Blood and terror in Ethiopia as protests sweep the streets (AFP)

December 22nd, 2015 Print Print Email Email

Two lifeless bodies lay on the ground as the terrified crowd, armed only with sticks against gun-toting Ethiopian security forces, fled the fierce crackdown on protesters.

Blood seeped through a sheet covering one of the bodies on the road outside Wolenkomi, a town just 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa.

“That was my only son,” a woman sobbed. “They have killed me.”

Back at the family home of 20-year-old Kumsa Tafa, his younger sister Ababetch shook as she spoke. “He was a student. No one was violent. I do not understand why he is dead,” she said.

Human Rights Watch says at least 75 people have been killed in a bloody crackdown on protests by the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

Bekele Gerba, deputy president of the Oromo Federal Congress, puts the toll at more than 80 while the government says only five have been killed.

The demonstrations have spread to several towns since November, when students spoke out against plans to expand the capital into Oromia territory — a move the Oromo consider a land grab.

The sight of the protesters on the streets of towns like Wolenkomi — shouting “Stop the killings! This isn’t democracy!” — is rare in a country with little tolerance for expressions of discontent with the government.

Tree trunks and stones are strewn on the asphalt on the road west from Addis to Shewa zone, in Oromia territory, barricading the route for several kilometres.

Chaos broke out on a bus on the road when it emerged that the police were again clashing with demonstrators in Wolenkomi.

“My husband just called me,” said a woman clutching her phone, as others screamed and children burst into tears.

“He’s taking refuge in a church. Police shot at the protesters,” she said.

The man next to her cried in despair: “They’re taking our land, killing our children. Why don’t they just kill everyone now?”

The army raided Wolenkomi again the next day, the rattle of gunfire lasting for more than an hour.

“They grabbed me by the face and they told me, ‘Go home! If you come back here, we’ll kill you’,” said Kafani, a shopkeeper.

Rights groups have repeatedly criticised Ethiopia’s use of anti-terrorism legislation to stifle peaceful dissent, with the US expressing concern over the recent crackdown and urging the government to employ restraint.

But Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared on television that the government would act “without mercy in the fight against forces which are trying to destabilise the region.”

- ‘Land is everything’ -

Oromo leaders have vowed to keep up their resistance against proposals to extend Addis, and Human Rights Watch has warned of “a rapidly rising risk of greater bloodshed”.

“The government can continue to send security forces and act with violence — we will never give up,” said Gerba.

Land is at the heart of the problem. Under Ethiopia’s constitution, all land belongs to the state, with owners legally considered tenants — raising fears amongst the Oromo that a wave of dispossession is on its way.

“For farmers in Oromia and elsewhere in the country, their land is everything,” said Felix Horne, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“It’s critical for their food supply, for their identity, for their culture,” he said.

“You cannot displace someone from their land with no consultation and then inadequately compensate them and not expect there to be any response,” Horne warned.

Some Oromo have already seen their lands confiscated.

Further west, in the town of Ambo, a woman named Turu was expropriated of her two hectares, receiving only 40,000 birr ($1,900, 1,700 euros) in compensation.

“We had a good life before,” she said.

Today she struggles to support her four children and her disabled husband with the 30 birr a day ($1.40, 1.30 euros) she earns working in a factory.

With their own language distinct from Ethiopia’s official Amharic tongue, the 27 million Oromo make up nearly 30 percent of the country’s population.

“The Oromos are seen as more of a threat by the government in part because they are by far the largest ethnic group,” said Horne.

The proposed expansion of Addis is part of a 25-year development plan to boost the city’s infrastructure and attract new investors.

It sparked demonstrations last year, but on a smaller scale.

