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Oromo Unrest - 2015

According to NGO reports in 2015, thousands of ethnic Oromos, whom the government accused of terrorism, were arbitrarily arrested and in some cases reportedly tortured. Reports indicated a pattern of surveillance and arbitrary arrests of Oromo University students based on suspicion of their holding dissenting opinions or participation in peaceful demonstrations. According to reports there was an intense buildup of security forces (uniformed and plainclothes) embedded on university campuses in the period preceding the 24 May 2015 national elections.

There were reports authorities terminated the employment of teachers and other government workers if they belonged to opposition political parties. 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 OLF members, and more broadly, that members of many opposition parties had ties to Ginbot 7.

In January 2015 eight police officers and three civilians were killed when a group from the Hamer district in the South Omo Zone of the SNNPR confronted police regarding local marginalization, hunting restrictions, and limited land availability due to government-sponsored sugar plantations. The mob killed eight police officers, including the police chief, and three individuals who may have been assisting the police officers.

The Addis Ababa master plan was a blueprint to expand the capital into the Oromiya region. Students from the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia began protesting in late November 2015 against the urban expansion plan around the capital that they feared would lead to land grabs without proper compensation. The protesters demonstrated against the plans by the government to develop farmland outside the capital, Addis Ababa, into a new business zone. The protesters believe that the expansion would lead to a loss of the Oromo culture and language.

The Ethiopian government said that the situation in Oromia is largely under control following the government’s retraction on January 12 of the proposed “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.” The controversial proposal to expand the municipal boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, into farmland in Oromia sparked the initial demonstrations. The plan’s cancellation did not halt the protests however, and the crackdown continued throughout Oromia.

By Decmber 2015 students from the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia had been protesting for weeks against an urban expansion plan around the capital that they feared will lead to land grabs without proper compensation. Security forces clashed with demonstrators, killing at least five people this week. The student protests spread quickly through the Oromo region that surrounds the capital. Farmers and other citizens joined the demonstrations. Protests against the "Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan" also erupted in April 2014, resulting in mass arrests and several dozen deaths during clashes with security forces.

On 16 December 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that the government “will take merciless legitimate action against any force bent on destabilizing the area.” The same day, the government communication affairs office minister, Getachew Reda, said that “an organized and armed terrorist force aiming to create havoc and chaos has begun murdering model farmers, public leaders and other ethnic groups residing in the region.” Since that time, federal security forces, including the army and the federal police, have led the law enforcement response in Oromia.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on 19 December 2015 that at least 75 people had been killed in recent weeks while protesting an urban renewal plan in the Oromo region surrounding the capital, Addis Ababa. Opposition groups say security forces have killed several people during weeks of protests over a government re-zoning plan. Members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group view the plan as an infringement on their rights. "Police and military forces have fired on demonstrations, killing at least 75 protesters and wounding many others, according to activists," the human rights watchdog said in a statement.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2018 13:18:50 ZULU