September 21, 2019
Your Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed
Prime Minister, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Lorenzo Te’azaz Road, Addis Ababa
Subject: Concern over the worrying political, religious and security development in Ethiopia
The Horn of Africa Genocide Watch (HAGW) is a non-profit organization established by concerned members of the broader horn of Africa community including Ethiopians. HAGW was founded with the prime goal of preventing genocide through creating awareness and timely reporting of impending causes of mass conflicts and human tragedy to inform governments and the regional community for timely action. We believe, governments’ respect of individual and group rights of citizens as enshrined in their constitutions and citizens’ responsibility to obey and respect laws can reduce tensions and pave ways for stability and just peace.
Mr. Prime Minster,
The purpose of this letter is to bring to your attention about the disturbing developments in Ethiopia that are seriously undermining group and individual rights of the people in the country and thus threatening the transition to democracy that we believe you are committed to from the very day of your inauguration as prime minister. We are seriously concerned that these problems if not properly addressed today may have potential to transcend into mass uprising and put the country into another wave of protest leading to loss of lives and properties. The major concerns that require your immediate attention are:
The arbitrary arrest and disappearance of innocent people:
It seems the basic legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is not well settled with the Ethiopian judiciary system. Multiple reports of arrest and disappearance without court warrant have become daily encounters for Ethiopians, especially those living far away from the capital. Reports of random detention by government forces, involuntary disappearance and extrajudicial killings are coming to our attention on regular basis, especially in western and southern Oromia zones. Residents in multiple zones in the region are currently living under military rule of “Command Post” a de facto long-term state of emergency, which regularly confronts ordinary residents without provocation of any sort, often with brutal force. Recent reports of ongoing inhumane killing by government forces of innocent residents in various districts of Western and Kellem Wollega Zones continue to send a chilling shock to Oromo communities near and far. Likewise, the massacre and frequent violation of the basic human rights of the Kimant, Agaw, Wag Himra, Walloo (Oromos), Gumuz and Shinasha communities living within the boundary of the Amhara National Regional State points to total lawlessness that the country is heading to if corrective actions are not taken before it is too late.
This act of violence against ordinary citizens is expanding to other zones including the capital Finfinnee. HAGW received evidence from credible sources that on September 5, 2019 five young men living in the Garji sub city of Finfinnee had their home broken into in the middle of the night, their phones and computers confiscated and the victims beaten and dragged to unknown prison at gun point reportedly by government forces. According to families and friends, the victims were bloggers and social media activists linked to a non-violent civic resistance group “Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo” that vigorously and peacefully challenged the TPLF/EPRDF dictatorship leading to the change that you are having the privilege of leading as Prime Minster. The HAGW and the peace loving global community is fully aware about the ongoing illegal arrest and torture of thousands of Oromo nationals for being supporter or member of the Oromo Liberation Front. The continued detention imprisonment of prominent Oromo personalities including Col. Gamachu Ayana without due process of law is the reminder of the brutal TPLF/EPRDF dictatorship that Ethiopians successfully fought. The HAGW is concerned that the arbitrary arrests, beatings and killings happening in all parts of Oromia and other regions, if not halted immediately, may elicit the natural human reaction of self-defense. This and the likely reaction of the government with a brute force, as usual, can create whole recipe for genocide and human tragedy. We earnestly call up on your excellency to carefully look into this situation and take every necessary measures to stop unnecessary carnage in Ethiopia.
On the religious freedom
Although Ethiopia is officially recognized as a multi-ethnic, multi-religion state, the reluctance by government to formalize this has submerged the country into political turmoil further widening the already open wounds in the souls and minds of significant portion of Ethiopians.
It is unfortunate that after 150 years of forcibly relinquishing their native religion and draping themselves with the religion of the ruling class (the Ethiopian Orthodox), Oromos are still prevented from practicing their religion in their own language, an act starkly contrary to the Christian teachings and spiritual practices. This is the reminder of an era of domination and imposition that has no place in the modern world. It is particularly wrong and disheartening when the government interferes on sensitive issues like this and take side to speak against the victims. Be it for Oromos or other groups in Ethiopia, anything short of fairness and equality on the treatment of the people by its government can potentially stir old wounds and drag the nation into unending conflict.
As HAGW, we hope that your change leadership is visionary enough to realize that demonization of one group or imposition of one’s will and interest on to the other will not work in the 21st century. We believe, the demand by Oromos following Orthodox Christian belief to have their inalienable right to practice their religion in their own language including setting up of regional administration offices to cater for Oromo constituents is just and constitutional. While Ethiopia has a secular government, social media reports of your government’s interference into this matter and the scripts of remarks you have made during your meeting with the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod was unsettling to the Oromo Orthodox Christian followers and to the entire Oromo community in Ethiopia. On top of the political backlog that the EPRDF has to settle yet, upsetting the community with matters very close to their heart, such as their religion, will do significant harm to peace and security of the country. As secular government and country of multi-ethnic and multi-religion constitute, we encourage the government to stay out of the business of religion and avoid being part of the cause to a possible religious quagmire that may be set to follow.
Mr. Prime Minister,
In conclusion, the HAGW would like to express its commitment to peace and justice in the horn of Africa and will do whatever is possible in its capacity to prevent the ingredients of human tragedy from precipitating by timely reporting of potential concerns and advising governments to take action before it is too late. We encourage and request your government to exercise restraint not to further complicate the already convoluted political situation in the country. Military incursions in the west and southern Ethiopia have already made life difficult for ordinary citizens, if not impossible at all, and we request your honorable office to find peaceful settlement in these regions before the problem spills over to other parts of the region and country. We believe, resolving political problems in Oromia through honest and respectful negotiation and making political grounds fair and even for all parties is the only way to stable Ethiopia. The country is obviously moving into the brink of an all-out war and total lawlessness because of government’s reluctance to embrace and peacefully resolve problems with independent political parties such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). As leaders in time of change, it is important to recognize the will of the people and let all parties reach their constituents freely. Reports of closure of OLF offices throughout Oromia and mass detention of suspected OLF members and sympathizers will not serve any purpose other than solidifying grudges and awakening the masses against the government.
Finally, we have been encouraged by your words, all the way, since your ascent to the apex of political ladder in the country, and we hope that you will stand true to your words and put your verbal gesture and commitment to practice to resolve Ethiopia’s political gridlock, for once and for all, by allowing the first “Free and Fair Election” in the country.
Horn of Africa Genocide Watch
1601 Elm St. FL 33
Dallas, TX 75201