopian history is full of attempts to annihilate the Oromo—culturally, politically, socially, economically, in all and every ways possible.

ayantuT

Oromos — cast as foreign, aliens to their own lands, have been the targets of the entire infrastructure of the Ethiopian state since their violent incorporation. Our identity, primarily language, religion and belief systems and cultural heritage have been the main targets of wanton destruction.

Oromo and its personhood were already demonized, characterized as embodiments of all that is inferior, shameful and subhuman from the beginning. Oromo people were economically and politically exploited, dominated and alienated.

Oromo cultural, political and religious institutions have been under massive attacks and dismantlement by consecutive Ethiopian governments. Oromos were rendered slaves on their own lands by a colonial land tenure system.

Given the huge systematic and structural forces that have been mobilized against Oromo people and its peoplehood, it is truly astonishing that we have survived. But we have survived not by some miracle, but because our ancestors have continuously resisted violent assimilation, dehumanization, economic exploitation, and complete eradication.

We have survived because our people have courageously and wisely Organized, sang, fought and sacrificed. We have survived because of brilliantly organized Oromo institutions such as Macha Tulama, which have held our communities together.

For five decades, this organization has been the vanguard of the Oromo people’s struggle for freedom, liberty and autonomy. Macha Tulama was conceived at a time when Oromo people desperately needed institutions that would provide direction, leadership, and mobilize the financial, human, intellectual and creative resources to empower Oromo communities.

At the time of its founding, the association was confronted with dire economic, social and political predicaments the Oromo were facing. One of the most important tasks of this organization has been rebuilding the confidence and trust of Oromo people in their own cultural heritage, language, belief systems and identity.

Creating opportunities and spaces for a people who have been historically denigrated and traumatized to regain their self-esteem was and is no easy task. This is a project we must continue, until Oromos are able to have complete control over their fate and future.

There was nothing easy about being Oromo and being young 50 years ago. Young people, students and others, risked their lives, limbs and property to organize, to publish leaflets and other literature that would become vital sources of national consciousness raising and empowerment. Macha Tulama leaders, members and others affiliated with the organization-faced torture, death, imprisonment, excruciating pain, and harassment.

Every gain that has been made by this association has been because of the huge sacrifices paid by individuals and by the collectives to which they belonged. We are here today celebrating the 50thanniversary of this association’s founding because of the sacrifices made, and most importantly, because of the vision of the leaders and members of Macha Tulama — a vision that one-day Oromos can live with dignity and freely on their own lands.

Macha Tulama has been an inspiration as a symbol of unity, national consciousness, wisdom and strength in leadership and has provided us with a new and rich understanding of the power of inclusive pan Oromo movements.

Surely, much has changed since it’s founding, but not so much so that Maaca Tulema has become irrelevant to Oromos living today. Macha Tulama’s vision — of promoting, empowering and liberating Oromo people remains as relevant today as it was when it was founded.

The Ethiopian socio- political establishments, who have always opposed and mercilessly attacked any pan-Oromo movements, have not changed very much in nature. This is why we are here today commemorating the 50th anniversary of Macha Tulama outside of Oromia, rather than on our lands, Oromia.

The work began by Macha Tulama must continue. It is critical that we continue to build inclusive pan-Oromo movements and institutions that empower our people for self-rule. My generation should look into the history of the Macha Tulama Association. They will find themselves moved by the vision, mission, courage, ingenuity and principle of the leaders and members of this organization.

We must ask ourselves how these brilliant and innovative groups of people were able to accomplish the impossible during one of the darkest periods of Oromo history. What techniques, methods and leadership styles did they employ to build a pan-Oromo organization at a time when using the word Oromo itself was a crime?

We must closely study the life, achievements and challenges of giant individuals such as Alemu Kittessa, Haile Mariam Gamada, Haji Robale Ture, General Taddesse Birru, Astede Habte Mariam and so many others. I am endlessly inspired and encouraged by the stories of these great Oromo leaders.

