Ethiopia: Press Release by Mahbere Kidus Yared Zeorthodox Tewahdo (02.07.2021)

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC): Tigray Region – Need for Urgent Measures to Ensure the Safety and Security of Civilians (03.07.2021)

Ethiopia: The Government of the National State of Tigray Commits itself Fully to Supporting Humanitarian Access in Tigray (02.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Deputy Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and State Minister Ambassador Redwan briefed the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on unilateral Humanitarian Ceasefire (02.07.2021)

Ethiopia: Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) & Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) – Declaration on the Establishment of Oromia Regional National Transitional Government (30.06.2021)

First Announcement
Preamble
1. Introduction, the overall situation in Oromia
The Oromo people have been waging a continuous struggle with immense sacrifices for over a century to regain natural rights it has been denied, to free itself from subjugation, and to ultimately secure the right to self-determination. The human and material cost of the struggle for freedom, even after the birth of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that rendered modern organizational and political shape to the Oromo people’s quest for freedom by mobilizing a unified course of action, was immense. With the unprecedented level of mobilization of the Oromo youth organized under the Oromo Qeerroo/Qarree (youth) and the Oromo populace in general around 2015, the human casualties and material costs of the struggle had skyrocketed to a tipping point. Thousands have paid the ultimate price with their precious lives while many more were left with permanent disabilities. Even though the human and material loss in this mass mobilization was concluded with a bitter-sweet victory, the fruits of the sacrifices paid by the Oromo Qeerroo were hijacked by visibly and invisibly conspired hands. The much awaited and hoped for victory was reversed taking an unintended course, leaving the sacrifices in vain.
The anticipated political reforms, resumption of dialogue around the institutionalization of true democratic order that would respect the rights of peoples to self-determination within the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) failed miserably, – before moving an inch forward. Some cautious organizations that were skeptical of the reformists’ potential to effect a fundamental change in Ethiopia proposed an all-inclusive transitional government that could lay foundations for the said reform to bring about a lasting change as a point of departure from the outgoing old order. One among such political forces was the Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom & Democracy (PAFD), a coalition of many political organizations to which the OLF belonged as a senior founding member. When the call for a transitional arrangement of the alliance fell on deaf ears, ambitious political organizations, disenfranchised activists, and foreign powers with vested interests in Ethiopia commenced rallying around a group that sprang out of the embattled Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The new group, disguised as a dynamic force for change, headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed placed itself at the helm of an undefined transitional terrain. It was amid such confusion that the country headed for the 6th national election in 2020. This chaos allowed the same functionaries of the old ruling party, the EPRDF, as legitimate rulers of the country without reaching at any fundamental consensus among the major political forces whose consent should have been vital to offer the slightest legitimacy to the new oligarchy.
Nevertheless, the repressive, alienating, and disenfranchising policies that Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s administration embarked on for the last three years as a tool to dismember genuine political forces so they can not partake in the election. This has completely dashed the hope of many including those who adored him at one point.
The COVID-19 pandemic was perceived as a blessing in disguise for Abiy’s regime that was already fan-fairing for pretexts to extend the election timetable while the country was grappling with political uncertainty. As a result, Abiy was able to postpone the national elections to 2021 without the consent of the political forces and stakeholders, thereby, ensuing a constitutional crisis that was already underway. Subsequently, the ruling party whose mandate has expired illegally extended its illegitimate rule to this date. The OLF, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and some of their allies protested the illegal extension of the incumbent’s mandate as unconstitutional, but to no avail.
Even though a much-needed reform was hoped for to transition the country to democracy, peace and stability, things went from bad to worse. Popular demands were neglected, projects to resurrect imperial Ethiopia’s glorious old order under the guise of Ethiopia’s unity began to emerge as a strategy to dilute what had been accomplished by years of popular demands and generational sacrifices. Civil discourse is impossible because the incumbent ruling clique is heavily corrupted, full of conscious liars, and opportunists.
The OLF and OFC have reiterated, time and again, that the illegal practices by the ruling party are against the law of the land which would exacerbate the conflict between citizens and the regime as well as the overall communal relations between the diverse constituencies of the Ethiopian state. The regime’s reactions to such genuine pleas for freedom and democracy were only limited to the usual lip service of hollow promises.
