January 13, 2004
H. E. Kofi Annan
The United Nations
New York. NY 10017
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
We members of the Oromo community organizations in North America and Europe are appealing to you to use your good offices with the government of Ethiopia to abandon its decision to evict Oromia Region’s Government offices and Oromo institutions from Finfinne/Addis Ababa to Adama. The Oromo constitute between 40 and 50 per cent of the Ethiopian population and inhabit mainly the Oromia Region. Finfinne is located in the centre of Oromia and has been its capital as well as Ethiopia’s.
The current TPLF/EPRDF controlled government of Meles Zenawi recognized Oromo's special interest in Finfinne in its National/Regional Self-Government Proclamation No. 7/1992, article 3(4). The Ethiopian Constitution of December 8, 1994, article 49 (5), also acknowledges Oromo rights over the city. Thus, the current directive to forcefully and arbitrarily uproot Oromo institutions from Finfinne (Addis Ababa) does not only violate the TPLF/EPRDF's own constitution and the National/Regional Self-Government Proclamation of 1992 but also denies the democratic rights of the Oromo who have expressed their strong opposition in several ways, including writing petition letters to Meles Zenawi.
The Oromo have been watching with great concern when Meles Zenawi dismissed the elected mayor and councilors of the city of Addis Ababa/Finfinne at the end of 2002 and replaced them mainly with die-hard cadres from his own political party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) based exclusively in the Tigray ethnic group. A year later, the directive to evict Oromo institutions and moving thousands of Oromo employees out of the capital was arbitrarily imposed without any free and honest democratic debate and without consulting the Oromo, who strongly opposed the decision. The implementation of this directive will cut the Oromo from their ancestral ties and historical heritage that they have to Finfinne. The Oromo interpret the directive as a provocative and sinister act of ethnic cleansing reminiscent of past conquests, mass expulsions and loss of land perpetrated against them since the 1880s. It is also regarded as a malicious assault on their distinctive cultural identity and very existence as a people in the capital city.
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
The dictatorial, unresponsive, and genocidal policies of the TPLF minority regime have been causing great harm and suffering to the Oromo people and to most of the rest of Ethiopians during the last decade. Misguided policy decisions, conflicts, war, and destruction have been frequent recurrences and famine, death and utter impoverishment have become the fate of millions of Ethiopians under the Tigrayan domination.
While spending generously billions of dollars on meaningless wars, the Zenawi government has been unwilling to import essential drugs to treat millions from various diseases such as HIV/AIDS pandemic and malaria epidemic among others. For instance, several millions of Ethiopians have died from HIV/AIDS since 1991 and many more millions have tested HIV/AIDS positive, mostly as the result of the government’s own policy of stationing undisciplined troops among the civilian population. Sadly, rapes of women and young girls have been too frequent, transmitting the HIV/AIDS virus to the desperately powerless civilian population. Today malaria epidemic is also causing death and debilitation among millions of Ethiopians of whom the largest proportion is from the Oromo community.
In conclusion, we, members of the Oromo communities living in North America and Europe are greatly concerned and feel obliged to bring this unfolding crisis to your attention and through you to the United Nations so that the international community would intervene and halt this destructively misguided decision and policy by the Zenawi government. We would like to assure you that your timely intervention in the current Addis Ababa conflict would greatly help to avert a major crisis and save the lives of thousands of men, women and children.
For the Organizing Committee,
Abraham T. Mosisa
cc: UN Permanent Security Council Members;
The European Union
The African Union
German UN Mission
United State Department of State
January 13, 2004
H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Secretary General Annan:
We, members of the Oromo community organizations in North America and Europe are writing this appeal letter to draw your attention to:
1. The illegal decision of evicting Oromia Regional government’s offices, institutions and employees from Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Ethiopia;
2. Very serious human rights violations directed against the Oromo people in Ethiopia;
3. Avert outbreak of another devastating war between Eritrea and Ethiopia;
4. Discriminatory policy in famine relief distribution in Ethiopia;
5. The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS pandemic in Oromia;
6. The Ethiopian government’s policy of resettlement that disproportionately affect the Oromo and their land.
In the sacred land of their birth, the Oromo are denied basic democratic, political, civil and cultural rights. Those of us who live in freedom in North America and Europe have a moral obligation to bring to your attention and through you to the United Nations the tragedy of our people at this very moment.
