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Can Ambo Unite Us? By Solomon Kebede

May 6, 2014

This past week, we have witnessed one of the most heartbreaking incidents perpetrated on our people in Ambo and other areas of Oromia Region by the ruling junta. The TPLF-led brutal and repressive regime in Ethiopia has used and is still using a very brutal force against peaceful student demonstrators and civilian population.

This is not the first time that the TPLF murdered Ethiopians en mass in different parts of the country. The regime came to power by gun and maintained its grip to power by gun. It walked all its way to the Capital by killing and has kept up killing peaceful and civilian citizens as its way of governance. The atrocious acts of TPLF/EPRDF have affected every part of our country and there is not any region or village from north to south and east to west that has not been affected.

Just in the early days of its rule in early 1990’s, the TPLF/EPRDF started to pull out what it has in pocket one after the other. The first to taste the vicious and barbaric handling of the regime were members of the former armed forces, and we all remember what happened to them for defending their country. Next, the regime declared war in Oromia that resulted in arbitrary murder, detention and disappearances of several thousands of innocent citizens. The massacres in different areas of Eastern and Western Hararge and Arsi are good examples for this. Further, tens of thousands are still suffering in overt and covert prisons while many others have perished in prisons and detention centers. About the same time, the regime also embarked upon its other peculiar character – inciting conflicts between different sects of our society such as interethnic conflict. This has affected many in Arsi, Hararge, Borana, Guji etc and is still going on.

Next the TPLF brutal hands reached Hawassa (Loque) in May of 2002 when the regime solders fired at a mass of peaceful demonstrators and gunned down some 70 innocent citizens cold blooded. This was followed by the Annuak massacre in Gambella region of December 2003 in which more than 400 innocent people were murdered in a single day by TPLF soldiers and by direct order from the then prime minister. However, we the Ethiopian people were not able to stand and respond together in any of these and this fact emboldened the regime to do more. Accordingly, following the election crisis of 2005, the regime massacred hundreds of innocent citizens, of which the regime itself admitted to have murdered 193, in Addis Ababa alone. Furthermore, the Ogaden area has been put under all out war and ethnic cleansing for years and we have been reading and hearing of cruel crimes against humanity in that region. Then came the case of our brothers and sisters who happen to be Muslims. Simply because our Muslim brothers and sisters did not like the government’s interference in religious affairs consistent with the principles of the religion, we all witnessed the sufferings and ordeals they have gone through. Many Ethiopian Muslims were murdered in various places such as Wollo and Arsi (Asasa) while many others including religious leaders have been arrested and subjected to torture and various abuses. Moreover, the TPLF cruelty has reached various areas in Gojam, Gondar, Tigray, Afar and others. Just few days ago, for instance, five innocent Ethiopians were murdered while several more were injured in Gendaweha, Gondar, by the cruel federal police. The attack by TPLF on Ethiopians is multifaceted and includes extrajudicial killings, detentions, displacements from lands, disappearance etc.

However, in all of these incidents, we have never acted in unison to the extent that can make a difference though we all have felt the pains. By doing that we gave the TPLF a very convenient ground so that it can do any thing it wants to without any problem. Moreover, by doing this, we legitimized the TPLF’s divisive strategy. The regime told us that what happens in one region is up to that same region and we kind of approved it. Even at this very time when the regime is most hated throughout the country, we are still not ready to deny it the chance to fool us.

TPLF/EPRDF has carefully designed and implemented the divide- and-rule strategy on us. The strategy has worked very successfully and, as a result, the regime is harvesting the fruit. The regime is also confident that we remain divided and conquered, and hopes to continue this for indefinite time. I acknowledge the legitimate concerns emanating from the different political views and lines we pursue. However, TPLF has manipulated that difference more than what it really is in order to make it more productive for itself. Our division has given the regime an opportunity to play cards by adhering to one group when it deviates from the other. I urge us to move beyond this and focus on common enemy – the TPLF. Why? Because unless we come together and stand together, we will all remain preys for TPLF and be taken care of one by one.

The current question of the Oromo students is purely about democratic rights and freedom, and is not related to any political organization or view as the TPLF tries to portray. Their main question is why such a life threatening decision for millions of our people around Addis Ababa was made without any consultation with them and where and when will the land grab and sale stop. Land grab and displacement of indigenous people is not new to Oromia. The students have practical information about what happens to those displaced from their lands. In addition, the cumulative effects of brutality, human rights violations, corruption, poor social services, racist policies, inflation and hard living conditions under this government have fueled the peaceful protests. All the major questions they were raising were relating to these and there is no doubt that these are the questions of the entire Ethiopian people. They raised our own questions. Questions deviating from this general trend were very few and only heard on limited occasions. Even in those limited occasions, partly they were purposely introduced into the demonstrations by security agents of the ruling regime to change the course of the protests. Therefore, those things do not characterize this student protest in any way.

Those student protests were peaceful demonstrations without any violence, but they were met with brutality that included shooting, beating and detentions in unspecified places and numbers. In Ethiopia, we all know what an arrest in the hands of TPLF means- it means severe torture that results in permanent or life threatening disability and, in some cases, life long disappearance. International media such as the BBC reported that the town of Ambo alone suffered 47 deaths and hundreds of injuries while local sources put the death toll to over 50. There are more casualties in Guder, Tikur Inchini, Nekemte, Haromaya etc and the arrest and abuse of innocent citizens is widely going on. These are our innocent brothers and sisters who took penalties for trying to use their democratic and constitutional rights. We must unite for Ambo and rally together to demand that such vicious acts stop, all arrested people be released immediately and unconditionally, and the perpetrators brought to justice. We will be voices for those voiceless young school kids who were murdered in the streets and others who are detained en mass. However, we should not unite to only mourn our losses this time. No mourning and no eulogy can comfort the parents of Ambo, whose young school kids were recently massacred in front of their eyes, and the people of Ethiopia in general as getting rid of this evil regime. The cycle of mourning must end. Let us join the Oromia students and get rid of this blood-thirsty regime. Enough is enough. TPLF/EPRDF must go. Can Ambo be a turning point?

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