Currently the State of Oromia and its citizens are in a dire situation. There is no administrative or state structure that can provide meaningful services to citizens. A war has been declared on Oromia and people are paying with the lives of their own sons and daughters daily. In addition to the Ethiopian armed forces, local militias, the Amhara region’s special forces, and a foreign force – the Eritrean army are operative in the war against Oromia. It should be noted here that the war was waged with full consent of Abiy who also invited the Eritrean army to occupy Oromia. Substantial territory of Oromia is now a war zone, resulting in massive displacement and death. People are fleeing their villages leaving their belongings behind. The invading army is inflicting untold misery to Oromo farmers and pastoralists. Houses are burned into ashes, their cattle confiscated, properties looted, and women raped. Men are being executed, beaten to death, or will be taken prisoners for no apparent reason. Many of the able-bodied Oromo men and women who were unable to endure such atrocities have joined the fighting forces of the Oromo Liberation Army. There is no rule of law in Ethiopia; there is no accountability. The regime’s henchmen are acting so arbitrarily and erratically simply because they have enough resources at their disposal to do whatever they want to. Simply stated, there is no government in Oromia in the true sense of the term.
The self-appointed ruling clique that operates under the name Prosperity Party (PP) has successfully put a dictatorial regime in place. As stated above, the new rulers of Ethiopia were members of the old regime that had been inflicting untold miseries on the citizens of Oromia and other peoples of Ethiopia, emerged with a new name disguised as a reformer. The regime has shown its resolve to dissolve Ethiopia’s multi-nation federalism and reinstitute old Ethiopia of one nation, one language, and one culture, validated by a weird narrative that group rights, if granted to Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities, would be a menace to Ethiopia as they see it. As a result, the regime is diligently working to dismantle the Oromia Regional State and divide the Oromo people by depriving them of a unified Oromia federal state territory. To this end, it has recruited individuals believed to be loyal to the ruling clique, whose key task is cutting the basic and essential services from Oromia, services that a regional administration needs to establish itself as a regional government.
We view the 6th national election null and void since it does not meet criteria of an election by any standard. It was conducted without contending political parties, the two major political organizations that very well represented the interests of the citizens of Oromia, OLF & OFC, were forced to withdraw from the race. The election was conducted at a time when leaders, members, and supporters of these two organizations were languishing in prisons throughout the country. Almost all offices of both organizations were either raided or forced to close.
The OLF and OFC had shown their commitments to democratic principles and have done their best to make this election free and fair for all. They have been calling for constructive dialogues on different platforms for a return to the right course even after they sensed that the election process was getting off track. Mindful of the fraudulent election that did not resolve the country’s grave socio-political problems, the OLF and OFC made a national call to all stakeholders for the establishment of a government of national salvation in Ethiopia.
To guard its sovereignty and exercise self-rule, make a firm stride towards freedom and democratic rights, allow rays of peace to shine and end the misery of decades, and safeguard its national interests, it has become imperative for Oromia to establish a transitional government that operates until it is replaced by a democratically elected government. The OLF and OFC, as two major stakeholders, are taking upon the duty of shouldering the aspirations of the Oromo people in this historic effort and forming such a transitional government. Thus, after a thorough analysis of the ongoing political situation in the country, in consultation with Oromo intellectuals, professionals, and leaders of the Oromo civic society, the OLF and OFC hereby declare the establishment of the Oromia Regional National Transitional Government of Oromia (ORNTG) on this day of July 1, 2021, to serve for three years within which time a legitimate government of the people by the people is established. The ORNTG is being inaugurated at a very critical time in our region’s history, at a time when the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front is regaining its control over Tigray following a bloody war against the Federal forces, and at a time when the entire country is increasingly engulfed by chaos and unrest. These developments and the political deteriorations discussed above make the creation of the ORNTG imperative – to protect all the citizens of Oromia and better serve its people.
2. Oromia Regional National Transitional Government guiding principle
ORNTG accepts all International Human Rights Declarations that Ethiopia signed and in addition, during the transitional period, ORNTG:
2.1 Recognizes and sees to it that the ultimate power rests in the hands of the people of Oromia.
2.2 Respects and protects the rights of all citizens of Oromia.
2.3 Respects and defends equality between men and women.
2.4 Assures that Oromia Reginal State constitutions uder Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are the supreme laws of Oromia. ORNTG shall not pass any laws contrary to these supreme laws.
2.5 Recognizes the separation of State and Religion in Oromia. There is no state religion. ORNTG respects freedom of religion.
2.6 Protects and respects the rights of other nationalities in Oromia.
2.7 Assures that the judiciary system is independent from the other branches of ORNTG.
2.8 Provides basic services and other duties as outlined by the law.
2.9 Collaborates with other regional governments and share responsibility with the federal government.
