(Advocacy4oromia, 9 July 2015) At least six Oromo university students were also among three journalists and two bloggers released from Ethiopian prison yesterday, according to various reports.
The freed Oromo university students include Adugna Kesso, Bilisumma Dammana, Lenjisa Alemayo, Abdi Kamal, Magarsa Warqu, and Tofik. All were students who were arrested by security agents from various universities located in the Oromiya regional states. No charges were brought against many of them in the last year and three months.
The arrest of unknown numbers of Oromo University students followed a May 2014 brutal crackdown by the police against university students who protested when a master plan for the expansion of Addis Abeba, the city originally home to the Oromo, was introduced by the federal government.
The 10th Addis Abeba and Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Master plan, which was in the making for two years before its introduction to the public, finally came off as ‘Addis Abeba and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan.’
The government claims the master plan, which will annex localities surrounding Addis Abeba but are under the Oromiya regional state, was aimed at “developing an internationally competitive urban region through an efficient and sustainable spatial organization that enhances and takes advantage of complementarities is the major theme for the preparation of the new plan.”
The students protested against the plan and the federal government’s meddling in the affairs of the Oromiya regional state, which many legal experts also say was against Article 49(5) of the Ethiopian Constitution that clearly states “the special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Abeba.”
Two months ago, student Nimona Chali, one of the detained students, was released from jail without charges. Abebe Urgessa of Haromaya University is still in Qaallitti prison.
Student Aslan Hassen died in prison in what the government claimed was a suicide.
However, many believe he was tortured to death. No independent enquiry was launched to investigate his death.
By the government’s own account, eleven people were killed during university student demonstrations in many parts of the Oromia regional state. However, several other accounts put the number as high as above 50.
About Abebe Urgessa
Abebe Urgessa was a second year student, Water Engineering Major, at Haramaya University. After classes were interrupted following the #OromoProtests movement that swept the whole nation in April 2014, Abebe like many other students went to visit his family till the classes resume.
He was arrested upon arrival at a small town called Teji, in South west Shawa, where his families are living. After detention incommunicado for three weeks, he was falsely accused of standing in a market place telling people not to pay taxes to the government. Though the court released him on bail on the 21st of May, 2014, student Abebe was abducted again just a week later on the 29th of May.
While his where about still remains a mystery to this very date, it’s known that the government accused him, on its media outlets, of detonating hand grenade at the Haramaya University facility.
Abebe’s story designates with many other innocent Oromo students unlawfully abducted and falsely accused with bogus charges while being taken to or kept at undisclosed detention centers under severe tortures, more often than not. His story is just one among the many.
When it came to realising her dream of preserving the once-banned East African language Oromo, Toltu Tufa didn’t need to look any further than her dad, Abdu Tufa, for inspiration.
NOBLE Park’s Toltu Tufa had a dream to write a children’s book in her father’s native African language of Oromo, which was banned in parts of East Africa until 1991.
Now her dream has come to fruition and she has launched a range of educational tools in Oromo, including four textbooks, picture storybooks for preschool children, stickers and flashcards.
Earlier this month she returned to Australia after a book tour of seven cities in seven weeks, visiting communities around the globe who donated largely to her campaign.
Her books have sold out in each of those seven cities and yesterday, at the Melbourne launch of her Oromo range at Springvale Town Hall, Ms Tufa presented awards to those who helped to make her dream a reality.
“There’s so many local people in the city of Greater Dandenong who’ve actually experienced what it feels like to not have their language being spoken,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people who have suffered during the regime who want to pass ( Oromo) on to their children.
“Then there’s a lot of children who are just excited about having something that’s high-quality, colourful and available.”
Ms Tufa said she planned to make cartoons and videogaming in Oromo.
“The whole theory of my work is culturally empowered storytelling,” Ms Tufa said.
“I wanted children to be able to learn about their language in a context they understand, so they have cartoons that look like them and sound like them.”
A native African language has been brought to the pages of children’s textbooks for the first time by a Melbourne educator. More than 40 million people speak the Oromo tongue but, until now, it’s been largely passed down by word-of-mouth.