Ethiopia: Oromo Legacy Leadership and Advocacy Association (OLLAA) – OLLAA Condemns Violence in Amhara and Oromia Region (22.04.2021)

Ethiopia: Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray Statement on The United Nations Security Council’s Paralysis and a Renewed Call to the Western Powers for an Urgent Action to Stop an Ongoing Genocide in Tigray (20.04.2021)

Ethiopia: Oromo Legacy Leadership and Advocacy Association (OLLAA) – OLLAA Demands Justice for the Kemant People (20.04.2021)

Ethiopia: Crisis in Tigray enters sixth month with no clear end in sight amid ‘severe and ongoing child rights violations’ (20.04.2021)

Geneva Palais Briefing on the situation of children in Tigray, Ethiopia.

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 20, 2021 – This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF spokesperson James Elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed –  at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

“The crisis in Tigray has entered its sixth month with no clear end in sight.

“More than one million people have been displaced, and fighting continues. Access and security remain serious issues.

“We have been very concerned from the onset about the harm this crisis will cause to children. Such fears are now being realized.

“This is a protection crisis. What is emerging is a disturbing picture of severe and ongoing child rights violations.

“This is also an education and nutrition emergency, and I saw extensive destruction to the systems and essential services on which children rely.

Education

“Children in Tigray have been hit by COVID-19 then conflict. That means 1.4 million children have been out of school for more than a full year (since March 2020). Yes, not a day of school in 13 months.

“I met a 16-year-old girl, Merhawit who fled fighting in the west of Tigray, and walked – with her baby brother on her back – for 300km. Yes, she walked 300km in broken flip flops. Before the conflict, she was top of her class in physics. Now she was searching for food and hasn’t seen a classroom in more than a year.

“A decision to reopen schools, however, is contingent on (1) security; (2) rehabilitation works – the Ministry of Education estimates that up to 25 per cent of schools have been damaged; and (3) reopening schools requires the relocation of the hundreds of thousands of IDPs who are currently sheltering in school premises.

Water

“A recent assessment in 13 towns by UNICEF and partners revealed that more than half of the boreholes are non-functional.  These were advanced systems – with generators and electrical circuitry – and most have been damaged and looted.

“I saw an example of this destruction in a health clinic 100km from Mekelle. This had an entire new operation ward devoted to emergency c-sections for mothers and emergency surgery – that opened in 2020, with the support of Rotary in Belgium. Everything – X-ray machines, oxygen, and mattresses for patients – are gone. Operating beds and incubators for babies have been broken and turned upside down. A doctor there told me “It had all the services a mother and baby needed. It was a life-saving place. There was no reason for forces to come here. They came here for vandalizing and looting.”

“According to assessments, violence and looting have left a majority of health care facilities in the region not functioning.

“The sanitation situation is another matter of grave concern. Conditions in many of the displacement sites are poor. They are overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe .. as such they magnify risks of exploitation of children, and make it impossible for people to practice COVID-19 prevention measures.

“From a health perspective, the presence of large numbers of displaced people is a ticking time bomb, especially as the rainy season approaches – that’s next month – when there will be a grave risk of cholera and other water-borne diseases.

Protection and gender-based violence

“The personal statements I received from children who had been raped or testimonies of women who were victims of sexual violence were harrowing.

“You will all be aware that the President of Ethiopia, the Minister of Women, Children and Youth, the IASC Principals and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have spoken against multiple cases of rape and sexual violence

“I heard traumatic stories from survivors, one as young as 14. I heard reports of gang rapes. The level of cruelty described in these attacks was bewildering.

“This year, from the 1st January to 16 April, just one centre that UNICEF supports has received an average of three reports of cases of gender-based violence per day.

Nutrition

“Fighting broke out just as people should have been harvesting.

“That’s their income for a year. Many also had cattle stolen. They have lost access to fertilisers and vaccines for their livestock.

“And now they should be planting. But more than 1 million people are displaced and as such cannot access their land.

“As such, we are seeing a spike in malnutrition in a region that had already seen steep year-on-year increases in malnourished children requiring life-saving treatment prior to this crisis.

