6909 Laurel Ave, Suite 5219
Tacoma Park, MD20913
September 4, 2020
The Honorable Senator Amy Klobuchar
425 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington D.C. 20510The Honorable Senator Tina Smith
720 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
Dear Senators Klobuchar and Smith,
We, the undersigned members of Oromia Global Forum (OGF), consisting of 41 Oromo Civic, Human Rights, and Religious organizations, are writing to express our PROFOUND GRATITUDE for taking time out of your busy schedule to call for a due process for two incarcerated Minnesotans, Jawar Mohammed and Misha Adam Chiri, and to express your concerns on the direction Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s administration is taking Ethiopia.
You are not alone in expressing such concerns regarding the Administration’s violation of the two individuals’ rights and the rights of several members of Ethiopian opposition parties, besides the complete lack of legal due process and the derailing of the democratic transition launched in principle in 2018. Recently, 20 of the Honorable Members of the U.S. House of Representatives also wrote a letter to Secretary Michael R. Pompeo, expressing similar concerns and requesting the Honorable Secretary to engage the government of Ethiopia to avert the looming crisis that will jeopardize the transition to democracy in Ethiopia as well as the stability of the region and report back to the House.
To our member organizations and millions of Ethiopians' dismay, the current political direction of Dr. Abiy Ahmed is looking backwards to the past divisive and abhorrent imperial system that is the root cause of Ethiopia’s perpetual crisis that has reached its climax today. In doing so, he has opened several unhealed wounds of the past that is about to have a catastrophic outcome if not managed carefully due to the irreconcilable differences between the victim and the victimizer.
We are aware that many supporters of the Ethiopian government in the diaspora, almost all of whom are the lead beneficiaries of the Imperial system that imposed Amhara Hegemony on the rest of nations and nationalities (80+) in Ethiopia, are using Jawar Mohammed and the OMN for political scapegoating in defense of the failure of the Ethiopian government to deliver on the promised democratic transition. In doing so, they are using the same old scare tactics of religion and ethnic divides in a very exaggerated and often totally fabricated manner. The irony is that, the peaceful and non-violent grassroots demonstrations that Jawar and OMN supported ended the tenure of the previous authoritarian regime that ruled for 27+years and paved the way for Dr. Abiy and his team to come to power as selfproclaimed reformers. The truth is that Jawar Mohammed is a political prisoner. Jawar Mohammed is not alone, today there are more than 50,000 Oromo political prisoners jailed without due process in COVID-19 infested jails and makeshift school prisons in that country. The majority of the leaders of opposition parties, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), are in jail. His critics can try whatever they want to blackmail Jawar Mohammed and the tens of thousands of Oromo political prisoners but Jawar Mohammed is a human rights activist, known for his non-violent struggle, a successful media mogul turned politician, and now a political prisoner. They may not like his politics rooted in equal opportunity for all nations, or what he stands for but Jawar has tens of millions of followers in Ethiopia and hundreds of thousands outside of the country.
Their other target is the Oromo Media Network (OMN). OMN was born out of the necessity for an independent voice for the voiceless Oromo people in Ethiopia. After years of yearning for a voice, the Oromo people finally founded the OMN here in Minnesota as they were not allowed to broadcast in Oromo language (Afaan Oromo) from within Ethiopia. Jawar Mohammed mobilized and led the Oromo communities around the world in general and the Oromo community of Minnesota in particular and started OMN TV broadcasting in 2014. What is interesting is that, before Abiy Ahmed’s regime and his ardent supporters turned OMN and Jawar into villains, they and the entire population of the country as well as international observers celebrated both Jawar and the OMN and credited both for helping usher the change that brought the current Prime Minister to power. Unfortunately, when the government failed to deliver on its promises of democratic transition, it betrayed its own allies like Jawar Mohammed and the OMN, eventually raiding and destroying OMN head office in Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) while attempting to eliminate Jawar Mohammed several time before jailing him. OMN is the Oromo community owned independent Oromo media. Oromo communities throughout the world, including the community in Minnesota played and are still playing a pivotal role from creating to maintaining the OMN.
What these groups do not tell you is the fact that the Oromo people are peace loving people. The Oromo people co-exited with fellow citizens of all creeds and race and the environment for centuries. This fact is reflected in their way of life, culture, language, and egalitarian democratic form of government known as the Gadaa/Siqqee system (Oromo democracy); The Gadaa system governs Oromo life from birth to death and founded on peace and co-existence between society and nature in near perfect harmony. To cite some empirical evidences:
- According to Bulatovich (2000: 68), “The [Oromo] peaceful free way of life, which could have become the ideal for philosophers and writers of the eighteenth century, if they had known it, was completely changed. Their peaceful way of life is broken; freedom is lost; and the independent, freedom loving [Oromo] find themselves under the severe authority of the Abyssinian conquerors.”
