(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.
October 27, 2014
Victims include politicians, students, singers and civil servants, sometimes only for wearing Oromo traditional dress, or for holding influential positions within the community, the London-based advocacy group said in a report today. Most people were detained without charge, some for years, with many tortured and dozens killed, it said.
“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” Claire Beston, the group’s Ethiopia researcher, said in a statement. “This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”
The Oromo make up 34 percent of Ethiopia’s 96.6 million population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Most of the ethnic group lives in the central Oromia Regional State, which surrounds Addis Ababa, the capital. Thousands of Oromo have been arrested at protests, including demonstrations this year against what was seen as a plan to annex Oromo land by expanding Addis Ababa’s city limits.
Muslims demonstrating about alleged government interference in religious affairs were also detained in 2012 and 2013, Amnesty said in the report, titled: ‘Because I am Oromo’ – Sweeping Repression in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia.
The state-run Oromia Justice Bureau said the findings were “far from the truth” in a reply to Amnesty included in the report. “No single individual has been and would not be subjected to any form of harassment, arrest or detention, torture for exercising the freedom of expression or opinion.”
The majority of detainees are accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front, which was formed in 1973 to fight for self-determination, according to Amnesty.
Senior Oromo politicians Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa were jailed in 2012 for working with the group, which was classified as a terrorist organization by lawmakers in 2011.
“The accusation of OLF support has often been used as a pretext to silence individuals openly exercising dissenting behavior,” Amnesty said.
The bulk of Amnesty’s information came from interviews with 176 refugees in Kenya, Somalia and Uganda in July this year and July 2013. More than 40 telephone and e-mail conversations were also conducted with people in Ethiopia, it said.
Some interviewees said they fled the country because of conditions placed on them when released, such as being told to avoid activism, meeting in small groups, or associating with relatives who were political dissenters, the report said.
Amnesty has been banned from Ethiopia since 2011 when its staff was deported.
To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at firstname.lastname@example.org Paul Richardson, Karl Maier
(A4O, 1 November 2014) A new report released on Tuesday by an international human rights group said Ethiopia has “ruthlessly targeted” the Oromo people, the country’s its largest ethnic group.
Amnesty International said thousands of Oromo people had been systematically subjected to unlawful killings, torture and enforced disappearance.
“Because I am Oromo” – Sweeping repression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia exposes how Oromos have been regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charge, enforced disappearance, repeated torture and unlawful state killings as part of the government’s incessant attempts to crush dissent.
The report said at least 5,000 Oromos had been arrested between 2011 and 2014 for their “actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government”.
“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” said Amnesty International researcher Claire Beston.
Amnesty said that the majority of the Oromo people were targeted over their alleged support to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a group that is fighting for the self-determination of the Oromo people.
The report was compiled based on testimonies from 200 exiled Oromo people, including former detainees.
Amnesty International’s report documents regular use of torture against actual or suspected Oromo dissenters in police stations, prisons, military camps and in their own homes.
A teacher told how he had been stabbed in the eye with a bayonet during torture in detention because he refused to teach propaganda about the ruling party to his students.
A young girl said she had hot coals poured on her stomach while she was detained in a military camp because her father was suspected of supporting the OLF.
A student was tied in contorted positions and suspended from the wall by one wrist because a business plan he prepared for a university competition was deemed to be underpinned by political motivations.
Former detainees repeatedly told of methods of torture including beatings, electric shocks, mock execution, burning with heated metal or molten plastic and rape, including gang rape.
Although the majority of former detainees interviewed said they never went to court, many alleged they were tortured to extract a confession.
“We interviewed former detainees with missing fingers, ears and teeth, damaged eyes and scars on every part of their body due to beating, burning and stabbing – all of which they said were the result of torture,” said Claire Beston.
Detainees are subject to miserable conditions, including severe overcrowding, underground cells, being made to sleep on the ground and minimal food. Many are never permitted to leave their cells, except for interrogation and, in some cases, aside from once or twice a day to use the toilet. Some said their hands or legs were bound in chains for months at a time.
As Ethiopia heads towards general elections in 2015, it is likely that the government’s efforts to suppress dissent, including through the use of arbitrary arrest and detention and other violations, will continue unabated and may even increase.
“The Ethiopian government must end the shameful targeting of thousands of Oromos based only on their actual or suspected political opinion. It must cease its use of detention without charge, torture and ill-treatment, incommunicado detention, enforced disappearance and unlawful killings to muzzle actual or suspected dissent,” said Claire Beston.
Interviewees repeatedly told Amnesty International that there was no point trying to complain or seek justice in cases of enforced disappearance, torture, possible killings or other violations. Some were arrested when they did ask about a relative’s fate or whereabouts.
Amnesty International believes there is an urgent need for intervention by regional and international human rights bodies to conduct independent investigations into these allegations of human rights violations in Oromia.
Former detainees told Amnesty that methods of torture included “beatings, electric shocks, mock execution, burning with heated metal or molten plastic and rape, including gang rape”.
BBC interviewing torture survivor and Dr Awol K on Amnesty report.
The Oromo account for nearly 45% of the country’s 94 million population.