“In response, since November last year, UNICEF has provided emergency supplies including drug kits, nutrition supplies, school-in-a-carton kits and early childhood development kits.

“In WASH, UNICEF is leading on efforts to rehabilitate damaged water schemes, supply of water through trucking, and the provision of hygiene supplies. Through these efforts, more than 640,000 people have received safe water for personal use.

“Our priority in the education sector is the reopening of schools while simultaneously working with implementing partners to establish temporary learning spaces for refugees, IDPs and host communities.

“We have supported partners to kick-start 22 mobile health and nutrition teams which are reaching tens of thousands of children and women in ten of the areas with the highest need. They distribute drug kits and support emergency health care and nutrition. They operate six days a week and use the seventh day to restock supplies.

“But again, even for these brave and frontline mobile health and nutrition teams, security remains an issue. I spoke with one team leader who explained how his team had their ambulance stolen, and had to walk three days back to their health clinic.

“And as of right before this briefing, UNICEF has received credible reports of at least 16 incidents that impacted the activities of these mobile health and nutrition teams … in just the last two weeks.

“Nine were reported in the Eastern Region where the health workers had to leave the location due to fighting and direct threat from armed forces.

“The staff members were denied access to the programme locations and in some cases were threatened with death. In three locations the teams were forcibly relocated to other locations.

“Survivors of sexual assault have been provided with medical assistance, psychosocial support and dignity kits at a centre that has been supported by UNICEF. We are also supporting partners to deploy more than 160 social workers to provide child protection case management for vulnerable children including unaccompanied and separated children; and psychosocial support in IDP and refugee camps in Tigray and affected neighbouring woredas in Afar and Amhara.

“UNICEF Ethiopia’s appeal for Tigray stands at US$47.6 million. More than half is unfunded.”

Ethiopia: Open letter from Tigray National Political Parties Forum [Salsay Weyane Tigray (SaWeT), National Congress of Great Tigray (Baytona) and Tigray Independence Party (TIP)] – Call for an internationally monitored immediate withdrawal of Eritrean invading forces from Tigray (19.04.2021)

Your Excellency,
The people of Tigray have been appealing to the international community to live up to its commitments and uphold international laws. Tigrayan national political parties forum has been asking the international community to make sure the invading Eritrean forces withdraw and hold them accountable for the war crimes and human rights abuses they committed over the past six months in Tigray. While the evidence of Eritrean army’s active involvement in the genocidal war against the people of Tigray, alongside the Ethiopian Federal forces, Amhara militia and other foreign forces was abundant, to the dismay of many the international community’s response was not strong enough to persuade the invaders to abide by the long standing covenants of the UN.
The war has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, left millions of civilians displaced; over 6.5 million Tigrayans requiring immediate humanitarian assistance, tens of thousands of women are subjected to sexual abuses on the continuing genocidal war.
Excellency,
Beyond upholding international laws, the presence of Eritrean invading forces in Tigray is an obstacle for any international, bilateral or multilateral peace initiatives in the region. Furthermore; it has been demonstrated that it is unrealistic to deliver humanitarian aid to the millions of internally displaced and the general population in need of immediate sustenance support in the presence of the aggressors. The reconstruction of Tigray is also impossible while occupational forces are on the ground and continuing to deliberately inflict maximum damage to public and private institutions. Therefore, we believe, the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Eritrean army from Tigray should be the beginning of any peace process, successful delivery of humanitarian aid and commencement of rehabilitation activities.
In a blatant disregard and disdain to the international community’s call for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray, the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments had been persistently denying the involvement and presence of Eritrean forces. We have now learned, the Eritrean government has officially admitted its rouge troops had had crossed the Ethio-Eritrean international boarder; and now the Eritrean government has declared it has agreed with Ethiopia at the highest levels to embark on the
Although we have been demanding as such; unfortunately, it’s very difficult for us to accept the gesture made by the Eritrean government. A similar promise was made by Ethiopian prime minister on March 26/2021; only for Eritrean troops to flood Tigray in tens of thousands and continue their systematic killings after the announcement. The recent shootings in the town of Adwa and its vicinity are good cases in this point.
A classified document of the Eritrean government about the performance of Eritrean troops in the war, leaked by Eritrean opposition forces, also show that the Eritrean government is determined to boost its presence and its genocidal acts in Tigray rather than contemplating to withdraw its forces. As we write this letter, heavy fighting is underway across Tigray, amid land transport blockade and communication blackout in most parts of the region. In addition, it has become a common scene to watch Eritrean troops in Ethiopian military uniforms. Given the recent developments, past records of broken promises and general behavior of the Eritrean and Ethiopian government, we strongly believe that it will be naivety to take their words for granted.
We, therefore, call upon the international community, particularly the UNSC to
1. Ensure the Eritrean government stops the theatre and comply with the international community’s demands to immediately withdraw its forces from Tigray
2. Ensure all Eritrean troops make an internationally monitored immediate withdrawal; and
3. Ensure a deep, independent and international investigation of the egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity committed and make sure the perpetrators are not allowed to go with impunity.
Finally, now that we all got our proof of Eritrean army’s heavy presence in Tigray; allowing the ill oriented Eritrean troops to stay more days will be a permit for more war crimes to be committed, more women and girls to be sexually abused and more people to die of starvation. It is our best hope, that the international community specifically the UNSC will take all the appropriate actions necessary to avert a looming human disaster in Tigray and firmly stand to defend humanity.
Regards,
CC /
United Nations
UN Web TV
Council of the European Union
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State: Consular Affairs
European Commission
Permanent and non-permanent representatives of UNSC member states