  1. Sam
    | #1

    If you remember, the late Prime Minister’s argument for the government’s owning the land was , well, guys if the peasants own it they might sell it for a penny, and would find themselves landless and penniless. The government’s owning the land, he argued, is a reliable deterrent from that happening. Well, it turned out it has been the government in the business of selling land, as a consequence depriving the peasants the means of production they relied upon.
    Did the EPDRF politicos argued in favor of the government owning the land because they were concerned for some fraction of peasants who might sell their lands? Of course, not. If they really were, they are really stupid. The real reason was the government wanted to have had total control of the very life of the population it governs. In country like Ethiopia, owning the land means, controlling 85 percent of the population. Making the peasants dependent on the government’s wishes means controlling the lion share of Ethiopian politics. The current opposition to the regime’s master plan and so more shows the constitution was imposed on the people by the government. Why did the government chose to impose its wishes without seeking the consent of the people it governs? The EPDRF’s political elites might have believed if we won in the battlefield, our politics and policy were superior than the others. That belief made them to define the new Ethiopia as ‘aggregates” of ethnicities. The TPLF politicos chose and groomed politicians to represent those ethnic groups. What a genius idea! Everything will be under control because the ethnic politicians represent the vey interest of the ethnic group they represent? Are they really? This is the very question the protestors want to be answered by thre very action of the ethnic politicians.

  2. Densa
    | #2

    Enough of this senseless killings on innocent citizens. Ethiopians are watching at you TPLF, don’t continue to go this route. Stop looting and at the same time murdering our people in the name of development. TPLF has no mandate to continue govern through a barrel of a gun. Uniform wearing solders you are not TPLF private slaves and need not to obey orders to kill innocent citizens. Your duty is defend the nation. Please refuse to carry out senseless orders from TPLF rascals. You have a choice either turn your gun upon the criminal bandits who give orders or join the freedom fighters. Please if you continue to kill innocent citizens you will give account for your deeds.

  3. Dawi
    | #3

    Sam said:

    [[. The EPDRF’s political elites might have believed if we won in the battlefield, our politics and policy were superior than the others. That belief made them to define the new Ethiopia as ‘aggregates” of ethnicities…]]

    If you have listened to Lencho Leta’s interview on ESAT recently, he said OLF is the one that proposed “Ethnic Federation” in Ethiopia and was accepted in the charter by the rest. Let us give credit where credit is due. :)

    Having said that, the state owning the Land was inherited not forced down the throat of the people by EPRDF. The credit of land nationalization goes to DERG. Off course, as a Marxist Leninist oriented organization EPRDF went along happily with the inherited land policy.

    You’re correct on the late prime minister saying [if the peasants own it they might sell it for a penny, and would find themselves landless and penniless].

    Right now, if you have a rural residency certificate, you have a legal right to a portion of village land. What this means is that if the village government takes land out of the village pool, all the villagers are affected, and a peasant can still get a replacement land.

    If you privatize the land, then what can happen is that the local government and speculators shall gain control of the good plots one at a time. Right now, a peasant can move to the city, and if things don’t work out, they can move back and reclaim their land. That is the last line of peasant defense as a social safety net. Otherwise s/he joins the army of shanty town of cities for life.

    Notice the protests occur in richer areas close to Cities like Addis. In the poorer areas, rural land isn’t worth very much, and changing things to privatization will cause the peasants to lose control of the land while it is still very cheap. The option for the peasant going to work in a City and coming back home in case that doesn’t work will be gone. For an illiterate farmer losing the only safety net (land) is catastrophic. That will make farmers “penniless & landless” as Meles said it.

    If the present protest was free of “narrowness” meaning (accepts Ethiopians owning all land), the protests would only just be on the level of compensation as rural land has been turned over to industry & housing. Period.

    With the right amount of compensation a farmer can move to another plot of land to continue farming if one chooses to do that.