2.10 Works diligently to bring democracy, peace, stability, and economic development to the Horn of Africa.
3. Organizational Structure of Oromia Regional National Transitional Government
3.1 ORNTG shall have a Council composed of 337 members selected from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), civic society, religious institutions, Gadaa institution, youth organizations, and women organizations.
3.2 ORNTG serves as a transitional government of Oromia until a government elected by the people takes over. The term of ORNTG shall not exceed three years.
3.3 ORNTG council shall have a speaker and a vice speaker. The council establishes necessary committees to carry out its duties. The speaker of the council presides over the council’s meetings and is responsible for the governance of the council.
3.4 ORNTG has structures at different administrative levels. The ORNTG can have administrative structures at any level it wishes to.
3.5 ORNTG Council shall be the law-making body of ORNTG.
3.6 The responsibility for implementing and enforcing the laws rests with the president of ORNTG. The president reports to the ORNTG Council.
3.7 The President of ORNTG shall be the head of the executive branch of the ORNTG. The president shall represent ORNTG, and he shall nominate vice presidents and heads of executive departments to the ORNTG Council for approval. The president shall oversee and give directives to the executive departments.
3.8 During the transition period, existing government structures that are providing basic services to the people will continue to function. The ORNTG shall facilitate the completion of development projects that are underway.
3.9 ORNTG shall work closely with international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Diplomatic Mission Groups, Human Rights Groups, Non-Governmental Organizations, and any organizations that have interests in Oromia.
3.10 The ORNTG shall work with other regional/ state governments to create a genuine and all-inclusive transitional agreement at the federal level in the presence of third party such as the African Union, European Union, influential individuals, and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch to ensure that it is open, genuine, and free.
3.11 The ORNTG shall work with interested groups and organizations including international media to build a transparent and democratic system, to promote good governance, and launch upon expedited development.
4. Transitional Period Program
ORNTG shall work on security, political, economy, and social services of all Oromian citizens during the transitional period as listed below.
4.1. To establish peace and security that has been lacking in recent years in Oromia, ORNTG will:
a. Work with local communities to identify potential elements which can affect peace and security of the people and security forces will be immediately deployed to places where problems emerge to protect local communities to maintain peace.
b. Encourage discussions with neighboring leaders and other nationalities about shared values towards building peace and stability based on friendly relationships.
c. Work on repatriating families and displaced communities back to their homes and properties as soon as conditions permit.
d. Establish strategies to support communities who were either displaced or forced to leave their homes and lands because of their vulnerability to socio-economic challenges.
4.2 ORNTG shall establish a Commission on Reconciliation and Transitional Justice responsible to investigate and prosecute all crimes by previous regimes against citizens of Oromia.
4.3 ORNTG shall establish a special committee to collect data on all martyrs of Oromia and recommend appropriate commemoration for them.
4.4 In order to impose the rule of law, ORNTG will,
a. Reaffirm the independence of the judiaciary system and respect for the court’s decision.
b. Work to prevent illegal detentions and human right violations against anyone.
c. Persecute individuals or groups involved in illegal activities.
d. Protect properties of all citizens and residents of Oromia that were obtained legally.
e. Hold government officials at all levels accountable for any crimes or illegal activities they commit.
4.5 ORNTG shall facilitate a fair, free, and transparent election to establish a legitimate and legal government, and transfer power to the winning party(s).
4.6 Based on the policies of the ORNTG, all political prisoners will be released.
4.7 On economic growth, ORTNG will work to:
a. Identify all factors that resulted in low income and implement policies to improve living standards of the people.
b. Encourage everyone to build wealth but only through fair and legal practices.
c. Increase productivity and capacity in agriculture, animal breeding, business, and industrial sectors for national economic growth as well as to improve the living standards of the people.
d. Implement policies to expand transportation and communication as vital for economic growth.
4.8 On social justice, ORNTG shall work to,
a. Expand education, public health services, basic development infrastructures, and the likes, towards sufficient capacity for public services.
b. Create the environment for all social segments to participate and play their expected political, social, and economic roles while benefiting from them.
c. Maximize the contributions and involvements of women and children by recognizing their essential roles in today’s living conditions as well as for the future of the nation.
d. Strengthen the involvements of the youth and women in national political, economic, and social activities by recognizing their roles as a wealth of productive manpower for the nation.
e. Give special focuses to work on setting up government services for different disabled citizens.
We, members of the Transitional Council of ORNTG, unanimously approve and hereby declare the establishment of Oromia Regional Transitional Government.
Transitional Council of Oromia Regional National Transitional Government
June 30, 2021
Finfinnee