Ethiopia: Security and Justice for Tigreans in Ethiopia (STJE) – Open Letter to President Biden – Urgent Call to End the Genocidal War in Tigray, Ethiopia (18.04.2021)

April 18, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Open Letter to President Biden – Urgent Call to End the Genocidal War in Tigray, Ethiopia

Dear President Joseph R. Biden,

It is with enormous respect that we, the Security and Justice for Tigrayans in Ethiopia, write to you today to urge you to act with utmost urgency to end the genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The anguish and suffering the people of Tigray are facing is so great that it requires the leader of the free world to bring it to a full stop. We believe this challenge offers a test for the United States as it stands in defense of its democratic and human rights values and a true measure of its success in sharing these values with the world.

There cannot be a higher calling for you Mr. President as the leader of the free world committed to the protection of human rights around the world than to save the extermination of a minority ethnic group by its own government working in partnership with invading foreign armies and militias. This is a rare and historical challenge that threatens the complete destruction of Tigray and the annihilation of its people and requires a swift action to stop. If left unattended, Tigray may not be the only region to bear the brunt of the damage; other regions of Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa may also be destabilized.

The atrocities perpetrated on the people of Tigray are abhorrent and too many to count. These widespread atrocities and war crimes including indiscriminate bombing and massacre of civilians, rape of girls and women, burning of crops and looting of livestock, and total economic destruction have been widely reported and documented by some of the most reputable international media such as the New York Times and CNN, the US government, the UN, Amnesty International and many others.

A multi award-winning CNN Senior International correspondent, Nima Elbagir, in her March 18, 2021 interview with 4 News, described the crimes being committed as “…very, very Intentional” adding “it is not a rape about the tragic consequences of war but…it is a rape as a weapon of war”. She continued to say”…this is about erasing Tigray and Tigrayan identity and bloodline which is one of the hallmarks of genocide”.

And with regards to PM Abiy Ahmed, In her interview with Democracy Now on December 3, 2020, Elbagir says, “..for him to have won a Nobel Peace Prize for something that has enabled him to wage a war on an entire region, on 6 million people, is just — it’s appalling. It’s appalling to think about.” The devastation the world is witnessing in Tigray today was not triggered by a simple act of the local government in Tigray but rather it was a result of a well-rehearsed plan that involved military cooperation and preparation for over 2 years premeditated by Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki to destroy Tigray and subjugate its peace-loving people. The ruthless dictator of Eritrea and his immature student of Ethiopia are carrying out this operation to achieve their dream of conquering the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea zone.