  4. Ittu Aba Farda
    | #4

    Woe! Woe!! Woe for the mothers and fathers of the young whose life is cut down just like that!!! As a father of two wonderful children myself and now a grandfather, I feel for those grieving mothers and fathers. I wail with them and there is nothing in my possession to get this wanton violence stop. I never felt such helpless in my long and hard journey in life. I thought and prayed that the mayhem in 2005 would be the last one in my lifetime. I sob for the youth who was incited/riled up by sinister individuals and groups for their hideous plan to set up a fiefdom and by all means a caliphate. They are using the youth as a landing tarmac so they can come in through Bole not Bale to announce the establishment of a new Gadapublic and launch a campaign of attrition toward anyone they see as an enemy. And they have a long list for that. This article shows a burnt out dump truck on the roadside. Someone must have been getting high on such a destruction. I can tell you who is really getting high with this wanton destruction and bloodshed. Al-Toweel in Asmara is in trance now yapping ‘I told you so’ hateful battle cry. All those who are stooping low and leaking his stinking boots are joining in choir repeating after him. None of them should be proud of the slaughter of the youth. They must be ashamed for marching into the dump sites of Asmara in the first place. And these killings are not being carried out by people from Tigray or Amhara but rather by Oromo policemen and soldiers sent there by the State of Oromia officials themselves. I have called people I know over there and all of them had told me about it. The sad thing about the whole thing is that the majority of the people in Oromia do not support the violence aspect of the protest and the destruction of property and infrastructure. And that is creating further fractures in Oromia itself. That is a Godsend dividend for the regime.

    Now, who am I holding responsible for the slaughter of the youth? I list them as follows:

    1) The regime first and foremost.
    2) The officials of Oromia state who ordered the shooting. Tear gas, powerful water cannons and rubber bullets could have done a good job of dispersing the riled up young crowd.
    3) Those individuals, groups and parties/fronts that urged and incited the youth and push them to march into a waiting furnace. They are sitting here, in other Western countries and Asmara lambasting and gargling in all from their safe and comfy homes. They have been telling the youth that ‘there is no freedom without sacrifice’. They are saying that with mouthful of missionary cakes and all sugar drunk.
    And that is all I can say at this moment until grief started overwhelming me. Woe!! Woe!! Woe!!!!

  5. Jimbiq
    | #5

    Those lives that have been taken by Fascist Woayanaes are priceless!!!!

    Justice is on the scale and is on the victims’ side and is in the publics’ favor. Fascist Woyaneaes, from their inception to their arrival in the lands where they have been looting and murdering citizens have burdened the entire population with costs in the billion dollars and human lives in thousands and thousands. When justice prevails, all criminals and their partners in crime shall pay the dearest price; dead or alive, they all stand trial both nationally and internationally. That year, that month, the day, minutes and seconds the blood robbers set their feet in Ethiopia, they immediately embarked on robbing, murdering, stealing, imprisoning citizens on a large scale and as a result have accumulated enormous illegal wealth and have consumed gallons and gallons of blood of their victims of all sorts. Yes, we have been overwhelming with grief and have had broken and aching hearts on account of the blood robbers committing atrocities and creating chaos in the lives of citizens all over the lands that the blood robbers fighting a lost war against Ethiopians. We shall continue strengthen our collective solidarity and reinforcing our unity in synergy to attain our objective to a common and shared goals of crushing the enemy to its complete defeat and on its death building the foundation for the opportunity that the enemy deprived us for years with establishing of a government by the people for the people.

  6. Dawi
    | #6

    Talking more on land privatization by stopping being emotionl:

    Unlike “neo-liberal” developing countries like India or Brazil a poor country like Ethiopia with huge population of over 95 million has very few landless poor who live in huge slums in cities. Remember, over 75% live in rural areas now. Their land with a certificate is a safety net to go back to when/if their back is broken or legs crushed working in some factory towns like Addis.

    Let us say EPRDF privatizes the land tomorrow? With the “famine” looming the drought stricken farmer can’t produce anything on the land. What do you think is going to happen?

    The “Delalas” driven with “market” forces behind would show up in the country side? Guess what they are going to do?

    They go to the village offer the semi starving farmers nickels and dimes for their land. All of a sudden you have armies of “landless”, penniless” farmers in the coming years.