There is a lot for us to learn about how to organize in a way that dignifies and solidifies people’s bond, ways that create a real sense of community, and a sense of cohesiveness that is based on recognition of diversities as well as the commonalities that bind us.

We are here today because of the sacrifices made by thousands of Oromos, in every corner of Oromia. Most of their stories have not been told—the stories of ordinary people who have resisted century old colonial domination, exploitation, and assimilation.

Our elders have been so preoccupied with the task of surviving and with the task of laying the ground upon which we can hold our heads high and walk. It is this we must remember as we go about the tasks of organizing, documenting, painting, writing and creating institutions to build our communities’ capacity for the next fifty years and beyond.

We must learn from the founders of this association that quality of leadership, vision, principle, innovation and good faith in leadership are necessities for our continued survival as a people. I would like to end with an excerpt from a quote from one of my favorite African American thinkers and writers. Audre Lorde calls it a litany for survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline

standing upon the constant edges of decision

crucial and alone

looking inward and outward

at once before and after

seeking a now that can breed

futures like bread in our children’s mouths

so their dreams will not reflect

the death of ours:

For those of us

who were imprinted with fear

like a faint line in the center of our foreheads

learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk

for by this weapon

this illusion of some safety to be found

the heavy-footed hoped to silence us

For all of us

this instant and this triumph

We were never meant to survive

And when the sun rises we are afraid

it might not remain

when the sun sets we are afraid

it might not rise in the morning

and when we speak we are afraid

our words will not be heard

nor welcomed

but when we are silent

We are still afraid

So it is better to speak

Remembering

We were never meant to survive

*Ayantu Tibeso is a researcher and communications consultant based in North America. She can be reached at atibeso@gmail.com  or on twitter @diasporiclife.

Melbournians Hold a Concert for Oromo Human Rights

(A4O, 12 August 2014) The Human Rights Concert for Oromia was held in Ascot Vale, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, on August 9, 2014.

Bonsen Dhabasa, 10 years old boy who was six months old when his father was arrested; five years old when his mother was imprisoned presented his memoir of persecution account on this Human Rights for Oromia concert  in Melbourne.

Melbourne’s diverse communities came out to support the Oromo people’s struggle for human rights, and oppose the ongoing human rights violations against Oromo students and civilians by the Ethiopian TPLF regime.

The people coming together as one and uniting against a common enemy! Corrupt power. The big messagae of the day was, “We are the voice of the people!”

This is dedicated to those suffering under suppression and Human Rights Abuses. The people on the ground who are treated like collateral damage by those who have vested interests and no concern for human values or human rights!

Currently, thousands of Oromo students and civilians are languishing in Ethiopian government’s prisons in connection with #OromoProtests, a movement which opposes the Ethiopian TPLF regime’s Master Plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa (Finfinne), and subsequently to dispossess Oromo farmers surrounding Finfinne of their lands, and evict them from their ancestral lands.

 

Addis Ababa Doubling in Size Gives Africa Another Hub

Photographer: Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images People near Kasancis district on July 3, 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has recently launched a new urban plan for the modernization of the city, providing massive construction operations entrusted mostly to Chinese companies, for the construction of roads, bridges, railways, offices, condominiums and shopping centers with the completion of the work in 2020.

Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest-growing economy, is looking to its capital to help sustain an expansion that averaged more than 10 percent a year in the past decade. Planners predict the population of Addis Ababa and five satellite towns will more than double by 2040 to 8.1 million, highlighting United Nations estimates that Africa’s global share of urban dwellers will double to 20 percent in the next 35 years. Planners envisage developing an area 20 times the current boundaries of the city. Ambitions for mass transport match the standard of central Paris, ensuring every resident lives within 500 meters (0.3 miles) of a bus or train ride to the center. One of its new residents would be Bekele Feyissa, a 45-year-old father of six who farms cereals on a plot in Sebeta. The town is about 20 kilometers south of the center and is set to be swallowed by the city. “If the city grows, it will be good for us as we will get electricity,” Bekele said, standing in the shade of a hedge as a donkey pulled a cart along an unpaved road beside him. The government’s plan for Addis Ababa is critical to its aspirations for developing into a middle-income country in about a decade, mirroring efforts by Kenya and Zambia. The continent’s economic potential will be highlighted as U.S. President Barack Obama hosts more than 40 African leaders at a summit in Washington next week.
International Monetary Fund data show Ethiopia is on the way to achieving its goal, with average annual growth of 10.9 percent during the past decade powered by spending on electricity plants, railways, roads, health and education.

A woman shelters from the sun with an umbrella as she walks along the construction site of Asmara road in Addis Ababa. The city is the third-likeliest city in the developing world to improve its global standing over the next two decades, according to an index published in April by A.T. Kearney Inc., a Chicago-based consulting company.

Photographer: Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images A woman shelters from the sun with an umbrella as she walks along the construction site of Asmara road in Addis Ababa. The city is the third-likeliest city in the developing world to improve its global standing over the next two decades, according to an index published in April by A.T. Kearney Inc., a Chicago-based consulting company.

Investment Boom

That investment is funded by increasing tax revenue and more than $3 billion a year in Western aid, along with cheap loans from China and India, domestic state banks and institutions including the World Bank. Public investment accounted for 63 percent of growth in the fiscal year that ended July 7, 2012, the World Bank said in July 2013. Ethiopia, where civilization can be traced to the Axum Empire that began two millennia ago, is Africa’s oldest independent country and the only one on the continent to avoid European colonization although Italy occupied the country from 1936 to 1941. Fossils of human ancestors dating back about five million years have been found there. Emperor Menelik II, who also led military conquests of Oromo territory, founded modern Addis Ababa in 1887. The city, set among eucalyptus-covered hills, is the world’s third-highest capital. Soldiers overthrew the last emperor, Haile Selassie, in 1974, leading to 17 years of military rule until another revolution in 1991, which ushered in the current ruling party. While the United Nations says the formerly famine-prone land was the world’s 15th least-developed last year, it calculates the poverty rate decreased to 30 percent from 39 percent in the seven years to 2011.

Global Standing

Addis Ababa is the third-likeliest city in the developing world to improve its global standing over the next two decades, according to an index published in April by A.T. Kearney Inc., a Chicago-based consulting company. The gauge is based on 26 metrics of how well municipalities generate, attract and retain talent. Jakarta and Manila topped the rankings. The blueprint for the expansion — entitled “Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Integrated Development Plan” — provides for “a megacity of between 8 to 10 million in the coming 25 years,” Mathewos Asfaw, general manager of the master-plan project office, said in an interview at the Desalegn Hotel in the Bole neighborhood, which is dotted with embassies, mansions and malls. The plan explains how the city’s land will be used and sketches out the hospitals, schools, public transport and other services required. It also describes the steps needed to provide water, collect waste and reduce pollution by grouping harmful industries.

‘Double-Digit Growth’

While fewer than 20 percent of Ethiopia’s more than 90 million people live in urban areas, towns and cities account for about 80 percent of the economic expansion, according to the World Bank. “Addis Ababa’s role in sustaining Ethiopia’s double-digit growth should not be underestimated,” it said in a 2010 study. Half the population will live in cities and towns by 2040. Addis Ababa’s skyline already is transforming. Tower cranes are a common sight, with low-cost apartments, malls and office blocks shooting up. To make way, old residences and slums are torn down, leaving their inhabitants struggling. Tracks for a light-rail network China Communications Construction Co. is building soar above the main roads. Turkish textile companies, Chinese glass factories and international chains such as the Radisson Hotels International Inc. and Marriot International Inc. are also opening.