Dear Mr. President,

The war crimes in Tigray have been compared chillingly to that of the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and the Rwandan genocide by many international observers and media. As you know, while the US took a decisive action to stop the atrocities in Kosovo, it unfortunately did not act in the case of the Rwandan genocide. Former President Bill Clinton said his inaction in Rwanda was his biggest regret of his presidency. The salient question now is how is the Tigray genocide different? On April 25, 2019, you said, “America is an idea. An idea that is stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth, it guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there is nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it. That’s what we believe.”  These are the hopeful words from your speech you delivered a year ago that our people want to see translated into deeds. Will the misery of the poor people in Tigray end anytime soon? And why is the US not taking actions strong enough to end the war?

The people of Tigray and indeed the rest of the world recognize that the US has significant leverage over Ethiopia and Eritrea, and it is not entirely clear why there is hesitancy to act to stop this genocide. The US can stop the war via several measures including diplomacy and a show of force targeting military installations of the Eritrean ruthless dictator.

If the US is waiting for Eritrean troops to leave on their own accord, we like to assure you this will not happen. We realize PM Abiy Ahmed announced about 10 days ago that Eritrea will withdraw its forces from Tigray, but this has not taken place despite his deceitful announcement two days ago that they have started “evacuating from border areas”. To the contrary, credible reports indicate that tens of thousands of new Eritrean soldiers arrived in Tigray on the same day the Prime Minister promised withdrawal in defiance of the demands by the international community. Reports also indicate that in an attempt to deceive the world, Eritrean troops are simply changing their uniforms to Ethiopian uniforms so that they remain in Tigray and continue their atrocities. The Prime Minister has been lying about a number of significant issues and he cannot be trusted.

As Tigrayan-Ethiopians who understand the tyrannical aspirations of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his mentor dictator Isaias Afwerki, we believe the only definitive solution to end the genocidal war on Tigray is through meaningful Kosovo-like intervention. Thus, Mr. President, we urge you to act now before it is too late.

Dear Mr. President,

As if the atrocities, the premeditated hunger and the destructions perpetrated in Tigray so far are not enough, a most recently leaked 27-page confidential document from the Government of Eritrea titled “The Military Campaign in Tigray has Failed to Achieve the Desired Goals” was sent to the Eritrean commanders in Tigray. This document orders the Eritrean military in Tigray to swiftly act on aggrandizing the indiscriminate killings of the youth and the complete destruction of properties. It calls for mercilessly annihilate the Tigrayan youth and disperse the remaining ones into various concentration camps. This renewed order to intensify the atrocities in Tigray shows that the situation in Tigray is going to deteriorate further and would become completely out of control. In the face of such reality in Tigray, the US and the international community not only have the legal responsibility to act urgently under the UN Resolutions 2417 (2018) and 1247 (2018) but also they have the moral and ethical obligation to stop this genocide

Despite all the evidence of human rights violations and the US, EU, G7, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Australia’s latest demands for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara militia forces from Tigray, the Ethiopian government is still allowing the increased presence of the Eritrean forces dressed in Ethiopian military uniforms while integrating the Amhara militia that committed war crimes, rape, genocide, and ethnic cleansing in west Tigray into the national army. The move by the Ethiopian government to integrate a genocidal Amhara militia into the national army rings alarm bells as this is to hide crimes from investigation and further commit additional crimes all over Tigray and beyond. Thus, we at the SJTE ask you take the lead for the USA and its allies to take all necessary measures at your disposal including an immediate military action under “Operation Freedom” to save humanity in Tigray under UN Resolution 1247 (2018) including, but not limited to:

  1. Force the immediate, unconditional and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean Army and the Amhara militia from Tigray without which no humanitarian aid and peace is possible.
  2. Allow humanitarian access all over Tigray so that the over 5 million people who need food aid can be reached without any blockage or interference of the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies.
  3. Stop the indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilians by imposing “No Fly Zone” all over Tigray for the protection of the civilian populations in rural and urban areas.
  4. Reinstate the democratically elected legitimate government of Tigray and start a dialogue that involves all stakeholders in Ethiopia.
  5. Release all political prisoners in Ethiopia including military personnel and UN peacekeepers of Tigray origin (about 22,000) and more than 90,000 civilians who have been fired from their jobs and detained all over Ethiopia in military camps and prisons.
  6. Recommend for the investigation of all human rights violations and war crimes to be conducted by an independent international team after the immediate withdrawal of the Eritrean Army and Amhara militia.
  7. Enforce the safe passage and return of the 2.2 million internally displaced people (IDP) to their ancestral lands, villages and towns before the rainy season starts in June 2021 with the assistance of the UN.