    Then the landlords shall hold all the rural lands and chances are they produce less food on the land than now and we will have a disaster worst than what we have now; back to the good old “balabat” system.

    Those of you who think privatization shall solve our large population problem please think again. If you want to compare China to Bangladesh or India and look at their safety nets & large slums; who have their largest population reside in them? …you will get the idea and the answer.

    Who do you want to emulate then?

  7. bekele
    | #7

    the people’s struggle desperately needs leadership, in each ethnic region. i am not sure if G7 is active in oromo region. opdo cannot do it, because it was not created to lead the people,but to carry out the ethno-fascist policy of tplf.
    olf is worse than tplf and it would only bring more violence and death.

    the people have to choose what they want. a party should be set up in the region which is aligned with the struggle of the Ethiopian people very soon., or the people’s stuggle would be in vain.

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    I am surprised in spite of the independent western media report that this was a peaceful demonstration met by violence from the government side you still took the government side. There is no OPDO, ANDM or the Southern party. There is only the TPLF who had the power to do anything without regard to law of the country.
    I am really surprised you bought the government line that says that these are school children being misled by some foreigners or the diaspora because the don’t really want to get in to the debate. Who is the diaspora any way? Most of the new comers, specially the Oromos are the ones who had been in TPLF jails or had relatives who had been in jail for none other than being Oromo.

    You say you hate violence and I agree violence is not good. But that should be equally true when it is committed by the government. If the killing of the people by the government does not stop, people have the right defend themselves by all means. It is the government’s call and not the other way around. The people are tired of watching their livelihood being taken away from them and being subjected to humiliation and perpetual misery. I do not have to repeat Patrick Henry’s line here.

  9. Sam
    | #9

    Let me start with your claim it was Lencho’s OLF which proposed “ethnic federation.” Are you saying, Dawi, had not been for OLF political manipulation, the EPDRF would not dare to wed politics with ethnicity? I do not believe you believe that. Dawi wrote if you privatize the land “local governments and speculators … controls of the good plot.” In other words, Dawi says do not trust the ethnic federalism which Lencho was boasting about. The local governments might be the enemy that could choose to snatch land from the peasants. As a matter of fact, Dawi seemed to have believed, the government which knows little, in relative terms, of peasants, the Federal government, should care more about their lives than local governments.I do not believe you believe that too. About your another claim — a peasant who fled his village, chose to look his future in the city and found no hope, disgusted he went back to the village to reclaim his land, and the peasants welcomed him with open arms. I think this might be the late prime minster fantasy, you seem to share that fantasy. The real world is totally different from the one you are trying to paint.

  10. ዘረ-ያዕቖብ ወ.ግ.ዓ.ም-ፅዮን The Eth. Korrektiv Therapeut
    | #10

    በሆነውም አይነት መንገድ የግብፅ ጩልፋ ላሾች ለፊንጢር ኪሳቸውን ከኢትዮጵያ ፖለቲካዊ involvement ለማስወገድ የተሳካልን ቀን ከመ-ቅፅበት የኢትዮጵያ ህዝቦች በራሳቸው በሚተማመኑ ልጆቻቸው እየተመሩ ራሳቸውን ነፃ ያወጣሉ ምድራቸውንም እንደፈለጋቸው ያስተዳድራሉ! ታላቁ ውርደታችን የፐትሮዶላር አንቛላጮችና የግብፅ ጩልፋ ላሾች በመሃከላችን የተወለዱብን ቀን ነው! ሞት ለባንዳነት በማንኛውም መልኩ!

    “አገራችን ሰላም ስትሆን ልትገዙን, ሃገራችን ችግር ውስጥ ስትገባ ግን ደግሞ ከጠላቶቻችን ጋር ልትመሳጠሩብን አይደለምና, በል ና ሂድ ወደ አገርህ”, ተብሎ እማ አልነበረ እንዴ ያ-በይስሙላነት ጳጳስ ነኝ ባይ, በተግባር ግን የሙሶሉኒ ጩልፋ ላሽ ሆኖ የተገኘው ግብፃዊው ኢትዮጵያን በመክዳቱ ወደ ሃገሩ እንዲሀድና በቦታው ደግሞ ሃገሩን የሚወድ ኢትዮጵያዊ የተተካው!

