On this Saturday, 5 March 2016, the Oromia Media Network Pacific—the OMNP—in conjunction with the Australian Oromo Community Association in Victoria has organised a celebration of the OMNP’s second anniversary, which is commencing at 2 pm at the Flemington Primary School.
The OMNP is a not-for-profit and nonpartisan news organisation whose purpose is to produce firsthand citizen-driven reporting on Oromia, the largest and most populous state in Ethiopia. The anniversary will be marked by the visit of Oromia Media Network Director, Mr Jawar Mohammad, and Professor Mohammad Hassan of Georgia State University in Atlanta. This anniversary will also highlight an issue that I have raised in this House before: the ongoing persecution of the Oromo people in Ethiopia.
The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The population constitutes over 40 per cent of the 100 million people who live there. The Oromo people are an ancient people, with a rich culture and heritage. They have also been oppressed by consecutive Ethiopian governments and regimes for the last century.
The Oromos are protesting against the Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan. This master plan is designed to expand the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa. This will result effectively in the displacement of two million Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands, without any compensation. At present, half a million Oromos have already been displaced—evicted.
Local Oromo activist Toltu Tufa has said, ‘The master plan is designed to be put into effect over a span of 25 years, with a final phase occurring in 2038. When it’s fully complete it will incorporate 36 towns and 17 rural districts of the Oromia region into the Greater Addis Ababa territory. This includes towns like Finfinnee, Sululta, Dukem, Chancho, Adama, Ambo, Sabata, Mojo and other towns. It will encompass a total area estimated to be 1.1 million hectares.’
In response to the protest by the Oromos the Ethiopian government announced it would deploy a full military force against all protestors, labelling these protestors as ‘terrorists’. Oromos have been protesting around the world, including in Melbourne, since April 2014, when the integrated development plan was revealed to the public. In Ethiopia, university students staged protest rallies and, in response, the Ethiopian government forces brutally killed over 70 students, injured hundreds and incarcerated thousands. This caused a flare-up of protests across Oromia.
On 12 November 2015 there was a resurgence of these protests after an incident around the land of a small-town public school in Oromia, which was being sold. The government killed elementary school students in that town and that provoked further national resistance and a movement that has shaken the country.
In response to that particular atrocity and the ongoing persecution of the Oromo people, on 21 January 2016 the European Parliament issued an urgent motion condemning:
… the recent use of violence by the security forces and the increased number of cases of human rights violations in Ethiopia. It calls for a credible, transparent and independent investigation into the killings of at least 140 protesters and into other alleged human rights violations in connection with the protest movement after the May 2015 federal elections in the country
The motion also:
… calls on the Ethiopian authorities to stop suppressing the free flow of information, to guarantee the rights of local civil society and media and to facilitate access throughout Ethiopia for independent journalists and human rights monitors. The EU, as the single largest donor, should ensure that EU development assistance is not contributing to human rights violations in Ethiopia
In addition, many Oromos in Australian are also lobbying our federal government to provide a stronger and more considered response to the immediate and escalating crisis in Ethiopia in light of the ongoing persecution.
I wish to thank some very important people: Sinke Wesho, Biftu Gutama, Toltu Tufa and Abdeta Hanna from the South Eastern Region Oromo Community for their continual advocacy and work in organising politicians’ awareness of the ongoing persecution of the Oromo community and for keeping us informed about what is happening in Ethiopia. There are terrible things that are happening in this place; I owe it to this parliament to bring it to our attention. I condemn the Ethiopian government for the protests of these people and urge that they cease this ongoing persecution.