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State of Emergency not a Solution to Ethiopia’s Oromo Crisis

Ethiopia has for the last one year had to endure sustained unrest and protests in the Oromia region following government’s plan to expand its “developmental” projects to the community’s farming land without proper prior consultation and mutual understanding. But this could have been just but a trigger. Generally, the Oromo people have had unresolved historical injustices and marginalization issues with the Addis Ababa administration. The unquenchable quest for political and economic inclusion has been a key driver. The killings, arbitrary dentations of some of their own political activists, scholars and religious and community leaders only exacerbates the situation. Government of Ethiopia has always used hard power in its attempt to crash the historical Oromo uprising including the current protests. This approach is simply not working but for some reason government seems determined to continue with the same approach that has not worked for years. After all, this is Ethiopia where government believes in the reason of force and not the force of reason.

It is no surprise therefore, that following intensified protests government, through the country's prime minister said via state media that “the steps were taken to restore order following escalating protests around the country.” One of these steps is a declaration of the state of emergency. The Oromos are one of Ethiopia's largest ethnic group with historical secessionist ideology. They make up, at least, a third of the country's 100 million people. Government’s intention in the declaration of the state of emergency is an open secret; to deploy state power against its own citizens who hold a genuine grievance. It is no doubt that ethnic Oromos have been marginalized for decades. Was is it not fair that government of Ethiopia constructively engage the Oromos before its so called extension of developmental projects to the farmlands of the community?

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said "the state of emergency was declared following a thorough discussion by the Council of Ministers on the loss of lives and property damages occurring in the country.” The Prime Minister went on to state that government wants “to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, health centers, administration and justice buildings." What he does not seem to realize is that other softer issues that have to do with identity and recognition go beyond infrastructural installations like roads. The roads and schools and hospitals may mean nothing to a people who feel disrespected and excluded by their government. This is the reason why the government will not win on this matter.

The state of emergency took effect on Saturday and according to reports, officials in the country have shut down mobile internet service and blocked social media in most parts of Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia's nine regional states. The state of emergency means the state can actually suspend some aspects of the rule of law in the Oromia region and employ state security agencies to restore “order.” But I think, there is no amount of intimidation that is going to drive the Oromo people away from agitating for the cause that they so believe in and are ready to die for. The Oromo war is, to a large extent a liberation war. If the government never annihilated the Oromo Liberation Front, it is because their war is pegged on an ideology that the people so believe in. There are no known military solutions to liberation wars for the simple reason that people who actually fight for liberation are often never afraid of death. So what will the state threaten them with if they are ready to bite bullets?  Ethiopia has no weapon that can deter the Oromo from claiming justice and inclusion. The guns by the military and the police will only help suppress the issue but never resolve it. The Oromo grievance will therefore recur again and again until the state is ready to listen and talk to them. It is time for government of Ethiopia to climb down and listen to its people. If it does not, I think, the human cost of this conflict will be too high to imagine. 
State of Emergency not a Solution to Ethiopia’s Oromo Crisis State of Emergency not a Solution to Ethiopia’s Oromo Crisis Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on October 10, 2016 Rating: 5

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