In Ethiopia they live like animals, relentlessly persecuted, hunted down like games, killed at will and incarcerated en masse. No mercy is shown even to women and children. They are the Oromos — the largest ethnic group, the most marginalised in Ethiopia and arguably one among the most oppressed people in our planet. Despite their numerical majority, the Oromos, much like the Palestinians, are facing xenophobic oppression.
Amnesty International’s report on the state of existence of the Oromos, published last year, has been damning. It painted a chilling picture of the brutality unleashed by Ethiopian government on the hapless community to which the country’s President, Mulatu Teshome, belongs. The rights group, based in London, said: “At least 5,000 Oromos have been arrested based on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government”. And most of them have been “subjected to treatment amounting to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
Amnesty researcher Claire Beston has been scathing. She said, “The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality. This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region”. Beston, in her report, said in no uncertain terms that she saw “signs of torture, including scars and burns, as well as missing fingers, ears and teeth” on those Oromos she interviewed.
The scenario in the country is perhaps far more terrifying. The United States, in its 2013 Human Rights Report, has pointed out that at least 70,000 persons, including some 2,500 women and nearly 600 children are incarcerated with their mothers, in severely overcrowded six federal and 120 regional prisons. “There also were many unofficial detention centres throughout the country, including in Dedessa, Bir Sheleko, Tolay, Hormat, Blate, Tatek, Jijiga, Holeta, and Senkele,” the report added further.
Plurality, respect for basic democratic values and tolerance for dissent have never been the fortes for which Ethiopia is known in the world. It is for reasons on the contrary the country has already earned a massive notoriety internationally. Corruptions are rampant and behind the façade of development the government in Ethiopia is infamous for selling out the country to the western world and foreign corporations and, of course, for its blatant violation of basic human rights.
What defines Ethiopia today is the greed and corruption of its politicians, especially those in power. The brazenness with which the government is trying to sell out Omo Valley to foreign corporation is a shame and a heinous crime. Twice the size of France and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Omo Valley is known as the ‘cradle of mankind’ which, according to ancient-origins.net, has the world’s largest alkaline lake as well as the world’s largest permanent desert lake.
The Ecologist says, Lake Turkana in Omo Valley was a prehistoric centre for early hominids. Some 20,000 fossil specimens have been collected from the Turkana Basin. Anthropological digs have led to the discovery of important fossilised remains, most notably, the skeleton of the Turkana Boy, (or Nariokotome Boy). Finding Turkana Boy was one of the most spectacular discoveries in palaeoanthropology. His reconstruction comes from the almost perfectly preserved skeleton found in 1984 at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana.
Discovery of the fossilised Turkana Boy, aged between seven and fifteen who lived approximately 1.6 million years ago was a milestone in the study of our origin and ancestry. Yet, to the corrupt, shameless and avaricious Ethiopian government it is of no significance. And neither is the welfare of the indigenous people of the valley who are believed to be the living descendants of the early hominids.
Alas! Ethiopian government wants to sell out this important archaeological treasure trove to foreign corporations where they want to develop sugar, cotton and biofuel plantations. A shameless land grab is underway in Omo Valley where hundreds of more fossilised skeletons of our forefathers are expected to be found and retrieved.
Misrule, human rights violations, hubris, arrogance and corruption plagues Ethiopia. Continuous demagoguery against the Oromos has made Ethiopia sit atop a huge mound of gun powder waiting for a spark to explode. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is getting ready for yet another armed struggle to overthrow the present political dispensation in power.
And given the history of insurgency in Ethiopia the country today seems to be heading fast towards a fresh bout of armed insurrection.
A low intensity struggle has already started as the Oromos are no more in mood to take the oppression, they are in no mood to suffer in silence their marginalisation. The ethnic fire the Ethiopian government has been stoking is gradually turning into an inferno.
We know human stupidity is endless and that of Ethiopia is infinite and dark. It cannot achieve growth and progress keeping its people delegitimised and aggrieved. The oppressed and tortured shall one day erupt to claim what legitimately belongs to them as well.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org