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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About advocacy4oromia

The aim of Advocacy for Oromia-A4O is to advocate for the people’s causes to bring about beneficial outcomes in which the people able to resolve to their issues and concerns to control over their lives. Advocacy for Oromia may provide information and advice in order to assist people to take action to resolve their own concerns. It is engaged in promoting and advancing causes of disadvantaged people to ensure that their voice is heard and responded to. The organisation also committed to assist the integration of people with refugee background in the Australian society through the provision of culturally-sensitive services.

Posted on August 30, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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