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Understanding the Oromo Liberation Movement and the root of chaos in Ethiopia

BY: Qudsia Saeed

On June 29th, 2020, Haccaaluu Hundeessaa, an Oromo singer and activist, was assassinated after his harsh criticism of the Ethiopian government’s oppression and displacement of the Oromo community. His assassination has sparked protests and unrest across the nation, resulting in the wrongful arrest of prominent political figures as well as an internet shutdown nationwide.

Hundessaa was a symbol of unity and strength for the community, who was first arrested at the age of 17 while protesting the mistreatment of the Oromos and lived in exile to write music that would resonate with Oromo struggle.

Oromos are the largest indigenous ethnic group in Ethiopia, making up 34.5% of the overall population. Despite constituting the majority, the government has historically failed to serve their needs, outraging a liberation movement among the community to fight systematic marginalization and oppression.

Reports note that Oromos experienced human rights violations under three successive regimes and continue to suffer from the deplorable consequences of an oppressive history that dates back to the establishment of Ethiopia. The culture and community have been sidelined to the more widely known Amharic traditions, as the Oromo language isn’t taught in schools. In 2009, the UN reported that 594 Oromos were killed and 43 disappeared while demanding justice, and in 2014, Amnesty International reported that 5,000 Oromos were arrested while demonstrating opposition to the government.

The fight for liberation is historical, and since 2012, Oromos have protested against the government for the killings of university students and the exploitation of farmland, and the peaceful protests have been met with police brutality. Recently, the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan was proposed to further the expansion of resources into the vicinity of the nation’s capital, however, the plan would force evictions and cost Oromo farmers their valuable arable land, sparking outrage and protests.

The current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, is an Oromo who promised prosperity for his people but has failed to protect their interests. Instead of taking accountability, he blames neighboring nations for Hundessaa’s assassination, claiming that they wish to disturb the peace by instigating violence among ethnic communities, as motivated by the ongoing conflict over a dam. Since the assassination, the government has shut down internet access nationwide so it can hide the atrocities it’s committing against its people.

Activists have drawn parallels between the Oromo liberation movement and the Black Lives Matter movement, as the #JusticeforEthiopia, similar to #AllLivesMatter, denies and contradicts the oppression of the Oromo community, and deepens the divide between the ethnic groups as it ironically calls for overall unity.

Innocent protestors, journalists, and political figures are being imprisoned, and the future is uncertain, however, if international pressure isn’t applied, violence could worsen and intensify, pushing the entire nation to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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