Opinion: Abiy cannot save himself from the tragedies he ordered in the Republic

If we had looked back three years ago or so. We would have seen hope and positivity. There would be brigades of people cherishing on the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. He seemed like the real deal and would be someone who would make a difference. However, that was clearly all just a lie and deceit from his part. He has just consolidated all power and now wants to bury anyone opposing him.

Prime Minister Abiy have not only tarnished his name. He has destroyed the hope of him being a collective leader for all the people of Ethiopia. Abiy is a man for a selective group and plans to use this power to control everyone. The Prime Minister have rebranded and restructured the former Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defence Force (EPRDF) coalition into the Prosperity Party. A party run by him and his “Yes-Men”.

The Addis Ababa clique is now running wild. They are detaining anyone who opposes it. If they have a big issue, the ones are high ranking officials are targeted with treason-charges or terrorism. That is what they also do with two groups in the nation. This is furthering the battle-cries and not ensuring a possible option for a national dialogue between all groups. Instead, his playing to his elite and the ones who support his reign.

Abiy is now a warlord. He is creating warfare in Tigray. Using “Command Post” ways in Oromia. He is not stopping conflict in Afar or in Ogaden. The Prime Minister will be remembered for his use of force, use of the state to strangle the opposition and take all power in his hands. That’s why thousands of political prisoners, a region filled with people starving and looting. The state is clearly not serving everyone, but a selected few.

The Prime Minister is promising everything, but only showing fierce force. He is using his Tripartite Alliance to destroy Tigray. While claiming to redevelop the region he burned, silenced and used a civil war to get his way. Therefore, he will not be remembered for signing a peace agreement, but causing war in his own Republic.

Abiy will be remembered for the warfare, the destruction and the genocide in Tigray. The bloody murders, the innocent lives taken and all the people who was taken for granted. This in combination of the people who are already oppressed in other regions like Oromia and Ogaden. These have been muffled with years and their leaders are struggling to participate in the state of affairs. They are either behind bars or not allowed to do political work. Therefore, this will not end well…

Prime Minister Abiy has blood on his hands. His working in tandem with the Amhara and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki who has no trouble causing these extra judicial killings, murders and tragic demise of civilians. They are causing hunger, a new refugee crisis and remotely tarnishing families for decades. That is what is happening.

Everyone who dares to question, ask for transparency or realism with Abiy will be detained, crucified and stop breathing if possible. That is what he does and what his known for now. This is a man that came in with the talks of negotiations, dialogue and peace. However, he will be known for civil war, a modern day tyrant and being a ‘Mad King’.

Surely, Abiy didn’t anticipate this, because his ego is higher than the sky. Just like the state is supposed to be able to create artificial rain. While living on budgets supported by World Bank and International Monetary Funds. A state that has dwindled much funds into war and wasting some on a Ministry of Peace at the same time.

Abiy can use publicity stunts planting trees, but its the bullets he will be remembered for. That is hat affected people not only that moment they went out of the barrel, but for what damage it caused. The shelling, the bullets and the missiles will linger in people mind. The starvation, the tactics of burning planes and burning villages. The attacks and usage of public domain, the manner of distorting media reporting and blaming journalists who are on the front-lines. If not arrest the ones who are translating for the international media as well…

Neither can he salvage the up-coming election. He wants it to look credible, free and fair. However, how can it be fair… when his enemies and opponents are all behind bars? If their parties are not able to compete or have the ability to rally its supporters? How is that become a real election?