Your speech of some time ago in which you said, “We must put people at the center of everything we do. No calling is more noble, and no responsibility greater, than that of enabling men, women and children in cities and villages around the world to make their lives better.” has been an inspiration for us Oromos. Thank you for expressing so deeply and eloquently our yearning to make the lives of our people better. The first step for making the lives of our people better is to assure their safety from death and destruction. We believe no calling is more urgent and noble, and no responsibility greater for the United Nations at this moment than averting the rapidly deepening crisis in Oromia, Ethiopia, which is developing into the 1994 Rwanda type human tragedy.
We hope you know that the Oromo constitute 40 to 50 percent of the population in Ethiopia. They are the single largest nation in the Horn of Africa and one of the major African peoples. Oromia, the Oromo country, is the largest, the richest and most densely populated regional state in Ethiopia. Oromia forms the backbone of Ethiopian economy. And yet the Oromo have no voice even in the political affairs of their own state because it is totally controlled by the ruling Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) since the group seized state power by force in May 1991 after seventeen years of guerrilla warfare in the province of Tigray. This ex-rebel Tigrayan ethnic front has created several surrogate organizations under the name of Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Forces (EPRDF) to facilitate its control of Ethiopia. The TPLF, which represents less than 8 percent of the population of Ethiopia, fears Oromo numerical strength in any free and fair elections. As a result it has systematically destroyed all independent Oromo organizations. Even the Oromo Relief Association (ORA), a humanitarian organization that was established in 1979, was closed down by the regime of Meles Zenawi and Oromo property confiscated without any due process of law. The goal is to deprive the Oromo people from having any independent organization that does not receive its marching order from Meles Zenawi and the TPLF leadership. Ironically, the TPLF leaders do not trust even their own creation, the surrogate Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) in whose name they have destroyed all independent Oromo organizations. For instance, as the process of their periodic purges and control, the TPLF expelled 20,000 peasants from the membership of OPDO in 1997. Two hundred prominent members were not only expelled but are detained until now (Attachment I). This monopolistic control and exercise of power is continuing today in spite of the democratic façade the Meles Zenawi regime is showing to the world.
Oromia Regional government offices, employees and all Oromo institutions are under the order of Meles Zenawi’s government for eviction from Finfinne (Addis Ababa). The goal for this eviction is simple and the purpose very clear. It is to uproot and weaken and control all Oromo institutions from the major center of cultural activities in Ethiopia. It is to remove the Oromo issue from the nerve center of Ethiopian, African and world politics. It is to de-urbanize the Oromo, and deny them having access to the benefits of modern educational and medical facilities, transportation and communication systems, all of which are disproportionately concentrated in Finfinne (Addis Ababa). Above all, it is to deny the historic and legitimate Oromo claim to Finfinne (Addis Ababa).
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
Imagine what would happen if the Asante people of Ghana, the Yoruba of Nigeria and the Kikuyu of Kenya (to give just three examples from Africa) are denied historic claim to the cities of Kumasi, Lagos and Nairobi respectively and all their political and cultural institutions are evicted from those cities. This is the fate of the Oromo people in Ethiopia.
The Oromo have strong historical and cultural ties to Finfinne and today they constitute a significant part of the capital city's population. Finfinne (Addis Ababa) is located in the heartland of Oromia for which it has been serving as the capital (See attachment II). The current TPLF/EPRDF controlled government of Meles Zenawi recognized Oromo's special interest in Finfinne in its National/Regional Self-Government Proclamation No. 7/1992 article 3(4) of which states " The special national interest and political right of the Oromo over Region Thirteen (i.e. Finfinne) … are reserved..." Also article 49 (5) of the Ethiopian constitution of December 8, 1994 provides "The special interest of the state of Oromia in Addis Ababa (Finfinne), regarding the provision of social services or the utilization of natural resources and other similar matters, as well as joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Ababa within the State of Oromia, shall be respected."
Thus, the current directive to forcefully and arbitrarily uproot Oromo institutions from Finfinne (Addis Ababa) does not only violate the TPLF/EPRDF's own constitution and the National/Regional Self-Government Proclamation of 1992 but also denies the democratic rights of the Oromo who expressed their strong opposition in several ways, including writing petition letters to Meles Zenawi, leader of the Ethiopian regime (See attachment III). This act also cuts the Oromo from their ancestral ties and historical heritage that they have to Finfinne. It was in the 1880's that king Menelik occupied the Oromo territory of Finfinne and renamed it Addis Ababa making it the capital of his newly created Ethiopian empire (see attachment IV). The Oromo interpret the directive as a provocative and malicious assault on their distinctive cultural identity and very existence as a people in this capital city.
