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Oromo Unrest - 2014

In 2010 the UN Committee Against Torture reported it was “deeply concerned” about “numerous, ongoing, and consistent allegations” concerning “the routine use of torture” by police, prison officers, and other members of the security forces – including the military – against political dissidents and opposition party members, students, alleged terrorists, and alleged supporters of violent separatist groups like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The committee reported that such acts frequently occurred with the participation of, at the instigation of, or with the consent of commanding officers in police stations, detention centers, federal prisons, military bases, and unofficial or secret places of detention. Some reports of such abuses continued during the year.

The Federal Supreme Court upheld the 2012 convictions under the criminal code of Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa, two well-known political opposition figures from the Oromo ethnic group, for conspiracy to overthrow the government and conspiracy to incite unrest. The Supreme Court subsequently determined the Federal High Court did not consider mitigating circumstances and reduced Bekele’s sentence from eight years to three years and seven months. The Supreme Court also reduced Olbana’s sentenced from 13 to 11 years. Courts convicted 69 members of Oromo political opposition parties, charged separately in 2011 under the criminal code with “attacking the political or territorial integrity of the state.”

The GoE's harassment, arrests, and crack-down on Oromos and Oromo political parties, sent a clear message that the GoE was not sincerely committed to meeting the OLF even part way in breaching the GoE-OLF divide. Just as the GoE's unrelenting assault on the domestic Oromo community impeded reconciliation, so to did the OLF's unwillingness to accept, even in principle, the Ethiopian constitution as a basic precondition to talks. With the 2008 crackdown on Oromos and the opposition, the GoE was moving further away from achieving an active, multi-party democracy. As long as the majority Oromo ethnic group continued to be shut out of the core leadership and opposition parties were prevented from sharing the political space, stability in this country would remain fragile.

Amnesty International reported October 28, 2014 that at least 5,000 Oromo had been arrested and detained since 2011, many for weeks or months without being charged. The report said they are usually accused of supporting or being members in the outlawed armed group, the Oromo Liberation Front. The report claimed this is just a pretext for silencing dissent. Amnesty said Oromo are subject to arbitrary arrest, detentions without access to lawyers, repeated torture and even targeted killings to crush dissident.

Protests against the "Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan" erupted in April 2014, resulting in mass arrests and several dozen deaths during clashes with security forces. Oromo students protested in April and May against the capital city’s restructuring plan - which they said would dilute Oromo culture through annexing traditional Oromo land surrounding Addis Ababa. The rare protests led to violence. Several dozen people were killed and hundreds arrested. Peaceful Oromo Muslim protests in 2012 and 2013 were also crushed with force and mass arrests.

According to Oromo opposition groups, the Oromia regional government continued to threaten to dismiss opposition party members, particularly teachers, from their jobs. Government officials alleged many members of legitimate Oromo opposition parties were secretly members of violent separatist groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). At the university level, members of Medrek and its constituent parties were able to teach. There were reports unemployed youths not affiliated with the ruling coalition sometimes had trouble receiving the “support letters” from their kebeles (neighborhoods or wards) necessary to get jobs.



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