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HWPL Peace Day message from Australian Oromo Youths

Peace and Harmony (fitting with the values and traditions of Oromummaa)

Soreti: We acknowledge and pay respect to this nation’s traditional owners and custodians
of past present and future. We would also like to thank HWPL for allowing us to have this
opportunity to come together to represent and share our culture. Today we have Magartu,
Arusa, Roba and myself, Soreti representing the Oromo community.  


Today we are here to talk about Oromo culture and its alliance with peace and
harmony. The Oromo people have a rich history and traditions around maintaining peace
also known as “nagaa” in Afaan Oromo. The concept of “nagaa” is highly valued within the
Oromo community and is something we continuously fight for. Today we’re going to touch on
who the Oromo people are and the systems that were put in place to uphold nagaa within

Who are the Oromo people you may ask? 

The Oromo people are a Cushitic ethnic group native to the Oromia region. We
are the largest ethnic group in the horn of Africa. Despite the large numbers Oromia’s history
is largely ignored and skewed and we hope to change that with occasions like today where
we can display our beautiful heritage and identity. 

Oromia is considered the richest region of the Horn of Africa because of its abundant
agriculture and natural resources. For example, the Coffee, known worldwide today can
trace its heritage back to Jimmaa in the Oromia region. Coffee plays an important role in
fostering social unity within the Oromo community regardless of religious, economic, or
social boundaries.  

Neighbours gather for coffee ceremonies where they would not only enjoy and
embrace each other’s company but also discuss and solve any conflict within the
community, to maintain peace and harmony.  
Gadaa system
As mentioned, Oromia has many systems that are put in place to maintain “Nagaa”
or peace within the community. One of the most significant systems of governance is known
as “The Gadaa system”. The Gadaa system is a complex system of governance. This
system was the basis of Oromo culture. It helped Oromos maintain democratic, political,
economic, social, and religious institutions by dealing with conflict resolution, reparation and
protecting women’s rights for many centuries. 

The Gadaa system has various institutes and procedures of conflict resolution and
mechanism of dealing with social and political issues. For example, “Guma” is a conflict
solution institute in which a person who inflicts loss or damage compensates the victim,
much like today’s legal system. This highlights how developed and forward the Oromos are
even centuries before today, in their ability to uphold peace and harmony within the

In saying this however, today, the Oromo people are struggling for the opportunity to
rule themselves in a state that will reflect the Gada system. To be governed by a system that
upholds equal participation in social, economic, political, and religious aspects. 

Oromo women

Oromo women had a parallel institution known as ‘Siinqee’. This institution promoted gender
equality in the Oromo society. Siinqee is an Afaan Oromo word that represents the stick a
married woman holds, given to her by her mother during the marriage ceremony. 
An Oromo woman who carries Siinqee commands respect and can’t be touched or harmed.
Therefore, if a husband disrespects his wife, the women in the village gather holding siinqee
and singing until the elders meet to resolve the conflict.

Oromia flag and Odaa

The Odaa, which is a sycamore tree is a core symbol of the Oromo people and
Oromo land. The Odaa tree is unique for its immense durability and rapid growth and
expansive root system, making it perfect to be used as a representative symbol for the
Oromo people. Odaa is customarily believed to be the most respected and most sacred tree.
It is the central office of Gadaa government, where important meetings and ritual practices
were held by the Gadaa assembly. The odaa is also the central representation on the
Oromo flag we can see in front of us today. 

Peace is not complete unless a harmonious relation with nature is maintained. This
shows Oromo people value and respect peace and coexistence. Oromo people established
harmony on norms and principles that respect peace (nagaa) and morals (safuu). Oromos
respect their elders and value social responsibility. Knowledge of history and culture is

Thank you for listening and thank you for having us today. Thank you for the opportunity to
tell our truth rather than the current narrative based on biased opinions.


Australian Oromo youths promote Oromo and Oromia at the Multicultural Peace Festival.

(Melbourne, 11/03/2023) Melbourne Australian Oromo youths promote Oromo and Oromia at the Multicultural Peace Festival.

The Multicultural Peace Day was a celebration that brought different communities and cultures together in Melbourne.

As part of the 7th commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW), HWPL invited communities, cultural groups to perform, share, celebrate each of their own cultures!

The Oromo youths who participated in the event wore Oromo clothes and ornaments and introduced on stage what Oromo have such as the Oromo culture of peace, Gada, conflict resolution under the Odaa and the Siinqee power, which protects women’s rights, and the tradition of respecting human rights.

In thier speech at the forum, the Oromo youth expressed that the Oromo people have great respect for peace. “There is a rich history and traditions around maintaining peace also known as “nagaa” in Afaan Oromo.

“The concept of peace is highly valued within the Oromo community and is something we continuously fight for.”

Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) is an international NGO committed to attaining the shared goal of humanity—establishing peace and ceasing wars.

Founded in 2013, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization associated with the UN DGC and in consultative status with the UN ECOSOC.

HWPL is committed to the achievement of world peace and cessation of war through its main initiatives: enactment of an international law for peace, alliance of religions to promote interfaith harmony, and integration of peace education.

It has over 70 branches in Korea and another 100 branches around the world including the Philippines.

Abuse in Ethiopia and abuse in Egypt: a rock and a hard place

Accounts from 83 Oromo refugees in Cairo

The difficulties faced by 10,000 Oromo refugees in Egypt, however severe, may seem trivial compared to the horrors currently experienced in Ethiopia as the focus for government and Amhara nationalist forces has shifted from their genocidal war in Tigray to Oromia Region, where over 45 million Oromo civilians have been subjected to mass killings, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing and man-made famine.