The Oromo see in the eviction decision a premeditated sinister motive of ethnic cleansing reminiscent of past conquests and mass expulsion and loss of land. Currently they are aware of the existence of an ambitious master plan of creating Greater Addis Ababa with the consequent expulsion of thousands of Oromo farmers from their property all around the capital. The justification for the planned expansion is claimed under the pretext of accommodating an expanding urban population and providing additional land for investors. As the consequence of this policy, the Oromo and Oromia are going to lose their lands.
The Oromo have been watching with great concern when Meles Zenawi dismissed the elected mayor and councilors of the city of Addis Ababa (Finfinne) at the end of 2002 and replaced them mainly with die-hard TPLF party cadres from his own Tigray ethnic group. A year later, the directive to evict Oromia offices and moving thousands of Oromo employees out of their capital was imposed without any free and honest democratic debate, disrespecting Oromo's historical and cultural ties and Oromia's explicitly and legally guaranteed interests in Finfinne (Addis Ababa).
Oromia office employees, students, and Oromo citizens generally living in and around Finfinne (Addis Ababa) were dismayed when they were prohibited from discussing the issue in public. For instance, the legally recognized self-help Oromo association, the Macha Tulama Association was prohibited from meeting and was ordered to dismiss at gun point by hundreds of armed guards and police force on December 14, 2003. Moreover, when they called a public demonstration on January 4, 2004 against the eviction decision after giving 72 hours prior notification to the authorities according to the law in the book, thousands of heavily armed government security forces sealed routes in and around Addis Ababa to prevent hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from congregating in the city’s main square known as the Mesqal Square. Contrary to the constitutional and legal guarantees of democratic rights of citizens, heavily armed police used excessive brutal force to disperse several thousand demonstrators who reached the square. Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, including many senior citizens over seventy years of age, were brutally beaten and several hundreds of them including the Association’s president and officers were detained by the police according to reliable media sources including the Voice of America news broadcast of January 5. The Meles Zenawi government has opted to resort to brute force and intimidation against the Oromo instead of listening to their genuine demands and grievances, foreclosing any democratic debate with them on issues they consider so vital to their interests and welfare.
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
Although Oromia Regional State is autonomous in name, the TPLF controls totally the political, military and economic resources of Oromia. In violation of the 1994 constitution and the National/Regional Self-Government Proclamation No. 7/1992 and other laws, the Melels Zenawi government has created the Ministry of Federal Affairs through which it has systematically been eroding powers of the regional governments and putting Oromia under an authoritarian central control. The Ministry is staffed and headed mainly by Tigrayan ethnic cadres acting as colonial masters of the bygone era. The TPLF soldiers are the law unto themselves, and they can imprison, torture and kill anyone, even top OPDO officials without any due process of law. In short, there is no rule of law in Oromia, where our people are subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without trial and extrajudicial execution. In their own land our people are denied the right to organize freely and express their political opinion. Ethiopia is supposed to have been a democratic federal republic since 1995. What is federalism when thirty million people in Oromia are not allowed to freely organize and support their own political organization or express their demands and grievances to the government in petitions or public rallies? Today, it is a serious crime in Ethiopia to support an independent Oromo organization such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and others. Supporters of the OLF are constantly harassed, imprisoned and killed. According to a recent US Country Report on Human Rights Practices, there are "more than 7,500" political prisoners in detention in Oromia. This is a very conservative estimate and we believe the true figure may be ten times higher. By its own admission, the Ethiopian Government revealed not long ago that prisons in Oromia are unable to cope with the flood of Oromo prisoners, thus, thousands of Oromo men and women, young and old are detained for years without any due process of law (See attachment V).
At this moment in the 21st century, we do not know any country in the world where the majority of the population is terrorized by a tiny minority as it is happening to the Oromo today in Ethiopia. There is massive evidence, which demonstrates beyond doubt that the TPLF regime is intensifying the persecution of the Oromo (Attachment VI). Even those Oromo nationals, who manage to escape from persecution in Ethiopia, are killed by the agents of the Ethiopian regime in the neighboring states of Djibouti (Attachment VII), Kenya (Attachment VIII); Somalia and more recently even in South Africa (Attachment IX). Those who are not killed in the neighboring states face the danger of forced repatriation or cross-border raids by Ethiopian government security forces (Attachment X). There is no doubt in our minds that the Ethiopian regime is engaged in systematic destruction of Oromo intellectuals, business and cultural elites and above all, Oromo nationalists and supporters of independent Oromo organizations. We believe there was no time like now since the conquest and colonization of Oromia during and after the 1880s, when the best elements of the Oromo society were singled out for destruction, without any protest from the international community. We hope and pray that the United Nations under your able leadership will not remain silent while our people are systematically destroyed.