It is a selection and a private enterprise to give himself the legitimacy to continue as the ‘Mad King’. So, he can swear himself in and be the big-man he assumes he is. Though everyone knows a warlord when they see one. Abiy is one of them…. and that’s his legacy whether he likes it or not.

The blood is on his hands and he cannot wash this way. The rivers of blood, the tears of the innocent and the horrific actions of the state towards them. That is how people will remember him. He will not be remembered for his speeches, slogans or whatever he does to look magnificent.

That’s why his a ‘Mad King’ … and he cannot run away from it. He wants PR to save his image and his legacy. Though that will not work. When the dust is settled the general public will see the damage, see the pain and suffering that he caused. The deaths, the sickness and the pain he gave others. Just so he could reign and be the big-man. Was it worth it though? Is his life worth so many people demise? What makes Abiy so special and reasons to take others people lives?

I don’t have the answer, but I don’t get how people like him can rule and see people die on his watch. Without any care of the world… and without any sort of regret. They died so he could rule and we are just supposed to praise him for it. However, I want him to be accountable for the actions made and the costs of it too. He should beside every casket and participate in every burial. As he ordered their death by default. If he was there and had seen all the lives taken. He would maybe be more humble and not been as brutal towards the ones who oppose him. Peace.

Ethiopia: Seb-Hidri Civil Society of Tigrai – A letter to Your Excellency Ms Michelle Bachelet, United Nation Higher commissioner for Human Rights (25.03.2021)

Ethiopia: UNHCR reaches destroyed camps in northern Tigray (26.03.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has gained access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for the first time since November 2020, amid ongoing security concerns.

During a joint mission to the area with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, we found both camps completely destroyed, and all the humanitarian facilities looted and vandalized.

In Hitsats, most of the shelters in an area known as zone A, as well as UNHCR’s offices and staff guest house, were found burnt to the ground. The mission confirmed what satellite imagery and accounts from refugees had indicated at the beginning of this year.

UNHCR is deeply concerned for the well-being of the Eritrean refugees who had been residing there, all of whom have fled the camps.

The joint mission was also able to visit Shiraro town; refugees are understood to be scattered in the area and in urgent need of safety and support. A subsequent mission will seek to identify the numbers living there and assess the possibility for UNHCR and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs, ARRA, to deliver assistance and plan for voluntary relocation.

Of some 20,000 refugees that lived in the two northern camps of Hitsats and Shimelba prior the crisis, more than 7,000 have either made their own way or were assisted by Ethiopian authorities to reach the other two Eritrean refugee camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush. In addition, we have so far been in contact with more than 2,000 refugees from Hitsats and Shimelba in Shire, Mekelle, Afar, and Addis Ababa.

In Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, food and core relief supplies have been provided to the relocated refugees. They are currently living with relatives, in schools or other communal buildings in the camps which are already over-capacity, as well in some 500 newly-built emergency shelters. While another 100 shelters are under construction, they will not be sufficient. Urgent identification of alternative locations to accommodate more refugee arrivals is a priority, especially with the coming rainy season.

UNHCR’s individual reception, counselling and registration services have reopened in both camps. UNHCR and its partners are scaling up child protection and gender-based violence support services.

Local authorities have reported the presence of some 95,000 Ethiopians who are internally displaced within Shiraro’s administrative area. About 47,000 people were registered by authorities last month while the rest are estimated to have arrived since. To date, the vast majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) are living within the host community, and some 30,000 are living in five settlements. In Shimelba camp, the humanitarian team found over 2,000 IDPs and vulnerable host community members who had sought sanctuary in the camp.

All of the displaced people in Shiraro and Shimelba are in dire need of urgent life-saving assistance, including food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. UNHCR reiterates the joint UN call for all parties to urgently enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification. We call for the right to seek asylum to be fully respected.