Nonetheless, the telling of the stories of Oromo interviewees in Cairo is an important insight into the pattern of increasing abuse and oppression of Oromo and others of the marginalised majority of Ethiopia’s population for over a century which has been documented for the last three decades by the Oromia Support Group. Their histories are a distillation of human rights violations perpetrated by the TPLF-led EPRDF government from 1991 to 2018 and the accelerating abuses under the Prosperity Party government led by Abiy Ahmed since 2018.


57 Oromo refugees were interviewed in Cairo in September/October 2022, of whom 56 told of their history in Ethiopia. Another 26 were interviewed in May 2013. Their stories have hitherto remained unpublished. Thus, 82 first-hand accounts of abuses in Ethiopia are published for the first time in this report.

There has been at least a five-fold increase in the number of Oromo fleeing to Egypt in the last decade. All interviewees fled from severe, widespread human rights abuses in Ethiopia.

Interviewees in 2013 reported the killing of 76 civilians, of whom 33 were their parents or siblings. There were 38 summary executions, 29 of which were in 1992 and 1993. Another 20 close relatives who disappeared in detention are now believed to be dead. In 2022, the killing of 100 civilians and detainees was reported, including 15 family members and 84 detainees in Hamaresa military camp, E Hararge, in 1999. In addition, 40-50 captured Tigrayan soldiers were witnessed being murdered by lethal injection between January and June 2022.

Extraordinarily high rates of torture and rape of detainees, reported previously by Oromo asylum-seekers in the UK and refugees in Kenya, Djibouti, Somaliland and South Africa, were corroborated. Overall, 59 (72%) of 82 interviewees in Cairo reported being tortured – 77% of the 77 former detainees. Of 54 men, 45 (83%) were tortured – 88% of the 51 who had been detained. 14 out of 28 women (50%) were tortured – 54% of the 26 former detainees.

No fewer than 20 of the 28 women (71%) were raped by Ethiopian security forces – 77% of the 26 who had been detained. One male was also raped in detention.

Barbaric treatment by people-smugglers and traffickers who trade refugees as commodities on their journeys to Egypt has evolved from torture, enslavement and organ-harvesting to a more sustainably profitable business involving extortion, enforced by violence and rape after refugees arrive in Cairo.

Despite comprising the majority of Ethiopian refugees in Cairo, community-based Oromo organisations have no contact with UNHCR or its partner organisations. Although the Oromo Elders Union represents Oromo of all faiths and from all zones in Oromia Region, it is not trusted or accepted as such by UNHCR and NGOs, since corrupt practices by previous Oromo organisations and their contacts in NGOs were exposed several years ago. There is no longer any body which represents Oromo interests that has influence with UNHCR or other organisations in Cairo. UNHCR has not reached out to the Oromo community.

Xenophobia and hostility to refugees is very common. Although disputed by members of the NGO community, Oromo refugees reported that this was particularly directed at them because of the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. Egyptian government employees, health care professionals and UNHCR local staff and guards told them so. Police are corrupt and prey on refugees.

In Cairo, rates of street violence, especially sexual violence, are as high as or higher than anywhere else in the world. It is a growing problem. Whereas seven incidents of rape, robbery, beating, kidnap and attempted abduction were reported by 26 interviewees in 2013, there were over 70 such incidents reported by 57 interviewees in 2022. Other organisations corroborated this huge increase in violence and sexual violence in the last decade.

Apparently random street violence and targeted attacks by Ethiopian embassy operatives were commonly reported but the majority of violence and sexual violence was perpetrated by interconnected criminal gangs of people-smugglers and job brokers, to extort money demanded by traffickers taking refugees across Sudan to Egypt.

Very few refugees and their families have any regular income, relying on outside help and occasional casual work, usually cleaning or manual labour. Financial help from NGOs was reported in 2013 but only three of the 57 interviewed in 2022 received direct assistance, notwithstanding medical assessment and care, legal advice and counselling provided by national and international NGOs.

Several schools are available to refugee children but most, if not all, attract a small fee which some are unable to afford. Higher education facilities are not accessible, leaving young Oromo and their parents frustrated because of their lack of prospects.

Fear of random street violence and attacks by Ethiopian embassy operatives and people-smugglers prevented refugees, especially those interviewed in 2022, from working, seeking work, taking children to school or even mixing with other children to play.

Those who are not registered asylum-seekers and those who have been refused refugee status by UNHCR are particularly vulnerable because they are liable to detention and deportation.

Severe mental illness, suicides and attempted suicides were reported by interviewees in 2013 and 2022.

UNHCR is understaffed, underfunded and disinterested. The organisation is failing refugees, especially Oromo. There are serious and increasing delays in registration, refugee status determination and in hearing appeals against unjust and ill-informed refusals. Translation at interviews is inaccurate and inconsistencies are used to challenge the credibility of refugees.

UNHCR’s ability and willingness to protect refugees from detention and deportation has reduced in recent years.

UNHCR is virtually inaccessible to Oromo refugees and asylum-seekers, and their advocates.

The majority of Oromo asylum-seekers are refused refugee status by UNHCR. The refusal rate is increasing according to local NGO personnel.

Less than 1% of refugees in Egypt are resettled to a third country each year. More than 20 families experienced delays, disappointments and last-minute cancellations according to interviewees in 2022.

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