Respectfully,
SECURITY AND JUSTICE FOR TIGREANS IN ETHIOPIA (SJTE)

Ethiopia: Joint Press Release by Opposition Political Parties and Independent Candidates of The Somali State in Ethiopia (18.04.2021)

Ethiopia: Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) – The 6th National Elections (16.04.2021)

Ethiopia: Global Scholars of Tigrai Scholars (GSTS) letter to Permanent Representatives of US to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield – The Need to Deploy a United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Investigation Commission in Tigray (26.03.2021)

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

Your Honours,
I, Jawar Siraj Mohammed, plead not guilty. But before I offer my views on the specific accusations against me, I would like to make two general observations of central significance to me and my colleagues. We believe the accusation against us is politically motivated and that our arrest, detention, and trial were driven by two main political objectives.
First, the government fabricated the charges against me and other leading members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) to prevent us from running in the forthcoming election. Because the ruling party knows that it has very little chance of winning seats against us in the Oromia regional state, it decided to pre-emptively remove us from the political space by concocting a trumped-up charge that has nothing to do with me and my colleagues. That is why we are here today.
Second, we see this trial as a trial of the collective aspiration of the Oromo people and our ongoing struggle for political emancipation and self-governance. The nature of the charges chosen by the prosecution and the narrative that accompanies those charges demonstrate that the case is not simply against us, the defendants named in this case, in our individual capacity. This is a charge deliberately put together by the government to defame, belittle, delegitimize, and denigrate the struggle of the Oromo people.
Having said that, I want to comment briefly on the specific charges against me and some issues raised the state prosecution. In summary, the charges against me include (1) ordering attacks against Orthodox Christian clergies, (2) inciting violence among nations and nationalities, specifically against ethnic Amharas, and (3) conspiring to overthrow the government through force.
Your Honours, these accusations are not only false and wholly untrue, but they also contradict my world views, background and track record as an activist.
First, I am a product of a marriage between a Muslim father and a Christian mother. My father, Siraj Mohammed Tufa Jillo, is a Muslim Arsi Oromo. My mother, Fantu/Shemsi Tola Buli Bune, is a Christian Tulema Oromo. I married to Arfase Gemeda, a protestant Christian whose parents are from Borena and Mecha Oromo. Arfase has been a tenacious and unfailing defender of the Oromo people who has been on the Oromo political scene long before me.We have a son who we named Oromo.
In addition to being a product of a marriage between a Muslim father and a Christian woman, I also work with people of diverse religious backgrounds. I could not have the kind of irrational and bigoted religious animus against Christians when I grew up in a religiously diverse household and working with people of diverse religious background or fighting for a religious diverse community. But the reality is that this accusation is false and inconsistent with my background and track record. For me, religious equality, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence are not just important principles that I uphold in my public and private life but also an integral part of my lived experience. For me, respect for diversity and plurality is a way of life, not some facile gesture I talk about because it is politically convenient.
I find this accusation ludicrous and so wildly outlandish. I will leave the ultimate judgement to the court, but I want the honourable court to know that these accusations were not new and they were part and parcel of a broader campaign against the Qeerroo movement and the Oromo quest for self-determination. This campaign has been ongoing for decades but intensified in recent years. As an individual who played a key role in this movement over the last decade, I have been targeted by a well-coordinated and financed campaign by the government and its supporters. A key part of this campaign is to vilify and demonise me by conjuring an image of a violent and radical Muslim. What makes the current situation different is that these same allegations are being levelled against me at an official level camouflaged as a question of law and justice. I want to make it clear that this accusation, which draws on deep-rooted Oromophobic and Islamophobic tropes, is deliberately manufactured by those on power to construct an alternative image of a violent Muslim fanatic to advance their goals of delegitimizing my cause and disparage the struggle of the Oromo people.