Ethiopia: Office of the Prime Minister – On Discussions with President Isaias Afwerki (26.03.2021)

Ethiopia: Oromo Political Prisoners Defence Team – Hamza Borana Pleads Not Guilty: Full Statement He Delivered in Court (22.03.2021)

Your Honours,
I, Hamza Borana, plead not guilty to the charges levelled against me. I am innocent of all the charges and I consider the case political. I am charged with:
(1) Inciting violence between nations and nationalities
(2) Inciting the people against the government
(3) Inciting the Oromo people against the Amhara and Orthodox Christians,
(4) Stating that the Neftegna will not govern us and that the Neftegna system has been killing the Oromo people
(5) That I have stated that people should not carry the federal flag during national holidays in Oromia and agitated for measures to be taken against those found carrying it
(6) That I have stated that Oromo nationalists are being killed and the Oromo people should arm itself and rise up.
Before I enter a plea on these charges, I would like to take a few minutes to tell the court about myself.
This is the first time in my life that I have been accused of a crime and stood before a court to plead to a criminal charge. Unless we work towards building a democratic order, I don’t believe this will be my last. Politically motivated legal proceedings against political foes will continue until we address the central political challenges and practices. If we fail to address our country’s original political sins and continue on this path of manipulation and oppression, innocent citizens will continue to be victims and the oppressor will continue to oppress.
I am here today before this court accused of committing a crime because I wanted to play my part in the struggle against this politics of manipulation and domination.
I was not surprised by the detention and the charges. Before joining this struggle, I knew quite well that there is always a risk of detention, suffering, and being killed like my forefathers. I was not surprised because I joined the struggle after preparing myself to pay the necessary sacrifice. Before becoming a politician, I was forced to flee my country and live-in exile for seven years because I fought for equality and justice. Within those seven years, I founded Radio Daandii Haqaa (RDH) and served as its director and journalist to amplify the voice of my people.
The whole nation and the programs we did and the guests we invited are a testament to the fact that I used the Radio to lead the people’s struggle by peaceful means only, while building bridges between communities, and focusing our energy on the dictatorial system. The dictatorial system was eventually overthrown by the bitter struggle of our people and the sacrifice of more than 5000 youth. When the government changed in April 2018, I was one of those who returned home. Having said that much about myself, I would like to address the accusations:
First, I was accused of inciting violence among nations and nationalities. Before I address the issue, let me provide a quick background about myself. I was born and raised in Borana, Southern Oromia. Borana shares a large border with the Southern Peoples region and I grew up and attended school among multi-ethnic groups. I was shaped by the Gadaa system and values of tolerance and accommodation is an integral part of our culture and way of life. After returning to Ethiopia, I traveled to Gambella for peaceful discussion between the nations and nationalities. We had fruitful discussions with representatives of both sides to establish peaceful relations between the people of Gambella and the Oromo people. I was also invited by both sides to contribute to the peace process between the Afar and Wollo Oromos, which I attended in Batte, Wollo. I also attended a peace conference convened by the leaders of the Oromia and Somali regions as part of the ongoing dialogue to resolve the conflict between the Oromo and Somali people and tried to fulfil my civic duties. Similarly, I attended the Oromia Conference in Ambo by the invitation of the President of the Oromia Regional State and supported the efforts to establish a solid foundation for relations between the Somali and Oromo nations. Finally, in the event of ethnic clashes in the universities, I was able to hold an emergency joint meeting with Amhara Region activists to discuss the steps to be taken to prevent the conflict from spreading to the public.
Second, I am accused of inciting violence between the Oromo, the Orthodox Christians and the government. I do not think it makes sense for religion to be the basis for social and political conflict because I view faith as primarily a private matter. I was born to an Orthodox Christian family. My parents and all my relatives were and still are followers of the Orthodox Christian faith. I learned the Amharic language I speak today at a church. For someone in my position to want to instigate violence against Orthodox Christians or Orthodox churches would mean encouraging violence against my mother, who is today attending this very trial travelling more than 600kms from Borana. She should not have been here to see her son if I were in any way capable of even imagining such a thing. The same goes for my father and my brothers.