Security Network

The city has avoided violent crime that plagues other African metropolises, partly thanks to an extensive network of uniformed and plain-clothed law enforcers the state uses to maintain order. That’s also helped prevent attacks by extremists. Ethiopia hosts the headquarters of the African Union, and its troops are in neighboring Somalia, where Islamist militants have been waging an insurgency for more than seven years. Addis Ababa’s biggest growing pain may be the political furor surrounding its disputed role in a federal system arranged along ethnic lines. The structure reflects power sharing among the Tigray, Amhara, Oromo ethnic groups and about 75 other communities. The dominant language is Amharic. The city is surrounded by the state of Oromia, of which it’s also the capital. Oromo separatists have waged a four-decade campaign for more autonomy for the country’s 35 million Oromos, the most populous ethnic group.

Campus Unrest

When news of the Addis Ababa master plan spread in May, protests erupted on at least eight university campuses by students who called for it to be scrapped because it represented an annexation of Oromo territory. At least 11 people were killed when the police used live ammunition against demonstrators who became unruly, according to the government. Opposition parties such as the Oromo Federalist Congress slammed the crackdown — and the blueprint. Party General Secretary Bekele Nega described the project as a federal power grab to weaken the Oromo and a scheme by corrupt officials to transfer farmers’ land to investors without fair compensation. A lack of information on the proposals was the main cause of the protests, said Ezana Haddis, a lecturer at Institute of Urban Development Studies at the Ethiopian Civil Service University. Ethiopia’s government routinely adopts a top-down approach on policy making that involves little genuine public consultation before implementation, he said. “Those kinds of public consultations are just window dressing; they are not going to change anything,” Ezana said in a June 5 phone interview from the capital. “They will conduct lots of them, but I don’t think they will be fruitful.”

Farming Communities

The capital more than doubled in size to 54,000 hectares in the 10 years to 1994 as farming communities in Oromia were incorporated, Ethiopian academics Feyera Abdissa and Terefe Degefa said in a 2011 research paper Urbanization and Changing Livelihoods: The Case of Farmers’ Displacement in the Expansion of Addis Ababa. As the city spread, increasing from 2.1 million people in 1994 to 2.7 million in 2007, displaced farmers were often inadequately consulted and compensated, they said. Cereal farmer Bekele complains he was only compensated 700 birr ($36) when he lost half a hectare of land from his farm to a flower investor. Already companies like Diageo Plc, the world’s biggest distiller, and Turkish cable manufacturer Saygim DM have set up plants in the Sebeta area. It’s a similar tale to the north of the city around Sululta, another Oromia town to be integrated. Factories of China-Africa Overseas Leather Products and Oromia Steel Pipe Mills line the main road. Olympic winning long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele has set up a resort with a running track. Construction sites and piles of rubble are dotted around.

Residential Developers

Gemachew Tadesse, 40, who guards a factory under construction near Sululta, says a few years ago his family lost two plots of land to hotel and residential developers. When his father complained about the level of compensation, local officials put him in jail for a night and threatened to take the land without paying anything, Gemachew said. “They said the land is the government’s, not yours,” he said. His father now sometimes doesn’t have enough to eat, according to Gemachew. “The expansion plan is not good because farming is better for us.” Corrupt land deals have been rife in areas such as Sululta and Sebeta, according to the opposition’s Bekele. The eviction of poor Oromos without adequate compensation will “continue and accelerate” if the plan goes ahead, he said. The blueprint for the expansion of Addis Ababa coordinates development in the capital with surrounding areas in the Oromia regional state and seeks to improve the lives of its inhabitants as well as local farmers, said Mathewos. There will be a “new paradigm” to bring farmers’ living standards to the same level as city dwellers by clustering them in “rural growth centers,” he said. “We shouldn’t sustain the existing productivity level or the living standards and living conditions of the rural population.” To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa atwdavison3@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.netPaul Richardson, James Hertling Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-01/addis-ababa-doubling-in-size-gives-africa-another-hub.html