Dear Mr. Secretary-General:
We, members of the Oromo communities living in North America and Europe, are greatly concerned, upset and felt obliged to bring this unfolding crisis to your attention and through you to the United Nations so that the international community would intervene and avert this dangerous decision and policy by the Meles Zenawi government. Many Ethiopians in general and Oromos in particular are upset by the dictatorial, unresponsive and genocidal policies of the regime which have been causing great harm and suffering to the people since the TPLF/EPRDF had seized power in May 1991. Conflicts, war and destruction have been frequent recurrences and concomitant abject poverty, famine, death and destruction the fate of millions of Ethiopians under the Tigrayan domination. The Ethio-Eritrean war, fought on a tiny, useless barren piece of rocky land, claimed the lives of about 125,000 productive young men and women. The largest numbers of these are disproportionately Oromo recruits, thousands of whom were forcedly used as mine sweepers by their Tigrayan commanders. The war is not concluded with a permanent peace treaty and war clouds are still threatening on the horizon today. We urge that the international community exert all the influence and use any possible means to prevent the outbreak of yet another devastating slaughter on the useless piece of territory.
Besides the death and destruction from the senseless war, massive starvation and famine have been decimating millions of Ethiopians most of whom are Oromos and Somalis from southern and eastern Oromia and the Ogaden Somali Region respectively. The government has not been only very slow in seeking international food assistance but diverted the aid when it arrived to feed its troops and the people of Tigray while exposing others to greater risks and insecurity. This danger and food insecurity is still a persisting serious problem at the present.
The Oromo are also disproportionately exposed to HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia where millions of people have tested positive. It is the government's policy of stationing undisciplined troops among the people which is primarily responsible for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS. Rapes of women and young girls have been frequent occurrences since the TPLF started stationing its troops in Oromia in 1991. The inefficient government bureaucracy has been very slow to seek international assistance to combat the pandemic which is devastating families and leaving millions of orphans behind.
Just like HIV/AIDS, today malaria epidemic is causing death and debilitation among millions of Ethiopians of whom the largest proportion is from the Oromo community. The government's refusal to import the more effective drugs has exposed millions to greater risks and death as recently reported in the New York Times of December 9, 2003. It is shameful, irresponsible, and inexcusable when this government wastes billions of dollars to fight a senseless Ethio-Eritrean war and refuses to import effective drugs to treat millions of sick people in Ethiopia.
The government's policy of resettling millions of people in the lowlands, without proper studies and preparation, is exposing the settlers to malaria, other diseases and dislocation besides causing massive deforestation and potential environmental disaster. This policy is arbitrarily imposed against the expressed opposition of large numbers of people including the Oromo who are losing their lands to the settlers. The resettlement policy is creating inter-communal tension and conflict between the indigenous land owners and the new settlers. As the result of this policy, there have been several inter-communal fights in different regions where government troops intervened and brutally suppressed local resistance.
Finally, since the TPLF seized power in 1991, the current regime has consistently waged war on the Oromo and other Southern Ethiopian peoples in violating their human rights and depriving them of personal security. As reported by several human rights organizations including the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Africa, US State Department, Survival International, The Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Commission of Jurors, Ethiopia Human rights Council and Oromia Support Group, the regime has consistently muzzled any opposition, denied them their democratic rights to compete freely in the political process in spite of its claim, in order to win international support and legitimacy, of establishing a working democracy. In fact, police brutality and indiscriminate killings have been employed readily against demonstrators in Addis Ababa, Awassa, Gambella, and many other parts of the country in the last decade. Thousands of Oromos have been imprisoned, tortured and killed extra-judicially for no apparent reason except for being Oromo and not endorsing the regime’s repressive rule (See Attachment XI).
Today, there are more Oromo students, teachers, farmers, intellectuals, lawyers, doctors, journalists, businessmen and women in prison in Oromia than at any time in the past. Almaz Mako, the former speaker of the House of Federation and the second in line of succession to Presidency of Ethiopia summed up the Oromo situation in these words when she defected: The Ethiopian “government has brought untold miseries and sufferings on the Oromo people” (See Attachment XII). We hope and pray that the United Nations under your leadership will take practical measures that will address Oromo miseries and sufferings before it is too late.
Dear Mr. Secretary General:
In light of what we have stated above, which is a tip of an iceberg in terms of what the current Ethiopian government has been doing to the Oromo people we, members of Oromo community organizations in North America and Europe request you to take the following practical measures that will better the lives of millions of people in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia.
I. Regarding the decision to evict the government of Oromia and Oromo institutions from Finfinne (Addis Ababa):
1. We ask you to use your good offices with the government of Ethiopia to stop harassing the Oromo people and arbitrarily evicting their regional offices and employees from Finfinne against their will.