Third, with regard to the accusation that I have incited people against the government, I would like to raise two points. As soon as I returned to my country, I was engaged in widespread efforts to encourage people to support agents of reform in government to the point that I was perceived by the public as a member of the ruling party. But as events on the ground shifted and Oromo nationalists began to be arrested and killed and killings become widespread and the transition process went off the rails, I approached leading members of the ruling party and offered my advice. When this failed, I then began to publicly criticise the government’s handling of the situation, and once this too failed, I was forced to join the opposition. There is no doubt that Oromo nationalists have been killed; many human rights reports confirm this, many farmers’ houses have been burnt down. Does anyone deny this? How can anyone who advocates for victims gets detained and made to stand trial while the murderers remain free? Because I am a peace-loving person, I had a 12-day discussion with Abba Gadaas and prominent elders in Borana, in an effort to bring peace to the forces that are sincerely in power and fighting in the name of peace. I was fulfilling my civic duty as a caring citizen.
Next, I would like to raise the issue of the flag: I am basically a citizen who believes in the rule of law, legality, the constitution & constitutionalism. I also believe that the rule of law should be upheld until it is changed or amended. We have a flag that is enshrined in our constitution. Green-yellow-red with a yellow star in the center of the blue circle indicating the equality of nationalities and religions. We also have a law that says where, when, and why we should use this flag. In recent times, we have seen the use of the old Ethiopian flag in different ways and often to incite conflict. As a peace-loving and law-abiding citizen, I have expressed the view that during public holidays only the federal flag should be used and that other symbols that reflect the interests of a single group or provoke conflict should not be allowed, which is well within my constitutional right to free expression. As you know, I am not a government official, I do not have an army to command. I argued that the problematic symbols and insignias should not be carried because remaining silent in the face of an illegal use of the old Ethiopian flag that symbolises ideas contrary to our present constitution would have been a dereliction of my duty. However, my respect for the flag is never in doubt. Lastly, the message I want to convey on this agenda is that I see artists posting the same banner in different ways on music videos and films. For me, this is the illegality that should be condemned. One ethnic group’s view doesn’t represent the rest of Ethiopia and their ideas shouldn’t be imposed on other ethnic groups.
Finally, I was accused of stating that it was the Neftegna who were executing the Oromo people and that the Neftegna will not rule over us. While agreeing with the points made by the second defendant, Bekele Gerba, I will add the following on what Neftegna means for me.
For me, the Neftegna violently displaced my father’s grandfather, Obbo Dhana (Dhaanaa) Roba Gunjo, and his family from the Tulama land and forced him to settle among Gujii Oromo. The Neftegna massacred my mother’s father family in the Dharra District of Salale (North Shoa) and they too similarly fled to Borana. My mother’s father great grandfather Gayo Kumsa, has been uprooted by the evil Neftegna system from the South West of Sheger and forced to flee to Borana. I am the offspring of these displaced families. Yes, this is the system that committed ethnic cleansing on the Oromo people. That is why I am fighting hard to keep this system from coming back. Is it those who support this system or those who opposed it who should be accused? We are forever grateful for the debt of Borana, Guji, Arsi, Bale and Itu-Hubbena (Hararge) Oromo, who reached out and embraced the Tulama Oromo during the displacement of Oromos at the time. I would like to use this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and respect.
Honourable Court, those of us who returned to our country after the process of democratic transition commenced – former activists, journalists, politicians – many of them chose to turn a blind eye to clear evidence of a slide-back to authoritarianism because they were provided with resources such as land belonging to our farmers, power, and temporary state rents. I felt that the only way I can make a meaningful contribution to the ongoing struggle of my people is by joining a viable opposition party, and I joined the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). My comrades, my organisation and I were seen as an enemy because the ruling party know of the acceptance and support we have among our people and decided to lock us up because they knew they cannot win an election against us. A clear evidence of this is the current situation where the ruling party has jailed us all and removed our party from the election so that the ruling party will run for the election on its own. Therefore, Honorable court, I want to express with great respect, that I am innocent of all charges and I am here because I am falsely accused by the government, so that they can win the election and impose their views on us all.
It was Haacaaluu. They killed him and they prevented us from attending his funeral and properly mourn our loss. It was while I and my friends were on our way to the burial of our hero that we were arrested from the street and jailed. We have not committed any crime.
Thank you.
March 22, 2021
Hamza Borana
Finfinne, Oromia, Ethiopia