- There are over 10 million non-Oromos in Oromia (including in Finfinnee/ Addis Ababa); no other Ethiopian region is as welcoming to settlers as Oromia.
- Despite their presence in Oromia in large numbers, non-Oromos were never targeted by the Oromo struggle for freedom and justice since ita inception. The popular Qeerroo/Qarree nonviolent movement of the last decade didn’t target any civilian even at the peak of the Oromo protest movement from 2015 to 2018, when the TPLF unleashed its army, killing thousands of our compatriots.
- A recent report by the Amnesty International under the title of “Ethiopia: Rape, extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia” is sufficient to get a picture of what is happening in Ethiopia today. The full report can be obtained at Amnesty. We would only want to add that the Amnesty International report is just a tip of the iceberg and does not even come close to disclosing the true picture of atrocities in Ethiopia. We would also earnestly request you to send independent investigators to Oromia Regional State and get unbiased facts on the extent of human rights abuses and atrocities committed by Abiy’s military forces in the region.
Oromos constitute 40+% of Ethiopian population. Dr. Abiy’s regime and his supporters, openly vowing to reincarnate the rejected unitary imperial system and impose Amhara hegemony throughout the country by getting rid of the country’s constitution and the federal system. However imperfect the current federal system may be, the Oromos people and other nations and nationalities in Ethiopia strongly support it. Due to its population size they consider Oromos as an obstacle to their desire to remain in power by overturning the rights and benefits Oromos and other nationalities achieved through a more than a century old struggle. This appears to be the most credible explanation why they are intensely focused on destroying Oromo politicians and their supporters as well as Oromo Organizations. We sincerely hope that those trying to silence Oromo voices using old tactics or religion and ethnic fault lines join hands with the Oromo people and demand that Dr. Abiy’s government listens to your recommendations, the seven points recommendations of the 20 Honorable Representatives, and the global community to correct its course. Failure to achieve this goal will inevitably lead to the distraction of the country and destabilization of the region. The current government seems determined to crush oppositions, suspend the constitution and rule over the country by force. The prime minster is on record for having expressed this sentiment in his numerous speeches at the governing party meetings. If there is any lesson to learn from past and recent history, force and deception never worked and it will not work this time around either.
Honorable Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, We would like to close our letter by stating that the Oromo people's struggle is for justice, equality, and basic human dignity. The Oromo people are demanding an end to a more than a century and half old systematic domination over the Oromo and other Nations and Nationalities in Ethiopia. Those who are organized to falsely accuse Oromo activists, human rights advocates, and scholars are mostly descendants of groups that have forcefully subjugated the people of Oromo and other nations of Ethiopia by fire arms supplied by some European countries; and who are opposing the right of the nations to selfgovern, end to injustices, and equality of all citizens.
Once again, we thank you so much for speaking on behalf of our fellow citizens suffering in COVIDinfected Ethiopian jails, their families, and the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia at large.
- Bilal Oromo Dawa Center
- Canaan Oromo Evangelical Church
- Charismatic International Fellowship Church
- DMV Oromo Islamic Center
- Gaadisa Sabboontottaa KP
- Global Gumii Oromia
- Global Oromo Advocacy Group
- Global Waaqeffannaa Council
- Horn of Africa Genocide Watch
- Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
- International Oromo Lawyers Association
- International Oromo Women’s Organization
- International Qeerroo Support Group
- Network of Oromo Studies
- Mana Kiristaanaa Fayyisaa Addunyaa
- Oromo Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
- Oromo Community of Bergen
- Oromo Community of Oslo
- Oromo Communities’ Association of North America
- Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of LosAngeles
- Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington DC Metropolitan Area
- Oromo Evangelical Lutheran MissionSociety
- Oromo Human Rights and ReliefOrganization
- Oromo Legacy, Leadership and AdvocacyAssociation
- Oromo Lutheran Church of Baltimore
- Oromo Relief Association in USA
- Oromo Resurrection Evangelical Church
- Oromo Parliamentarians Council
- Oromo Political Prisoners Association
- Oromo Scholars and Professionals
- Oromia Support Group
- Oromo Studies Association
- Wabii Maccaa Association
- Tawfiq Islamic Center
- Tawhid Oromo Islamic Center in Minnesota
- Union of Oromo Communities in Canada
- United Oromo Christian Church in Australia
- United Oromo Evangelical Church
- Washington DC Metropolitan Oromo SDA Church