    የዛሬዎቹ ከችካጎና-ሚነሶታ እንዲሁም ከአስመራም ሆነው የሱልልታንና የአምቦ “ጦር አዝማቾችንም” አንድ ቀን ይህ እጣ ይጠብቃቸዋል! በሩቅ ሆኖ ሰላምን መስበክ ይቻላል, “ጦር መሪ” ልሁን ባይ ግን በቦታው ተገኝቶ ነው እንጂ እንዲያው ከሩቅ ሆኖ ማቅራራትና በስልጣን ጥም መሰቃየትማ ምን መቅኖ ኖሮት…..!

  11. urrihun
    | #11

    Dawi, you are becoming a sick doll made to live short. The governance in Ethiopia has been sickened people of all walks of life and is the main cause of the starvation of a huge number of farmers. Dawi, when you are ill-thinking, you can see things properly. Dawi, Knock, knock at your stubborn head, and remind you this: Land grabbing has dislocated farmers and disposed them their livelihoods. How can you think yourself alive and while you are mocking at the landless farmers. Dawi, useless you are; people’s government with right economic and social policy solves the problems that this half-alive woyane created to the point of millions of farmers are starved.

  12. Dawi
    | #12

    Dear Sam,

    Lencho’s interview is still posted on ESAT-TUBE for anyone to look at.

    It is not a mystery that Marxist Leninist oriented parties ultimate goal is not “ethnic federation”. So for leaders like Meles development through stages of thesis, antithesis and synthesis according to the laws of dialectical materialism leading to a solution was the goal; in the mean time, he made sure of outflanking anyone that stood in his face to reach that goal. With all the drawbacks like working with separatists like EPLF they have succeeded.

    [[..Dawi says do not trust the ethnic federalism which Lencho was boasting about…]]

    It is only a platform until DDS takes full hold, ”ethnic federation” is expected to disappear sooner or later.

    Local government that work for the state are the leasing agents so they make decisions on the land. The question is whether the compensation fair or not? Are they corrupt or not? Were farmers given replacement land if that is what they wanted? Today the Oromo protest tells us NOT.

    Yes, as I said a peasant with a certificate of land has a safety net to go back to when/if their back is broken or legs crushed working in some factory towns like Addis. What kind of arrangement depends on the pre-arrangement s/he sets up before going to the city. Usually a family member is running the plot of land.

    Unless you show us otherwise a farmer can go back to his plot when he is tired of the City; the PM wasn’t fantasizing but, was talking based on the reality on the ground. It is like the story we heard of some Tigrean farmers historically went “begging” to big cities during their down time in farming to supplement their income. Similar things goes on today.

  13. Noha
    | #13

    Egypt government cultivated TPLF until TPLF seized power. We Egyptians wanted full access to Nile from it’s source for generations, we finally gopt it since we let TPLF get their headquarters in Egypt 40+ years ago. If Oromos or whoever lets us have full control of Nile we can break ties with TPLF right away, TPLF is nothing without the support of Egypt and Sudan. TPLF defeated derg by going in and out of Sudan and Egypt during the whole time . The amazing thing is none of other Ethiopia’s political organizations seem to be favoring Egypt’s interest so far . If any of the Oromos want to stop the sufferings of their people they need to be starting to favor Egyptians every chance they get including leting us control the NILE fully. TPLF’s tactic by malnutritioning other ethnicity’s children is not what we Egyptians like to see eventhough it is guaranteeing that Ethiopia’s future leaders will only be Tigrayans since the Tigrayans are fed well starting from birth the Tigrayans are prooving to grow up to be winners over other ethnicities in any field . tigrayans donot have family break ups or life time sickness since they are eating well.

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