I was also accused of inciting ethnic violence, particularly against the Amhara. Again, this is simply not true. Everyone who has followed my political career over the years knows that this allegation is completely untrue and contrary to the political strategy I have pursued and the alliances I have managed to build. I do not deny the fact that I have spoken out in defence of diversity, plurality, and multi-ethnic federalism in Ethiopia, and that my vocal defence of these values has angered those who do not like the idea of diverse communities existing side by side in peace and harmony. I never believed that the interest of any society would be advanced by attacking any other society for any reason whatsoever.
Let me offer a few examples to support my point here:
(1) During the struggle against the EPRDF regime, I and my fellow activists were able to develop an inclusive and accommodating strategy that is focused on putting pressure on the ruling elites than targeting civilians living in Oromia. We collaborated with activists with Amhara nationalist movement. We enabled and provided support for the OPDO and ANDM to work together to facilitate a smooth and orderly transition. I have played an important role in the formation and implementation of the cooperation between the two nations, known as Oromara. We prevented horizontal communal conflict that targets minority ethnic groups who lived in Oromia, and we showed that our struggle was with the oppressive government regime instead of individuals belonging to one or another ethnic group. No Tigrayan was targeted in Oromia.
(2) On my return to Ethiopia in August 2018, I travelled to Bahir Dar, the Amhara regional capital, to explore fostering collaborative and constructive relationships with representatives and elites of the region. I advised the youth to push for a peaceful and democratic transition by resolving the historical and contemporary divisions between the Amhara and Oromo political communities through dialogue. During my stay in Bahir Dar and after I returned to Finfine, I met with senior officials and tried to create a forum for political scholars to continue negotiations between the two nations. Although the allegation against me is that I exposed the Amhara people to attack, I did the opposite. My accusers today are well aware that I have long been trying to bring the Oromo and Amhara people together for a peaceful and prosperous future.
(3) The border clashes between Oromia and Somalia a few years ago is another evidence demonstrating my commitment to bring together communities and resolve disputes by peaceful means. After returning to Ethiopia, I worked hard to bring peace between the two nations and renew the solidarity between them. I invited tribal leaders from both sides of the border for dialogue. I travelled to the area and countries around the world where influential figures from these communities were located such as Kenya, Minneapolis, Djibouti, and Dubai, where I worked with others to bring people together in a spirit of solidarity and reconciliation. These efforts have helped foster a more peaceful co-existence between the two communities.
(4) I have also travelled to Harar to help resolve the dispute between the Harar city administration and the rural residents of the Harar region. I met with Harari and Oromo elders and religious leaders and discussed with regional and neighbouring zone leaders, to find a peaceful and timely resolution to the crisis. Similarly, I have played a vital role in the process of bringing peace to Dire Dawa city where I worked tirelessly with the city administration and local elders to create an environment of understanding to solve the issues.
(5) Nearly two years ago, a large-scale ethnic conflict broke out in Western Oromia. Leading to the collapse of the government structure and leaving the local population vulnerable and without protection. Bekele Gerba, the second accused in this case, and I went to the area to find an amicable resolution to the problem. And through dialogue and stabilization, we have been able to reunite the people who were cut off from the rest of the country, reopen closed government institutions, and restore social and economic ties. After the visit, we have returned back to Finfinnee and reported the grievances we had heard from the public in the form of a report to the federal government officials and military leaders. Also, we have proposed a solution and begged the concerned bodies to address the matter immediately. But our pleas have been ignored, and the situation in the area has now escalated.
Honourable court, I spent my entire political life – my time, knowledge, and energy – to bring people together and make peace. Contrary to the allegation, I strived for equality and justice rooted in mutual respect and co-operation.
The third and final allegation against me is that I armed Oromo youth to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means. This is entirely false and concocted by the authorities to give substance to the image of a violent Muslim Oromo nationalist the administration tried to depict to scare its supporters. In my political career, I never advocated armed struggle as a means of political struggle. I am known for advocating for peaceful change. I also practised what I preached in public. This is known by the majority of Ethiopians, including my accusers. I believed and continue to believe that peaceful resistance is a more resilient and safe method to bring about a positive and democratic change in societies.