2. Advice the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to respect Oromo cultural and historical ties to Finfinne as provided in the Ethiopian Constitution of 1994, existing laws and practices.
3. Advise the Meles Zenawi government to respect the constitutionally given powers of the regional government such as Oromia.
4. To dismantle unconstitutionally created colonial structures such as the Ministry of Federal Affairs.
5. Allow free and fair democratic elections for the city government of Finfinne (Addis Ababa) and dismiss the currently handpicked TPLF cadre appointees.
II. Regarding the human rights situation in Ethiopia:
1. Advise the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to respect its own Constitution of 1994 and stop its extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests of innocent people and prolonged detention without trial.
2. Demand the speedy trial or unconditional release of tens of thousands of prisoners in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia.
3. Urge the government of Meles Zenawi to respect the right of the Oromo people to self-determination.
4. Appoint a special rapporteur on human rights violations in Ethiopia, which will monitor the human rights records of the Ethiopian government and reports back to the United Nations for action.
III. Regarding the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia:
1. Exert every effort to avert yet another Ethiopia-Eritrean war which will cause additional death and destruction and impoverishment of what are already the poorest countries in the world.
2. Advise the government of Meles Zenawi to settle Ethiopia‘s border conflict with Eritrea peacefully within the framework of the Algiers Agreement of 2000.
3. Impress upon the leaders of both countries that the party that fails to abide by the terms of treaties already agreed upon and signed will suffer economic and moral sanctions by the United Nations and the international community.
IV. Regarding distribution of relief assistance:
1. To continue and intensify UN agencies’ efforts in assisting the famine stricken people directly rather than relying on the Ethiopian government.
2. To closely monitor the delivery of such assistance to make sure that it will not be diverted to feed the government army and militia or any favored region.
3. Advise the government of Meles Zenawi to allow the Oromo Relief Association to freely operate in Oromia and provide sustained development assistance so that the people will be spared another famine.
V. Regarding the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Oromia:
1. Continue your kind efforts through all relevant UN agencies to combat HIV/AIDS and directly assist the people instead of giving funds to the corrupt Zenawi government to tackle the scourge.
2. Advise the Ethiopian government not to station among civilian population its undisciplined troops, who are the main cause of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Oromia.
3. Urge the Ethiopian government to intensify education about HIV/AIDS in all languages in Ethiopia.
VI. Regarding the government’s resettlement policy:
1. Direct UN agencies to stop funding Ethiopian government’s misguided resettlement program.
2. Advise the Ethiopian government to freeze its irresponsible resettlement policy.
Finally, as an articulate defender of human rights and democratic values, we believe you are in a unique historical moment to take the above mentioned measures which will better the lives of millions of people in Oromia and other parts of Ethiopia. As the world’s top diplomat--the Secretary General of the United Nations--you have an extraordinary opportunity to make timely intervention in the current Addis Ababa (Finfinne) crisis and save the lives of millions of Africans. We appreciate all your efforts at improving governance in Africa and bettering the social, economic and political lives of so many people around the world.
The Organizing Committee
Organizing Committee members:
1. Mr. Abraham T. Mosisa
Oromo Studies Association (OSA), President
2. Asfaw Beyene, Ph.D.
Professor, Mechanical engineering, San Diego State University
3. Bahiru Gemetchu, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D.
Oromo Studies Association, member, Board of Directors
4. Beyan Asoba, LLD
Oromo Studies Association, member, Board of Directors
5. Bichaka Fayissa, Ph.D.
Professor, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee; Editor, JOS
6. Mr. Bula Atomsa
Oromo Community of Minneapolis, Chairperson
7. Mr. Daniel Namara
Oromo Community leader, Minneapolis, Minnesota
8. Mr. Ibsa Ahmed
Oromo Community leader, New York State
9. Mr. Itana Gemada
Oromo Community leader, Washington D.C. Metro areas
10. Mekurai Bulcha, Ph.D.
Uppsala University, Sweden; OSA President-Elect
11. Mesfin Abdi, Ph.D.
Oromo community Organization, North America, Chairperson
12. Mohammed Hassen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Georgia State University
13. Mr. Nigusse Birratu
Washington Metro areas Oromo Community Organization, Chairman of the Board
14. Mr. Sisai Ibsa
Oromo Community leader, Washington D.C. Metro areas
15. Professor Tilahun Gamta
New York Oromo Community Chairperson, OSA Board of Directors, member
All correspondents should be sent to:
Abraham T. Mosisa
P. O. Box 77131
Washington D.C. 20013