The U.S.-based community of Oromos – an ethnic group from Ethiopia – is demanding an end to U.S. support for the Ethiopian government which, they say, has been seizing land from local farmers without compensating them.
A police crackdown on the Oromos – Ethiopia’s largest community – has left dozens of students injured and several killed over the past few weeks, according to published accounts.
According to reports from the region, the conflict began in the town of Ginci, about 55 miles from Addis Ababa. A forest on the edge of town was being cleared for a government development project, and elementary and high school students spontaneously pushed back against the move that they believe could further displace their people.
The students formed a sudden and unexpected protest, which activists say have consisted of peaceful demonstrations, often in silence, with participants crossing their hands above their heads.
Oromo Diaspora solidarity rallies have been held in Washington-DC/U.S.A., London/UK, Toronto/Canada, St.-Paul-Minnesota and other cities where the rally-goers asked the international community to intervene to stop the crime against humanity against Oromos by the Ethiopian government.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) blamed the killings on security forces using excessive force and live ammunition to disperse the crowds.
The issue igniting protest is a controversial proposal, known as “the master plan,” to expand Addis Ababa into the surrounding Oromia state, which they say will threaten local farmers with mass evictions.
Oromia is one of the nine politically autonomous regional states in the country, and the region’s Oromo people make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.
Ermias Legesse, a high profile government defector, has argued that since 2000 the Addis Ababa city municipality has enacted five pieces of legislation to legalize informal settlements, allowing them to be sold to private property developers.
“Sometimes the informal settlers are given only a few days’ notices before bulldozers arrive on the scene to tear down their shabby houses and lay foundations for new investors,” Legesse said in an interview last week.
There has been limited media coverage of the ongoing protests. There are strong restrictions on the free press in Ethiopia, one of the most censored countries in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Government critics and the independent press face increased scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Muzayan Kubsa, a Sioux Falls man originally from Ethiopia, told the Argus Leader newspaper he does not want his U.S. tax dollars to aid his home country’s government.
Kubsa is one of about 2,500 people in Sioux Falls who are Oromo.