Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
By Bekele Gerba et al
Over the past 20 years, the People of Oromia have been unable to exercise genuine self-rule, systematically robbed off their possessions, locked up en masse and doomed to a life of despair. In the past three years in particular there has been a thoroughly orchestrated plan to displace the Oromo from their indigenous land, destroy their language, wipe-out their culture and strip them off their identity with the pretext of the Addis Ababa Master Plan.
In the past 10 months, our people have been fighting tooth and nail with forces bent on destroying them. This courageous act of resistance is showing no signs of slowing down and is in fact on the rise. Nevertheless, immense sacrifices have been made in the process: thousands have been imprisoned; students have been expelled from academic institutions in droves; employees have been dismissed from their jobs; several people have been killed; pregnant mothers have been shot dead with their unborn fetuses; and families have been denied the chance to bury their loved ones callously gunned down by security forces.
To the extent that the bodies of the deceased have been recovered, our people have given them a heroic send-off albeit with a heavy heart. Sadly, vultures have feasted on the remains of those who could not be recovered. While the entire public have participated in this resistance movement, the sacrifices paid by this generation of youngsters during this struggle will never be overlooked. That said, the number of locals who have acted as informants to security forces; bore witness against guiltless members of the public; and collaborated in the incessant killings of protesters should not be underestimated.
It is even sad that institutions that our people have long trusted and held in high regard have been openly and, at times, implicitly supporting this murderous regime. Our optimism that these institutions would, at one point, change course from their wicked ways has been one of wishful thinking in that they have actually become even more aloof. Hence, we call on them to immediately stop their contemptuous act.
1. To religious leaders
No religion condones repression, the subjugation of one sect of society and the dominance of the other and the exploitation of the weak by the strong. When this happens, it is incumbent upon religious leaders to counsel the powerful and to challenge them to turn from their wrongful ways. Unfortunately, this is not what we observe from our religious leaders at the moment. It is conspicuous that religious leaders of today rather sit down with the government, contrive ways to defeat a movement that is fighting an injustice, and confer their blessings on security forces before sending them out to crush dissidents. Their pretentious prayers are repugnant before God and humans alike.
These so-called religious leaders pull out all the stops to break the spirit and resolve of the people, often with the tired slogan that their “religion is not a religion of violence”. There aren’t people who naturally harbour a desire for violence. Most importantly, these religious leaders know at heart that demanding one’s right does not constitute an act of violence, but they support the repressive government nonetheless. While we note with disappointment their failure to fulfil their duty as guardians of the truth, we would still like to remind them to stop pouring cold water on the resistance movement of the people of Oromia.
2. To Oromo intellectuals
People send their children to school with the hope that these kids would become identity-conscious and, one day, defend their people from human rights violations. However, most Oromo elites –having failed to safeguard their own as well as their people’s rights- are mere spectators of the resistance movement from afar. What’s worse, others are working hand in gloves with the same government repressing and pillaging their own people; are facilitating the expulsion of students from schools and universities, and are assisting with the detention and killings of their brethren. Fearing for their lives as well as for various personal reasons, they offer flawed advice to the people and concoct make-believe stories in the interests of making things appear rosy and peaceful in the country.
If they were led to believe that the people did not notice this, they could not be more wrong: people know full well about what is taking place. When the time comes to revisit the history books, where every person stood at this point in time will be revealed. Therefore, wherever they are, we would like to remind these intellectuals not to obstruct the resistance movement, if not contribute towards it. We would also ask the media savvy ones to try to exercise self-control.
3. To so-called investors in Oromia
We do not assume that you would fail to see the fact that you acquired the assets in your possession today from the people –and on the land- of Oromia. We acknowledge the efforts some of you are putting towards solving the problems facing the Oromo with the resources at your disposal. On the other hand, we are under no illusion that there are those that greatly add to the deprivation and misery of the people and that the public are aware of the identities of these partners in crime, including their names and faces. It is in the backyards of these so-called investors that the complots against the people are given their finishing touches. To continue along this path is simply myopic and to try to impede the struggle foolhardy for it has consequences. Hence, we take this opportunity to remind you that you have a responsibility to see to it that your resources are not being allocated for purposes against that of the interests of the people.
4. To Oromo elders
To describe in great detail the role of elders in Oromo culture would be to state the obvious. Where there is a respected elder, there is no place for malice; people do not turn on each other; and there is peace. In case of a dispute, an elder listens to both sides, passes an honest and impartial judgement and reconciles the rowing parties. In complete breach of this cultural norm, elders nowadays side with the perpetrator and chastise the victim; lament at length over properties damaged than human lives lost, grieve over inconsequential injuries sustained by security forces armed to the teeth than the people being killed in their thousands. It is not that there aren’t proper elders out there but that the ones in high demand by the government are the cosmetic ones as above.
Overall, we would like to call on some members of the public as well as government personnel who try to derail the movement by using “public engagement” as a ploy to disseminate unhelpful chatter amongst the general public to withdraw from such activities. As we have tried to show above, there is a battle between a government attempting to extinguish the flame and the people refusing to give in. Both entities have disparate powers and different rules of combat as is evident from their distinct characteristics: the government is trying to crush the movement using trained forces in full combat gear, intent on killing and locking people up; the people are defending their rights bare-handed with an indefatigable spirit despite the prospect of death and imprisonment.
Against this backdrop, innocent blood is being shed left and right in Oromia owing in part due to the lack of religious leaders, intellectuals, investors and elders who could muster up the courage to put the government to task. After a careful examination of events thus far, we believe that these four groups of society are playing a detrimental role to the struggle of the people. These groups may not have the courage to contribute to the struggle but no one wants to see them belittle those who have paid the ultimate price of losing one’s life for a grand cause such as this. Again, we challenge them to side with the people or to otherwise be silent.
Finally, we would like to reiterate that the issues we have stood up against and went to prison for yesterday have not been resolved and still exist today. Our people are still being dispossessed of their assets, summarily dismissed from their jobs, imprisoned, pursued and killed in large numbers. It is not possible to stay silent in the midst of this. As our neighbours have done very recently, we call on each and every one of the people of Oromia to take part in the peaceful demonstration planned for Saturday – Yes this Saturday!
We would also like to take this opportunity to call on our brethren within the military, the federal and local police forces to stand beside the people who are demonstrating against an unspeakable injustice.
* The letter was translated from Oromigna to English by Michael C. Mammo.