My fierce support and defence of peaceful resistance were based on extensive research into various resistance movements from the anti-colonial periods to the present. I have gained theoretical and practical knowledge studying at world-leading academic institutions such as Stanford, Oxford, and Columbia Universities and their scholars who have done extensive research in the field. I travelled from India to Serbia to work in think tanks and develop my understanding of non-violent resistance methods and the conditions for a successful peaceful resistance in a country like Ethiopia. I had the opportunity to serve as a consultant and analyst for organisations working on the causes, and consequences of the Arab Spring.
We were able to peacefully change the dictatorial system in our country within a short period because we pursued a strategy that took account of Ethiopia’s past and present as well as the various actors operating within the political space.
Given what we have achieved through a peaceful means in 2018, Your Honour, there was no reason for me or my comrades to change our strategy. Indeed, after I decided to get involved in formal politics, I decided to join the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which participated in peaceful struggle for the last two decades despite conditions that rendered a peaceful struggle impossible.
After I returned to Ethiopia, I spent considerable time trying to find a way to get Ethiopia beyond a culture in which political power is gained and secured through the gun. I urged the government to implement the DDR (Disarm Demobilize Reintegrate) program as organizations that were struggling to achieve their political goals through armed struggle returned to the country. Your Honour, another notable moment is two years ago when as a result of the large-scale conflict and the collapse of government structures in Western Oromia made the entire population extremely vulnerable. The second defendant, Bekele Gerba, and I, along with the Abba Gadaas, Haadha Siinqees, and Oromo scholars, were able to accept the mission of both sides and travel to the conflict zone to resolve the conflict. Although the attempt to bring lasting peace has failed due to the failure of the government to implement the DDR, we made a concerted effort to resolve the differences between the warring factions and to end the vicious cycle of war in our country.
In conclusion, Your Honour, this case is not about accountability or justice. This case is not about legality or rule of law. We are not charged because we committed a criminal offence. We were arrested and detained because the ruling party felt that it could not win an election in Oromia if my party is allowed to participate in a free, competitive and fair election as mandated by the constitution. As I stated at the outset, this case is also goes beyond me and my party. This case is designed to squash the dignity of the Oromo people and besmirch the Oromo national struggle for self-determination. Since the beginning of Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule, the Oromo have been the victim of systematic economic exploitation and political oppression. Subsequent Ethiopian governments did the same. They humiliated the Oromo people and denigrated the Oromo national struggle. The case against us and other Oromo leaders bear the hallmarks of such an attack against the Oromo aspiration.
It is important to note that it was the Oromo people who lost the precious voice of freedom, artist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, on 29 June 2020. It was the Oromo people who were accused of killing their icon and imprisoned in thousands. It was the Oromo who were subjected to an unprecedented propaganda campaign by the government and its supporters, accusing our tolerant community of massacring minorities that lived among us for nearly a century where the reality is that the overwhelming majority of those killed in the violence were Oromos. Contrary to the toxic propaganda by callous forces who unashamedly used the violence to galvanise support for their campaign of dismantling multinational federalism, most of those who lost their lives were killed by government forces.
Therefore, Your Honour, the case before this court is an extension of these political campaigns against the Oromo cause and those of us advocating to advance this cause. We are being tried for acts of incitement only because the ruling party wants to seize power without a democratic challenge and impose its ideology on the Ethiopian people without any real option. As events over the last few months have demonstrated, it is now clear what lies behind these charges and our unjust detention and why such an approach is leading our country down a dangerous path.
Lastly, Your Honour, I am not before this court because I committed a criminal offence. I am here because I stood for and vigorously defended the cause of my people. I am a political prisoner standing trial because I unapologetically fought to advance the wishes and aspirations of my people, which the authorities found threatening.
Jawar Siraj Mohammed
March 22, 2021
Finfinnee, Oromia, Ethiopia