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Oromo Unrest

More than 100 people, mostly from the Amhara ethnic group, were killed 19 June 2022 in an attack in Ethiopia’s Oromia region, according to witnesses, who blamed the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) for one of the deadliest attacks in recent memory. However, two other witnesses said more than 200 people have been killed. The regional government in Oromia confirmed the attack but did not give details about casualty figures. Ethnic Amhara that settled in the area about 30 years ago in resettlement programmes are now being “killed like chickens”.

Earlier, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had condemned what he described as “horrific acts” in Oromiya, without giving details. “Attacks on innocent civilians and destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces is unacceptable,” he said. The witnesses as well as the Oromia regional government blamed the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) for the attacks. In a statement, the regional government said the rebels attacked “after being unable to resist the operations launched by [federal] security forces”.

OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii denied the allegations, claiming that Abiy’s government was once again blaming the OLA for crimes it had committed itself. “The attack you are referring to was committed by the regime’s military and local militia as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi following our recent offensive,” he said. “They escaped to an area called Tole, where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property as retaliation for their perceived support for the OLA. Our fighters had not even reached that area when the attacks took place,” he added.

Independent journalist Samuel Getachew said attacks against minorities were becoming more frequent in the East African country. “They [Amharas] have asked to be moved to a safer area, perhaps within their own region of Amhara. The government has said they are listening but no action has been taken. Once again, this kind of killing has become the norm,” Samuel said. The Ethiopian journalist said the region has become off-limit due to government restrictions, with the Ethiopian government preventing media people from speaking to OLA rebels declaring them as “terrorists”.

In its report on 29 May 2020, Amnesty International documented a series of alleged abuses in Oromia, where security forces are waging a campaign against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The group is the breakaway armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that pursued military struggle before its return to Ethiopia to pursue a peaceful agenda in 2018.

Amnesty said it had collected evidence that at least 10,000 people suspected of supporting or working for the OLA were detained by security forces in rounds of mass detention that began in January 2019. It also said it had found evidence that at least 39 people were extrajudicially executed amid rising tensions in Oromia's East Guji and West Guji zones. Other documented abuses included multiple cases of torture by security forces, with various people interviewed by Amnesty speaking of severe beatings by the security forces.

By the end of 2017 ethnic violence was worsening in Ethiopia. From Oromia to Amhara regional states, huge anti-government protests were witnessed against what protesters called political and economic marginalization. To make matters worse more than 60 people were also recently killed caused by clashes between the Oromos and Ethio-Somalis.

Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35-40 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. The Oromo, who constitute about 40 percent of the population, are half Orthodox Christians and half Muslims whose traditional alliance with the Amhara in Shewa included participation in public administration and the military. The Oromiya region was established when the new government came to power in 1991. The federal system was divided along ethnic lines. The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in the country.

A long history of censorship of the Oromo by various ruling elites has made censorship one of the major features of Oromo social and aesthetic processes. Not until the fall of Haile Selassie were the voices of other histories and previously peripheral groups given a chance to participate in the dialogue of Ethiopian statehood.

Starting about the mid-sixteenth century, the Oromo people, migrating from the southwest, gradually forced their way into the kingdom, most often by warfare. The Oromo, who eventually constituted about 40 percent of Ethiopia's population, possessed their own culture, religion, and political institutions. As the largest national group in Ethiopia, the Oromo significantly influenced the course of the country's history by becoming part of the royal family and the nobility and by joining the army or the imperial government. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, religious and regional rivalries gradually weakened the imperial state until it was little more than a collection of independent and competing fiefdoms.

The Oromo occupy areas in south and central Ethiopia that only became part of modern Ethiopia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The people in these areas largely became tenants on their own land as the empire consolidated its rule. Many Oromo resented the alien rule of Amhara and Tigray from the highland core of the empire. Haile Selassie tried to win Oromo loyalty by developing alliances with key Oromo leaders. Although this strategy enabled the emperor to co-opt many Oromo into the imperial system, it failed to end Oromo resistance. Examples of this opposition to Addis Ababa included the Azebo-Raya revolt of 1928-30; the 1936 Oromo Independence Movement; and the establishment in 1965 of the Mecha-Tulema, an Oromo self-help organization.

From 1964 to 1970, a revolt in Bale presented the most serious challenge to the Ethiopian government. During that time, separate Oromo rebel groups in Bale conducted hit-and-run raids against military garrisons and police stations. Until 1969 the Somali government provided military assistance to these rebels as part of its strategy of reestablishing a "Greater Somalia." In addition, Oromo rebels attempted to coordinate their military activities with the Western Somali Liberation Front. After Mahammad Siad Barre took over the Somali government in 1969, the Oromo rebels lost Somali support and found it impossible to sustain their campaigns in southeastern Ethiopia. In 1970 the rebels agreed to a truce with the Haile Selassie regime.


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Page last modified: 21-06-2022 16:34:24 ZULU